Freshly Squeezed OpEd: Sometimes The Best Tech Support Is Yourself

This weekend I finally got around to beginning to piece together my minimalist SmartHome set up. I live in a studio apartment, so I’m not looking to accomplish much. As I’m wheelchair bound with several health issues, once I transfer to bed, whatever I forgot to do stays that way until morning unless the situation absolutely must be remedied. A modest SmartHome set-up makes perfect sense.

I have an automated deadbolt lock on my front door for bedtime. If I should fall or require assistance during the night, I can readily unlock the front door allowing entrance for the EMTs (also why I purchased a Series 5 Watch) easily.

Ran into a bit of bother though setting up two, simple smart plugs for lighting. Followed the directions of the manufacturer but was getting nowhere fast. So, I called support.

Therein lies my mistake. As it turned out, the manufacturer’s support tech would not have been able to hold a job at a convenience store for more than a week. I would have been better off rolling down the street, stopping the first second grader I encountered and asked them how to resolve the situation.

First came a litany of questions about my devices. Reasonable enough. Something could have been set wrong. But as I had followed their instructions several times and had watched numerous YouTube videos on how to install that specific plug, I was fairly well versed in the procedure.

But they were doing their job so I dutifully answered all their queries. That’s when things started getting peculiar.

We went through the entire list of possible hardware and software missteps. Fair enough. But then we went through them again. And then a third time, followed by a fourth. And every time I was providing the answer to their question, they would speak over me, asking the next question.

Then I was instructed to trash their software and download a fresh copy. Didn’t seem probable but as anything is possible, I did as instructed. That didn’t work. This is where things turned to the seasoned platitude of ‘let’s throw anything at the wall and see what sticks’.

We switch gears and start to point fingers. How old is your mobile device? Less than a month old. How old is your router? It’s a new mesh router, roughly three months old. Maybe the signal is not getting through a wall? I told them upfront that I lived in a studio apartment.

“That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone!” (apologies, Rod). Hey, isn’t that Salvador Dali’s house across the street. Let’s see if he as any ideas?

How close are you to your router? Literally four feet, I responded for a second time in five minutes.’Could you get about fifteen feet from your router and see if that helps?’ O… K… Ummmm… Sure.

This lunacy continued for another five minutes before I put a stop to it. I needed a breather. I decided to take a break, then start combing through my bank records to see who I had purchased the plugs from. After all, they did come with a three year warranty.

After maybe an hour, the more I thought about the situation, I started to get up a head of steam. ’No stinking plug is gonna get the better of me!’

Suddenly I remembered when I first attempted this installation several months back (pre-lockdown), when I plugged the unit in and launched HomeKit. It instantly asked if I wanted to add an accessory. Could it possibly be that Apple programmed the software so that all I had to do was scan in the QR code to get all this to work?

I couldn’t believe it. After all this hullabaloo, I only had to turn on the light, plug it into the SmartPlug and outlet and it would appear in HomeKit? Yep.

As one of The Beatles said in “HELP”, ‘I can’t help it. I’m a natural born button pusher.’ So that’s what I did. After about half an hour, I had everything configured and labeled as I had wanted.

Fingers crossed that things don’t go awry after several days. And then there’s the second light that’s in shipment to add to the set-up. If adding an accessory was only several steps, I hope adding a scene is accomplished using the same logic.

Easy peasy, I’m sure. But I have a knack for attracting weirdness. As I said, fingers crossed.

©2020 Frank Petrie