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Stumbling Into The New Year

I intended to kick off the New Year’s blogging season yesterday with my predictions for the coming year but got sidetracked. It’s not my fault. Maggie and I decided to acquire Apple TV last Saturday to replace the incredibly boring selection of mediocre television offered by Bell ExpressVu.

It never ceases to amaze me how we can do so little with so much technology. Bell’s satellite system offers duplicate and triplicates of the same shows from television stations across the country instead of a diversity of programming from around the world. For their part, mainstream cable networks seem to have fallen in love with nickel and dime reality shows about people pawning stuff and other folks hunting crocodiles. There are endless talk shows: The View, The Chew, Wendy This, Ellen That and, of course, the shows that are all about paternity tests.

God save us. How is it possible to have so many channels and so little selection?

We figured out how much our satellite system was costing every month and then compared it to Netflix and a couple of other networks available through Apple TV. It wasn’t hard to make the decision to switch. The savings range in the 80% area while the selection increases a thousand fold. I suspect that Internet television will be the death knell of traditional TV if the folks that run traditional networks don’t soon take their heads out of their asses.

But I digress.

I’m not very handy around the house when it comes to fixing, installing or setting up anything. This is compounded by the fact that I am not very patient either. Still, I decided that I would start the New Year by trying to do things properly and before we bought an Apple TV Generation Three system, I took the time to check out how it’s installed and what I have to do to get it working.

It is simplicity itself I was told. Connect it to your televisions, plug it in and turn on your TV.

Whoa – even I can do that so we went to Future Shop and plunked down our money on a new system. I am now on Day 4 of trying to get this thing to work properly.

When we got home, I even read the cute little manual that is conveniently written in 7 pt type just to make it an interesting challenge  for anyone with mere 20/20 vision. Fortunately, we have a magnifying glass.

Once I had read the manual, I did exactly as instructed. I don’t always follow the rules but I was determined to turn over a new leaf this year. I’m tired of stuff like the stuff from Ikea defeating me whenever I have to assemble something. Once connected, I turned on the television and Ta Da – there was Apple TV working its little heart out to find our wireless connection and go live.

That only took the system a couple of minutes so we were quickly ready to start enjoying the benefits of Netflix as soon as I created an account (and took advantage of their one month free trial).

Now I have to admit that Netflix redefines simplicity. It took less than a minute to create the account and even less time for the account to connect to our TV. I was impressed and, quite frankly, feeling pretty masculine for having hunted technology and installed it correctly. I confess that I kind of swaggered back into the living room where Maggie was waiting. Maggie was polite enough not to snicker – probably because she knew what was coming (she still remembers the two days it took me to assemble our new barbeque).

We scrolled through the Netflix menu, selected a movie and hit play. It loaded in seconds and started to play. I know this because I was looking at the television and could see the movie on the screen. I wouldn’t have known if I had been looking elsewhere because – well – there was no sound. We had sound before we connected Apple TV but now there was nothing.

Once again, Maggie was sensitive enough not to snicker; she merely made the appropriately sympathetic expressions of concern.

After a couple of hours of mucking about with the connections, I successfully disconnected the sound from the DVD player too so that we now had no sound from anything. Then I got the sound on the DVD reconnected but lost the video. Meanwhile, back at Apple TV, I still had no sound and it had dropped our wireless connection and couldn’t find it.

In situations like this, there is only one thing to do, as humiliating as it is. Call your son-in-law who installed Apple TV successfully on his system. He was out for the evening so Maggie and I read books and then went to bed.

Sunday morning was more jingling about with wires, more connecting and disconnecting that eventually got the wireless connection back with video and no sound but the DVD no longer had either. Eventually, my son-in-law called me back to suggest that I jingle with the wires. Thanks – been there, done that.

Maggie was still managing to keep a straight face.

Then it occurred to me to check the television’s volume control. I admit that I didn’t think our television had speakers because it is an HDTV that’s all flat screen and not much else but the clever buggers hid the speakers in the back of the television; a place I never go.

I discovered that the volume control on the television was set to zero. It was at this point that Maggie started to snicker. Well, actually, it was more of a guffaw; an explosion of laughter that burst out of her like a sneeze from someone with allergies. She fled the room but I could still hear her.

I quickly adjusted that and TA DA; we had sound. Unfortunately it was only sound coming from the television and not the home theater system and, of course, the DVD was still not working.

Monday morning I went and bought a new HDMI cable and then spent most of the rest of them morning trying to figure out how and where to install it. It only took about three hours for me to realize that there is no place for a second HDMI cable so I decided I needed a break before I became a headline in the news about random violence having erupted.

I wanted to order Season 4 of Downton Abbey for Maggie so I went to iTunes only to discover that you can’t just buy it with your credit card, you have to have an account. I then spent 45 minutes trying to find where you create an account. I surfed page after page of the Apple TV and iTunes websites without success and eventually hit ‘help’ where I found a link.

I set up the account which took ten minutes longer than setting up the account at Netflix and went back to the TV to order Downton Abbey.

Apple TV had dropped the wireless connection.

An hour later, I finally had the wireless connection reestablished, sound on the television but not on the home theater system and I was ready to order Maggie’s favourite show. I selected it from the menu, hit ‘buy’ only to be told that my Apple ID was insufficient. I needed a second Apple iTunes ID.

Back to the computer for another half hour of surfing to find the create iTunes account page and filling out a form only to be told when it was all done that my new ID would be – get ready for it – the same as my old ID.

I ordered Downton Abbey and went into town to pick up Maggie at her office. On the way home we sought technical advice at The Source and a very pleasant (and knowledgeable) young woman walked me through the connection process – and of course – sold me more cables.

Once home, I did what the young lady told me to do. The good news is that the DVD player is working properly again. The bad news is that Apple TV dropped the wireless connection once more and once I had it reconnected; there was still no sound from the home theater system. Nonetheless, there was sound through the television for Maggie to watch the first episode of Season 4 of Downton Abbey. Unfortunately, even though I had purchased it and downloaded it five hours earlier, it needed to be downloaded a second time which takes approximately half an hour.

Maggie sat patiently and waited without once laughing, snickering, chortling, chuckling or giggling. She did mutter a bit under her breath with a smile but I chose to think that was because she was looking forward to watching her show.

And so, my friends, here we are on Day 4 with more powerful technology in my living room than powered the first moon landing and I still can’t get Apple TV to send sound to my home theater system or to download a movie in jig time.

It makes you wonder doesn’t it? But then, wasn’t it these same techie guys that forgot to account for the shift from 2000 to 2001 in their computer clocks when they were programming software in the 80s and 90s?

Oh well, we survived Y2K and I’m pretty sure I’ll survive this too. It’s another question entirely as to whether Apple TV will make it through this alive though. At the rate I’m going, the year will be half over before I get the damn thing connected properly and have time to predict what will happen this year.

By the way, I have a number of audio and HDMI cables for sale that have never been used.

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© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • Steve Fournier

    Always enjoy your posts. Good luck with your system. Best of everything to you and Maggie for the New Year.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      Thank you. I wish you and your family the best in 2014 as well.

  • CanadaGoose1

    My husband watches the Pawn shows and we both watch the real estate shows like House Hunters International but there are so many repeats and so little content (we tape and skip through the commercials and repetition). We are also contemplating dropping cable as it is so expensive. The Canadian shows are the worst for repetition and little content. Cash cows. Cash beavers?

  • peggyt

    Hi Bear,
    I was one of those techies. We knew in the 70s that there would be a problem when 1999 went to 2000 but we assumed our software would be redundant and replaced by then. Turns out that what we wrote survived far longer than we expected.

    • MaggiesBear

      I was the Executive vice-president and Chief Operating Officer of a software company that produced custom software to process credit and debit payments between banks and their customers electronically. I took that company through Y2K which the banks took very seriously.

      The fact remains that whether or not they knew about the issue related to the coming new millennium, techies did nothing about it and that ended up costing the world billions in unnecessary patches and tech audits. It was just one assumption in a continuing string of them that continues to confirm that just because you can develop technology doesn’t mean you know why it should be developed or the effect it will have on everything else. That takes life experience beyond a keyboard.

      • peggyt

        A techie does not have the authority to initial a company wide project to revise all the software. Every file in every database and every program was affected regardless of application. Changing one date field here or there was pointless.

        • MaggiesBear

          You sound like a politician defending bad policy. The point is that it should never have happened in the first place. A bit of long-term planning when software was first starting to be developed would have gone a long way to avoiding the issue and quite frankly, software developers and programmers do have the authority to build that into what they are creating.

          • peggyt

            Software was being developed in the 60s. No one plans for something that is not going to be needed for 30+ years in the future. Back then space was very expensive and 2 extra bytes for every date field in every file could not be justified. Brand new software and I mean a complete new system developed anytime after 1985 did incorporate a full YYYY for all dates.The problem was that so much integrated software already existed and no programmer could change an entire system or systems without the cost being approved by the execs I raised the subject in 1995 that we should start making changes but…. the powers that be ignored the problem until late 1998 when there was no longer a choice.
            Below is a link that is a myth but explains how standards are hard to change when everything is “integrated”.such as computer systems.
            .http://www.astrodigital.org/space/stshorse.html