Tuesday, October 09, 2012


This is one of those wormhole stories, where you start at point "A" and wind up in Orion's belt.

My boss has a DISH satellite feed in his office, connected to a crappy old television via the DISH set-top box. He also has a crappy old standalone system that's about 10 years old.

For a couple of related reasons, he needed to save some space. I suggested he get an all-in-one system. No computer base, no need for the television, and he could get a great system for not much money.

I mean, that sounds simple, right? The DISH box has an HDMI-out, the all-in-one has an HDMI-in-- what could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out, just about everything.

The all-in-one was supposed to come with a TV tuner, but it didn't. That really shouldn't matter, though, because all it was going to do was receive local HDTV broadcasts. For the variety of devices that could be connected via the HDMI-in port, it would do nothing, and all it's doing with the DISH signal is a straight passthrough.

The all-in-one isn't detecting a signal from the DISH box, though. Or it is, maybe, and it's just not displaying anything.

In the old days, the way you solved a problem was paging through the substantial owner's manual. Incredibly, today, there is no owner's manual. There was this tiny "quick start" guide (four pages), and while there are additional help documents, none of them are actually related to using the system. The "owner's manual" is 165 pages of describing how to remove and replace various components!

There's also a "Me and My Dell" link, which was created to cover a bunch of different systems and has zero useful information. So, for instance, if I'm trying to figure out what's going on with the HDMI-in port, I look up HDMI in this searchable guide and get this:
High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) transmit audio and video signals in a single digital interface. HDMI connects audio and video sources such as set-top boxes, DVD players, Blu-ray Disc players, computers, and video game consoles to compatible digital audio devices, such as computers, monitors, video projectors, and digital televisions. A HDMI cable is similar to a USB cable that slides into the connector of the source device.
That sounds easy, right?
That certainly answers none of my questions.

What's truly crazy is that this isn't a difficult support question, but Dell's documentation and support website are so poorly organized that they guarantee  I'll have to make a phone call and talk to someone, which is far more expensive  than having proper documentation available.

I've always been a big fan of Dell, because I worked there in the last 90s, and it was a great company, one of the best companies in the country at that time. Now, I don't even recognize them. It's like seeing an ex-wife who put on 200 pounds and married a meth dealer after you split up.

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