Some Days Everything Goes Wrong

lee testing 1012 230x3001


By Lee Distad

As an AV Pro, there’s an expectation that your company will present the most cutting edge solutions. And that’s true to some extent, and dealers are always on the lookout for what’s new and exciting.

But being “new and cool” in and of itself isn’t a good enough reason to add a product; the damn thing has to work, too. The problem with being cutting-edge is that sometimes you’re the one that gets cut.

AV Pros need to vigorously test new hardware in the lab before putting it into a client’s house. I’ll tell you right now, every time that I’ve ignored that rule, it bit me in the behind.

We’ve all been there. If you’ve been around the block in AV installs, it’s happened to you, too. Hopefully you learned from it. Here’s one of my favorite stories from a longtime friend of how rushing to use a new product turned into a perfect storm of Install Hell. I’ve left the brand names out because I don’t want a bunch of angry emails from the company’s PR firm.

The rep for a mount company that my friend already used got them excited about a new motorized flat panel mount. Since the vendor had always been on the ball before, they ordered two, sight unseen, for upcoming jobs where the application seemed like a perfect fit.

Then they installed them.

During the testing after they were both installed, neither unit responded to RS232 commands. They didn’t power on, move or anything. The units worked via IR remote, but through RS232, they were dead.

See related  Keeping in Touch Is More Important Than Ever

It gets better: The rep, and the support desk promised to investigate, but didn’t follow up. Eventually they got back to my friend and expressed surprise that the mounts weren’t working, but no solutions. The support manager said they would go back to the OEM company with the issue. This was when my friend learned that the vendor had OEM’ed the mount from a vendor that he loathed. He was  furious.

After a couple of weeks with no guidance on the RS232 issue, he went with Plan B, and used IR extenders from his controller to the mount.

It didn’t work!

Guess what? The mount vendor had also OEM’ed the RS232 and IR modules from a different third-party company. The mounts supplied IR emitter/receiver plugs into the mount and worked fine, but the mini plug was non-standard, sending +5vdc through the sleeve. Of course, the install team learned this the hard way. The solution was to splice the non-standard plug onto their control line, but that cost a few more days.

What should have been a slam dunk became a months-long trip to Install Hell, population: YOU!

Test, test and re-test equipment before putting it into the field. Try to break it, to see what happens in the Worst Case Scenario. If you don’t, you’ve pretty much made your own monster.

Lee Distad is a rAVe columnist and freelance writer covering topics from CE to global business and finance in both print and online. Reach him at