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Sound Advice

Manufactured Errors By Steve Svensson

I figure I must be a masochist. Here I sit at 9:49 p.m. in the executive boardroom of a corporate giant attempting to complete the programming and integration of their AV systems. Why am I still here? Was the full day of church sound system set-up not enough? I guess not.

I should be finished the touch panel programming, but I am still here because a manufacturer has managed to reverse Tx and Rx in a RS-232 connection. How do I know this? Because I assumed that somewhere within the control system programming, the videoconference set-up, the Cat 5 extender system, and all the wires that glue all this together, we, the integrators, have made a mistake. So I painstakingly check everything. In true Holmesian fashion, I have eliminated all the other (im)possibilities for this failure, and that which remains no matter how improbable must be the answer.

So with some, but not a lot of skepticism, I wrangle the 9-pin null modem adapter from the bottom of my laptop case and insert it into the signal chain. Success! Touch panel now controls PTZ camera through a pile of gear, and I am not really all that surprised to arrive at this conclusion.

Not surprised you ask? It’s because this sequence of events has happened just too many times to me. The number of days of my life that have been lost to bad, incorrect, missing, and plain useless documentation is incredible. Add this to the DOA or poorly designed and/or manufactured gear, and I have lost weeks.
Why can a manufacturer sell a product that does not operate/connect/integrate as specified, and be allowed to put in a disclaimer that waives their responsibility to make good on their error? Manufacturers should be required to pay me for hours wasted tracking down a problem caused by their inability to figure out if pin two is Tx or Rx! I’ve had a manual from a very large manufacturer that actually contradicted itself. Let me rephrase that – one manual, two pin outs for the same connector. Are you kidding me? The painful reality is this has happened far too often, and I am sick of spinning my tires due to manufactured errors.

We need to put these guys on notice. You want us to sell your gear? Please stop wasting our time. Margins are too slim as it is to have to figure out something the manufacturer should know and have documented correctly in the first place. But for now, since its unlikely manufacturers actually care about the grief suffered at their hand – and in a sick way I need the struggle to fulfill my identity – I’ll just suck it up and keep my null modem adapter a little closer…and out you next time.

Steve Svensson, DMC-E is a Systems Designer with over 25 years of experience in the pro A/V and electronics industries in design, programming, and installation. He currently specializes in Crestron and DSP design and programming with PA Plus Productions. www.pa-plus.com.

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