Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Technomoment 2

An age ago I blogged about setting up our "home entertainment" centre. (Really, the Pug provides as much entertainment as one needs.) Well I have to confess that I didn't entirely succeed. Yes, the set top box worked with the television. Yes, the DVD/VCR worked with the television. Yes, they both worked with the hi-fi system. But the set top box would not work through the DVD/VCR, and that precluded recording anything off digital television, and necessitated lots of button pressing to switch between the two. Months went by. Confidence failed. Finally, we called in an expert. Hmmm, he said, after fiddling with all the same buttons and cables I had done. He pronounced the set top box faulty. (On later reflection I don't really think it was, I think it needed a different setup and more cables.)

Sigh. We took it back to the long-suffering Harvey Norman where we had bought it, and showed them the receipt and diagnosis from the expert. They replaced it.

We took it home, and I set about connecting it all up once more. I had some brainwaves that resulted in an emergency dash for another s-video cable. It all seemed to work ... except that now we couldn't watch any videotapes (DVDs just fine.) Another component cable was plugged in. Does everyone else have a cable stash as well as a yarn stash?

Finally, everything was hunky dory, it all works. Most of the time. Sometimes the set top box decides to get stuck, so it has to be re-booted.

But Sunday night came a crisis. Searching for something to watch I plumped for Quark. Quark is one of my very favourite ancient TV series, and Julie can attest to that. She finally found me (on ebay) tapes of all the episodes. I shoved one in, the picture appeared, but NO SOUND! Oh my god! What have I done now?? Too shocked (and too late at night) to try any cable wiggling, I substituted a cooking program on DVD. That was fine.

A day later, feeling stronger, I put Quark back in. Same thing. Tried another video... sound was just fine. Oh NO! It must be my Quark tapes! An emergency read of the manual led me to try manual tracking. Found the buttons, pressed them, and lo and behold everything was fine. The picture improved, the sound was heard. PHEW! Quark defeated Zorgon the Malevolent, Ficus the Vegeton was delivered from the clutches of Zorgon's daughter Libido, and the rest of the team went back to being galactic garbage collectors.

Now by coincidence, on Thursday and Friday last week I attended a two-day seminar on (wait for it) preservation metadata in building trusted digital repositories. Fascinating. But this close call means I now know that preservation of my Quark episodes is extremely important and that I must quickly transfer those precious tapes to a digital format and entrust them to some trusted repository out there somewhere.


  1. I had exactly the same problem!! I thought I had somehow broken my friend's DVD player when there was no sound. My flatmate was trying to watch Triumph of the Will and there was no sound!! My brother-in-law came over, switched the VCR on and alas sound!! Apparently, (sing to the tune of the the knee bone is connected to the "something bone") the DVD player was connected to the VCR which was connected to the TV!!

  2. That could have been disasterous! You've got was are probably the owner of the last known recordings of those Quark episodes. Preserve them now!