How to connect a Samsung TV to the Internet for Mum A terrible user experience
Last weekend I visited my beautiful mother to watch some movies, eat her deliciously home cooked meals and and unexpectedly fix her TV.
This particular model is a Samsung PS60E8000GM. It recently broke and required repairs. Somehow the settings had been reset and the therefore lost the original WiFi settings. Fair enough. It’s a simple fix, you just:
- Grab the remote
- Select menu
- Find the network settings
- Connect to the home Wifi
Easy. It’ll be more-or-less a variation of that. And it was!
Until you searched for available wireless networks the results turned up nothing. I ran it a second time. The loading screen spun. 1 second, 2, 3, 4 Nothing. I turned the TV on and off and tried again. Nothing.
So I thought, maybe the home network isn’t running. I grabbed my phone. The WiFi symbol clearly visible at the top. I opened Safari and did a quick Google search and the results for ‘dsgsdgsdgd’. Sure enough, it was operating.
Next I thought maybe it’s just that network the TV won’t connect to. So I attempted to use my iPhone Hotspot on the mobile network. Refresh. Nothing. So I’m sitting there thinking. “Right this is fucked”. Apparently the person who fixed the TV, which was a person my parents found on an internet forum, replaced one of the boards. Nothing against the guy (turns out he did a great job) but maybe he replaced the board with one that did not have a WiFi module. I thought that was a bit rich as people on internet forums can actually be quite expert in a niche field. Especially if this guy is kind enough to come to your house and do physical repairs. Which apparently businesses no longer do. Ahhh the good old days, they don’t make them like they used to.
I decided on a new approach. Perhaps the firmware is outdated. It’s probably so old it can’t even detect my parents ‘new’ router or my iPhone. I doubt the TV had been updated since day one. So I navigated the menu to “Update firmware”. I click the button and are prompted with two options:
- Update from USB
- Update via internet
At this point, it crossed my mind to plug into the TV physically with an Ethernet cable. Knowing that an update from a ‘USB’ could be a painful process. I was surprised it even had an Ethernet interface. They have so many plugs in the back these days.. Anyway, the problem, I quickly stated to my mother was that the cable would need to go under the doorway to the hall. You don’t want an ugly cable running around the house and potential trip hazard. Not when the WiFi should work.
I don’t know what it was, but I again tried to connect via WiFi. Low and behold. It showed the networks!
WTF, why did it not work before?? It doesn’t matter, it’s working now. Let’s connect. After connecting and typing the password on the excruciatingly hard and slow ‘keyboard’ using the Television remote. I hit ‘connect’. I watched as the loading screen spun and spun. Before being hit with a “cannot connect error”.
I try again. Nothing. Maybe I had the wrong password? In a strange belief that Samsung was gas-lighting me and I was going mad, I logged into the router to check whether I got my password correct. It was.
I attempted to try connect to my iPhone Hotspot. Again, nothing.
My mother attempted to diagnose the issue by reading the text on the screen in an effort to help. “It needs an IP address”. While this was noble attempt, I had to respond “ma, you don’t even know what an IP address is”. But it did get me thinking. Maybe it’s not obtaining it via DHCP (and it should). Never-the-less I proceeded to enter the details for my network manually. Let me tell you this, they do not make it easy to cycle through numbers in the range of 0-255. I mean, the scroll speed is excruciatingly slow and my router is configured to 10.0.0.168… 168! So I fill in all the damn numbers (getting frustrated). It incremented so slowly and there were 16 of these fields to complete!
- IP Address
- Subnet mask
- DNS server
Who knows this shit? I hit go… Nothing.
I try a different a few more things.. Nothing.
I sat there in defeat. My mum looked at me and said “It’s okay, it doesn’t matter”. I looked back at her and said “I’m going to update the firmware”. This of course would require a USB, which I thankfully brought with me a Samsung 2TB hard drive (for the movies). I grabbed the model code from the rear of the television and pluged “PS60E8000GMXXY firmware download” into Google. I click the first link. Find “Software/download”, click it.
I navigate to ‘Firmware/Software’. I click it and it presents this:
Holy shit Samsung! Where are the downloads? So I click the link ‘How to update your Smart TV”:
Oh my god. There is no search bar and it’s telling me to go back to the back I was at before. It’s like going in circles. I suppose when you’re a Web Developer you are picky on website design. The thing is, you’re also one of the most capable people to understand the quirks of good and bad design. So, if anyone will find the Firmware link – it’s going to be me.
Let me tell you it was not easy. I somehow managed to find the downloads at the bottom of the page. Not just the bottom, it was hidden under “read more”.
From this cryptic list you need to decipher exactly what the files are. There was unfortunately no pot of gold “Download the latest firmware here!” button. Just something hidden in among some manuals. It wasn’t great and added a little more on-top of my already dwindling mood. And that is not good for your overall experience. E.g, I never want to do this again.
I downloaded the software. 180MB @ 10 minutes on an Australian ADSL2+ connection. I plug my hard drive into my mums laptop. Nothing. The USB interfaces must be faulty. Thankfully not Samsung’s fault. It happens. I grab my laptop from my bag and re-download it on my other laptop. Done. I plug the HDD into the television and hit “Upgrade via USB”. The loading screen goes: Spin. Spin. Spin. The application crashes.
A Samsung 2TB hard drive does not interface with a Samsung Television? What. The. Fuck. Look, I understand that the poor little tv does not have the power to potentially scan through a hard drive filled with 1-2gb movies. Majority of people won’t. So I dug out a smaller USB and loaded the software onto that. I plug it into the TV and try again. The loading screen goes: Spin, Spin, Spin.
Shit. A quick search on the internet lands me a solution. The filesystem needs to be FAT32 instead of NTFS. Fine, not really something that a lot of people would understand. But I can do it. So I format the drive, bang the file back on. Rip out the USB (after safely removing) and bang it back in the tele. Open the menu, go to the update button. Click and it: spin, spin, spins..
Holy Fuck. This is fucked. How could this happen? I jump back on the forums. “How to install via USB”. It turns out that the file that you download isn’t actually the file that is used to upgrade the firmware. No, no, no. You have to extract it first. To the USB. I shit you not. I have never heard of this before in my life. Even WordPress, the CMS this website runs, uses a single .zip file for all of it’s upgrades for themes and plugins. And it’s made by volunteers, ha! I just don’t see why the TV can’t extract the file itself. Instead, making an extra step for the customer who, mind you has limited knowledge of IT systems, to do the extraction process. Whatever that means..
Even I, as an IT professional struggled with that one. So I extract the file to the USB.
Unplug it and shove it in the TV. Go to the menu. I’m feeling this will now work. And voila! Success.
After it’s complete. I go back to the WiFi, certain this will now work. Annnddddd no. The WiFi does not work and you can go die in a pit.
It’s about this time, you just want to give up and cry. Any normal person would. You could call support but who knows if you’ll ever get through. Especially with a 3+ year old TV and on a Sunday outside a major city. Let’s try the good old internet again. I start searching for “Problems with WiFi” and after a few forum hits I somehow stumble on a post by a guy called NetSam2K.
What he writes sound similar to what I’m experiencing. It sounds risky, but at this point I’m running out of choices. So I decided to hack the mainframe.
With the special combination of buttons. You enter this creepy and scary menu. It has a bunch of menus and settings that would most likely break the thing if mis-configured. I tell you, the menu is impossible to navigate.
I kept finding myself accidentally changing settings, even though I was trying my best not to! Needless to say, I eventually found the right combination of settings and gave it a full reset.
Upon the reset I was sent back to all the basic setup. Including the WiFi. This time, I select the network. Type in the password anddddddd… YES! Connected and everything’s great.
I rescan the channels in and complete the setup process. Around this time my mother had brought me sandwiches and a cup of tea. Knowing this would likely be a long affair with the television. She prepared me with sustenance to make it through the grueling ordeal.
Finally, I log into the Smart Menu and download the SBS On Demand app that my mum wanted. I created the account (which is a suberb and easy system by SBS) and I go to the video selection to give it a test run. I select “Great British Railway Journeys” presented by Michael Portillo and his extraordinary style. I proceed to eat my salad sandwiches.
And you wonder why people ask IT professionals to ‘fix their internet’ or ‘my printer won’t work’. Because it’s next to impossible for the average user to accomplish and troubleshoot any of them. There is no way in the world my mum would get that working. I barely did! How companies can justify selling these products when the software barely works and provides a next to impossible experience to fix them is beyond me.
The Samsung TV didn’t even interface with their own Samsung Hard Drive. What the fuck!
It’s almost incomprehensible that a giant tech company such as Samsung can not get simple things like this correct. Software needs to work. It needs to work simply, correctly and reliably. It needs to improve. Now.
P.S Please check out “Great British Railway Journeys“. That shit hits hard.