Friday, January 11, 2013

My High Tech Christmas Nightmare

I decided to post today about my high tech nightmare.  This runs a little longer than my usual posts but then, if it was shorter, it would have only qualified as a bad dream.

* * *

I’m not a cutting edge technology kind of person. Some people find this strange since I spent twenty plus years managing an IT department but that was work. Home is different. My computer is…well, let’s say past its prime and the grandkids are always poking fun at the little flip phone in my pocket. Our entertainment system was not exactly state of the art but it served our needs.

Or it did until recently when the DVD player began getting persnickety. It developed a bad habit of freezing up and refusing to show the rest of whatever movie we were watching, usually at the worst possible moment (“I know who the killer is. It’s—” FREEZE). So for Christmas my beloved spouse bought me a new DVD player. Not just DVD – a Blue Ray. With 3D!

A couple days after Christmas, I got the new player out of its box and looked at the installation guide. Piece of cake. Just one cable and the power cord. Then I looked at the TV stand where the Blue Ray would go. There were three boxes under the TV—the cable box, the old DVD/VCR (we’d stopped using the VCR part years ago), and the surround sound control box—but only two shelves. The cable box was sitting on the old DVD, which had a nice sturdy metal case. But the new Blue Ray was lightweight plastic, and I couldn’t set the Blue Ray on either of the other two without blocking their cooling vents. What I needed was a third shelf.

I was trying to jury rig some kind of third shelf and went so far as to suggest getting a new stand when another thought occurred. Our old TV couldn’t show 3D. It wasn’t even HD.

“Um, honey…?”

On New Year’s Day, beloved spouse and I went out and ordered a new 47” flat screen, HD, 3D, state of the art TV. And a new stand…with three shelves, of course. The nice man at the store also sold us an expensive HDMI cable to connect the TV to the cable box. That made sense to me because I knew the Blue Ray player needed an HDMI cable, which I was certain I’d seen in the box.

In preparation removing the old TV and stand, I disconnected all the speaker wires from the back of the surround sound box and eased them through the opening in the back of the stand. I immediately noticed that half the labels that matched wire to speaker had fallen off and I had no idea how to hook them up again. This necessitated a visit from our grandson who climbed into the crawl space below the family room and tugged on each wire, yelling through the floor what direction it came from, until I had them all re-labeled.

The big day arrived. The delivery guys set up the stand, positioned the new TV, hooked the incoming coax cable to it should to make sure it worked, and left. I disconnected the coax cable, positioned the cable box on the top shelf inside the stand and used my new HDMI cable to connect cable box to TV. The cable box became hysterical, with much flashing of green lights. I rebooted the cable box several times. Same thing. Have to call tech support.  I was on hold, waiting, when the cable box abruptly decided to accept its new friend and went to its normal time display. I gathered my courage and turned them both on.

Hmmm. Not quite the picture I was hoping for. An hour or so later, after reading the installation manual (written, of course, in Greek), adjusting the settings, and placing a couple phone calls to one of my techie sons, the picture is a thing of beauty. Then I spent another half hour or so programming the cable remote to talk to the TV. It will, but the TV remote has functions the “universal” cable remote doesn’t so I’m still going to need both remotes.

Now for the sound. I study the back of the old surround sound box. Hmmm. No port for an HMDI cable. Technically, the surround sound box is supposed to be the control center for everything else. The old TV, the cable box, and the old DVD player were all hooked into it, audio and video; but I didn’t need my techie son to tell me this box could not handle the HD, 3D video we’d just paid a small fortune for.

Good grief. Were we going to have to buy a new surround sound system, too?

Okay, I did call techie son. But only to ask him how his TV, surround sound, etc. were hooked up. Maybe there was another way. Eureka. There was. He used his HD TV as his center, with all devices plugged into it and just the audio output from the TV running to the sound system. I went back and studied the new TV. Sure enough, there was an audio output jack. Of course, it was not designed for any of the nineteen thousand cables I had scattered all around the room. It would only accept an optical digital cable.

“Honey, on your way home tonight, could you pick up…”

In the meantime, I dragged all the newly labeled speaker wires through the hole in the back of the stand and got them attached to their proper posts on the back of the surround sound box, a process that required me to stuff the upper portion of my overweight body into the stand and position a flashlight under my chin so I can find the posts. The optical digital cable arrived and I installed it. Changed the settings on the TV audio output and voila! Beautiful sound coming from the center speaker. Just the center speaker.

After several hours of re-programming the TV and the surround sound settings, all six speakers had joined in. Then there was more programming of the remote. We were getting close now. It was almost time to install the new Blue Ray player. You remember, the Christmas gift that started this whole thing. First, I needed that other HDMI cable. It had to be here somewhere. I remembered seeing it. Didn’t I?

Re-check manual. Oh. Not included.

“Honey, on your way home tonight, could you pick up…”

I plugged the new HDMI cable into back of the Blue Ray player, positioned it on the second shelf (the surround sound was on the bottom), and fed the cable and the power cord through the back of stand. I climbed around back and started to connect the cable to the TV.

It was too short.

I cannot repeat in this blog what I said at that moment, let it suffice to say there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth before I determined that the HDMI cable running to the cable box on the top shelf was longer and I was able to resolve the problem by simply swapping the cables.

With great excitement, I turned on the Blue Ray player and popped in a disc. The picture was incredible. The audio...not so much. I was back to one speaker again. More programming. Problem resolved. Now to test it in 3D.

Um. We didn't have any movies in 3D.


While I waited for a 3D disc, I programmed the universal remote to talk to the Blue Ray player. It will, but the Blue Ray remote has functions the universal doesn't.  So I'll still need all the remotes.

Finally, it was time. I put the disc in the Blue Ray play. Switched the TV to 3D mode. Beloved spouse and I put on our 3D glasses.

"Ice Age 4: Continental Drift."  In 3D.  Fantastic.

Merry Christmas

So, tell me...any high tech or even low tech "putting it all together" stories from your Christmas?

Question of the Day:  (just one cause it was a long post)

Can you cry under water?


Linda G. said...

Argh! How frustrating. But at least it finally came together. Is this where I should say "All's well that ends well," or is it too soon for that? *grin*

Julie Dao said...

I was going to write exactly what Linda just said: All's well that ends well! Technology's always been challenging for me... I know how to turn things on, and that's pretty much the extent of it.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Wow - you did all that by yourself? When I get stuff like that, I call my son and have him do it! Don't know what I'd do without him. But that's because I'm not techy AT ALL.

So how do you like watching 3D movies? I can't stand them (they give me headaches), so I doubt I'll ever buy one of those TVs. Even Blue Ray doesn't seem all that much different on our HD TV than a regular DVD (at least, not noticeable enough for the price difference). And now they're coming out with these Super HD TVs. Uhh, no thank you!

Jessica R. Patch said...

Oh wow that is frustrating and beyond! :)

Can you cry under water? I love the way you think.

Do fish get thirsty? I've always wondered that.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm sorry, I laughed all the way through this post!
Yeah, when you make the jump with one component, they all have to go.
But isn't the 3D awesome? We've had one for two years now and it's just amazing. Even without the 3D, the picture quality is out of this world.

Maria Zannini said...

Greg is constantly buying some new gizmo or another. But I drew the line at 3D tv. It gives me a headache and I refuse to watch anything in 3D.

But kudos for doing all this yourself. You have far more patience than me.

Tara Tyler said...

been there!
my hub likes to finnagle the electronics in the house so i let him. i'm in charge of the dvr & running it all, 3d is okay but it gives me a headache sometimes. we watched hugo in 3d, excellent movie!
i remember the good old days of a few channels and rabbit ears =)

LD Masterson said...

Linda G. - Maybe in a couple weeks when my hair stops standing on end.

LD Masterson said...

Julie - Stay that way. Then someone else will get the tech assembly role.

LD Masterson said...

Stacy - Oh yeah, I'm pretty handy...most of the time. :-)

Actually, I'm not that big a fan of 3D. I get a bit of a headache, too. But after Stan had bought the 3D BlueRay it would have been silly not to have been able to use it. He likes the 3D and the kids love it.

LD Masterson said...

Jessica - Do fish get thirsty? I LOVE that.

LD Masterson said...

Alex - I'm glad I gave you a laugh. As I said to Stacy, I have a bit of a headache problem with the 3D but the HD picture quality is great.

LD Masterson said...

Maria - Do you think it's possible that Stan bought me a 3D BlueRay player because HE wanted one? *gasp*

If you'd been listening to me these past couple weeks, I don't think "patience" is the word that would spring to mind.

LD Masterson said...

Tara - Yes! Rabbit ears. You could really work with rabbit ears. My hubby is a financial wizard but with anything techie he's useless. (Think: can't reset the clock on the microwave after a power failure.)

Maryann Miller said...

Sorry, I really had to laugh at this. Your experience is why we wait until one of our techie kids can come out and set all our new equipment up and leave us detailed instructions on how to operate it. We've come such a long way from the TVs with the tubes and an on/off switch you had to get up from your chair to operate. LOL

I cracked up at your comment about your grandkids laughing at your flip phone. My great-niece recently helped me with my phone and had to point out to the rest of the family that it had a button you have to push to start it. This was done amidst much laughter of course.

Carol Kilgore said...

I would have had to call someone. That kind of thing makes me bonkers. So kudos to you for solving the mystery! And congrats on your high-tech Christmas :)

LD Masterson said...

Maryann - We never got up from our chair to turn on the TV - we made the kids do it. Isn't that why you had kids back then? :-)

LD Masterson said...

Carol - Hey, it's the least a mystery writer could do.

Anonymous said...

Our Christmas lights sat in a big mangled pile the entire holiday season. That about sums up our high tech Christmas.

But that's okay. Simple worked this time around and we had a very Merry Christmas!

Mason Canyon said...

I must admit, I smiled through the whole post. I admire your determination and the fact that no furniture (or humans) were harmed in the installation. It is amazing that one tiny new piece of technology could snowball into everything having to be changed. You did a great job, love the photo.

Thoughts in Progress

Todd said...

We have a jumble of old and new ...just a 22 inch HDTV and an odd assortment of ancient devices plugged together with hand-made cables. Finally jumped on the HD cable box and went HDMI...however I am not certain what combination of buttons and wires puts the sound into the stereo, it just works. I have "digital" rabbit ears leftover from the era of the standard cable box so I could at least watch off-air in HD. Comes in handy once in a while when the DVR is recording two shows, normally neither I care to watch.
Next up is locating the doohickey that plugs my tablet into the TV so I can stop watching Netflix on a 7 inch screen.
This is exactly why I spend more money on camping gear than tech nowadays, I watch so little TV. All that stress and you still have a choice between the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo in in perfect clarity! And aren't we supposed to be writing???

Mike Keyton said...

Damn it - you have more inches than I - as the actress said to the bishop. We bought Panasonic Smart HD 3D TV with blue ray and surround sound. But ours is only 42 inches - most my wife would allow : ( Thing is though we knew our limitations - easy to know in my case. We paid an extra 70 dollars for full installation. AND yes, we too discovered the hardway that the HDMI cable is not provided with the bluray player. the actress said

LD Masterson said...

Stephen - As long as you lit up the mangled pile. A jumble of collor can be very Merry. :-)

LD Masterson said...

Mason - I like to think of myself as tenacious. I think some of my family spells that "stubborn".

LD Masterson said...

Todd - "Doohickey." Is that a high tech term?

Yes, we're supposed to be writing. Now you know my excuse. What's yours?

LD Masterson said...

Mike - I was looking at a 42" but beloved spouse fell in love with the 47". It's a bit like sitting in the front row at the drive in movie.