Another Christmas Miracle Brought To You By Controllable Power Products

Middle Atlantic RackLink Series Protection

I just got an “URGENT” email. The subject was actually “URGENT” :). I got up to let my dog out at 9AM and read the email.

“None of the iPads are controlling the system. We would like to have music going today for Christmas”.

I assume the issue is the network or the crestron processor. I send the client a follow up email at 9:05 asking “check to see if you can access the internet with the study iMac (so i can verify the network and internet is working) and try one of the handheld remotes in any room (to verify if the crestron system is online).

By 9:10 i have my laptop fired up and i am already connected to the clients rack PC. I run an IP scan and find that the crestron processor is offline. I access the controllable power strip in the processors rack and cycle power.

By 9:30 the processor is back online, the system is working and the client is happy. I am in Chicago today sitting in my PJs handling a service call on the east coast. 30 minutes from the first “URGENT” email to the last “WE ARE BACK ONLINE THANKS SO MUCH” reply.

I would like to thank the following for making this magic happen:

Windows 7, Internet Explorer & The Internet!
Dell PC (mounted in rack)
TeamViewer (remote login software)
Middle Atlantic controllable RackLink power strip
My dog Nelle (for waking up right when she did! Good Job, Nelle!)


5 minute service call that took 4 hours

DirecTV was out at one of my clients houses and replaced a satellite receiver. I went out today to find out why its not being controlled. Its usually a broken or unattached emitter but sometimes its a nightmare where they totally hacked up the system. Today i found everything in place and the undamaged emitter laying next to the new receiver.

I pulled out the hot glue gun and attached the emitter to the new DirecTV HR24 receiver. When i tested the commands i found that the channel up and channel down buttons on the touch panel would make the box continue to channel up or down forever. Same issue with the navigation arrows. I have no idea why DirecTV would alter the codes on the remote for the HR24. Maybe someone there knows how it drives us crazy and they do it for spite or fun?

I had to break out my pronto TS-1000 to learn the commands from the new DirecTV remote and then convert the CCF data for Crestron DEAL. Then i replaced the driver in SystemBuilder. For some reason… SystemBuilder decided that today would be a good day to crash when i try to upload… every single time. I tried a few times and finally gave up and opted to load the processor via toolbox.

At some point all the new DirecTV commands were testing ok and i discovered that the TV was no longer being controlled. I checked the serial cable and then tried moving the TV to a different com port. Then i tried a different module from the crestron data base. I had been using a generic serial driver with string command for the fujitsu plasma. Eventually i discovered that if i move the TV commands (power/input selection) outside of the global preset macros they worked. Inside of those global preset commands they were ignored. Weird.. especially since these commands in these macros have been working for a long time. Its a fujitsu so that helps date the system.

While there, the client asks “when do you need to get into the bedroom?” “Why do i need to get in there?” i asked. “To integrate the system”. Rather than try and figure out what that meant i went up stairs to see what was going on. The master bedroom has an MX-700 in it with a TV/Receiver/DVD/DirecTV receiver. This system was installed a while back also. I found that they finally replaced the old sony CRT with a sony LCD. All i had to do was swap TV models in URC MX-700 editor and the bedroom was done. Good thing i had the loading cable with me!

Last bit of fun was when i asked about the guest house. “Sure, go ahead and check it for is, someone is moving in next week”. I found the DirecTV receiver to be totally “wont power up” dead. I found that the DVD player locks up at start up. So basically the guest house is offline. Good thing i checked.


Your low voltage stuff isn’t working

I got a call last week from an electrician telling me….

“I installed the outlets where you marked them on the wall but now your low voltage stuff isn’t working. It keeps tripping the breaker. I unplugged it. Just wanted to let you know”.

I explain to the electrician that there isn’t any low voltage stuff installed yet except the cable companies house amp. Electrician confirms “yep that’s the thing that keeps tripping the breaker”. I then explain that the house amp has to work or they lose internet and TV in the den. The electrician tells me that he will check it again and call me back. This was Friday. Fast forward to Monday morning. I have to meet with the electrician at 8AM to go over the work they did and find out whats up with the house amp. Oh.. an added bonus was that the electrician didn’t leave a note or tell the client so i also got an email at 7AM from the client about the issue.

Your Low Voltage Stuff Isn't Working

Your Low Voltage Stuff Isn't Working

I got there early so i checked TV in the Den.. not working. I go over to find the house amp in the closet disconnected. I look at the newly installed outlet and i seen burn marks and the house amp power supply is smoked. I tested the outlet and it was testing ok. As a temporary fix i bypassed the house amp by barreling the input and output. I immediately hear TV in the Den and internet is working fine. I don’t really know what happened. My uneducated (because i wasn’t there) is that the electrician got confused by the RG6 cable being used with the house amp and wall wart and some how wired it up wrong. I really hate that they use an RG6 for power for a lot of CCTV and Satellite devices. I know its convenient for technicians but its confusing to anyone else. The electrician was adding an outlet in the closet near the low voltage panel because some genius didn’t think about having power where all of the 2+2 low voltage cable from the apartment ran back to. All he had to do was unplug the walwart from the hall outlet where it was plugged in temporarily and plug it into the new outlet in the closet. I’m guessing he disconnected some of the RG6 cables and wired it back up wrong. Everything is working now.

The “low voltage stuff” was working when the electrician got there. It was not after he was working in that area. His new outlet or his re installation of a power cord killed the house amp. But for some reason he thought it was okay to call me up and let me know that i (now) have a problem. It didn’t register as his problem for some reason. The reason it was not my problem (and why i quickly let him know that over the phone and this morning) is because i was there when the cable guy came out (4 times) and made sure that his installation was done and working properly. I had the den TV installed and working properly and i had the clients wi-fi network setup and working properly before i left. And more importantly.. these things were done, tested before the electrician began his work. I was able to “point the finger” because a schedule exists and someone is making sure its being followed. If the cable guy, the electrician and I all showed up at the same time trying to work around each other it would have been much more difficult to pinpoint what the problem was and when it occurred. Having someone to blame is not the primary issue. My fear with the house amp was that somehow the electrician energized the low voltage box causing the circuit to break over and over. I was worried that i would be blowing things up all around the house if they left there assuming the issue was solely with my “low voltage stuff”. I wondered if the electrician brought 220 over to my 110 outlet. This happened before with an automated gate and they had power and ground reversed. I smoked 2 Crestron C2N-IIF’s screwing around with that gate when i finally urged the client to get a new gate guy to come and look at it.

Whether its 1 guy installing a TV for an hour or a team working on a large project for a month… everything has to be based on a schedule. Without it… chaos. When you have your act totally together you will find that all of those problems you dealt with in the past really belong to someone else. The cabinet guy for not following your drawings or the sheetrock guy for covering up your speakers or the landscapers for cutting your speaker wire. Those problems were yours because you were not following a schedule that allowed you to properly coordinate with others.


RCN Cable – Why i hate them


RCN sent out 2 techs this time. After wasting 2 hours and them packing up to leave i connect the consumer modem and show them that all lights are green. They call in to activate it and it stops working. Another 45 minutes of both of them on the phone with other people and viola someone realizes my client ordered 60mbps service and the modems they brought and the one i picked up will only work with 20mpbs. So once the modem sees the 60mbps it must shut down. A “DOCSIS 3.0″ modem is required for 60mbps. I quoted that because i had never heard of it before that moment. I googled it as soon as i got home and found an old DSLReports thread from late 2009 that referenced RCN as having announced it as part of their offerings.

This is why i don’t try and handle phone/cable/satellite anymore. I meet them and make them do their jobs. 5 years ago i would have attempted to handle all of the inside work myself. I got really tired of wasting hours and hours on things just like this.


I have installed AV gear for a living for the last 17 years so i get to deal with the phone company, the cable company, the satellite company and the occasional ‘boxed’ security company like ADT or Brinks frequently. So none of this is new to me. I decided to post about it to share my frequent frustration :). If i had to describe these companies with a single word it would be “criminal” or maybe “ridiculous”. They all suck. They have teams of untrained underpaid technicians who can’t get the job done because of their inability to schedule appointments correctly. Seriously.. when was the last time you told someone that you would meet with them between 10AM and 2PM? How do they get away with it you ask? Because people have no other choice. Their clients are hostages. Last year i posted about the DirecTV guy trying to sneak away. I thought that would be the craziest story until i met up with RCN.

Thursday December 16th 2010.

RCN is scheduled to install Cable boxes and Cable modem. Cable guy drops off cable boxes and plugs the cable modem in and leaves without testing it.

Friday December 17th 2010.

I show up and test the cable modem and find that it is not working. After troubleshooting i call RCN tech support and they schedule someone to come out Friday December 31st 2010.

Friday December 31st 2010.

RCN Technician

The RCN guy shows up today and walks into the clients unit and says “what am i here for?”. I said “to resolve the issue with the internet not working”. He responds with “the internet is not working either?”. I respond with “what do you mean ‘either'”? He responds with “let me take a look”.

He spends an hour testing cable signal and informs me that we need a “house amp” to solve the problem because the signal is “weak”. I tell him to go get one and he tells me he has to “go look at blue prints and find out where to install it”. He tells me he will call me back sometime today but he wont be returning. He never called me back. This is a typical cable guy tactic.

About 60 seconds after he walked out of the unit it dawned on me that this guy never touched the modem or PC. At that moment i realized that this guy was totally full of s#!7. I had my mind on mapping out the existing cabling in the clients new apartment and taking measurements for TV’s and cabinets for AV gear so my BS meter wasn’t engaged. At that point i drag the cable modem right to the network interface box with a direct cable connection to it and it wont connect. TIVO-Cable boxes work in every room though.

After talking with my boss we decide to pick up a cable modem locally. I install it. All lights are solid green. I get to an RCN page that asks me “do you want to use your own cable modem”. I click yes and i am asked for an account number and phone number. I enter the phone number but the account number appears to be missing digits based on the form input area. I call tech support and reach a woman from India.

RCN Tech Support

I give her clients phone number. She cant find the account.
I give her clients address. She cant find the account.
I give her clients name. She cant find the account.
I give her the mac address of the modem and she then is able to find all of the other information that she claimed wasn’t in the system.

She tells me that she cant add the new modem to the account unless i physically return the other modem. I explain to her why i have the new modem. I ask her if she can just click “yes he returned it” or whatever her screen is asking her and she says “no”. Her software wont let her add the new modem to the account unless the rules have been followed and someone somewhere else has scanned the old modem back into RCN’s possession.

Its 5PM now.. New Years eve.. I can get on the internet to the RCN page where i just have to add the new modem and it wont let me. Tech support wont do it. RCN cable guys have been out twice to install a cable modem for internet access and they haven’t been able to do it. I have gotten further than either one of their technicians and they still wont let me on the internet.

Then the lady asks me if i had the RCN provided wireless router connected. I said “no, i thought we would get the modem working first then i will deal with the wireless router”. Then she tells me “oh this will create more errors if you want to keep the wireless router. I will schedule a new support date for January 4th between 11-2″. At this point i am experiencing phone rage and hang up.

RCN Sucks

Tuesday January 4th 2010

I wait at the clients apartment between 11AM and 2 PM. At 2 PM i call RCN and i am told “the technician is running late on his last job but you are next on the list and he is on his way there”. At 3PM i call back because the technician has not shown up. I get a “all circuits are busy, please try your call later” message from RCN’s technical support number. I call back 4 more times and get the same message.

Then i called a different number i have for RCN and got right thru. I’m guessing that is a tactic they use to keep people from getting thru later in the day. After 35 minutes of automated nightmare phone system and being on hold i was connected to a woman in India. She tells me that the work order was closed at 2PM because no one was home. Really? Then why was i being told that the technician was on his way at 2PM? This is another cable guy tactic. It didn’t work today because i was in a building with a front desk and security at the freight elevator. He would have actually had to have gotten in to know whether or not i was there. No record of him being at the building means he didn’t show up.

RCN reschedule for their 4th appt tomorrow January 5th 2010. 20 days after the first visit. Luckily my client has the money to pay someone to sit at his house and wait for the cable guy. What the heck does everyone else do? After being frustrated and talking it over with my boss i was reminded why RCN and DirecTV and Comcast get away with this behavior. If a new company showed up tomorrow and had great service and never made anyone wait but had to charge $10 more per month… no one would use them. So we get what we deserve. The masses make the decisions and the rest of us who value quality and service have to suffer.


DirecTV Shenanigans UPDATE!

DirecTV finally made it out to the clients home. This time i put a sign on the door that said “DIRECTV.. COME ON IN DOOR IS UNLOCKED” so they would not be able to pretend they knocked. I got some payback by manipulating the DirecTV tech into mounting my FM antenna and saving me a trip on the roof. I told him “this is the antenna your supposed to install”. Tech says “what do you mean”. I say “DirecTV told the homeowner to provide the antenna and you would install it”. Tech said “OK”.

I took a snapshot of his work ticket. This is what it says: “Cust was there. saw driver as driver pulled away from house. CELL # 312-513-****. PLEASE CALL WHEN HEADED OUT TO INSTALL OR CUST WILL CANCEL.”. I thought it was pretty funny that they would put that on the ticket.

DirecTV Work Order

DirecTV Work Order