Local Lifestyle

Thursday, Apr 03 2014 03:55 PM

HERB BENHAM: I dipped my toe in, but the stream didn't want me

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Herb Benham

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By HERB BENHAM, Californian columnist hbenham@bakersfield.com

I recently hooked up the Apple TV, a gift from the children.

"You're going to love it," Herbie said. "You can stream Netflix and, if you have HBO on Demand, you can access anything in their library."

I wasn't sure we had HBO on Demand. We had HBO, but when you include a high-energy word like "demand," I get nervous. It didn't sound like a TV channel, but a complaint from a law firm.

I couldn't wait to stream Netflix. Stream is a cool word. When you're streaming, you're sitting front row in the technological parade.

Streaming means no more red packages in the mail from Netflix. No more DVDs. The movies flow into your home like drinking water through invisible pipes.

"You can download the entire second season of 'House of Cards,'" Herbie said. "Then you can watch it at your leisure."

After plugging in Apple TV, I used the svelte Apple remote, clicked smoothly into Netflix, identified the icon for "House of Cards," the drama featuring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and then I downloaded the entire season.

Like that's hard? I was an Apple TV god, an electronic hero of sorts.

"Sue, I've downloaded the whole season," I said. "You can watch the first episode tonight and I'll watch it later."

She did, courtesy of the Apple TV god. A couple days later, it was my turn to watch the first episode so that I would be caught up; then we could watch the rest of the season together.

When I clocked into Netflix, the screen read, "There's a problem communicating with Netflix. Try later."

How much later? Like later that evening or later during my next life?

I went back and checked the connection and re-entered our password. Now the screen read, "Your Apple TV isn't connected to the network. To check your network settings, choose settings, general and then select network."

I did and when I selected our network I noticed a slew of other networks, with names like 4 boys, Netgear32 and Rico, which I identified as neighbors.

Get off people, so I can sign on. It's my turn. Have you ever thought about reading a book?

I returned to the endless loop of re-entering my password, being turned down and told to wait. I'd gone from front row at the parade to head first into the hot fire of tech failure. After an hour of sweaty frustration, I drove to the Verizon store to ask about our modem because a friend suggested it might be inadequate.

"Your modem is a 3G," said the sales assistant. "You might need a 4G to stream videos."

I might? You can count on it. I'm a 3G dog chasing a 4G bumper. Now, there's a 5G and that car just got on the 99.

"How much does a 4G modem cost?" I said.

A 4G costs a G or some increment of a G. There was a $100 modem, and a $200 modem, but the latter came with a rebate.

I am not fond of rebates. That means you have to fill something out in triplicate that is as long as the beards on "Duck Dynasty," send it in and by the time you receive the check in the mail, or the refund on your credit card, you've completely forgotten what it was for.

"My favorite is the $200 modem," he said.

Naturally. I drove home without picking up another G. Maybe enough time had elapsed where the old modem would have forgotten that it was a G short of streaming video.

No dice. Not then. Not the next day. Not several days later.

Meanwhile, I've cleared out the raised garden after a failed attempt to grow lettuce and cabbage. I bought tomatoes, Miracle-Gro and time-release fertilizer.

It's no "House of Cards," but this a stream that does not go dry.

Contact Californian columnist Herb Benham at 395-7279 or hbenham@ bakersfield.com. His column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.

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