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Web-Streamed Movies Stop Working— Is it the Sony Bravia TV or Comcast Internet or the Router, or Neither or Both? Arggg...!

After waiting for years, I finally bought a 46" Sony Bravia KDL46HX850 HDTV last November. The picture quality is stunning— and I’m not easily impressed what with working with top end displays and photo gear professionally. Yes, I know that Pioneer’s fabled Kuro might be better, but I doubt that one could better the Sony picture at twice the $1499 Black Friday price I paid. Highly recommended.

I almost never watch TV (working 7 X 12 generally), but I do enjoy an occasional movie (westerns in part because of scenery in my favorite locations).

After 2.5 months of trouble-free movie streaming, both Netflix and Amazon simply stopped working:

- Both Amazon and Netflix will no longer function on  Sony KDL46HX850 TV.
- All other internet services on the same TV do work.
- Sony BluRay player on same network node can access Amazon/NetFlix.
1.  For the Sony TV, press the SEN button
2.  Select Amazon (or Netflix).
3.  Press button to select Amazon (Netflix)
TV makes its usual beep, the icon flickers, nothing happens.
Powering off TV, unplugging, etc many repeats the thing won’t work.

The solution

After an infuriating waste of time with Sony customer support “chat”, I walked out to the garage, and pulled the power plug on the Comcast router. After its lengthy ~2 minute boot process, movie streaming on the Sony TV was restored.

So was this a Sony TV problem or a Comcast problem? The TV could access other internet services so it was not an internet access problem alone. Another Sony device (BluRay player) on the same wireless node was able to access Amazon and Netflix, so it was not the services by themselves or Comcast alone. The cross-check doesn’t implicate just one or the other, but suggests perhaps a TV bug interacting with those services and/or the router.

The general problem with today’s services

Such are the maddening problems with today’ fancy new web services, the vaunted 'cloud'. Customer support in my experience is a bitter pacifier (though a blind squirrel does occasionally find an acorn). I expect this stuff to work flawlessly 99.99% of the time before I trust anything important to it (my data) and the few failures should just self-correct. We are not there yet. My data is certainly not going into this cloud.

Sometimes the best solution is to “reboot the system” — reset all and pull the power plug. Heard this before? It’s the “reboot and reinstall” answer to incompetent software design that gives zero indication of the source of the problem. And code that contains no extras to detect and self-correct (that cool stuff is reserved for computers in movies I guess).

That the Sony TV just beeps and does nothing is really frustrating— where does one go from zero? Obviously the TV was experiencing some kind of problem (I did power it on/off and unplug it to no avail), so why can’t it at least give some kind of diagnostic code that one could google search for the solution? The answer is that it could, but that someone designed the code to not do so. Perhaps one of those “impossible” if/else cases that tend to occur.

The Sony TV behavior is the same type of careless design that leads the OS X Finder to report (or silently ignore) a file copy error but give no filename nor indicate whether it’s a read or write error. In both cases, it’s what I call the “Ha Ha You Lose!!!” error or dialog. Let’s hope companies focus more on fixing such usability blind alleys.


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