technology and the laws of physics

I freely admit that commercials are not my thing.

This made getting the DVR akin to manna from heaven.  And Netflix?  Oh, don’t even get me started on Netflix.  Endless hours of movies and tv shows, with no commercials to interrupt your zombie-like marathon?  Sigh….

And then Apple TV happened to our house.

Let me lead with I love my Apple TV.  I adore it.  I’d consider adding Apple as another middle name for Bear if only Gwyneth hadn’t already snatched it up.  My issue isn’t with the device itself but with the damage we inflicted while installing the thing.  And, in a strange twist of fate, the very thing that blew up our entertainment system has been my saving grace for about four months now.

I’ll explain.

I bought our Apple TV when I got the new laptop last year.  It was a hectic time — with four family birthdays in November and then the downhill slide to Christmas those months are always a blur to me.  This is how we found ourselves on Christmas day, kids busy with their new toys outside, thinking hey, look!  Free time to ourselves, and our neighbor is at our house so we can ask him to help us with the installation.  The Force is clearly with us!

I should mention here that this makes it sound like an Apple TV is super complicated to hook up.  It’s not.  Connect the (teeny tiny) box to your tv with a USB cable, plug in the power cord, and you’re good to go.  Really, the toughest part about it is managing not to lose the microscopic remote.  So, in the regular world, this project is extremely easy and would have been taken care of back in November.

But here in our world, the Apple TV box taunted me from the coffee table for a month because my house hates me.

Well, hate might be too strong a word.  Perhaps it just likes to torment me for fun.

There is space for a flat screen tv cut into the brickwork of our fireplace.  Not deep enough to give you an actual mantle, mind you, which is a fun challenge when it comes to stockings at Christmas, but adequate to mount your tv.  The part of the design that is somewhat (bothersome? antagonizing? exasperating?) difficult is that everything is stored in a media closet behind the tv’s wall.  You access it in the children’s hallway.

In the abstract this seemed like a really neat feature.  No cable boxes or DVD players stacked up by your tv, no piles of DVDs stored near your set — all in all, a much cleaner look in the main room. But…the whole ball of wax hinges on a itsy-bitsy wireless transmitter attached to the front of the tv. The transmitter wires are snaked back into the closet and connect everything so we’re able to use any remote (tv, cable, or DVD player) from the main room.  In theory.

This system worked perfectly most of the time.  At certain times of the year, though, there would be a two hour block daily when extremely bright sun would stream through a window and shine directly on the transmitter screen, thus rendering every remote useless. Kind of a built-in compulsory nap period.  Or I guess you could use the time to get work done or read a book, if you were feeling particularly industrious.  Which I usually wasn’t.

So that’s our entertainment system, and that nifty streamlined setup is what screwed us on setting up the Apple TV.  The box, by necessity, has to sit on the (nonexistent) mantle so it can be connected to the tv because I can only access the port through a panel on the front of the tv set.  But the really challenging part reared its ugly head when it came to connecting to a power source.

The only way to get power to the Apple TV was by taking our remarkably heavy tv off its brackets, holding it long enough for one person to guide the Apple cord through the wall while another person snags said cord from the closet side and plugs it in.

Piece of cake, right?  Uh, yeah.  Only not so much.  That “flat screen” tv is all deceptive with its “I’m so skinny, look at me hanging up here in this tiny space, nice and flat” attitude.  When really, under its technology breath it’s muttering, “sure, buddy, go ahead and try lifting me off these brackets, I am one heavy mother and I’ll bring you to your knees!

Added to the tv’s weight issue is the fact that, for some reason known only to God and the installation men, the cord has to pass through the wall’s opening and then curve right and slightly downward (um, physics, anyone?) to be accessible on the other side.  This greatly increases the amount of time it takes to successfully get the power cord to the power strip.  Time that swiftly becomes painful for the person holding up the two thousand pounds of technology in the family room.

After a great deal of exertion, maneuvering, and MacGyvering we finally managed to get the power cord through the wall and plugged into the power strip.  Play time!  And let me tell you, overall it’s been worth every minute of the excruciating set-up time.

Brief Apple promo as I ooh and aah:  It supports Netflix (and lets me create separate users so I no longer have High School Musical and My Babysitter’s A Vampire on my list!), Hulu, movies to rent, sports, and a multitude of other content options.  You can show your photos or stream your music through it.  Super awesome über fun is the AirPlay feature that lets the Apple TV mirror any iOS device.  Everyone can throw their own stuff onto the screen: T-man’s YouTube skateboard videos, Bear’s app that lets her design outfits head-to-toe, and BrightSide’s music videos have all made an appearance in our family room.

So after the glowing description above I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with my Apple TV.  You see, during all that heaving and shifting and MacGyvering, we managed to disrupt the wireless transmitter.  As in, kablooie.  As in, all remotes are completely useless in the family room, 24 hours a day.  Period.

Watching cable has become a tag team Olympic sport in our house: one spectator/guide in the room with the tv, one remote control operator hanging halfway into the kids’ hallway and hitting buttons as directed by the guide.  Only this doesn’t always work, so the operator often pops their head back and forth between the hallway and family room, greatly resembling a Whack-a-Mole.  The operator’s level of agitation is directly proportional to the remote control’s unresponsiveness.

We killed our wireless transmitter on Christmas Day…and here we are in April, still doing this ridiculous dance when we want to watch cable or the DVR.  You’re probably asking yourself why on earth don’t they get that fixed?  (Let’s be honest.  I’M asking myself WHY ON EARTH DON’T WE GET THAT FIXED??)

Because BrightSide and I sometimes find ourselves helplessly incapacitated by Newton’s first law of motion.  I live off Apple TV (see? there’s that love/hate thing) during the day, watching mostly tv shows (without commercials!) that I never got around to seeing in their regular seasons.  And BS & I have found a work-around for the evenings, so we’re still getting to watch what we want.  Not as easily, granted, but it’s not like the tv’s broken or anything.  (I’m sure THAT would get me moving.  I can be a boob tube junkie.)

So the only thing we’ve truly lost is the ability to fast forward (easily) through the commercials on the DVR.  Considering that commercials are definitely not my thing you’d think we’d have this fixed by now…

Damn inertia.

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