Issue 26
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Termination: Why Fi?

Why Fi?


16 November 2012

Text:/ Graeme Hague

I’m blaming the garage door remote. Sure, we had some clunky, wired television remotes around the same time, but I’d say the garage door remote was the very first device designed to encourage us to stay on our arses and just press a button. Now it’s turned into a global, westernised-society obsession with remotely controlling everything. Pure evil is brewing.

A friend of mine is keen to embrace modern technology even though, well, let’s say he’s been on the planet longer than most of us and he struggles to come to grips with it. His latest plan is to create an audiovisual media centre for his house (he also wants to power his entire home from chicken droppings, air condition it by digging huge tunnels under his neighbour’s property and he’s building an electric car from discarded mobile phones… Yes, he’s that sort of chap). He wants to control this media centre from his iPad. So far, progress has been good, in part. He’s digitally converted and transferred his massive collection of CDs, vinyl records and cassettes onto a hard drive. Next he wants to rip his impressive library of DVDs onto another hard drive so he can instantly access them too. When he asked me what would be the best way to back up and archive such a large database, I suggested burning it all onto DVDs and CDs. He didn’t get the joke. Frightening, right?

The iPad has been bought too, except no one knows quite how it works exactly.


The solution is always to phone yours truly, invite me over for a cup of tea and home-made biscuit, and pick my brains for a simple explanation of what is rarely a simple problem. He tells me the internet is adamant that the entire world can be run remotely from an iPad. You just have to download something (on Windows XP, if you don’t mind – and, quote: “by the way, my internet browser seems to be running a little slow – I found this free program to fix it and things seem to have gotten worse…”). Again.

He’s a very nice fellow. So nice, in fact, it’s impossible to say the obvious – why are you bothering with all this high-tech stuff when you don’t have a clue how it works? I hate to discourage an enquiring mind but there’s a limit.

Things have recently gotten worse. With the media centre concept in mind my friend inadvertently wandered into a lion’s den – a retail electronics store – while his wife was checking curtains next door. He didn’t stand a chance, the poor bastard. I won’t say the name of this store other than to offer the hint that it rhymes with ‘Harvey Norman’. In casual pursuit of something that would record his favourite ABC and SBS telly shows and access the internet to display it on his television, he emerged with a name-brand hard disk recorder and Blu-ray player. You can image the conversation that must have taken place.

“Can it be connected to a network?” (My friend possesses a dangerous, small amount of knowledge and can sound quite competent.)

“Absolutely, sir.”

“Splendid, and will I be able to watch the internet on my television using this device?”

“Absolutely, sir.” The salesman smells blood. It’s game over.

Technically the salesman was correct. The recorder does connect wirelessly to a home network for its programming information. And you can watch the internet on the TV, because the recorder includes a proprietary interface that gives you YouTube, ABC iView and Yahoo7… And a couple of other obscure channels. However, you certainly can’t browse the internet at will and there’s no way of viewing video files stored on a home PC acting as a server. Yes, it’s patched into the network but not in that kind of network way.

The recorder, by the way, isn’t in the least interested in swapping binary chitchat with the iPad. Even I found that slightly surprising in our present Apple-mad industry. This was all discovered about an hour after I’d received the inevitable phone call and had spent that time getting things up and running, waiting for channel searches to complete, digging up network passwords… It’s never easy, even using the Easy Setup options. Thank goodness the digital TV stations looked crisper through the recorder, although I’m not sure how that happened (and wasn’t about to mention that anomaly), so the purchase wasn’t deemed a complete loss.


Let’s be clinical about this. It’s not my friend’s fault. Everything he sees on the television or the internet, or hears on the radio convinces him – not unreasonably – that every appliance in existence is just a download away from being wirelessly connected and controlled by a touchscreen device. He’s spent a lifetime cleaning records with dodgy anti-static cloths, rewinding tangled cassettes with a biro and prising jammed VHS tapes out of recalcitrant video players. The 21st century is promising an end to all that, reducing everything to the tap of an iPad. His wife’s homemade biscuit recipe will be replaced with a touchscreen web browser on the kitchen wall, putting millions of secret biscuit mixes at her fingertips.

A perfect, remotely controlled world – if only he could figure out how it all works exactly.

The truly scary bit is that he’s not alone. This new technology is even being thrust upon a lot of people who don’t really want it – and people like me are being poisoned by litres of tea trying to help them. But here’s a question: how many electronic gadgets rely on a remote control to access all the functions, where the gadget itself doesn’t have all the buttons? And how long will it be before household electronics rely on an app and, more to the point, an Apple device to get all the features? You’ll have to own an iPad to turn your telly on.

See? Pure evil.


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