Monday, December 31, 2012

Gotta love technology (Seniors in 21st C)

Updated: 5 Jan. 2013

For fun, an interesting end-of-year afternoon spent problem solving a technical problem with a lovely 90-yr old senior. 

A senior's family buys their 90-yr old mother a new flat screen tv for Christmas. But the manual is only on CD and she has no computer. Guess stores figure everyone has computers these days. [Just like Facebook and Google assume all users have smart phones for recovery, if accounts are hacked. Grrrrr.....]

A family member experiments and successfully connects her new tv to the Shaw high definition box using a myriad of different connectors (cable, sound, video, etc.).

Unfortunately, the next day she discovers that her phone, also with Shaw, cannot make or accept calls. When I phone her number, a voice says she is not connected to a network. Hmmm....

To investigate, I take one of our phones to her apartment and connect it to determine if it's her phone or a network issue. Same problem, so it's as if her wall phone jack is no longer connected to the network.

Try to call Shaw on my cell phone but, naturally, its battery is dead. So I return to our apartment with her phone number and Shaw account number in hand, put cell phone on its charger, call Shaw from land line and, after a 35 minute wait, get a friendly guy who speaks perfect English with an East Indian accent. Could be in Edmonton or any Canadian city or Bangalore, India.

Describing the problem, I mention that she recently got a new flat screen tv and one of her sons connected it to the Shaw HD box without a manual, which was only on CD.

He says it's best if I can be in her apartment on cell phone to troubleshoot. Luckily, cell is now fully charged. He will call me on my cell in 3-5 minutes.

True to his word, call comes through on my cell. He notes that her phone modem is indeed not detected, not connected.

In the interim, I've looked at tangle of cords behind her tv. Thank gawd her tv is on a stand with rollers so it can moved for easier access to the tangle. But, Yikes! None of it resembles the Shaw modems and connections we have, except for the main cable cord coming from the wall.

Many cords connect her tv flat screen and Shaw HD box and there are two co-axial cables. One connects the main cable cord to the HD box and the other connects the main cable cord to the flat screen tv. Plus there is a fat black modem attached to the wall (our modem is much slimmer). 

After much description and discussion, support technician tells me to unplug the power cord at top left from the fat black modem attached to the wall. Then unscrew one of the two co-axial cables, doesn't matter which one, connecting the Shaw HD box and flat screen tv, AND connect it to the fat modem instead. I lack strength to unscrew the co-ax cable from the HD box (hey, I'm a senior citizen too), but manage to unscrew the co-ax from the tv and connect it to what I hope is the correct port on the fat modem.

Voila, the phone makes a sound and support guy, sounding quite pleased with himself, says the phone now shows as connected and he'll call us to confirm. Sure enough the phone rings and I answer.

It's fortunate that her phone was connected when it was. Shortly thereafter, Meals on Wheels volunteer delivery person called from the lobby to be buzzed in. And later her home care nurse, who changes her surgical dressings every 2nd day, unable to get through by phone, decides to come by regardless and calls from the lobby to be buzzed in. 

Based on experience, I now tell the Shaw support technician that we need to confirm that her tv works. I turn on the Shaw HD box and new tv and - as anticipated - nothing but snow. He asks me to look for another co-axial cable in the jumble of cords, but there is none. He says we can buy a co-ax almost anywhere and use it to connect her new tv to the Shaw HD box.

Rather exhausted, I'm not so sure I can do the co-axial thing and explain that we need a Shaw technician to come to her apartment and make it right. He says there is no way a technician call can be justified when a simple co-ax cable will solve the problem. Also goes into spiel on how her relatives should have called Shaw to see how to connect new tv. In other words, it's her fault.

Technician may have a point (relatives and friends are amateurs when it comes to connecting TV, phone to Shaw cable) but calling Shaw when one buys a new TV is not first option most customers think of. Who wants to wait for gawd knows how long on phone? And Shaw support may decide it's not a Shaw issue: You bought a new TV. Figure it out, dude.

Technician's tone suggested it was the senior's fault that problem existed. The blame-the-victim spiel was a mistake as it triggered a few buttons. As calmly as possible, but with a steely voice, I explain that she is 90 and lives alone. She needs her phone for safety, plus she's had recent surgery, and is stuck in her apartment. TV is also a life-line that makes life bearable. And the family member who connected her new TV is also a senior. Sounding empathetic, the technician asks if I can hold while he consults his supervisor.

Surprise! It turns out that, yes, a Shaw technician can come out after all. But not for ~ one week. I thank him and mention that, because a week is a long time to juggle either having a phone or TV, we'll try to get a co-axial cable to solve the issue. If we do, we'll cancel the Shaw technician visit.

As it turns out, one of her children has a spare co-axial cable and will bring it over right away. I connect the co-ax to what I hope are the right connections on the TV and Shaw HD box. But when the TV is turned on, nothing but snow.

Then I recall the 'input' button on the TV remote. [More on this in a later blog on what happens when a computer no longer connects to its flat panel screen.] Scrolling through the options, 'TV' (existing selection) doesn't work but 'component' does. Hallelujah!

About 4 hours after problem was detected, the senior now has both telephone and new TV operational. Yah gotta love technology. 

Upon reflection, the senior decides to have the Shaw technician come out anyway. First, the Shaw remote control now only controls changing channels and she needs to use the TV's remote to turn on the TV and adjust sound. Perhaps the service rep can make all functions work off Shaw's remote. 

Second, since the people who connected the new TV and trouble shot the telephone problem are amateurs, it's wise to get the Shaw expert to ensure all is working as expected.

Learning Points: 
1. Never, ever, be without a co-axial cable. You never know when one will solve an urgent problem. I have a friend who thinks this about WD-40

2. Don't take any guff from support staff. If they say you did wrong not to consult them, take them up on it and insist on a service call.

I like to link suitable songs to blogs (see Musings on transfusion medicine). And this fits in a kooky sort of way: