Sunday, December 05, 2021

In the background of the mini project

Nearly every project I take on is related, one way or another, to some other project. Sometimes I’ve been clear about the connections, but other times I’m not. My recent post about “Another mini project” is in the latter category.

In that post from a couple weeks ago I talked about the DVDs that were the reason I got the shelves in the first place. I said, “Most of the DVDs came from here in New Zealand, but some came from the USA (about which, more in a different post).” That was in the background of the whole project.

I have some DVDs I either bought in the USA or through Amazon that are zoned for North America, meaning that they won’t play on most DVD players sold in NZ (some of the DVDs aren’t zoned, and we also bought some at The Warehouse that were zoned for the UK). Nigel and I had three different DVD players, one of which was a BluRay (though we only had one BluRay DVD, “Star Trek”, the first of the rebooted movies starring Chris Pine). One of the DVD players is actually a DVD/VHS combo machine which makes it possible to record from one to the other or play either medium. Nigel and I planned to transfer some of our VHS tapes to DVD because the titles are no longer available or we just didn’t want to buy them again. DVDs have a longer lifespan than VHS tapes do, so we wanted to preserve them so we could still watch them. Just one more thing on a long list of things we never got around to.

I wanted to hook up that combo machine because of that, especially because it was an all-zone machine, and so, could play all of the American DVDs I’d bought. The machine hasn’t been used in years mainly because it’s silver-coloured, and at some point all the audio and video equipment had been changed to newer ones that were black. The fact it was silver bothered Nigel for some reason, and so, we put the machine away. By that point, we weren’t using the VCR part of it, anyway, so I didn’t really care; we had a black DVD player to watch disks, and that was enough.

At first, I didn’t have any cables for the machine, so I bought one, only to then find ones in a box (of course…), and they were much better, so I used them. The first problem I had was that I wasn’t exactly sure how to hook up the component cable to the TV. I realised I hadn’t hooked up a VCR to a TV since I lived in the USA 26 years ago, and everything’s changed since then. Because the DVD/VCR machine was from 2004, it had no HDMI port, and I wasn’t familiar with using component cables because they didn’t exist when I last hooked up a VCR. So, I downloaded the TV’s manual to find out how it’s supposed to be connected, and once I did, it worked perfectly.

There was one other thing, too: I did something Nigel never did.

A year or two before he died, Nigel bought what was essentially a soundbar and amplifier all in a big, flat case that would sit under the TV. He was very happy about it because he got it for way less than a quarter of its original price—because it had been discontinued, I later worked out. It also meant he didn’t have to have separate speakers in the room, and he didn’t have to use the amplifier that had a fault that he also never got around to dealing with.

The sound device was good, but I noticed that when there was music in the background of a scene, I often had trouble hearing what a person was saying because the music dominated everything. I mentioned it to Nigel, who, again, never got around to looking into it (I don’t know if it bothered him).

When I was hooking everything up, I looked at the back of the sound thing, and I saw a small knob labelled “sub” which, I assumed, was for a subwoofer function. It was set for smack in the middle, so I turned it up a bit and that solved the problem that’s bothered me ever since Nigel originally set up the machine. By increasing the low tones, it seems, speech became more distinct.

I’ll be honest: I was little bit proud of myself for figuring out how to fix it by doing something that Nigel may not even have known about, but the truth is that it was really a bit of luck. Even more importantly, though, it was something I arrived at the same way Nigel would’ve: I was researching online how to hook up the DVD/VCR machine and then stumbled across the knob while I was behind the TV. I took a punt that adjusting it would help, and it did—and that’s something Nigel would’ve done, too. As I’ve said before, he really did teach me very well how to deal with this tech stuff.

There’s one final problem that I haven’t taken care of yet: I have no idea where the remote is. It became separated from the machine after we stopped using it many years ago. I might be able to use a universal remote, but since it’s two machines in one, it’d be easier to have the actual remote. Besides, many universal remotes “learn” from the device’s remote, which I don’t have. I found a place in Australia that sells the actual remotes as replacement parts, and if the original doesn’t turn up soon I may order one—and there just aren’t that many places to look for the remote any more, so a replacement may be my only/best option. In the meantime, I can play DVDs by using the buttons on the front of the machine, but it’s definitely not ideal.

That’s the story that was behind my “mini project”: The project was to make the DVDs accessible to play on a machine I wanted to use because it’ll allow me to do a project we never got around to, that and also to watch any of our DVDs, including all of the ones from different zones.

I was able to do that because of what I learned from Nigel (often just by watching him), and because I understood what I was doing—something that’s not always the case. Still, I’m willing to learn and to figure stuff out, all of which will be useful in the years ahead. In that sense, Nigel prepared me well, and that, it turns out, is the background to nearly everything I’m now doing.

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