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By Tucker Hottes
When ‘quick’ fixes aren’t
It happens every time. I offer to do a “quick” tech support favor for a friend or family member, and several hours later, I want to pull my eyeballs out of my head and jump out of a window. It’s all good — I still don’t mind, and it’s usually not the person’s fault when their equipment gets the better of me. This weekend, I was bouncing around between NEPA and NYC, and while picking my dog up from the world’s cheapest dogsitter (my mom), I was asked to repay the favor with a little tech support.
As it turns out, I’ve created something of a monster over the years by arming my mother with technical know-how and gadgets. I’m still impressed on a daily basis with how self-sufficient she’s become in the world of nerdery, but what I hadn’t counted on was her paying it forward to her friends. Seems her recent extolling of the virtues of GoogleTV and Netflix streaming straight to the living room instead of the laptop attracted some attention. As part of a recent home entertainment overhaul, one of her friends picked up one of those new-fangled blu-ray players with built-in apps (including Netflix). In exchange for the dog-watching, I agreed to take a spin over and perform a “quick” setup operation.
Famous last words.
Again, I feel obligated to point out I have no problem helping out, and there is no user error going on here. I expected to get the thing hooked up to wifi, have her enter account info, and show her how to browse the Netflix app. Piece of cake – until it’s not. The warning signs started with a finicky connection — some router issues that were resolved with a quick reboot (conjure images of Kyle in South Park saving the internet by unplugging/re-plugging the power adapter to a giant Linksys router). A quick press of the convenient Netflix button on the new remote, and I expected to be off and running.
Of course, the first thing I encountered was a note that the app needed to update itself. No problem, but five minutes later the thing finished and seemingly ready to go. Only it wasn’t. I tried to launch it again, and got an esoteric message saying the app wasn’t installed. Mystified, I entered the odd little proprietary “app store” type menu. Things started falling into place a little more when I was greeted with about 7,500 user agreement screens — the Netflix app must not have been “allowed” to run without clicking “agree” on all the lawyer notes that nobody reads.
I thought it was over, but of course I had several more hoops to jump through. Once all the agreements were dismissed, the app store had to download an update for itself. At long last, I went back to the Netflix button. I even eschewed the offer of pizza delivery, brimming with confidence. No dice.
Ultimately, I had to dig deep into the settings menu and force the blu-ray player itself to accept an update that was three or four point releases newer than what shipped. We celebrated quietly, knowing that the machine had won even though we tamed it in the end. There’s a message somewhere in here about manufacturers shipping already outdated hardware to consumers, but I’m left so drained by reliving the experience, I can’t even lob criticism. At least my mom’s friend is happily streaming movies now.
I’ll take that subtle victory.