Dimming the lights on smart(arse) TV
When consumer devices go bzzzt
Something for the weekend, Sir? "The TV has stopped working."
This is the kind of announcement that I both dread and am accustomed to in the Dabbs household. A bit like the bath-fitter who is expected to know how to fix blocked sewers, as a computer journalist I am held personally to account upon the failure at home of anything electronic... or indeed electric, gas-fired or petrol-engined.
In fact, it seems that it merely needs to have hinges for it to come under my all-encompassing 'tech' remit.
Surely some of you must have to deal with something similar from partners, family members and/or flatmates from time to time. There are days when you arrive at work, drenched in rain, whereupon the phone begins to ring incessantly, your boss is on a stomp and someone has swapped your nice office chair for a milking stool. Your project is on a dive, orders haven't been received and your colleague has set fire to the wastebasket.
Then your spouse/mum/mate/teenage daughter sends a text message from home to say: "The internet's not working."
Have you tried turning it off and then on again?
Source: Channel 4 / 2entertain
As The IT Crowd would have it, such potential disasters are usually resolved by switching the offending item off and then back on again.
In the case of the non-working TV, I tell myself it's usually a case of having to explain – yet again – what the 'Source' button on the remote control is for. Perhaps this time, I fantasise, I'll perform a PowerPoint presentation on the subject in the living room to assembled family members, complete with breakout sessions and ending with a buffet networking lunch.
Secretly, though, this time I am excited. The living room TV's been on the blink for ages and I've been biding my time until its complete failure forces my hand (to my wallet) to replace it with a so-called 'smart TV'. My old TV was the last CRT-based device in the shop when I bought it earlier this century and recently the screen has been going weird. My excitement is tinged with slight disappointment, however, because I was not around to witness the TV's demise this time.
My previous TV went out with a bang – literally, a loud retort accompanied by a demonstrative (and smelly) plume of smoke, reminiscent of a performance by Ali Bongo – whereas this one just sat there with a blank screen, making quiet clicking noises as if tutting at my hesitancy.
Smart TV: Spotted on Thursday, looked up on Friday, bought on Saturday, out of date on Sunday
That evening, I consulted a shortlist of smart TVs that I had drawn up some weeks ago for a might-never-happen Top Ten roundup for El Reg. Horror of horrors: these are all on sale at discounted prices. This means my list is already out of date and whatever I buy now will be incompatible, non-upgradable tat by the time it gets delivered.
Next page: Telly Selly Time
Buudy and his wife reportedly had the following exchange.
W: The TV is not working. We want to watch a movie.
B: Ah, are you using the complicated remote control?
B: Are you sitting in the brown chair next to the table?
B: Open the drawer, put the complicated controller back inside, close the drawer, and never touch it again.
W: (mumble mumble)
B: Pick up the colorful simple controller and press the large cartoon-like button marked 'Watch Movie'.
W: Okay, it's working now.
Not fit for purpose
It's disappointing how over-specced, under-delivering, and user-unfriendly most home tech kit is.
There should be a calm, pipe-smoking, cardigan-clad chap included with every item, whose job is to get it all working and smile benevolently as the happy consumer family enjoys the results.
It's also disappointing that we have conditioned ourselves into accepting this state of affairs. "Product A has feature X." "Yes, but does it work, and is it usable?"
That's a question almost as rarely heard as, "Dad, you look tired. How about a nice cup of tea?"
Being a sparky (Electronics Engineer.. not an electrical engineer, and yes there is a difference!), I get the same all the time.. parents, partner, friends.. can you fix my (insert latest fad-gadge here)
Normally my response is "No problem! By the way, I charge £40 per hour.. because I don't have the schematics, BOM or any other information for it and I'm not likely to ever get it from the manufacturer, I have no idea how long it will take or even if can be fixed"
"£40 per hour!! I'd be better off buying a new one!"
to which I reply with a smug smile
"Yes.. you would!"