back to article Dimming the lights on smart(arse) TV

"The TV has stopped working." This is the kind of announcement that I both dread and am accustomed to in the Dabbs household. A bit like the bath-fitter who is expected to know how to fix blocked sewers, as a computer journalist I am held personally to account upon the failure at home of anything electronic... or indeed …

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Devil

sounds familiar

Being a sparky (Electronics Engineer.. not an electrical engineer, and yes there is a difference!), I get the same all the time.. parents, partner, friends.. can you fix my (insert latest fad-gadge here)

Normally my response is "No problem! By the way, I charge £40 per hour.. because I don't have the schematics, BOM or any other information for it and I'm not likely to ever get it from the manufacturer, I have no idea how long it will take or even if can be fixed"

they reply

"£40 per hour!! I'd be better off buying a new one!"

to which I reply with a smug smile

"Yes.. you would!"

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Re: sounds familiar

You don't work with Silvery Technology per chance?

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Re: sounds familiar

Nope, not come across them before sorry

I work mostly on Medical Electronics

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Re: sounds familiar

No probs. Thought you were someone I knew.

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Anonymous Coward

Smart TV

Only if it knows what I want for tea without me asking, cooks it to perfection then has it served to me by a stocking wearing perfectly formed and pretty lady who will even peel my grapes for me and serve them up on a silver platter.

Now that would be a TRUE Smart TV!

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Anonymous Coward

All those functions?

That means I'd have to share it with the rest of the family and never get to watch the bloody thing.

No way!

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peel my grapes

ooh err

sounds a bit rude

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Unhappy

Re: All those functions?

True, so true.

Netflix makes it worse.

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FAIL

Re: sounds familiar

The term "sparky" refers to electrical trades porsons (NOT electronics engineers) and is derived from the habit by old timers of briefly touching wires to "see if it is live".

If you are an electronics engineer and producing sparks during the course of your job then quite frankly "you are doing it wrong".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "served to me by a stocking"

Dear Mr AC 14:26, allow me to introduce you to the hyphen. Here it is:

-

It makes a pretty important difference between saying something quite nonsensical and allowing the reader to understand what you actually intended.

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Happy

Result !

What happens when SWMBO says that if we need a new TV she doesn't want a smaller unit than we had !

Ended up with an LG Smart TV with passive 3D and a free 3d blu-ray player (also got permission to network it so she can watch endless re-runs on iPlayer (btw another one for apple to fight over))

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Boffin

Guessing if it's quietly tutting at you it's a Samsung TV - in which case it's caused by a dodgy capacitor or two on the power supply which is well documented,

Fortunately all it takes is 50p spent at Maplins and 5min replacing the capacitors and it's up and running like new.

Unfortunately I no longer have the justification for buying a new TV :(

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FAIL

schoolboy error

Note.. my earlier post is still a useful response even if you DO know what's wrong with it :-p

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Boffin

Damn

you beat me to it!

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In my case; the answer is 'yes' and 'yes'. To whit I refused to take it to Cu**rys and be charged £37. Took screwdriver to it to reveal 3 blown caps. 45p from Maplin for 5 caps did it (my soldering is a bit crap so I bought a spare ir two). Now working for 6 months but my second hand Eizo is dying to be connected to the MythBox so it may go 'tut tut' with dome help

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Go

Are you kidding?

"Perhaps this time, I fantasise, I'll perform a PowerPoint presentation on the subject in the living room to assembled family members, complete with breakout sessions and ending with a buffet networking lunch."

Why fantasise? It's a great idea! I love it!

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Holmes

Re: Are you kidding?

But then when will you have to do useful thankless work?

Oh...

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sometimes not broken at all.

I had my tosh suddenly go into a frenzied switch off, then on then off again cycle a couple of years ago. Could see no reason for it and was very upset to find that it may be a power supply problem. Then I stumbled upon someone who thought it was due to an OTA firmware update of the DTV tuner (which I never ever used having an HD satellite setup). Lo and behold, No DTV all of a sudden. I left the telly on standby and several days later had noticed that it was now working on DTV, presumably after the new OTA settings were sent to fix the snafu. I then found that I could disable updates (which I did) and have had no problem ever since. No official explanation was forthcoming though.

Tech is too damn smart for most folks these days (and it appear also for India-based banking tech teams!)

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Pint

True story

Buudy and his wife reportedly had the following exchange.

W: The TV is not working. We want to watch a movie.

B: Ah, are you using the complicated remote control?

W: Yes.

B: Are you sitting in the brown chair next to the table?

W: Yes.

B: Open the drawer, put the complicated controller back inside, close the drawer, and never touch it again.

W: (mumble mumble)

B: Pick up the colorful simple controller and press the large cartoon-like button marked 'Watch Movie'.

W: Okay, it's working now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: True story

By way of comparison, father-in-law has a single remote (Logitech?) setup to control the PVR, TV, DVD player and amp.

I find that any attempt ( by anyone other than f-i-l ) to use the single control is doomed. Its quicker to grab the two or more individual controllers and set source, channel, volume that way.

My friend has the top range Logitech controller. It does work most of the time in selecting speakers, source, turning on projector and dimming the lights. Doesn't recline the chair for you though.

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Facepalm

Not quite...

The Harmony is brilliant for me, takes all the effort out of changing source.

If only I could train the Mrs not to press a button and then instantly drop it business end into the cushions before it's finished sending commands... keep it pointed at the TV I say, keep it pointed at the TV the screen on the remote says... to no avail :-(

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Couldn't help myself...

"The internet's not working." reminded of something which I would not refrain from posting; I am sure that there are at least a few people who haven't seen it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPa7fHxdb7o&feature=related

same with subtitles:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAuLqaLGvZU

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Am I the only one that writes helpsheets for family?

My remote control simplified is a work of pure genius

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Do your lot actually read them? Mine wouldn't.

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Re: Am I the only one that writes helpsheets for family?

Not for family but, when we go on holiday, we tend to house-swap with random foreign-types (German's last year, Norwegians this). I have had to write a manual for the entire house - including our all-in-one remote - that can be understood by people for whom English is not their first language. It really does make you stop and think. Trying to describe how to switch the remote into one mode, turn the telly on, set the source, switch to the satelite box etc etc really is a challenge when trying to stick to fairly simple words. I end up using lots of pictures (stolen from the PDF manual) and then use MS Paint to draw circles around the relevant buttons.

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Anonymous Coward

Not fit for purpose

It's disappointing how over-specced, under-delivering, and user-unfriendly most home tech kit is.

There should be a calm, pipe-smoking, cardigan-clad chap included with every item, whose job is to get it all working and smile benevolently as the happy consumer family enjoys the results.

It's also disappointing that we have conditioned ourselves into accepting this state of affairs. "Product A has feature X." "Yes, but does it work, and is it usable?"

That's a question almost as rarely heard as, "Dad, you look tired. How about a nice cup of tea?"

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Holmes

Re: overspecced under delivering, user friendly

Too right. I don't want 95 useless damn features, I just want the bloody things to work when I turn it on, even when work stress and/or migraine have left me with an effective IQ of about 45...

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Happy

Got myself a "smart" TV (Sony)

Only had it a few weeks and it has had more software updates than I could think any device would ever need never mind a TV.

Should have known though, as a PS3 owner who only infrequently uses it for Games I am used to switching on the PS3 for a quick blast only to have to download a HUGE update before I can get anything done!

To smart for their own good, I do however wholeheartedly reccomend the Logitech Harmony remote, superb

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Re: Got myself a "smart" TV (Sony)

Yup: Harmony is the answer to the 'reminding people what the Source button is for' conundrum. They get a remote with buttons labelled 'Watch TV' and 'Play Playstation'. Press the button, all appropriate things happen. Hell, it even has a Help button in case of operator failure. If you're the TV Technician for the house you owe it to yourself to buy one...

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consciousness raising

My wife once raised the IQ of our television considerably by dropping it on the floor. The fall broke the main circuit board, leaving the thing inoperable. Unfortunately, we eventually got another one.

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Flame

Remote controls

Have the people who design remote controls ever used them? Ever watched anybody else use them?

I'm sure my usage pattern for the TV remote is not untypical. At least 90% of keypresses are EPG, Up, Down and Select. (My latest control uses the next/previous channel control to page the EPG, so that gets a fair bit of use for skipping past channels that do nothing but sell tawdry jewellery and weird ones like the channel that's apparently targeted at homosexual rabbits.) The other 30 or so buttons are never used.

So why is the EPG button almost always hard to find? Why is it so often indistinguishable from numerous buttons whose function is incomprehensible and others that seem to do nothing at all? Why does the down-arrow on the next/previous channel control move through the channel list in the opposite direction to the down-arrow used in the EPG?

And another thing, while I'm ranting. When you select a programme from the EPG, if it's microseconds before the TV thinks it's due to start, it asks if you want to set a reminder. My previous TV was worse, it not only did this, but if you pressed the button when the selected programme had already finished, it didn't even switch to that channel, just ignored you because you're plainly not as clever as a smart TV.

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Re: Remote controls

"skipping past channels that do nothing but sell tawdry jewellery"

I just set up a "Favourites" list with the half a dozen channels we ever bother with. I can get to the favourites list with two key preses (GUIDE and BLUE) and then, at a glance, see what is on/coming for all the channels of any worth.

And the answer is usually bugger all.

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Re: Remote controls

That's what I've done, but with all the HD channels, as they are spread out so much on Sky.

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Silver badge

Re: Remote controls

Our cable company has a 'free replacement' policy on remotes for cable boxes and DVRs, whether leased or owned, which it pretty nice of them. Problem is, the company who makes the remotes decided that on their latest version, they should shuffle a bunch of the buttons around (seemingly randomly) and then paint a large number of the clear plastic buttons black, leaving the function reverse typed in about 3.5 point type on the face. Took a long time to get used to the previous remote, and it's extremely hard to retrain your finger memory for differently placed buttons. Add to that having to remove glasses/put on reading glasses to be able to read the annoying black ones, and it's making me seriously consider going out to purchase a couple Logitech Harmonys.

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Facepalm

Re: Remote controls

I can beat that. My DTT box's remote control has a little indistinguishable button marked 'Auto' in the middle of everything else. Press it and all the channels are promptly zapped and it starts re-tuning without so much as a confirmation and everything's in a different order to what it was before.

I've only pressed it once. The other half has only pressed it once. The offspring has managed to press it several times.

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Today's shiny new Smart TV = Tomorrow's dated set you're already wanting to replace

"This means my [several weeks old] list is already out of date and whatever I buy now will be incompatible, non-upgradable tat by the time it gets delivered."

Implying that even a shiny new, (currently) up-to-date smart TV will be in the same boat very, very soon. Bearing in mind the author's apparent horror of tech that *isn't* bang up-to-date, why does he want something that'll be shiny and friend-impressing for a brief period, and then annoyingly out-of-date for the much longer remainder of its life?

I thought the geeks' take on Smart TV was that most weren't all that "smart", didn't do what they did that well, were locked in to manufacturers' favoured proprietary services and peripherals, and (as the article implies) generally didn't get much in the way of manufacturers' upgrades, thus rendering the "smart" parts cheesily dated tat within a couple of years even if the display was fine. This last bit suiting the manufacturers who would rather sell you a new TV.

I've heard it said it makes a lot more sense to get a no-frills, high-quality TV and use (easily replaceable) external boxes for all the "smart" stuff- probably doing it better than the Smart TVs themselves would have.

Obviously not so good for margins-squeezed TV manufacturers who wanted to grab back some profit and differentiation via the Smart TV functionality, but that's business...

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Thumb Up

Re: Today's shiny new Smart TV = Tomorrow's dated set you're already wanting to replace

I completely agree, unfortunately you hardly can find a mid to upper end TV that's not had the not-so "smart" additions. I just went through the exercise of replacing my 10 year old rear projection TV this year as it started to go it did 1080i fine until it kicked the bucket and I've got multiple external devices to do all the "smart" goodness (Tivo, Xbox, Blu-Ray, etc) so I didn't really want a smart TV. I ended up getting a "smart" one but don't use any of those features and still let my external devices do their thing.

From my experience is it seems TV manufacturers are separating their high end from their low end how much additional non-tv tasks it can do. The difference between the $500 and $800 model is the $800 can do Netflix (or you could buy the cheap TV and 3x AppleTV's), it costs them next to nothing to put that piece of software on add $1.00 for a ethernet and you've got a nice chunk of profit. You want a high end panel with good response time, etc that is purely a display only device I was unable to really find any in the $2-3k range, if you want to jump to the $5-6k on a TV they have a few that are non-polluted (but that's changing as well). Only the low end models any more are a "dumb" old traditional TV.

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Stop

Do people still buy tellies?

I haven't owned one in a long long long time.

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Re: Do people still buy tellies?

What do you want, a cookie?

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TV Fixer Extraordinaire

Went round with my g/f to visit her tenants. They said that the TV wasn't working in the 6 odd weeks since the switch-over. Considering that this was a couple of years old Sony Bravia I was unconvinced and assumed they needed to re-scan. But no, they'd done that and showed me it not picking up any channels. I then asked where the aerial went into the wall and followed the cable. Which of course wasn't plugged in.

I think you're a fool if you didn't at least get a machine with built in iPlayer, 4oD, etc. When I saw my parents' set show iPlayer I was an instant convert.

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Re: TV Fixer Extraordinaire

I thought about iPlayer but it's already built into my PS3.

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Unhappy

Source Button

After around 10 occasions of this occurring I replaced all remotes with Sony Child Remotes after people kept pressing the digital button on my nans tv which meant it would try to setup Free-view which would not work because she is on VM (Poor Virgin Bloke wasted his time and after everyone else faffed I pressed a button and hey presto).

the only time turn it off and on again failed.

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'Smart' tv

Bog standard flat screen tv + Acer Aspire.

Voila

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Re: 'Smart' tv

Don't drive your smart TV with an acer craptop if you can avoid it.

I did that. The computer is entombed in a shelf behind the TV (TV is on a shelf, filling the shelf side-to-side with less than a millimeter to spare after I removed the case), with the controls and a pair of 120mm fans mounted between the bottom of the screen and the shelf it's sitting on. Laptop modified by running wires out from the power button, so you don't have to disassemble the shelf setup in order to turn it back on. WoL would work too, except Acer's bios doesn't seem to support it. The hope was that once the frankenstein's monster of an improvised smart TV was assembled, it would never need to be touched, so it didn't matter that to reassemble it, you had to hold the laptop a few inches above the bottom of the shelf with one hand (so it could sit ontop of the stand for the TV), while holding the wires out of the way with your other hand, and gently pushing the screen into position with the third hand, or that critical pieces were held in place with tape, or that something in the mess (who knows what) caused enough interferance that the picture looked like crap if the cable was up against it.

Unfortunately, I forgot that it was an Acer laptop, with Acer thermal management. Hence it needs to be taken out and blasted with compressed air every couple of months, otherwise it overheats when doing compute-intensive tasks (like anything involving video on a computer seems to be). Just like EVERY OTHER ACER LAPTOP I HAVE OWNED before I saw the light, and realized that there's a reason everything they sell is so damned cheap, and stopped buying garbage from Acer.

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Re: 'Smart' tv

"Acer Aspire' - not a laptop. Mini. Leccy and CAT5e in, HDMI out. Works a treat.

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Mushroom

Re: 'Smart' tv

Yep, they really are shite.

Only today i repaired an acer lappy with a failed WD 500gb HD (no warranty on the HD) and its already displaying artifacts due to the piss poor lcd connection cables. D.O.M was 12/10. Barely 16 months old.

They truely are the epitome of shit quality...

Icon representing what should happen to Acer's Q.C.

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Re: 'Smart' tv

You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

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Coat

Talkie Teevee?

Howdy doodly do. How's it going? I'm Talkie, Talkie Teevee, your chirpy entertainment companion. Talkie's the name, teevee's the game. Anyone wanna watch any Dave?

Look, I don't want any Dave, and he doesn't want any Dave. In fact, no one around here wants any Dave. Not now, not ever. No Dave.

How 'bout a BBC?

Or BBCs. We don't like BBCs around here. We want no BBCs, no ITVs, no Channel 4s, no Channel 5s, 5Stars, E4s or Film 4s, no CBBCs, no CBeeBees, no SyFys, no News and no MTVs and definitely no smegging Sky Ones.

Aah, so you're a Babestation man.

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Got me a damn-fancy top-of-the-range Panasonic PVR a few weeks back. It's got everything - 3D Bluray, iPlayer, online apps, DLNA server and DLNA client, USB/external HD playback of all the main video formats...

...Except all of these features are disabled when you're actually recording a TV program.

Genius.

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Pint

@Panasonic PVR

OMG. That's a fail.

My Bell PVR (made by EchoStar) can record two channels while playing two previously recorded shows out to two different TVs. I bought it outright many years ago, and Bell sent me a brand new updated version when they switched the HD channels to h.264 video encoding.

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