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October 25, 2014

Better Viewing Through Technology

by Stephanie Earp, posted Oct 6th 2009 11:00PM


I have a confession to make. Last week, I got satellite TV.

Yeah, you read it right. Last week.

Before that, I was subsisting on what my antenna and my wireless internet could bring into the house, and running up a large bill at the local video store. (Seriously - it's what some people spend on groceries.) And I call myself a TV columnist. What a fraud.

Here's the truth about me - I'm cheap. I'll spend hundreds of dollars on a handbag (or DVD rentals), but I've always balked at the monthly fees for a decent cable or satellite package. Because that's the catch, right? Satellite isn't all that expensive, but good satellite costs a fortune, with all those picky packages. If I want to watch 'Dexter' as it airs, I'd have to get pregnant, make sure it was a boy, gestate for nine months, and then hand him over. Am I right, people?

I have a confession to make. Last week, I got satellite TV.

Yeah, you read it right. Last week.

Before that, I was subsisting on what my antenna and my wireless internet could bring into the house, and running up a large bill at the local video store. (Seriously - it's what some people spend on groceries.) And I call myself a TV columnist. What a fraud.

Here's the truth about me - I'm cheap. I'll spend hundreds of dollars on a handbag (or DVD rentals), but I've always balked at the monthly fees for a decent cable or satellite package. Because that's the catch, right? Satellite isn't all that expensive, but good satellite costs a fortune, with all those picky packages. If I want to watch 'Dexter' as it airs, I'd have to get pregnant, make sure it was a boy, gestate for nine months, and then hand him over. Am I right, people?

I'm one of those people who likes to think they're an early adopter, but the truth is I read about new technology, recommend it to friends ("Choose Betamax!" "MiniDisc is the wave of the future!" "Invest in Tivo!") but I don't buy it. I'm waiting for the mother lode - the one device that will be my personal computer, phone, television, GPS, stereo and dishwasher, all in one. And it will fit in my pocket. My spanking new iPhone (see, early adopter, that's me) comes close, but it turns out my computer is so old, it can't handle the latest version of iTunes, so I'm stuck listening to podcasts of 'Q' instead of my playlist.

But even my sad little army of tech gadgets makes watching TV so much better than it used to be. I remember when I first switched from a desktop to a laptop computer. I took the name seriously - no more desk for me. I learned to type from the prone position and moved all activity to my couch. It was a relief - that's where I belong anyway. I believe I was watching 'Alias' with my roommate when a familiar face popped up in a guest role.

"Who is that guy? I know him," she said.

"Yeah, he's that guy from that movie," I replied.

"What movie?" she asked.

"The Gwyneth Paltrow one. With the haircut." And armed with this tidbit of knowledge, Wi-Fi and imdb.com, the discussion was settled before the next commercial break - John Hannah, 'Sliding Doors'.

More recently, my laptop (the same one, just so you get a sense of how ancient this puppy really is) helped me catch up on back episodes of 'Glee' - or parts of the episodes anyway. Global TV streams full episodes on their website, but without the latest Flash upgrade (which my computer can't handle) it's a bit buggy. Sometimes the episodes freeze up midway through and no amount of refreshing will clear it up. Amazingly, the commercials always load just fine, though. I may not know what happens at the end of the fourth episode, but I do have a strange subliminal desire to watch Global News online.

But I don't even bring my laptop to the couch anymore. Now that I've got the iPhone, why lug what seems like a gargantuan hulk of plastic the whole six feet from my table to the couch? I'm so lazy, I sometimes check my email from my iPhone while it's plugged into the computer. And yes, for those keeping score at home, that costs more money because I pay for data transfer on the phone but not on the computer. I never claimed to be thrifty, just cheap.

Back before the iPhone came into my life (also last week - I went on a bit of spending spree) I used to look up songs that played on episodes of TV if I liked them or even if I was just curious. This information is not always easy to find, but thanks to an iPhone app called Shazam, even this elementary bit of research is obsolete.

Shazam, for the five or six people who are actually worse at keeping up than me, 'listens' to songs and then tells you the name and the artist (and links you up with the iTunes store so you can buy it, of course). This is how I know that Jace Everett is the artist behind the 'True Blood' theme song, which is called, shockingly, 'Bad Things'. I might have figured that out without my iPhone, but I can't say for sure.

So far, I'm not sure how my recent switch to satellite is going to change my viewing habits. I was so impressed when I first sat down to watch a few days ago. All those channels! But now I know for sure what I've always suspected - they're all playing the same thing. But at least if I have to choose between repeats of 'CSI Miami' and the late hockey game, I can choose to watch from beautiful Spokane, Washington.

Some people are armchair travellers - me, I'm a couch traveller.

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