It’s Friday. Work sucks. I’ve been programming all morning, and I keep uncovering more errors in the code. It’s my own damn fault. We rewrote a shared library over a year ago, but hadn’t updated the OTHER app which used the shared library in almost two years. So while App A works great, App B has all kinds of syntax errors. That’s not a real problem, unless you decide you want to add functionality to App B, but before you do you have to go back and stamp out all the errors you created by cleaning up the shared library. All the more reason not to rename functions and simply add intermediate handler functions.. Oh well.. live and learn…

I’ve also got all kinds of issues with an A/V system at one of our properties. I’ve been told, ‘It’s too confusing’, and to ‘Make it simple’. You know how simple it is now? There is a Watch TV button, a Listen to Music button, and a Watch a Movie button. The remote handles turning on the TV, turning on the Home Theater, changing the appropriate inputs, etc. It’s a Logitech Harmony and it’s awesome. Here’s the problem. Inevitably, one guest screws something up. They stop pointing the remote at the devices while the macro is running.. so only one is turned on, and not the other. They manually turn devices on/off.. etc. Not the end of the world, but then the next guest comes and hits the Watch TV button, and everything is ‘out of sync’. So now they turn on the internal speaker of the TV, because the Home Theater is turned off and they can’t hear anything. Then the next person turns the Theater back on, and there is a horrible echo. If it was a single person in their home, it’s easy enough to fix. The problem here is that this is a public location, and the individuals can’t be taught, and don’t want to read instructions that are anything but a brief summary. What else… oh, the buttons on the remote are too small…we need BIGGER buttons. We don’t want buttons we don’t use. Or, there is an expectation of usage, and it doesn’t work. Ever use a Guide on a TV remote? You know, it shows the available shows? Typically this is then navigated with the arrow keys on the remote.. Why? because you want to scroll both horizontal and vertical and look at the guide. If you hit the channel button, it changes the channel. This is the accepted UI on remotes. Can they understand that? No. They try to use the channel button to navigate through the guide, and nothing works as expected… it’s probably because the arrow buttons aren’t BIGenough.

So what’s the solution? You’ll love it.
1) Get rid of the home theater system. It’s too confusing and no one listens to the DVDs and CDs anyway. We still want surround sound though, so go purchase a receiver only, that will decode the surround sound.
2) Get a remote with BIG simple buttons. It has power, channel up/down, and the volume controls the receiver.

So I follow that process.. of course nothing works..
We need to do this in two locations, but they want to do each one individually to make sure it works. So I go and buy the receiver yesterday. We don’t buy speakers because we wanted to use the existing ones. Problem #1. The original specification called for wired speaker locations.. REAL easy to swap speakers, swap devices, etc. Nope.. Of course not. That was changed because of fire insulation between floors and not wanting anything in the ceiling. Solution: Wireless rear speakers. I forget this… and the speakers are proprietary. So that means I can’t use them in the back. Then I can’t use the front ones either, because rather than having a standard speaker end, they have a proprietary plug. Sure, I could use the physical speaker wire (which has been fished through the wall and runs behind the 60” TV), but I’d have to cut the plugs off. Then when they don’t like this solution, have to splice the old plugs back on. So now we’re into it for a set of speakers.

Problem #2. We got the remote with the BIG simple buttons, but it’s too simple. If you want to control the TV, you hit the TV input button. If you want to control the Receiver, you hit the AV button. You can’t cross-program the buttons. That is to say, when it’s on TV, you can’t have the volume control the AV.. they control the TV. So now I have to search the Internets for a simple interface remote, that happens to be complicated enough to do multi-equipment programming.. Not something Best Buy has.

I’ve just about had it. Maybe they should pay a consultant $250/hr to design a system for them and handle interpretting exactly what ‘simple’ means.

The simple solution is making a user guide that covers the basic problems. Make sure that when a guest is checked out the system is double checked/returned to ‘normal’. Put a small sign on the Home Theater that says, ‘Please use the remote to control this system’ or ‘Please read the instructions for using this system’. Wow.. lookeeeeee.. we can solve the problem with simple procedural changes…

Current Music: Steve Gibson with Leo Laporte – Security Now 91: Marc Maiffret of eEye Digital Security

Current Mood: (frustrated) frustrated

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