I like things in life portable, mainly because carrying and unpacking boxes gets really old after the first hour, let alone the days it usually takes. I don’t have a desktop computer, I have a laptop. Our TV is tiny, we have a projector for family viewing, I have a single drawer for paperwork and I only own 4 cooking pans. I like to keep things simple.
Recently, I bought a Roku. It is a cunning gizmo the size of a pack of cards which plugs into your TV (or in our case, projector) and uses a wireless internet connection to stream TV and movies to your living room, avoiding the use of a laptop.
This is excellent news for me, because I run my entire life from my laptop. It serves as my landline telephone, photo storage, office, website hub, bank and general second brain. Which is why I get a very nervous eye twitch every time it leaves my field of vision, especially in the grubby hands of a small child off to watch SpongeBob Squarepants.
Hence the Roku. And an evening of Call Centre Hell.
Initially, it looked promising. Our Costco version was supplied with a cable that made installation so simple a hamster could have done it, we remembered our modem password without having to climb into the attic with a torch, and so we laughed in the face of adversity.
Until the little “Unable to connect to your Local Network” prompt appeared.
At this point, we were forced to enter the festering pit my son calls his bedroom, boot up his desktop and call up the router settings. Nothing.
A note to the unwary – teenagers think they know everything, and have finely honed fast twitch muscles in their fingers from years of video game use. Faced with an unknown password, instinct kicked in, and one keystroke later the only person in the house able to get on the internet was Wiggy.
The last time we couldn’t access the internet, I called ‘Mike’ in Bangalore, who was unfailingly polite but somewhat limited by the script provided for him. After 6 futile hours cycling through the same procedure without any change in outcome, he broke, shouted “I cannot help you any more” followed by a dial tone. The technician that arrived the following day was able to spot the problem immediately, not through any greater skill, but simply because he could physically see that we didn’t actually have a modem.. Poor Mike didn’t stand a chance.
This time, I took a different approach. Hooking my neighbor’s (conveniently unsecured) wireless network to the Roku support page produced “No Results Found” in foot high letters on the living room wall, leading me to believe that either their customer service page needs a little more work, or I am the only idiot that can’t set up a Roku.
Despite immense patience and an hour and a half in an online queue, I was similarly unsuccessful with the Roku LiveChat, at which point a red mist clouded my vision. I vaguely remember leaning heavily on Wiggy’s shoulder and mutter dire threats in his ear, and I faintly recall a hissing noise coming from either my mouth or my ears.
Wherever it came from, it was effective, because five minutes later connection was restored and I was considering authoring a guide to the Idi Amin approach to parenting.
When we finally got a picture, it was heaven. There was laughter, there was cheering, there was celebration.
And when all that died down, there was silence.
Using the projector with a laptop sends sound via the wireless speakers.
Use the Roku and a projector, and you are faced with a silent evening doing voice overs to Monty Python sketches…