Do It Yourself

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The other day I listened to a radio interview with the original how to master, Bob Vila. Its hard to believe, but the PBS legend is celebrating 25 years on television. Where has the time gone?

The year was 1979, long before the big box home stores sprang up throughout suburbia and began calling all homeowners in for classes and clinics on home improvement.

Just outside Boston, Vila, a carpenter and craftsman with an eye for classic details, stepped in front of the camera. As host of what became This Old House, he inspired a whole generation of weekend warriors who tuned in and strapped on their tool belts. From this initial seed sprang an entire genre of home improvement TV shows and a retail industry.

In 1989, Vila departed public broadcasting to launch the first commercial television home improvement show, Bob Vilas Home Again. Vilas success, in turn, has spawned an endless stream of DIY-style shows, from Trading Spaces to While You Were Out.

Coincidentally, Residential Systems is devoting this months issue to a series of How to... articles in the spirit of Mr. Vila. While we cant claim to be as cool as Bob Vila, hopefully you will find our articles on integral skill sets in the custom installation industry useful.

First off are two articles of critical importance to maximizing your companys profit potential. While freelance writer Carolyn Heinze takes a sweeping, survey approach on the topic, respected industry management consultant/accountant, Darrell McComber, digs a little deeper. His how-to article provides answers to questions about managing contracts (including change orders and cancellations), managing installations and improving cash flow. As Mr. McComber points out, The residential systems contracting firms of today are positioned to make a good deal of money. They must, however, learn to operate their businesses with better management skills and not simply react to them.

Next up in our how-to extravaganza, industry consultant and monthly RS contributor, Michael Heiss, describes how to make an iPod a primary audio source for an individual room or an entire home system. Mr. Heiss comments, Regardless of how or with what you extend the functionality of an iPod, the field is wide open. The benefit, he says, comes from the value-added labor that integrators supply and the comfort factor they can give to a client or prospect.

On a more familiar topic, RS contributor Tony Grimani offers an article on properly calibrating a theater audio system. Mr. Grimani explains that while most people think that calibration consists of setting the levels of the A/V controller and maybe also the delay times and speaker configuration selections. In fact, there are many other steps involved in the full-on tuning of a system. Skip any one of them, and you may be sacrificing performance.

On the topic of effective control interface design, authorized independent programmer, Jim Snel, says, It is important to realize that while each design is custom and unique, there are rules that apply when creating a successful user interface.

I wont give away the details, but Mr. Snel explains that everything starts with the right hardware, but also involves making appropriate decisions on colors, backgrounds and fonts, while remembering the fundamentals of touchpanel navigation.

At first glance, explains AVADs Joe Piccirilli, the term pre-designed packaged systems might not hold much appeal to the average consumer. After all, arent we living at an age when products are supposed to be unique,

spontaneous, custom designed and homemade? But as Mr. Piccirilli explains in his how-to article, Its up to custom installers to provide clear and intelligent choices to their clients based on their specific needs. The future and continual growth of this market is really dependent on how well we succeed in packaging these choices and, above all, aiming these choices at simplifying the users experience.

So enjoy our annual how-to issue and keep it on your shelf for future reference. If you want, go ahead and cut out your favorite articles and pass them around your office. But in one final nod to Mr. Vila, always remember to measure twice and cut once.