Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Navigating the Cable Jungle

A few days ago my neighbors called and offered me $50 if I could come over and figure out how to rig up their DirectTV. What ensued was an ordeal of proportions far beyond what should be caused by a satellite box.

The end state set up was going to be totally sweet. 52" 1080i Toshiba flat screen, four speaker surround sound, DVD, CD, VCR, and DirectTV. great spot in the room, good acoustics, and good lighting, and a shelf set up with the back cut out so as to facilitate the running of cables. They even had all the manuals.

I kicked things off by looking at the manuals, and plugging everything into each other in the manner proscribed by the surround sound manual. CD, DVD, VCR, and satellite, all running into the surround sound, then being routed into the TV from there. Plugged it in and got nothing. So we tried various configurations, using component cables, S Video, and HDMI. Those yielded nil, nadda, and bumpkis, respectively. After an odd mixture of S Video and Components, we finally managed to get the Direct TV picture on the screen. No sound though. So I consulted the manual for the surround sound again.

It listed a system setup needed to optimize the speakers. Ok. So I began to go through the steps. Go through the menu. Check. Select system setup. Check. Verify speakers are attached. Check. Attach microphone and set it at ear level in the most likely to be occupied seat. Huh? Microphone?

Turns out the surround sound has a microphone attachment that you need to plug into the dash, and place at ear level, this starts up a test cycle that'll calibrate the speakers. The first problem was how to get the microphone at ear level without blocking it from some speakers. I feared I would have to hold it up, bearing their hopes for a decent entertainment system upon my shoulders like some relatively unimportant Atlas. Fortunately, their 10 year old daughter came out holding a camera tripod in her hands. Some electrical tape later, we had a working stand for the microphone.

I started the test. It puts out these sonar pings from each speaker. I kind of felt like Sean Connery in Hunt for the Red October. Then, we had to repeat it six more times, once at each place where people were likely to sit. After all these tests, the surround sound box shut itself down as it computed the optimal default volumes for the speakers. I thought we were golden.

Alas, it was not to be. As now, we knew the speakers worked, but there was still no sound, and in fact, the picture had been shut off too. Well... shit. I'm getting frustrated. So I continue reading through manuals, getting nowhere slowly. Finally, I throw in the towel, I call my dad up. He took a look at it, and began to work on the surround sound.

Suddenly, it came to me. We plugged the DirectTV into the Surround sound and the TV. We then plugged the DVD player into both the surround sound and the TV. Then we plugged the CD player in the surround sound. That dual link was a trick I cooked up when I had a Playstation, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64 all at once. We fired it up, and tested the systems. All go. I took my money, and went home, immensely satisfied with myself.

No comments: