I got home from a law lecture[1] today and took apart my TV. As you do.

I’d a couple of motivations for this. The TV is an LG 55LM8600-UC. That -UC is important - it means it’s the US model. I shipped it back to the UK along with the rest of my belongings at the start of the year. It’s a lovely TV, and I’m very happy with the picture quality. Up until now I’ve been running it through a 240v->120v transformer, because the back clearly states 120v 50/60Hz. Having had success converting my Roomba PSU to UK voltage I was wondering if it might be easy enough to do the same for the TV. So the first reason for taking it apart was to look at the PSU board and work out if I could replace it with a UK version, or fix up a handful of components myself. Turns out its rated for 100-240v 50/60Hz so it looks like it should be fine to plug into UK mains directly. And, having done so, it all seems fine. However I don’t take any responsibility if you try this yourself and it all goes up in smoke.

The other reason was to have a general poke at trying to get access to the onboard CPU - the firmware updates are signed and encrypted so I’m a bit stuck working from just those. My TV is from the US; it therefore has an ATSC tuner, and is no good for picking up the DVB-T/T2 broadcast in the UK. It also has a range of “smart” apps built in. Of course are also tailored to the US, so the Amazon Instant Video app connects to amazon.com and is no use with my Amazon UK account. Netflix is smarter about this and detects where you’re located rather than requiring logging in to the appropriate geographic site. However the Netflix app is old and doesn’t support user profiles. Which causes a problem when I spend an afternoon watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and it screws up the recommendations for my girlfriend.

In an ideal world I’d easily be able to update the apps on my TV to recent versions appropriate for my geographic location. Instead, the current state of home entertainment software platforms is at least 10 years behind mobile phones. Some devices allow you to get hold of SDKs even as an end user, but you’re stuck with a multiple ecosystems even between different models from the same manufacturer. LG has no interest in updating my 2012-era TV. They’d rather I buy a nice new 2015 TV. Which means at present my TV is mostly a really nice monitor for my XBMC/Kodi box. I can get away with using my Blu-ray player for Netflix, as it does user profile, but it’s also a US model and again Amazon Instant Video doesn’t work with a UK account. I should point out /that/ box is from Panasonic, just in case anyone thinks I’m needlessly picking on LG. My amp is an Onkyo and it would be nice if it could stream music from Amazon/Google as well (it supports Spotify and a couple of others already), but again no joy there.

I understand there are DRM issues around video and audio content, but these problems seem to have largely been solved in the Android world while still providing a fairly standard development environment and allowing end users to install their own software. It would seem to make more sense if there was a standard “TV”/”Blu-ray” platform that the likes of Netflix and Amazon could write apps once for, reducing the effort required on both sides to get the latest and greatest services on end user equipment. I guess this is some of what Google was trying to achieve with Google TV, but it’s probably less interesting to them than mobile devices as I certainly don’t tend to do things like search on my TV; I just want to view content and would be mighty pissed off if it started advertising things at me unexpectedly.

While I’m not planning to buy a new TV any time soon, I could do with a UK spec 3D-capable Blu-ray player. Is there anything out there with some commitment to open apps / proper updates? I haven’t found anything, but I’d love to be proved wrong.

[1] It was on the duty of care and negligence, if you care.