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Internet via TV still sucks

Surfing the Web on a hotel room TV, even on a big screen, is still slow, unpleasant to use and totally impractical.

Pity the fool who is stuck in a hotel room needing to surf the Web, but without a laptop or Web-accessible handheld device.

I was stuck in just that situation this weekend. I went to meet an out-of-town friend at her fancy downtown San Francisco hotel and wanted to look on Yelp for some local bar recommendations. We turned on her huge thin-screen wall-mounted TV and selected the Internet option and were told we had to pay $9.95 for an hour instead of getting free access as she was supposed to be getting with the room.

After a quick call to the concierge desk (or was it IT support?) we were assured that we could click on the payment option and not be charged. After doing so we found the system completely impractical to use. For one thing, despite having a 40-inch or so screen, the size of the font was so large that very little of a Web page was actually displayed and you had to slowly scroll down to see more.

The system was slow to download pages and painful to navigate. Then it didn't seem to be functioning properly. For instance, when I went to Yelp and clicked on "Union Square" neighborhood to narrow my search, it kept displaying the general San Francisco bar listings.

And the display was all off, with the un-needed, oversize neighborhood drop-down menu taking up the top part of the screen, obscuring part of the results. It was truly the worst Web surfing experience of my life. This type of technology has been around for years. You would think that they'd have improved the experience by now.

We quickly shut it down and ventured out without the benefit of a Web guide. Fortunately, I was able to steer us to Le Colonial, where we enjoyed tasty Mojitos and Vietnamese appetizers while listening to a wonderful New Orleans style jazz trio. It just goes to show that I should trust my instincts more often.