How to keep the misses in the dark about the true cost of CE toys

I wrote this as a response to someone a while back. He was looking to buy a budget remote and i decided to share my tips for building a toy fund.

You start holding money back from wherever you can get it.

1.At the resturaunt.. when she gets up.. you grab the tip money that was meant for the server.

2.You offer to do the laundry and anything you find in her jeans belongs to you. Don’t tell her you found it! If she asks.. say “hmm.. maybe it got washed..” and if she lets it go.. its yours.. if she doesn’t let it go.. produce it later saying “i found it in the dryer”.

3.Offering plate at church. If you don’t go to church.. start going. Learn to remove money from the plate and make it look like your depositing money.

4.Street performing. Use your lunch breaks to fatten your wallet instead of your waste.

Ok.. so now you have the $ and she doesn’t know you have it. (Careful now.. if she learns of your creative accounting a pair of shoes or a trip to the salon may come to pass.) By now you should know exactly which remote you want. You must go to a store. Online means shipping.. shipping means she could possibly learn of its arrival.

GO BUY IT! DON’T LOOK BACK! YOU MADE IT MAN!

Now that your back in your car with the giant yellow and blue electronic store sign in your rear view mirror… get rid of all packaging. Store the receipt in your desk at work. Use an emery board to rough it up.

I KNOW I KNOW! “ROUGH IT UP? NO WAY” YES!!! ROUGH IT UP!!

Now that its roughed up.. wait until you have time at home alone to program it. Get it all programmed and ready to go and place it on the table next to the other remotes.

DON’T! DO NOT!

Put the other remotes away yet. Leave them all out on the table. Every time you 2 sit down to watch TV you have to spend 5 minutes pretending to read thru manuals and playing with the buttons. While your doing this you have to continue to say things like “i am going to get this figured out if it kills me” or “ill be damned if i am spending money on something i can do myself”.

This will help put her mind at ease. She will begin to forget about her death threat and your spending more than $100 bucks on a remote. She will think she has won. This is good. That is when you sit down one night and jump out of your chair and say “I DID IT!!! i got everything on this dingy old remote, i am sure glad i didn’t throw it out years ago”.

Now you can put your other remotes away and enjoy life again. I know it seems crazy or a bit involved but trust me…

ITS THE ONLY WAY!!!

If you spend $100 on a remote she gets to spend $500 on whatever she wants. That is how it works. I didn’t make the rules. All i know is that for every dollar i ‘invest’ on my stuff she ‘wastes’ 5 on her stuff 🙂

Super Greg Was A Lie!

I started surfing the internet on a regular basis back in 1998. SuperGreg was one of the first hilarious characters i ran into. This link will take you to a fan site where the original Super Greg site exists. http://www.rogles.com/rogles/supergreg/supergreg.htm

Today i found out that Super Greg was a fake!

I am watching Beat Boxing Videos on YouTube when i notice a thumbnail of Super Greg. I decide to click it for old times sake. I notice a response that says “for those who dont know, Super Greg is really Sascha Cohen” (ALI G, BORAT). My mind immediately begins racing in a panic. I google it and find this…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Greg

WTF? How could i have missed this all these years? I felt like a kid who just learned that Santa or the Easter Bunny wasn’t real. The internet officially sucks now :(.

Prodigy Composer Is Here!

I downloaded Prodigy Composer a couple days ago and quickly went thru setting up a fake system. I spent about an hour configuring a 4 zone system with a hand held remote, an in-wall touchscreen an iphone & xpanel interface. I added lighting and climate control also. When i was done i was able to open it in System Builder to polish it up. I don’t have the hardware to test with yet so i don’t know if i am really done programming after an hour. The Destiny template looks very nice. It appears to operate just like a System Builder generated system. While i wont be able to comment on functionality just yet, i have to say that programming was quite painless.

Screenshots of the iPhone user interface :

Prodigy iPhone UI

Prodigy iPhone UI

Prodigy iPhone UI

Adding…

These links will take you to a few screenshots of the xpanel destiny interface. I did not post them because they are larger than my blog layout and i haven’t figured out the gallery tool just yet :).

http://wiremunky.com/image/screenshots/prodigy_xpanel_3.jpg

http://wiremunky.com/image/screenshots/prodigy_xpanel_2.jpg

http://wiremunky.com/image/screenshots/prodigy_xpanel_1.jpg

CEDIA 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award

I am not sure who submitted my name as a write in candidate for the CEDIA 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award but i want to say thanks! I can tell that the person who submitted my name is very intelligent and attractive to women.  I accept the nomination and i am actively competing for the award. This blog post is meant to make it official and allow the undecided a behind the scenes peak at me, the most worthy candidate. Feel free to contact me for positive statements about me. Vote with your conscience and remember, you dont want to waste your vote on a loser so just vote STAMP!

Crestron Prodigy Brochure Available

If prodigy had a plug and play CCTV camera and door bell-intercom solution i could spec it for a good portion of the projects i install. Another thing i would like to see is a wireless touchscreen. If Apple ever puts out a 7 or 9 inch touchpanel it would be a perfect add on for prodigy.

I am happy to see a wizard based system from Crestron. From the looks of it Crestron dealers will no longer have to look elsewhere for… well for anything. According to this CEPro article “A Prodigy system starts at about $825 for the controller, remote and wireless gateway (optional, but you’ll want it)”. This puts prodigy in line for entry level systems that we would have quoted other control systems for.

Welcome to a world where rock solid Crestron hardware is affordable and easy to install. Download the brochure from Crestron with the link below.

– Crestron Prodigy Brochure

For Installers – How to get your clients to perceive you as a professional

Clients are often nervous about having workers in their home but by following a few simple steps you’ll be amazed at how quickly they come to respect you as a worker and feel comfortable with you in their home. The tips below will help you combat your clients worry by taking steps that will put their minds at ease.

These tips are geared towards making the client aware of and confident of your respect for their home. All of it is common sense advice that can be done very easily with little to no extra time or cost to the Custom Installer. In fact it will most likely save you money that would have been lost due to damage or wasted time dealing with the client each time you’re questioned about something.

Drop cloths, Moving Blankets & Shoe Protectors

The first thing you should do at a job is bring in the drop cloths & blankets and put on shoe protectors. Put moving blankets down wherever you’re going to put your tools & parts. They offer more protection than a drop cloth. I also use them anywhere I will be assembling things like a rack or a plasma mount. Put drop cloths down anywhere you will be walking in the home and wear shoe covers while in the home. Take them off when leaving and put them back on when entering the home again. Do not wear them outside then back inside.

If you do this you will have eliminated 90% of the possible damage that could happen during install. More importantly, the client will be 100% confident that you will be careful and that you respect their home. This initial precautionary measure will put them at ease throughout the installation.

Uniforms and Vehicles

Every employee should be driving a clean dependable vehicle that does not have fluids leaking. There should be no multicolored vehicles that have been pieced together at the junk yard. No vehicles that were purchased used with other company logos still on them. No broken windows, no noticeable cosmetic damage. You want every vehicle to look like its part of your fleet.

Everyone should at the very least be wearing a company shirt. If you match the pants and the shirt your employees will look like soldiers. Everyone notices and admires companies that have uniforms.

Tools & parts

All tools & parts should be neatly organized in proper bags, boxes or containers. This makes them easy to carry in to a client’s home. Put them down on the moving blankets and position them neatly all in a row. Make sure lids can be opened without hitting the wall.

You want the client to think “this guy is organized, he is a real professional, and he treats his tools with respect. He will treat my home the same way”.

Always put tools down on a tarp or moving blanket when they are not in your hand being used. Never put your side cutters on the hardwood floor. Never stand your drill up on a counter top.

It does not matter how careful you are with your tools. A client’s first thought when they see your tools on their flooring or counter top or cabinets is “OH MY GOD ITS RUINED”. You don’t want to get blamed for every scratch in the house because you put your side cutters down for a second.

Food, Beverage, Breaks and Smoking

Never keep any food or drink containers in plain sight. Keep them inside a lunch box. If it’s hot out and you’re carrying a water bottle keep it stored inside your tool bag or box. Eat lunch outside of the client’s home. If you brought lunch, eat it in your truck. Don’t let the client see you eating or drinking.

Breaks should be scheduled and designated to a specific area. Breaks taken while working in a finished home should be designated to the control room and the truck. You don’t want anyone to appear to be wasting time or snooping around the home.

Smoking should not be allowed on the way to a job or anytime during a job. The odor is unacceptable to non smokers. It’s on clothing, in the vehicles and can be smelled with every breath taken by the smoker and it can even make its way to products that you are providing. The faint scent of cigarettes can turn the client’s stomach and create a negative image of the employee and the company.

Clean up & Packing Up

Everything has to be cleaned up every day no matter what state the client’s home is in. If you install a TV you should clean up after it the moment you are done mounting it. Do not leave piles of dust lying around all day. All wire & zip tie clippings, all boxes and label backings should be cleaned up and removed from the client’s property at the end of each day. When your client sees the pile of dust and wire clippings they immediately assume you’re going to leave it there. If you forget to go back to the TV that you installed you might forget it so try and clean up as you go to avoid this.

All boxes, tools & parts that are being left on sight should be organized and put away at the end of each work day. Nothing should be left around the house. You want the client thinking “these guys are neat” when they are looking at your stuff at night after you have left. It’s also a good way to keep your tools & parts from walking out the door. Would be thieves are less likely to take a chance of getting caught raiding your whole stash than they would be to sneak a lone TV out the back door.

If you moved a piece of furniture away from a wall to install keystone jacks be sure to put it back even if you have to move it again the next day. That is someone’s bed or night table and it may be getting used when you are not there.

The Benefits & Results

Anyone who doesn’t already practice these methods will be amazed at how quickly the customer perceives you as “different” than the other workers they deal with. There’s not a job that goes by where I don’t get thanked for the care I show in the home. Often the customer comments that we are the only ones that respected their home and wore booties. Another huge benefit of this approach is that when something gets broken, or someone treads mud all over the brand new carpet, we’re the last ones to be suspected. I recall one project I was on where the customer was irate that someone had just gotten mud all over the brand new floors. We were the only workers in the house that weren’t questioned because they owner said “they would never do that, they always wear booties”.

EDIT : Additions.

Gman-north

I would like to add an “Unpacking Section ” to your procedures list. We always remove boxes to the Garage or outside of the house because your work area can get very cluttered with TV boxes, amp boxes etc. I find that if the boxes are removed before the techs install the equipment it keeps their minds clear and free from TAD ( Tech Attention Deficit)….at least for the install….lol

Great tip! Perfect fit for the article! Its nice to do the dirty work out of sight out of mind and keeping the work area less cluttered is always a good thing.
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DHarmonyAV

I make it a rule to only accept water from a client when asked, “can I get you anything?”. And even though the client might say, “help yourself to anything”, they are just being polite and most likely don’t mean it.

I don’t want them holding something over me in the end based on how well they took care of us.

I normally say “no thanks” when offered anything. I know some people try to nice you to death and they say “are you sure? you don’t want anything?” That is when i explain that i make a point to plan meals before and after projects so i don’t have to stop in the middle of the day for lunch. They usually like to hear this and stop trying to give me things :).

You and i talked about this before after the client told us to just “come on over and make yourselves at home”. I think that client actually meant it though :).

The booty boots are an incredible find. One of my pet peeves with typical shoe covers is when wet shoes are going into them. I normally opt for shoes off but when its raining and you have a bunch of guys tracking in water your socks get wet.
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SignatureSV

I don’t even except water from the client. I prefer not to use their bathroom unless we absolutely have to. Every job I go to for a consultation I scope out the closest
fast-food restaurant and plan accordingly in the cost. I remember this from when I was growing up and we had workers in my home and when ever one would “go” my mom would be irate that it stunk the house up.

We do the same thing. Coffee shop in the morning, restaurant at lunch. If you absolutely have to use the clients bathroom ask which one they would like you to use. Its usually a guest house, pool house, basement bath. I have seen morons at job sites using the clients brand new master bath.
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SB Smarthomes

The other thing I’d add to Stamps list is some type of jumper suit for attics and crawls spaces.

I have a pair of Dickie’s coveralls, but have started to use disposable tyvek jump suits because it’s easier just to throw them away after a job (it seemed like the Dickie’s didn’t make it into the wash often enough).

The ones I use are only $3-4 each and have elastic around the arms and legs and a hood to keep your head clean.

Use them like booties… pull one on when you go into the attic or under the house and then slip it back off so you don’t transfer dirt or insulation back in the house.

They also keep your clothes clean so you stay professional looking throughout the day and keep the itchy insulation off!

I saw the photo of the tyvek suit here a couple weeks ago. We have an ‘attic kit’ with headlamp, gloves, goggles, mask, knee pads. I keep them separate in their own case so we know what gear has insulation allover it. I will be adding the tyvek suits now.

Inexpensive Tip For Making Your Wiring Neat

I run into pics of awful wiring all the time. The rack gets installed, shelves, components and it all goes down hill after that because there was no plan for managing cables. Bring some cables out of a single gang box here, big pipe that routes cables to the pool house over there, small pipe out of the base board for the cable company and many other random boxes and pipes. All the cables are coming out at random/different points. Theres no place to terminate or hide unused cables so 1 after another things begin to pile up and the next thing you know.. rats nest.

I have a very simple solution to anyone who doesn’t want to or cant, plan out the wiring ahead of time, but wants to be able to manage cables at the end. Its cheap (apx $10), easy to install (done with a razor knife or keyhole saw) and gives you complete flexibility after drywall.

See pic below. We had a rack going into a cabinet that didn’t exist and wouldn’t exist for a few months. I Ran all the cable down the wall and out of a single gang mud ring. After drywall the mud ring was removed and an access panel put in its place. Its a cheap plastic Home Depot access panel but it gives me the ability to route cables and once the cover goes on the wall looks nice and clean.

We decided to put in patch panels but we could have done anything we wanted. We could have brought the cat5’s out of a hole behind a punch down block or the RG-6 out of a bulk cable plate right to a multiswitch or the speaker cables out at the bottom of the wall so that they would come right across the cable tray for the slide out rack. Extra cables can be rolled up, zip tied and labled and stored inside the wall.

The next step is getting the cable to the equipment in the rack. Check out these articles to see what tools & connectors i use for terminating cables.

Cat5: http://wiremunky.com/?p=6
Coax: http://wiremunky.com/?p=14
Speaker Cable: http://wiremunky.com/?p=18

Using bulk cable to make custom interconnect / patch cables is the only way to truly manage your cables. It eliminates the excess cable from point A to point B allowing you to keep your racks clean and accessible.

What happened to tech support?

For the sake of keeping my job i will leave out manufacturer & product names.

I am out at a project where 2 products (that we are dealers for) are installed. One of the products was installed by someone else, i found a problem that wasn’t my responsibility but since our systems are integrated i decided to resolve it while on site. I call up tech support and explain my situation very clearly, i get transferred to someone who can help. As my boss begins to explain the situation to the tech he is cut off mid sentence with “thats a physical issue i cant help you with that”. Then my boss says “let me finish my sentence and you will see that it is not a physical issue”.

After the tech shuts up and listens his first troubleshooting tip is to climb into the attic with a multimeter to check for power, even after we explain that the product is functioning normally. (I would love to get a hold of the guy who decided to mount the interface product in the attic.. but that’s another story :). Anyhow.. at this point my boss hangs up on the guy because he realizes we have ourselves another card reading moron. The problem was that the product could not be controlled via the keypad but it functioned manually so we knew that the hardware was OK. It was obviously a setting or communications issue. As i said before we are dealers for the product but i don’t have much experience dealing with the specific product. There was a flashing red light. I assumed we could tell the tech about the flashing red light and get a simple answer but no.. he first wanted me to crawl into the attic with a multimeter.My boss calls up the company that installed the product. 2 minutes later the problem is resolved. No insulation, no drywall dust, no spiders or their webs. I was able to resolve the issue with a paper clip and a step ladder.

While at the same job i had a user interface lock up during a firmware upgrade attempt. Tech growls at me for trying to update firmware wirelessly. Tells me how i should “NEVER EVER DO THAT”. Ok.. so if i should never ever do it.. why is it possible to do it that way? How come i was able to load the other 3 that way? Oh and the other 3 or 4 hundred i have installed over the last 2 years? I sure wish they would include a cheat sheet of REAL instructions with each product so i know what i should NEVER EVER do. After tech growls at me he asks me how i want the item shipped back and stars giving me an RMA number.

I had stopped trying to force the firmware for fear of screwing up the interface but now that it has to go in for service anyway i figured more trying couldn’t hurt. About 10 minutes later i have the panel working again. I still wasn’t able to get the firmware to load but at least its working and i have time to get a loaner for the client. So now the conversation is “it needs to go in for service but its working for now” instead of “remember the upgrade i told you about? the one that would solve the minor issues you are having? looks like it made things worse and now you have to spend a week without it”.

So.. what the hell has happened to tech support? It’s hit or miss with them these days. You either get a guy who knows what hes doing or a complete total moron. I understand that idiots can sometimes slip thru the cracks and end up in jobs that cant do but i would say i get an idiot on the phone 50% of the time now. There new troubleshooting tool is called “RMA number”. I guess its perfectly reasonable for my client to not be able to use the system in his master bedroom for a week or more… or maybe its perfectly reasonable that we eat the cost of loaner hardware for everyone. At some point people are going to start including company names and specific details in their blog rants.