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Working in my underwear

I am not exactly in my underwear…but i could be! Using Team Viewer with a local rack PC i am able to view/control/troubleshoot video sources. Today, from Chicago…i was able to help configure an Apple TV in Florida with an AXIS video encoder and a crestron X-Panel.

Time and Money saved! 30 minutes on my laptop instead of a truck roll plus on site labor.

Super convenient for the customer because they don’t have to be home or have someone there to meet you.

Another Christmas Miracle Brought To You By Controllable Power Products

Middle Atlantic RackLink Series Protection

I just got an “URGENT” email. The subject was actually “URGENT” :). I got up to let my dog out at 9AM and read the email.

“None of the iPads are controlling the system. We would like to have music going today for Christmas”.

I assume the issue is the network or the crestron processor. I send the client a follow up email at 9:05 asking “check to see if you can access the internet with the study iMac (so i can verify the network and internet is working) and try one of the handheld remotes in any room (to verify if the crestron system is online).

By 9:10 i have my laptop fired up and i am already connected to the clients rack PC. I run an IP scan and find that the crestron processor is offline. I access the controllable power strip in the processors rack and cycle power.

By 9:30 the processor is back online, the system is working and the client is happy. I am in Chicago today sitting in my PJs handling a service call on the east coast. 30 minutes from the first “URGENT” email to the last “WE ARE BACK ONLINE THANKS SO MUCH” reply.

I would like to thank the following for making this magic happen:

Windows 7, Internet Explorer & The Internet!
Dell PC (mounted in rack)
TeamViewer (remote login software)
Middle Atlantic controllable RackLink power strip
My dog Nelle (for waking up right when she did! Good Job, Nelle!)

5 minute service call that took 4 hours

DirecTV was out at one of my clients houses and replaced a satellite receiver. I went out today to find out why its not being controlled. Its usually a broken or unattached emitter but sometimes its a nightmare where they totally hacked up the system. Today i found everything in place and the undamaged emitter laying next to the new receiver.

I pulled out the hot glue gun and attached the emitter to the new DirecTV HR24 receiver. When i tested the commands i found that the channel up and channel down buttons on the touch panel would make the box continue to channel up or down forever. Same issue with the navigation arrows. I have no idea why DirecTV would alter the codes on the remote for the HR24. Maybe someone there knows how it drives us crazy and they do it for spite or fun?

I had to break out my pronto TS-1000 to learn the commands from the new DirecTV remote and then convert the CCF data for Crestron DEAL. Then i replaced the driver in SystemBuilder. For some reason… SystemBuilder decided that today would be a good day to crash when i try to upload… every single time. I tried a few times and finally gave up and opted to load the processor via toolbox.

At some point all the new DirecTV commands were testing ok and i discovered that the TV was no longer being controlled. I checked the serial cable and then tried moving the TV to a different com port. Then i tried a different module from the crestron data base. I had been using a generic serial driver with string command for the fujitsu plasma. Eventually i discovered that if i move the TV commands (power/input selection) outside of the global preset macros they worked. Inside of those global preset commands they were ignored. Weird.. especially since these commands in these macros have been working for a long time. Its a fujitsu so that helps date the system.

While there, the client asks “when do you need to get into the bedroom?” “Why do i need to get in there?” i asked. “To integrate the system”. Rather than try and figure out what that meant i went up stairs to see what was going on. The master bedroom has an MX-700 in it with a TV/Receiver/DVD/DirecTV receiver. This system was installed a while back also. I found that they finally replaced the old sony CRT with a sony LCD. All i had to do was swap TV models in URC MX-700 editor and the bedroom was done. Good thing i had the loading cable with me!

Last bit of fun was when i asked about the guest house. “Sure, go ahead and check it for is, someone is moving in next week”. I found the DirecTV receiver to be totally “wont power up” dead. I found that the DVD player locks up at start up. So basically the guest house is offline. Good thing i checked.

Your low voltage stuff isn’t working

I got a call last week from an electrician telling me….

“I installed the outlets where you marked them on the wall but now your low voltage stuff isn’t working. It keeps tripping the breaker. I unplugged it. Just wanted to let you know”.

I explain to the electrician that there isn’t any low voltage stuff installed yet except the cable companies house amp. Electrician confirms “yep that’s the thing that keeps tripping the breaker”. I then explain that the house amp has to work or they lose internet and TV in the den. The electrician tells me that he will check it again and call me back. This was Friday. Fast forward to Monday morning. I have to meet with the electrician at 8AM to go over the work they did and find out whats up with the house amp. Oh.. an added bonus was that the electrician didn’t leave a note or tell the client so i also got an email at 7AM from the client about the issue.

Your Low Voltage Stuff Isn't Working
Your Low Voltage Stuff Isn't Working

I got there early so i checked TV in the Den.. not working. I go over to find the house amp in the closet disconnected. I look at the newly installed outlet and i seen burn marks and the house amp power supply is smoked. I tested the outlet and it was testing ok. As a temporary fix i bypassed the house amp by barreling the input and output. I immediately hear TV in the Den and internet is working fine. I don’t really know what happened. My uneducated (because i wasn’t there) is that the electrician got confused by the RG6 cable being used with the house amp and wall wart and some how wired it up wrong. I really hate that they use an RG6 for power for a lot of CCTV and Satellite devices. I know its convenient for technicians but its confusing to anyone else. The electrician was adding an outlet in the closet near the low voltage panel because some genius didn’t think about having power where all of the 2+2 low voltage cable from the apartment ran back to. All he had to do was unplug the walwart from the hall outlet where it was plugged in temporarily and plug it into the new outlet in the closet. I’m guessing he disconnected some of the RG6 cables and wired it back up wrong. Everything is working now.

The “low voltage stuff” was working when the electrician got there. It was not after he was working in that area. His new outlet or his re installation of a power cord killed the house amp. But for some reason he thought it was okay to call me up and let me know that i (now) have a problem. It didn’t register as his problem for some reason. The reason it was not my problem (and why i quickly let him know that over the phone and this morning) is because i was there when the cable guy came out (4 times) and made sure that his installation was done and working properly. I had the den TV installed and working properly and i had the clients wi-fi network setup and working properly before i left. And more importantly.. these things were done, tested before the electrician began his work. I was able to “point the finger” because a schedule exists and someone is making sure its being followed. If the cable guy, the electrician and I all showed up at the same time trying to work around each other it would have been much more difficult to pinpoint what the problem was and when it occurred. Having someone to blame is not the primary issue. My fear with the house amp was that somehow the electrician energized the low voltage box causing the circuit to break over and over. I was worried that i would be blowing things up all around the house if they left there assuming the issue was solely with my “low voltage stuff”. I wondered if the electrician brought 220 over to my 110 outlet. This happened before with an automated gate and they had power and ground reversed. I smoked 2 Crestron C2N-IIF’s screwing around with that gate when i finally urged the client to get a new gate guy to come and look at it.

Whether its 1 guy installing a TV for an hour or a team working on a large project for a month… everything has to be based on a schedule. Without it… chaos. When you have your act totally together you will find that all of those problems you dealt with in the past really belong to someone else. The cabinet guy for not following your drawings or the sheetrock guy for covering up your speakers or the landscapers for cutting your speaker wire. Those problems were yours because you were not following a schedule that allowed you to properly coordinate with others.

DirecTV Shenanigans UPDATE!

DirecTV finally made it out to the clients home. This time i put a sign on the door that said “DIRECTV.. COME ON IN DOOR IS UNLOCKED” so they would not be able to pretend they knocked. I got some payback by manipulating the DirecTV tech into mounting my FM antenna and saving me a trip on the roof. I told him “this is the antenna your supposed to install”. Tech says “what do you mean”. I say “DirecTV told the homeowner to provide the antenna and you would install it”. Tech said “OK”.

I took a snapshot of his work ticket. This is what it says: “Cust was there. saw driver as driver pulled away from house. CELL # 312-513-****. PLEASE CALL WHEN HEADED OUT TO INSTALL OR CUST WILL CANCEL.”. I thought it was pretty funny that they would put that on the ticket.

DirecTV Work Order
DirecTV Work Order