Not everything changes when you are on vacation. Many days the kids still rest in the afternoon. There is still about an hour after they go to bed before CavWife does, and I stay up late. Those are times when we may watch TV together, and at night I watch stuff that doesn’t interest her (Asian action movies for instance). Frankly, what am I going to do in the middle of nowhere at 10 pm?
A few years ago my in-laws scaled back to the “basic” DirectTV option. This means there are tons of channels selling useless items, and a few channels of programming. ESPN is not one of them. So, for the last few years we’ve been streaming movies or shows from Netflix on first our iPod (now unable to connect to the internet after being dropping one too many times by a child who shall remain nameless) and then one of the kid’s Fire tablets. Really hard to read subtitles on such a small screen.
As a result, I contemplated buying a DVD player like the one we have at home: one that has wireless streaming so I can watch Netfilx on TV. So on Monday I was heading into the “big city” of Glens Falls for a Wal-Mart run. I would see what they have. I would need one with a coaxial connection because that is all the old fashioned TV had. The Farm is literally a farm for old TVs thanks to my brother-in-law. For a few years his business renovated a nearby resort, and he got to take some TVs when they moved into the present. So when a TV dies … another takes its place from the barn.
I still had the naive notion this would all be a very simple process.
At Wal-Mart I discovered the Sony we have, or one like it. The box was sealed in such a way that I couldn’t check to see the types of connections. So, I had to ask a clerk and hope I got one who actually knew something. He actually did. “Nope, Blu-ray requires HDMI.” Have my hopes been kiboshed?
“The Roku 1 uses the red, yellow and white plugs.” I call CavWife. The TV is so old it doesn’t have even these. “We have an adapter.” Okay! For less than the price of the DVD player I buy these two items. This should be simple!
I did the hook up when was relatively simple if you discount the fact that we now had 2 additional odd shaped plugs to integrate into the power strip. Only one fit there. And I had to go online to set up a Roku account. But in streaming Netflix that very day the picture looked very good.
Problem #1: the picture for the DirectTV was not so clear. Lots of snow entered the scene.
Problem #2: There was no way to sign out of Netflix, and I didn’t want renters to use my Netflix account.
I could solve #2 by just pulling it and putting it in the closet. Perhaps CavWife can deal with the snow on HGTV while she’s folding laundry. Maybe.
The next morning I am summoned to the annex to talk with my in-laws. They have decided it is time to upgrade the TVs, beginning with the one in the master bedroom. I am commissioned to get one. I am leaving for NH in a few minutes. CavWife mentions Costco as an option. There are none up here in the sticks, but there is one in the city I grew up in.
So … I took a trip to the MA border to shop at Costco while visiting my parents. Why? No sales tax!
I was thinking a basic flat screen and a streaming DVD player. Hmmm, Smart TVs…. Seriously we don’t need a DVD player anyway. This seemed like a much simpler solution. So I grabbed one and was gone back to my parents.
It was late at night when I thought, “Does it have a coaxial connection?” I was much relieved that morning to discover it did and I would not have to go back to Nashua.
I got back to the Farm just after 2. CavWife wondered if I wanted to set up the TV. I wisely said “after rest time.” As a result we got one more show in from Netflix (thanks to a zillion interruptions from the “little people”).
Then began the nightmare. I found myself muttering “I thought this would be easy.”
Round 1: No big problems at first. I found a Philips head screw driver to attached the feet. I disconnected the Roku, move the 1,000 pound TV w/out hurting myself (which gets harder as you get older) and made the appropriate connections. Easy!
Then I turned it on. Not so easy. A Smart TV isn’t like an ordinary TV and I would learn this the hard way. Actually using it is simple, but getting it set up is another story. The remote didn’t have a menu button. The instructions talked about an app for my phone or tablet. I figured I would tackle that after reading. But first I found the input button and tried to at least get the tuner set up to use DirectTV (the irony is that if my in-laws still had Dish, we wouldn’t need to do any of this but could stream Netflix off Dish!!!!). After when seemed to be FAR TOO LONG it told me it recognized 0 digital and 0 analog channels. Minor annoyance, but I’ll deal with it after reading some church history.
Round 2: I thought I’d finish up before dinner. I was actually able to download the app on my iPhone. This can be a challenge here in the land of no cell service. I synced the phone to the TV. Okay, this might be easier than I thought. Connect to network ….. “Error”. What kind of error? Try again. “Error”. “Error.” “Error.” Mounting frustration. If I don’t know what is wrong, how can I resolve it. I am being outsmarted by a Smart TV.
I call customer service while they start dinner without me. Two people I don’t know are joining us. The company boasts about their U.S. customer service. I’m pleased with that, but I just want one of those U.S.- based persons to talk to. I get a guy whose name I don’t catch and he’s uncertain as to the error. Of course I need the model/serial number. Now I need my reading glasses which are downstairs. Wait! I have a pair of reading sunglasses upstairs. He knows where I bought it. Does he really work for the NSA?
The Smart TV is so smart it will only connect to a secure network. Forget the fact this TV is in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors close enough to “steal the signal” and any car in the street will stick out like a sore thumb. There is NO need for a secure network, but now I’ve got to secure it. This includes the extender I set up years ago because the farmhouse is too big for the crappy little router provided by the phone company. Those instruction manuals MIGHT be in the house since my father-in-law is a hoarder wanna be, but ….
I head to dinner, exasperated. When I’m exasperated, I rant. Surely the guests think I’m crazy. And I might be … have you met my family?
Round 3: I am still reeling by how complex this whole thing is become. First I need to secure the network, or at least the router. This requires calling their customer service. I don’t bother. I know they will have to verify so my father-in-law needs to do all that and then hand it over to me. That is two phone calls and 3 security checks later. I, of course, have no cable to connect directly into the router. But she gives me the URL and we’re cooking with gas until I find out after the fact that my password didn’t have enough characters. It won’t let me go back, I have to start over. I come up with a new password, write it down with a crayon, frustrated that now we’ll have to input this into all the computer, devices etc. that we have. Thank you, Smart TV.
Round 4: I go upstairs to resume the process of connecting to the network. It, obviously, has timed out. The app isn’t very user friendly. I start all over again. I get back to connecting to the network. Pinwheel of death. Rising frustration. Again. All I wanted to to be able to watch Netflix. Adam, what have you done!? Life should be this hard. Or at least connecting a TV should be. I’m thinking, how will renter ever use this thing?????
CavWife looks at it, being far less exasperated at this point. Maybe I’m missing something because I just want to curl up in the closet in the fetal position but I am pacing, ranting and wishing I had hair to pull out and beer to drink. Jesus gave me a helpmate, and it is time for her to help.
I don’t know what she does, but worse don’t know what to do next. She’s calling customer service. We are struck by the irony that they are playing music from the 80’s but we need help with technology designed by and for people in their 30’s. I used to be tech savvy but it sped up so quickly I now feel useless.
Thankfully CavWife is on the phone since I’m so aggravated. I don’t want to take it out on the innocent person on the phone. Oh, we have to start all over. Again. Where is the strait jacket?!
But we are making progress. I actually interact with the customer service person. Essentially my phone is a remote for the “casting”. The apps aren’t on the TV, but on my phone. Renters don’t need to download the app, or sync phones but just be on the same network as the TV. This means I don’t have to worry about them using my Netflix account. We are making progress.
We go back to the tuner and the interminable search finally uncovers the DirectTV. We’re cooking with gas now. But I feel like I imaging Ali felt after the rope-a-dope. Still standing, “victorious” over technology, but it was touch and go there for awhile.
There’s just that little matter of the internet extender for the rest of the building. And returning the Roku.