(mis)adventures in software development...

04 September 2011

Cold And Grumpy: Why hast thou failed me my modern mod cons?

Category Technology

It seems to happen in threes. All of a sudden my digital TV reception has gone to hell. Being without TV I might consider a minor annoyance, in a world of online streaming of TV shows (and *cough* BitTorrent *cough*). But my ADSL is constantly dropping out too. And my central heating just broke down. So I am without both TV and internet. And I’m cold. Needless to say I’m fucking grumpy.

The ADSL I’ve been having problems with on and off for a very long time. It’s no doubt a result of Telstra’s crappy copper infrastructure. The central heating unit is old, and has been breaking down with remarkable regularity every year. The TV reception problem, however, is new. I have not had a problem with this before, but all of a sudden it is so bad it’s pretty much unwatchable, all channels are totally garbled. Switching to analogue, the picture is watchable, although with interference lines moving up and down the screen and regular audio glitches. What the fuck? Nothing has changed in my TV setup lately.

When I switched to digital, I replaced all the antenna cables. It seems the old ones were made from a material completely incapable of transmitting digital data reliably. Much like Telstra’s copper network.

So I have new, properly shielded cables, along with a powered splitter. It’s all been working fine for months. Nothing has changed. What is going on?

I checked and double checked all the cables and connections. I moved things around. I unplugged everything except the TV. I disconnected the splitter and ran the TV antenna cable straight into the socket. Nothing made a difference. The TV was reception still stuffed. I looked at the TV antenna outside. As far as I could tell, everything was still connected, cables and connectors intact, nothing looked obviously wrong.

What could I do? Call someone? Who do I even call for TV reception problems like this?

I thought I’d wait a few days and see if the problem would go away on its own. (An eternal optimist, aren’t I?) It didn’t. The TV reception problems continued for days. Cold days. With no heating. And only intermittent internet.

I was also wondering what to do about the heating. Looks like it’s time to replace the heating unit, but with the colder months behind us for the year, might wait till next year before deciding whether to replace or repair the damn thing. But in thinking about this, it occurred to me that the TV reception went to hell on the same day the central heating stopped working. Coincidence? Is there such a thing as coincidence when it comes to technology?

I went outside, around the side of the house, to the central heating unit. I opened the front panel and had a look inside the . The unit was so old it still has a pilot light. Apparently modern units don’t have them. Not surprisingly, the pilot light was out. As a result, the “electronic pilot relighter” was sparking at regular intervals, trying to relight it, but in vain, as most likely something somewhere else had broken down, preventing the pilot light from actually lighting.

I flicked the switch to turn off the automatic pilot relighter, then went back inside and had a look at the TV. It was back! The pristine TV reception is back, in all its crisp digital glory. So that is what had happened. The central heating had broken down, causing the pilot light to go out, unable to be relighted. But that didn’t stop the automatic pilot lighter constantly generating a spark to try and relight the pilot light, and this spark must have been causing massive interference with my digital TV reception. Turning off the automatic pilot lighter fixed the problem.

So that’s one problem resolved.

Now if only I could fix my ADSL problems by simply flicking a switch.