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Power On Power Off Solves Few Problems Print E-mail
Thursday, 02 November 2006
How many times have you called into tech support for one of your ailing audio-video components to hear the same suggestion: “Please power down the unit, sir – wait 30 seconds and power back up”? While this cure-all has been known to fix frozen computer-based products like a DVR or some of the new HD disc players, at this point, don’t the customer service reps think we have already tried powering the unit down and back up again before we call? Chances are, we have.
Often, the solution to your gear’s illness is the all-soothing firmware update. For the techie user downloading these files, burning them onto a disc (in many cases, a DVD) is no problem, yet for others, this can be quite a chore. Performance and reliability advantages can be had with these updates, but at the same time, it makes you wonder how the component ever got approved at the factory with such glaring mistakes. The cost of hiring a dozen dealers, enthusiasts and installers to beta-test the units, at which point the problems would be found and fixed before the first box gets shipped to a store, is well worth the cost.

With home theater and audio-video gear becoming increasingly convergent, meaning that more and more components have the same guts as a PC, now is the time when consumers should expect to see Internet connections on the back of their gear. My Apple computer reminds me weekly if there is an update needed, yet ironically, its Unix-based platform almost never needs rebooting (or even a tech support call) – why can’t my next-generation HD disc players give me the same reminders? My TiVo will periodically ask me to download information and makes its own calls to the satellite to download channels and other software updates, but it needs more power on/power off restarts than any component I have ever seen. Shouldn’t your AV preamp, audiophile sources and other AV gear also call into the factory to check for updates from time to time? In a world where formats, standards and protocols are launched with no chance at technical perfection or even, in some cases, basic stability, it seems reasonable that being able to easily update the entire install base would make a lot of sense.

When building your next system or looking to make improvements to your current AV rig, be sure to have a good Internet connection and a good-sized router back there with the cables. Some components can use it today and, as you add in the Playstation 3, an Xbox 360, Media Center PCs and other cool new goodies, you will need the connectivity. In the meantime, let’s hope that either the engineers get it right on the first try when they release new products to us consumers, or they make it so that we can easily get updates with no sweat on our brow. Because if I hear “power down and then power up your unit” one more time, I am going to take a hostage.

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