Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The cruelest cut.

Monday, December 8, 2008. At a busy small airport somewhere in the rust belt. Outside, snow is falling steadily from a cold gray sky.

Having just extracted myself from a cramped coach window seat after the ride in from Atlanta, I was anxious to get to the baggage claim and was feeling good just stretching my legs as I left the concourse. Approaching the "once you pass this point you must reenter through security" line, I heard the following announcement over the airport's public address system (Note, names have been changed to protect the guity...and, also, because my old-man's memory can't remember the real names):

"John Williamson, John Williamson, please return to security with your companion's passport and boarding pass so that she may pass through security. John Williamson...(repeat)."

"Wow," I thought. "What an error. To get through security with his companion's documents and leave her stranded. Good thing there is a paging system."

As I passed beyond the security line, I noted an attractive early-thirties woman, tall, slender, blonde, dressed stylishly in black slacks and a black-and-white sweater, arms crossed, looking up the concourse passenger exit expectantly, tapping her foot. "Hmmm," thought I, "this must be Mr. Williamson's 'Companion'." I moved past her, never making eye contact, and proceeded to the very near-by baggage claim. About then, I heard the earlier announcement for Mr. Williamson repeated.

At baggage claim the flat-screen monitor over carousel 'A' announced the arrival of the luggage from the arriving Atlanta flight. The carousel was not moving and with about 120 other passengers, I waited. During a wait of 5 or 10 minutes, the announcement for Mr. Williamson to please return to security was repeated again.

About the time I began to get impatient for my luggage, a different announcement, this time aimed at passengers of my arriving flight from Atlanta, announced that bags were delayed slightly and that the arriving passengers from Cincinnatti could get THEIR bags on carousel 'A' and the bags from Atlanta would come soon. This announcement was followed almost immediately by a repeat of the plea for Mr. Williamson. I don't know if it was my imagination, or what, but it really seemed that the plea for Mr. Williamson's return to security was getting more strident and forceful each time I heard it.

Since I had nothing else to do, I strolled back toward the security checkpoint. Ms. Companion was still there, arms still crossed, foot still tapping, now more slowly and with more deliberate force. The look on her face had changed from expectant to concerned. As I stood unobtrusively observing, the look morphed in front of my eyes from concern to anger. I shook my head, wondering just how dense Mr. Williamson could be as I headed for the Starbucks franchise for a bracing beverage. Meh, who knows? Perhaps he was detained in the men's room.

While I was in Starbucks, the airport PA system informed me that baggage carousel 'A' was malfunctioning and the Cinci luggage could now be claimed on 'C.' No mention was made of the Atlanta luggage. The paged plea for Mr. Williamson's return was repeated, twice, while I waited for the Baristas to do their job. After I got my coffee, I headed back to the baggage claim area where I observed 120 other arriving Atlanta passengers doing what airline passengers do: Wait. Since I had nothing else to do...well you get the picture. I went back to check on Ms. Companion. Still there. Then, finally, after what seemed like forever waiting, an announcement for the Atlanta bags up on carousel 'C.'

Poor Ms. Companion. I last saw her on my way to the rental car kiosk, after I finally got my bag, last one in on the carousel. She was still standing near the (only) passenger exit from the concourse. By now the look of expectancy, concern, and anger had melted to a look of distraught shame and despair. She was openly sobbing with huge tears streaking makeup down her face. Her arms were no longer crossed but hung to her sides, hands clenched into fists. About 50 minutes and at least a dozen repetitions of the announcement had passed since my first sighting. Can you even begin to imagine how she felt? I was impatient and I was only waiting for a piece of luggage. It reminds me of an anonymous quote that I once heard, that, to the world, you may only be one person but to one person you may be the world. Was Mr. Williamson, at that moment, her world crashing around her? Can you imagine Mr. Williamson, when approached by the airline's gate agent as the flight for Bemuda boarded, saying, "I'm not going back, she can take care of herself." The audacity is breathtaking. The agony is heart-rending. I don't think this method of dumping another was even mentioned in Paul Simon's 50 ways. Did Mr. Williamson plan this? Or did he find himself separated and spontaneously decide to make the split permanent?

This story has no real ending. In fact, most of it is made up of my impressions and interpretation of what was happening at a small airport on a winter afternoon as snow fell outside. Perhaps the dreary weather just made things seem more grim. Of this I am sure, the tears on her face looked very real, and hot enough to melt the falling snow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

An update on iMac to HDTV connectivity.

Although I could not imagine such, things only got worse after yesterday's entry. The more research I did, the less I knew for sure. There are multiple standards for HDMI, multiple standards for DVI, and some devices don't tell you in their user literature which standard they use. Finally, a phone call to Apple Care, conferenced to Apple's Engineering department AND Hitachi's US operations provided the following information: The best video quality can be achieved from the iMac's mini-DVI output. For audio I can use a standard or optical mini stereo jack to male RCA (component) cable. A big thanks to Apple Care for handling the teleconferencing and knowing who to call. The thanks, of course, is dependent on the solution actually working.

According to the experts, the iMac's mini-DVI output CAN be used as input for the Hitachi TV's HDMI ports.
I will need an Apple mini-DVI to DVI converter (dutifully ordered from Apple) and a DVI to HDMI cable (yet to be purchased.)

The Apple mini-DVI to DVI converter provides a DVI/D connection. No one can say for sure if it is a male or female connector (this seems strange to me, but the photo on Apple's Website is inconclusive--if I were designing it, the converter would have a female jack to marry to a male cable connector). The Hitachi takes a(n) HDMI/A connector and the socket on the TV is female. So I'll need a cable with one end providing a male HDMI/A and the other providing a DVI/D connector of the proper gender, to be determined after receipt of the Apple mini-DVD converter. Datapro's Website has a variety of cables available. I've got a standard audio mini stereo jack to male RCA cable, but Apple Engineering says I'll get better audio quality if I use the optical connector.

So, assuming that I don't have to buy extra gender converters for the HDMI cable, and assuming the solution works, I'll have the Apple's display on my 50" Hitachi HD Plasma for only about a hundred bucks and two days of painful research! I guess I can live with that, but it seems that the entire process was just NOT EZ!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

See the Blog title.

Early this summer, my eldest son and his wife gave me a great gift: a 24-inch iMac. This is a wonderful machine, which, when wirelessly connected to my DSL pipe, has led to many amazing discoveries. One of the more recent discoveries is the joy of streaming "watch it now" movies from my Netflix account. But as amazing as that crisp, bright 24-inch display is; as nice as those iMac speakers sound, they don't really give the theater experience as well as I could get with my home theater system, which includes a large plasma screen TV and a Bose 3-2-1 sound system.

So now, I'm hoping to connect the 2008-model iMac 24-inch to the 2-year-old 50-inch Hitachi Plasma Screen (built July 11, 2006). The Hitachi is a model 50HDA39. This leads to the blog title: Nothing is as EZ as it should be! I'm not a techno-dummy, but the maze of specifications to be traversed here has my head swimming.

The iMac apparently has only a mini-DVI out for video output (I assume Firewire and USB are only for data, not to include video--although Sony uses Firewire for video and audio in a "consolidated" fashion). The iMac is not a Sony.

The Hitachi has Composite, S-Video, HDMI, and VGA inputs.

The Apple Store Website sells adapters from the mini-DVI to S-Video, or mini-DVI to VGA. The Apple Website says that the mini-DVI to S-Video also includes composite video capability (not further defined on the Website). It offers no such claim for the mini-DVI to VGA adapter.

The Apple Store Website states that the mini-DVI to VGA adapter can be used in both video mirroring and extended desktop modes. There is no such note regarding the mini-DVI to Video adapter. Reviews on the Apple Store Website indicate that video quality is not acceptable on a large-screen display using either S-Video or Composite. Is this true? Should I assume that the VGA is the correct route for my application?

The Web site does not mention the audio component in the discussion of either adapter.

Should I assume that I'll have to have an optical-audio-out (iMac) to composite audio-in (Hitachi) to also get the audio? The Apple Store does not offer such a device. Have you ever seen one? If I select S-Video or VGA inputs for the Hitachi, the Hitachi manual hints that the Hitachi will know where to get the audio if the "PC Picture menu" input is selected for audio and video. Or should I bypass the Hitachi and go directly to the Bose? Wow. I know that third remote control is here somewhere!

The Hitachi manual also says:

Pixels: 1,366 x 768
Video: Suggested scan rates: 1080i, 480p, 480i, 720p, 48 kHz sampling frequency.

PC INPUT = Mini-Dsub 15 pin x 1
· An adapter is not needed for computers with a DOS/V compatible mini D-sub 15-pin terminal.
· The on-screen displays will have a different appearance in PC mode than inTV mode.
· If your PC display output corresponds to a WVGA or a WXGA resolution as indicated in the chart below (example: WXGA 1360 x 768), you must set the WVGA INPUT or WXGA INPUT to the ON position in the PC Picture menu in the TV (see page 43).

VGA 640x480 60Hz
WVGA 848x480 60Hz
SVGA 800x600 60Hz
XGA 1024x768 60Hz
WXGA 1280x720 60Hz
WXGA 1280x768 60Hz
WXGA 1360x768 60Hz

What the...? It's my understanding that the iMac 24-inch has a native resolution of 1920 x 1200. Will I need to change the resolution? Can the resolution be changed?

At this point, if I had hair, I would pull it out! Pardon my ignorance, but, then, as my blog title says, Nothing is as EZ as it should be!