Saturday, April 6, 2024

More Television Follies

So we finally broke down and bought a new television.  Everything has changed, once again.

We drove into Brunswick to dispose of the broken television.   I thought briefly of cutting it up with a circular saw with a masonry blade, and then throwing away chunks of it in each weeks garbage, but that seemed kind of tedious.  Besides, I am already doing this with two old air conditioners.  So we took it to the trash center and they charged us thirty bucks to dispose of it.  Right after, Mark gets a text saying that next week, they are having a free electronics disposal day, from 9 until noon, at the Winn-Dixie.  Day late, dollar short.

We went to Sam's Club and not surprisingly, they had a lot of Vizio televisions, which is now owned by Walmart, owner of Sam's Club.  I decided to get a mid-line Samsung 50" set which fits the space we had for the old television.  We have a Samsung sound bar and Samsung phones and they seem to work OK.  I spent far too much time trying to figure out if it had WiFi and a fiber connection for the sound bar.  Of course it did, but it was nowhere mentioned on the packaging and even the Samsung website sort of hid this data under "specifications" - buried under a lot of happy-talk about the stunning resolution and realistic picture whatever.

It was $347 which is not a lot of money - we've spent more than that on groceries at Sam's Club in one outing.  Bear in mind my Dad paid $500 for his RCA Colortrak back in 1975 and in 1975 dollars, $347 would be $60, or $30 less than Dad paid for his Sears black-and-white.  Yet, in the parking lot, as we were loading the television into the truck, a lady joked, "You can put that right in my truck if you want to!" as if it was some precious commodity instead of the equivalent of dinner out for four at a nice restaurant.   People are obsessed about televisions (and the price of gas).

So I attached the wall brackets, which required me rummaging through my stray fastener collection for a set of M16 metric bolts (or some such) and I found four mis-matched bolts or machine screws that did the job.

I plugged it on, connected the fiber optic sound connection, and inserted the dongle for the keyboard and mouse and..... more than an hour later, we have television.  How does your Grandma or Grandpa deal with this?  Do they wait for their grandson to come over, or do they call the "tech geeks" to set it up?  I'm a retired computer geek, but it was still daunting for me.

By the way, while my wireless Logitec keyboard worked on the set (in most cases) the mouse only worked in a few.  They'd prefer you use the remote, which is tedious. Sadly, our old Samsung sound bar was not "smart" and thus would not activate from the same remote.

The setup menu was extensive and required I sign into my "Samsung Account" which I last signed into maybe five years ago when I got my Galaxy 7 active.  So I had to look up the password for that, not finding it, and then looking up the password reset screen and reset that and then....  Next, I had to agree that Samsung could "backup my data" to help me and of course not harvest any data for their own usage.  Then, update the firmware - only 30 minutes there (time for dinner anyway) and.....

It loads the Samsung Smart TV page which is playing an episode of The Rockford Files.  At first, I thought this was a remake as the resolution was astounding.  I could read the words on the papers on Rockford's desk and see all the wrinkles on James Garner's face. It had the look of a soap opera and even the sound sounded better.  It was a bit weird.

I had previously posited that old NTSC 525-line video would not translate into the higher resolution of 4K, but apparently, they have found a way to do this - though pixel interpolation or perhaps from source 35mm original film.  No film artifacts, though!  Other "old" shows had a similarly disarming resolution.

I had to add some apps, though, such as PlutoTV which for some reason would load slowly but not play anything.  Perhaps this was by design?  Stay in the Samsung universe!  Paramount didn't pay us!

What was really disconcerting was that they showed a lot of "channels" on Samsung SmartTV and the one I was looking at was channel 1005.  No more "500 channels and nothing on!" anymore.  Much of these were news channels, including some pretty odious ones - beyond Fox, even.  I have no interest in watching my blood pressure go up.

I am still waiting to see how this affects my data usage.  We watched Disney+ in high-res and it streamed through our poverty hotspot without any glitches (we do have "data saver" enabled, though).  So far, so good.

All that being said, Mr. See falls asleep in front of the television and we have come to the conclusion that we really can't watch more than an hour every night.  And really, there isn't much on.

Besides, we have shit to do.  I am still working on the split system (post-termite) and Mr. See is gardening and wants to get back to pottery once I finish his A/C unit.  And there is always the volunteer work at Goodyear - a doorknob falls off or a little-old-lady get stuck in the elevator.

So, overall, we are pleased with the purchase, so far.  It is interesting this brave-new-world of streaming, which I was eager to get into early on (using a laptop hooked to a flat-screen television) nearly a decade ago.  Actually, I got involved in a Patent case (as an expert witness) involving an early streaming system, back in the 1990s - but it was too early for the technology to take off.

For a long time, streaming meant one of two things: Netflix and YouTube, the latter being limited to funny cat videos. People thought Netflix would dominate the market and for a while it did. But today we have a plethora of streaming services, most of which are struggling to make a profit while at the same time offering little in the way of content.  I suspect there will be a shakeout down the road.

Today streaming is no longer the province of hobbyists or computer geeks, but mainstream technology.  You buy a television and you stream - once you get the set set-up, it is as painless as falling off a log (now that's a mixed metaphor!).  I suspect many folks today will stream and still pay for Cable television service (in addition to internet service) and not even realize they are no longer using the Cable TV portion.  The streaming services have copied the "look and feel" of a cable menu to the point there they are indistinguishable.  I suspect that the Cable part of CableTV might disappear in a few years.

It is interesting to see this technology finally come of age. Now I just need to figure out what to do with my Netbook.  I used it to stream as our old "dumb television" only got YouTube and Netflix, on its own.  I guess it might be handy for streaming in the camper.

We'll see.