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Sep
8

Peace and quiet – The Open Source Column

by Simon Brew

Simon bought a television. It put him in a bad mood…

Buying a new television is a minefield. Buying a new television via an excursion to a high-street electrical retailer tends to up the challenge to that of an end-of-level boss. Clearly, as is often the case, manufacturers have an agenda that flies in the face of what an end consumer might actually want. My last visit to an electrical retailer was like walking into a bad science fiction film. A row of people were wearing expensive-looking 3D glasses, glaring at screens bearing expensive animations, while a young
man in a fine suit tried picking the exact and proper word to extract them from their finances. Never mind selling people a feature they actually wanted: this was seemingly about hitting a target for selling 3D tellies, ironically at a point where at least one major broadcaster has given up the ghost supporting them. Those kinds of facts don’t get you Salesperson Of The Month and a holiday to the Med, though.

Depressingly, the selling doesn’t stop when you buy a device now. In the end, I plundered my savings at a quieter online emporium and took delivery of my new television set. I tend to leave it five or six years between such purchases, and thus the technological jump I sit through when I switch my new set on tends to be a bit more dramatic than if I were to swap things out every year.

I switched on my newly acquired TV then and was hit with an interface that looked as if Windows 8 had invaded. Only I wasn’t allowed to touch anything. To be fair, put a DVD in and the set defaulted to playing it. But while my children were sugar-filled with glee at the thought of new menu items to play with and icons to press, I wondered if I was getting old.

I gazed down at my remote control, for instance, and it had the Netflix logo on it. Netflix presumably has paid good money to advertise on my remote control, which I don’t feel the benefit of. Furthermore, it’s a button that discriminates against those of a Lovefilm persuasion. I frequent neither, so it was a bit of a
waste all round for me.

What surprised me, though, was how accepting I was of all of that. Even a year ago I would have felt myself getting really quite irritated and rage-filled about it all. I feel like they’re wearing me down. Still, no matter, there was one more surprise that the manufacturer concerned had laid on for me. A pop-up advert! On my television! I was sat watching the start of a programme, and an advert overlaid on it. The
television found itself back inside the box not that long afterwards. I await the moment when my fridge door starts trying to flog me some Anchor butter or something next.

Can we, then, as end users, agree a point with manufacturers when the selling can stop and the using can start? This is probably the more forlorn hope I’ve ever had in all the time I’ve written these columns, and all the time you’ve been suffering them. But it’s not just my age and tolerance levels, I don’t think. Instead, I just think that once you’ve bought the box, you’re entitled to a bit of bloody peace and quiet…

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