Monday, August 15, 2011

The TV, the Recorder and the Vast Cable Conspiracy

Two weeks ago, our television died. It had given seven years of reasonably reputable service, but it just quit in the middle of "House." We ran out the next day and bought a new television. Under $400, and better than the one that died, which had cost around $600 or so.

We tried to install the new Samsung on our old universal wall mount, only to learn that nothing would fit. The manual said we'd have to buy a Samsung wall mount for around $125--a little over 1/4 the price of the TV. The Best Buy guy said, "Oh, hmmh." The True Value guy said, "Hmmh," when his $100 mount wouldn't work, either. We thought, piss on it, and just set the thing on top of the cable box.

A couple of Netflix DVDs were laying wround, and we'd thought to watch them since Netflix had decided to screw over its mail order customers, whose club we held membership in. However, our DVD player would not connect to the Samsung. We needed a different cable to connect the DVD with the new television.

Undaunted, we set out for Best Buy to buy an adapter, which, as best as I can discern, would connect an S-video connection to an HDTV (specifically, an HDMI port). Well, these did not exist. Roland, a Comcast guy doing double duty at Best Buy, told us that.

We had Roland because the Best Buy people were more interested in talking to each other than they were talking to us. As inexplicable as this seems, you would totally understand that Roland was the preferred alternative, since the Best Buy help was more interested in talking to each other on those scant times when they were around.

After talking with Roland, we determined that we'd have to buy a new DVR, or some other movie-playing device. Roland explained our options and then looked at us as though we were two clueless grayhairs. We had graduated from an adapter to a new movie player, but Roland was already at the next level.

We looked back at Roland as though we were two clueless grayhairs. Roland looked at his paperwork. Clearly, we were on the same page, here.

I will not go into the specifics of our rather discursive discussion, but we ended up buying a Samsung Blue-Ray thing which can both play our DVDs as well as stream movies from Netflix and Blockbuster. That sounded cool, even though this would address an issue we never knew existed.

HDMI cables alone were priced from about $60 to $90. The Blue Ray, at $150, seemed to deliver so much more. Except, Roland said, we'd also need a router.

We had a router, I said. An N-router, or a G-router? Roland wondered. A G-router, he said, won't do. A G-router, I said, and Roland pilled his chin and said, "Hmmm."

"Hmmm" offers little in the way of security, especially with a chin pull and inordinate attention to whatever is on the ceiling. We beat it for the router department, buying the $80 one instead of the $40 dollar one so we could be sure that our devices would all network properly.

I forgot to say we'd moved our computers to the bottom level of our tri-level rowhome,even as the printer remained on the third level. And Roland had convinced us of the wonders of Comcast Digital Voice--internet telephone--to replace our current Frontier service and throw in HBO and Encore without a price increase.

All this for a damned cable adapter?

And, oh, the killer: I tried to install the Samsung Blu-ray player, but learned it wouldn't work without an HDMI cable, which, in the butt-reaming verbiage of the owner's manual, "must be purchased separately."

Best Buy's HDMI cables ran from$50 to $80, as I said. Newegg had them for about $3.50, but you had to order them online. But Facebook to the rescue!

Ricki, then Ben York recommended far cheaper (and better and local) places to go. [Editor's note: If you have computer hardware, software, networking, website work or presence issues and can't or don't want to deal with it, contact Ben York immediately before you assassinate your friends and family. Thoroughly competent and reasonably priced.]

But Melissa Denton, friend and client, also called, and had an extra leftover HDMI cable. For free. She offered to drop it off the next morning.


  1. I know now where your very entertaining daughter gets her wonderful writing ability.

  2. Actually, it's the other way around. One of the few examples of reverse gene inheritance. :)