From Sharp Minds, Comes a Lame Problem - ResidentialSystems.com

From Sharp Minds, Comes a Lame Problem

Oh, HDMI… just when you promise that all of your problems are fixed and that we shouldn't have any more bizarre handshaking or copy-protection issues, there you are, lurking just below the surface to give me an unexpected bite on the HDM-Ass! On the surface HDMI sounds like it would be the greatest thing ever, includ
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Oh, HDMI… just when you promise that all of your problems are fixed and that we shouldn't have any more bizarre handshaking or copy-protection issues, there you are, lurking just below the surface to give me an unexpected bite on the HDM-Ass!

On the surface HDMI sounds like it would be the greatest thing ever, including sliced bread. (I've no doubt that somewhere out there exists a skilled HDMI artisan/High Plains Drifter/ninja warrior who could actually swing a cable in a manner of awesomeness that would indeed slice bread.) This single cable transports gobs of data (the technical term), and can carry high-definition video and audio and control signals. It also carries copy protection (HDCP) that prevents me from renting, say, The Last Airbender and pirating 100 copies (enough to more than satisfy the worldwide demand.)

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Now, in theory, this is a good thing. Hollywood feels safe and comfortable in their copyright-protected digital cocoon, so they benevolently grant us (paid) access to a pristine digital copy of their film to enjoy at home. In theory...

In reality HDMI has been a nightmarish, technology-spiting succubus committed to destroying the lives and good names of custom installers everywhere. When it first came out, it had a working success rate that, if turned into a batting average, would have made even the Baltimore Orioles (currently rocking a 31 and 68 record) boot it off the squad. Beyond about 10 feet, you had a higher probability of stumbling across a cure for cancer on your next jaunt around the grocery store. And God help you if you turned your components on in the wrong sequence. What?!? You turned the TV on first? Are you mad?! Clearly you are trying to steal something. Black screen for you! What?!? You turned the TV on last? You must be some kind of international video pirate hell-bent on single-handedly bringing down Hollywood! Black screen! What?!? The TV isn't on AT ALL?! This is just madness! TURN OFF AUDIO IMMEDIATELY!!!

So, with multiple HDMI changes and upgrades (1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.3a, b, c, 1.4...) it has gotten to where the blasted thing actually seems to work. You plug it in, and the audio and video shows up. Power up components in whatever order strikes your fancy: TV first, last, or somewhere in the middle, and now HDMI doesn't care. It's like that cool uncle that just rolls with the punches and hands you a half-filled beer when your parents aren't looking.

But, Sharp, oh, Sharp... Somehow you didn't get the memo about the new, cool, easy-going HDMI, because your TVs are still using the old, angry, crotchety-old-man-who-likes-to-scream-at-neighbor-kids HDMI. And I KNOW you know about this problem. Why do I know? Because I spent about three hours on tech support over about 10 calls telling you about it, recently. The problem? I’m glad you asked…

With Sharp's new LE series of TVs -- you know, their best models with LED backlighting -- audio will NOT work when the TV is off. The TV's HDMI chipset grabs hold of that HDCP signal and sinks in like a rabid pit bull, so when the set doesn't report back the good-to-go signal, the signal chain shuts off. So, if you want to play a CD in your HDMI-connected Blu-ray....NO! If you want to listen to a digital music channel on your cable box or satellite receiver...NO! But really, we live in a video society. Why would anyone want to just, you know, listen to something? It's absurd really.

In a way, you could say that Sharp is just preparing us for the future when we all drive around like the fatties from Wall-E. For those of us audio-loving luddites out there, there is a solution: wire your system with analog audio cabling as well. Sweet, sweet analog, freeing you from the chains of digital slavery…

Now, just hope that your receiver still has analog inputs.

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