Doing More with What You Have

I’ve had a surround sound system for a good long while now. I upgraded the speakers a couple of years ago, and I was debating upgrading the receiver as well. (For those of you who don’t speak Home Theater, with a surround sound system, you plug all of the things you’re going to play (Apple TV, Playstation, Switch, or whatever) into a central box, called a receiver. You also hook up whatever you’re going to use to watch the content, such a projector. The speakers hook into the receiver, and it takes care of all the work, taking in the signals from the players and divvying them out to the projector and speakers.) However, the receiver I have right now seemed fine enough. (It’s a 7.1 set up, which means a center speaker for voice, a left and right speaker at the front of the room, a left and right at the back, a left and right on the sides, and a subwoofer for the bass.) Sure, there are newer ones out there. There are now some that handle speakers above you, and mine only handles up to 1080p resolution, while there are some that now handle 4k and in extreme cases 8k. (I’m going to stop explaining things at this point, because I assume those of you who really want to know have already headed over to Google to find an actual guide, and the rest of you are just bored.)

In any case.

I decided to stick with what I have for a receiver mainly because I think prices will come down in the next few years as more capabilities open up. But knowing I was going to stick with what I had, I decided to see if I could set up the receiver to get the most out of it that I could. It turns out that with a fair bit of research and some tweaking on the receiver end and on the Apple TV and other players’ ends, I really was able to up my game. The surround sound system works much better, and all it took was knowing which settings to change.

This actually reminds me of one of my favorite IT support stories. Back in the day, I ran the IT “department” for a small-sized business that had offices across the globe. (I was the only IT guy, so it’s not like it was really a department.) I would regularly have to troubleshoot with people who were across the country, and many of them had varying degrees of familiarity with technology.

One time, I was helping a man in the Texas office, and he was complaining about how he never got good technology. Case in point? He was still working on a black and white computer screen when everyone else had color. (This was back in 1996.) I agreed with him that was something we should try and fix, and I went to the higher ups with the request. They looked at what they’d ordered him, and they confusedly told me that they’d ordered a color monitor for him more than two years ago.

I got back on the phone, and I explained the situation. He was incensed. He ought to know if he had a color screen or not, since he was the one sitting in front of the computer all this time. This wasn’t my first IT rodeo, so I told him to do some basic steps, just to humor me.

“Go to the settings menu, and select ‘Monitors,'” I told him.

“Settings? Let’s see . . . okay. I’m there.”

“Great. You should see something on there that says ‘Color.'”

“Yup. It’s right here, and it says ‘black and white,’ just like I’ve been saying.”

“Okay,” I said. “Click it, and tell me what you see.”

“It says ‘Black and white,’ ‘Sixteen colors,’ ‘Thousands of colors,’ and ‘Millions of colors.'”

“Good. Click on ‘Millions of colors.'”

There was complete silence on the other end of the line, followed a few seconds later by, “Thanks.” He hung up.

For two years, he’d been using a color monitor as a black and white monitor, simply because he didn’t know how to make that simple change. This is a concept I’ve returned to multiple times over the course of my life, so I suppose it’s not as if his mistake was made in vain. There are so many times when I realize I can do more or be better at something just by changing the way I’m doing it. Too often, I see people ingrained in The Way Things Have Been Done. They don’t like to consider other options, and they can even get irritated if anyone makes a suggestion to help them.

I try not to be like that. If someone knows a better way to do something, I’m all for hearing them out. True, sometimes it won’t work for me, but I try to at least fully consider the possibility that it might. It’s too easy to just decide to dismiss something, because change is difficult. Making the tweak to my surround sound system took three or four hours of research and then a fair bit of fiddling. It would have been easier to just leave it alone, but now that I’ve spent that time, I get to enjoy my home theater system that much more.

And that’s your food for thought for today. Happy Wednesday, everybody!

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