Monday, May 12, 2008

Confession Time

I have to tell the truth. I have to be completely honest when I tell you that there some times when I am at a loss to figure out some very simple technical problems. Now you would think that someone who spends most of his waking hours surrounded by all things digital would be able to master setting up a simple consumer-grade device. No blinking 12:00 for me. Well, the following will demonstrate that I, like many of you, can get frustrated setting up even the most basic electronic gear.

It all started when I brought home a new DTV converter box to test out on my home TVs. I connected it to one of the sets in the guest bedroom and it worked great. It took less than 2 minutes to denude the package of it’s shrink wrap and plug in the cables. All was right with the world.

A few days letter I decided to see how the box would function on another TV. I disconnected the converter and cables and connected it to the other TV. Again, all worked as promised. I got a clear picture. The sound was great on all the channels. The remote functioned as described in the instructions.

There was one problem however. All the channels were now displaying captions. “I’ll fix that,” I said to myself. The remote for the DTV converter box is well designed and the closed caption button was plainly marked. I pressed it, expecting the captions to disappear. They vanished for about two seconds and then returned. I tried another channel. Sure enough the captions were there too. I pressed the button again and again with no luck.

Beginning to get somewhat irritated, I figured that the system was either malfunctioning or somehow I had programmed the converter to always display captioning. I waded through the menus and found everything to be in order. I even reset the converter to “Original Factory Specifications,” an often-used last resort fix for many misbehaving computer or electronic devices. No dice, the TV was going to write out in captions whatever was being said on the screen no matter what I did.

OK, now I am getting mad. I even sat down and read the manual, something I never do. The darn thing is broken I decided. “But it can’t be,” my more rational side of the brain whispered in my ear. (Yeh , I hear voices too…that is another story.) The thing worked fine on the other TV.

The proverbial light bulb went on. The captions were coming from the TV not the DTV converter. Sure enough, I found the remote control for the TV. The button to turn the captions on or off was right next to the button that selected the input for the DTV converter. I had apparently pressed it when I connected the converter. As expected, turning off the TV captions ON THE TV solved the problem.

So what is the moral of the story? I am not sure, but when you have multiple TVs, multiple devices connected to those TVs and a dozen or more remote controls lying on the coffee table in the living room, some strange things can happen no mater how technically savvy you are… or think you are.

So the next time you feel like throwing that brand new electronic gizmo through the window, take a deep breath and open the window first.

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