Would this sentence have even made sense 40 years ago?
“I have to use my phone to watch TV in the bathroom.”
(Hell, maybe it doesn’t make sense now.)
To solve a problem that eventually got solved by a Roku 3 I picked up a Chromecast.
It’s a handy little device that plugs into the back of your TV into a spare HDMI port. It’ll currently set you back $35. That’s cheap enough that when the Chromecast didn’t solve that aforementioned problem, I didn’t return it.
Ran across it the other day while putting away some electronic stuff. Had a little Dynex TV that wasn’t doing anything. Thought, “Hmm, if I had a TV in the bathroom . . .”
Picture this: I have a 36″ Westinghouse flat screen in my bedroom. (It’s currently hooked up to that Roku 3.) I’ve got a 50″ Vizio in my den hooked up to a PC. It basically acts as a PC monitor. Then, in the living room is a 70″ Vizio similarly connected to a HTPC (that’s “Home Theater PC” — had to look that one up the first time I encountered the acronym).
Ironically . . . I don’t watch television.
Which is kind of a lie. I don’t have any television in the house connected to an antenna. Haven’t had cable TV in over four years.
Yet, on www.followshows.com I’m following 21 different television shows. (Ok, here’s the list: Boardwalk Empire, Cosmos, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men, Modern Family, Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black, Rectify, Resurrection, Shameless (the US version), Rake (the Australian version), Suits, Big Bang Theory, The Blacklist, The Following, Walking Dead, True Detective, and Under the Dome.)
I’m truly mystified why anyone pays for a cable TV subscription any more; excepting sports, “reality shows,” and other live events. (Which I don’t watch.) In any case, if there is a show I want to watch, I can find it online. And watch it on my schedule. Time shifting to the max.
For content management I use Plex. It’s a remarkable server software that puts all of your media in a very pretty / organized fashion that you can access from any Internet connected device. You can share / grant permission to other people to view your media. You can stop watching on one device and pick right up where you left off when you start watching again on a different device. Absolutely remarkable stuff. Both the Roku 3 and the Chromecast use a Plex app to access the server with all that content.
The Roku 3 comes with a handy-dandy remote, but the Chromecast requires an app. There’s one each for i-devices and Androids. My phone is a Samsung Galaxy Mega (it’s a big sumbitch — allowed me to merge / get rid of my Samsung Galaxy S3 and Google Nexus 7 when it came time to upgrade.)
So, to expand on the opening sentence: I have to use the app on my phone to control the Chromecast device plugged into the HDMI port of a television to watch content that’s streaming wirelessly from a server running Plex.
I remember the very last conversation I had with my mom before she passed away. I’d purchased a Nook e-reader for her, created a how-to-use-it video just for her, posted that to YouTube, logged into her laptop while she was sitting in front of it, and played the video for her. To say my mom was technically challenged would be like saying there’s a few gallons of water in the Pacific Ocean.
The very last question my mom ever asked me was, “How do you know all this stuff?” (Which reminded me of this:)
Roku. Chromecast. Servers. Tablets. Phablets. Smart phones. Windows. Android. IOS. Multi Media Management. Networked computers. Streaming content.
None of that knowledge came in handy when it came time to mount the television.
You see, when it comes to having a practical skill such as, oh, I don’t know, the ability to use the correct end of a screwdriver, I’m as worthless as tits on a nun.
(I can see the comments now. “Does your mama know you’re using dirty pix on your blog?” You betcha she does. She’s in the bunk right about Sister Maidenform.)
There’s something called “Moore’s Law” in computer-world. Basically it states the number of transistors on integrated circuits would double roughly every 2 years. There’s also a universal law when it comes time for me to do real “handyman” work: “Ray Is As Worthless As Tits On A Nun.” It basically states that no matter what project Ray will undertake, it’ll cost at least twice as much, it won’t look anything like it was originally conceived, and it’ll require a minimum of five trips to the hardware store. The whole process is like:
Hardware store trip #1 to buy the wall bracket was painless enough. The bracket cost less than $50 and came with all the hardware. Got it home, opened it all up, put the pieces carefully out on the table, and proceeded through the installation book.
Has humankind gotten so illiterate that manufacturers no longer put words in their installation guides? (“Everyone’s out watching monkeys and nuns. Who’s got time to learn to read?”) Instruction manuals are nothing more than a bunch of pictures (drawings, usually) with a lot of arrows. The arrows are either telling you to move this doomahickey yonder-ways across the thingamabob or they’re telling you the Injuns are about to scalp your sorry ass, General Custer. Without words it’s impossible to tell.
At least something like mute-instruction books play to my strengths: go check YouTube for a “how to” video. Sure enough the manufacturer made several. They all start with, “Hurry up and get this installed before Sitting Bull arrives.”
Ever hear the joke about why bachelors don’t cook? Because every recipe begins with, “Use a clean bowl . . . ” Handyman project manufacturers all assume that anyone installing their product knows the correct end of a screwdriver to use . . . and they’re audacious enough to think you own a screwdriver in the first place. There’s an old adage that says a poor craftsman blames mistakes on his tools. What if the craftsman doesn’t have any tools (or the right tools) in the first place?
I’m more than halfway through my 6th decade on Earth. Not once in that entire time have I ever personally seen a stud finder; much less used one. (I’m going to ignore the obvious hot chix looking for studs jokes.)
Every how-to video started off the same way. Use a stud finder (not the one pictured above) to mount your bracket. (Maybe we are talking about the picture above.) Back to my strengths, I start Googling, “What if you don’t have a stud finder?”
There were several creative answers and more than a few interesting videos. An Australian guy started off his video pounding holes in the drywall until he found the stud. I think it caught my eye because I was about to that point myself. There was a general consensus you could use a fridge magnet as a poor man’s stud-finder. Metal studs, maybe. Trying to find nails in wooden studs through 1/2 inch drywall with a fridge magnet, not so much.
Curiously, the word-less instruction manual had a section about installing the bracket without mounting it to studs. Just use the plastic anchors that were included in the kit. The videos never mentioned that option. After an hour or so fretting over studs and running magnets over the wall I decided to go stud-less.
Naturally, the holes needed to be drilled at a bigger diameter than any drill bit I owned. The top hole for the bracket mount went ok. I was able to rotate the drill bit around and get it just right (as Goldilocks with the hammer above would say.)
The bottom hole . . . eh, naw baby naw. As soon as I slid the plastic anchor in the hole it reminded me while gravity may be free, but you have to pay attention to it. The plastic anchor dutifully paid its gravity toll and now lives on the bottom of the other side of the bathroom wall. Well, shit.
Hardware store trip #2. See if I can buy some more anchors.
For once I was smart enough to actually bring the bolt I needed fitted to something. The old fella at Home Depot asked me where I got the 4 inch bolts that I showed him. I told him they came with the bracket kit. He asked if I’d already drilled the holes. I told him yes. He suggested that since the holes were already in the walls I should use a toggle bolt instead.
I purchased a pair of toggle bolts and a bigger drill bit. Once I got home, I inserted the bolts through the bracket, into the already drilled holes, tightened them into the wall, ran the power cords through some “cord hiders” I had purchased, mounted the television . . . and it actually stayed on the wall. Not only did it stay on the wall, the TV and the Chromecast all had power and the app on the phone talked to the Chromecast. Fuck! It all worked! How the hell did that happen? It only took two trips to the hardware store.
Expecting Sitting Bull at any moment, I did what any rational adult American male would do: I filled the tub, stripped nekkid, stepped in, laid back, and used my new Chromecast-enabled TV to select “Frasier.”
And that’s when I saw the problem. The TV was mounted too high. While the mount came with a tilt option, as far as it would tilt wasn’t far enough. It was exactly like sitting in the first row at the movie theaters . . . except it was worse because this is an LCD television. The colors get a little wonky if you’re not looking at it almost dead-on. Like women’s dresses, they’re not designed to be looked it from under.
For once, though, I wasn’t distraught about my handyman project. What I did worked. The TV was mounted. All I had to do was head back to the hardware store, pick up some more toggle bolts, some putty to fix the holes, and repeat what I did to mount it in the first place. Just this time mount the damned thing lower.
Hardware store trip #3. I should know better than to improvise. I should know better than to . . . oh, I don’t know, think about stuff. To try to improve on what works. “Instead of 4 inch bolts, why don’t I just go with 2 inch bolts? Drywall is only 1/2 inch thick. That leaves about 1.5 inches for the bolt / anchor. Smaller holes to drill. The box the bolts come in boast of a 50 pound capacity. The TV and bracket weigh much less than that. SOLD!”
Hardware store trip #4 had me buying 4 inch bolts. Why? Because 2 inch bolts don’t have space for the toggle anchors to expand on the other side of the wall. With the anchors not fully extended, items you think are mounted pay their gravity toll and head for the deck, too. This time dragging the bolts and anchors with them.
I did get the mount installed much lower. The perfect level would be lower still, but I wasn’t about to start drilling through tile. It’s a lot better than what it was. Everything works well. The TV mounts flush against the wall so when you’re sitting on the throne you don’t conk your head on it.
To anyone reading who has the least bit of proficiency in doing this kind of work, you’ll be mystified at how tickled I am with myself about putting two bolts in a wall. It doesn’t sound like much. I’ll grant you it isn’t. But it is the first project I’ve ever done like this where the end result was exactly what I hoped it would be.
Still took me five trips to the hardware store, though. Hardware store trip #5 was to buy the putty I forgot to buy on trips 3 and 4. Dammit.
Stay tuned. Now that I’ve successfully managed to drill two holes in a wall and insert a couple of bolts, I’m headed to Memphis in three weeks where — honest to God — I’m going to build a house.
Alert Sitting Bull.