Tips and Tweaks - Never Assume the Obvious when Troubleshooting

Apr 29 2011

This tip is as much a friendly reminder as one that even the best technical people will forget--Don't Assume the obvious has been done!

Case in point, I was troubleshooting a friend's TV setup. She has AT&T U-Verse TV which is connected via HDMI passthrough to her Onkyo stereo receiver and claimed that her dog sat on her remotes and then suddenly lost all audio. I looked through all the settings on the receiver and it looked OK. Swapped inputs on the AVR and tested her Blu-ray player, and that worked correct with audio. I then went into AT&T's setup and tried messing with the audio settings. After adjusting some cables and moving things around, I was ready to GIVE UP!

Then it hit me and I asked her, "Have you power cycled your cable box?" Of course the answer was "NO," and of course, that RESOLVED the issue. In my effort of trying to think about all the complicated ways she could have lost audio I missed the most basic troubleshooting step to simply reboot the device.

So there you have it, never assume that the most basic steps of troubleshooting will not fix the problem.

Comments

Got a call once from a very techminded friend.  He was going nuts trying to debug a computer issue for several hours and finally gave up, so he called me hoping to get a fresh perspective.  I jokingly said, "Is it plugged in?"  A few seconds of silence on the phone followed by "Thanks.  Talk to you later."  The more you know, the more you skip the basic steps.

I think rebooting the cable STB is the first step the phone techs have in their arsenal followed by, we'll send a tech out.

One time I reseated a CPU and HSF a few times on a new build because the PC would lockup every time it got into BIOS - turns out the batteries in the wireless keyboard were dead.  They'd build up just enough juice while I was taking the PC apart to get into the BIOS and a couple settings changed before crapping out.

Laughing That's a good one!

lol that is great.

I still feel bad, last year I RMA'd a motherboard only to find out the chassis power button was broken.  I had tested with different PSU and chassis but left the RMA's one in the same case being lazy when testing....

Ugh, been there.  Same thing happend to me when I was swapping out my SageTV servers and tried to get firewire recording working again.  Two RMA's and a few PCI firewire cards later I found that the cable box just needed to be power cycled :bang:

I thought for sure you were gonna say it was the mute button. My gear is in the basement and you can't easily tell when it's muted. That got me a few times!

I'd say 99 percent of the time it is user error. My kids...wife seem to always press an activity button on the Logitech remote and then immediately point it away from the components. The audio system must be last device in the list because it will be set for the cable box when it needs to be on the PC. I've given up on telling them to press the help button. I tell them to switch to another activity and then back. Someday I hope to switch to RF over IR and maybe I'll get less phone calls asking me what I did wrong. Smile

Number one rule of Tech Support. I see it all the time. Did you reboot? Is the screen turned on? Never assume anything when talking to anyone, doesn't matter their skill level. Everyone losses the basics when they are frustrated.

Customer emails, "My monitor doesn't have an internet connection!". I replied, "Can you see anything on your screen?" Customer, "Nope, don't even have my computer turned on...". I replied, "So...........". Then I get an email from the same customer, "Computer not working, can't turn it on, can't do work on it, such as internet."

My favorite is  "... unit will not self test with power switch in the OFFicial position."  That was an actual trouble report from my Navy years.

And a lot of these tips now apply to our smart phones. I don't think we will ever get away from the reboot or pull the battery fix. My brother in-laws phone was an hour behind the other day so I updated the Profile and the PRL thinking it would re-sync but without any luck I ended up rebooting and that was the fix. 

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