Transition Time

Jan 18 2009

Those of us who have the privilege of having a significant other also have the distinct joy of ensuring our media system design meets their specific requirements.  This has been referred to in the past as the "Wife Acceptance Factor" or WAF.  I'm not talking about whether it's a 720p or 1080p display or what RAID level the drives are running, but rather something much more important.  Let me give you an example; "Why does it go to that screen when I click this doohickey?"

After time has passed and they have been sufficiently trained in the system's operation, the questions become less frequent and the impatient sighs diminish.  So, why would you ever think about rocking the boat?  There are a million reasons and eventually the time comes to bite the bullet and make the leap of faith.  Days of planning, testing, and tweaking culminate in the evening of the great unveiling.  You sit her down, explain the vast improvements that the new system will provide (her eyes roll into the back of her head half way through), and you hand her the shiny new remote.  What happens next can be best described as "shock and awe".  Nothing is as it was before.  "Where's my recordings?",  "How do I watch a DVD?",  "This remote feels funny", and my personal favorite, "Can you put it back the way it was?"

Yes, the WAF just took a plunge deeper than the crashing stock market.  With some careful planning, your next HTPC software platform transition can be a little less harrowing.  Read on for some tips.

 

Planning:

Plan, plan, plan, plan, plan.  After that, do a bit more.  Try and think about the order you want to do things and write it down.  Just the act of documenting may bring additional things to light that weren't obvious before.   This doesn't need to be a full color PowerPoint presentation, but rather a well thought out plan on notebook paper.

 

Ask Around:

Talk to your HTPC friends and co-workers or post some questions in our forums.  In short, get educated on the process and write down any road blocks or potential hazards that you discover.  Another person's prior pain can be your gain.  There's no need to repeat the mistakes of others.

 

Prepare Your Significant Other:

Don't do this in a vacuum.  If possible include her in any decisions that she may be interested in.  She may not care about what brand of hard drive you picked, but she may have an opinion on the GUI background.  This not only gives her some ownership in the transition, it get's her mentally prepped for the upcoming changes.  From my experience, no one likes surprises when it comes to this.

 

Evaluate Older Hardware:

Take this opportunity now that PCs are open to check the old hardware.  Ensure wires are plugged in securely and out of the way, dust bunnies are removed, heat sinks are cleaned, and fans spin freely.  Also, this may be a good time to evaluate whether it is worth replacing your older hard drives.  Newer models are more efficient, quieter, cooler, faster, and most importantly hold much more than what you may be currently using.  This also has the added benefit of giving you a backup of the old system.  If things go horrible wrong, you can just swap drives and be back to your old setup in minutes.

 

GUI Familiarity:

I don't know about your significant other, but mine likes things that are familiar.  Anything that is "too new" seems to cause confusion and frustration, the enemies of a high WAF.  If possible, try to configure the new system to be similar in operation to the prior system from a user's standpoint.  Obviously, this can only go so far as the point in transitioning in the first place is to gain the new features.  Also, some HTPC packages are more customizable than others.  Anything that can be done to bring some sign of familiarity will go a long way towards them feeling comfortable with the transition.

 

Import Old Media:

Find a way to import shows recorded on the old system.  I know this is easier said than done.  Some HTPC packages have their media locked down tight.  This is where the prior planning comes in handy.  There should be ways to get the old media at least somewhat viewable in the new system.  Nothing gets a wife more upset than when last week's Grey's Anatomy (which she hasn't watched yet) is not viewable on the new setup.

 

Pimp It Out:

So, you know that this change is going to bring about some gnashing of teeth.  Why not do a little extra to try and smooth things over a bit.  Since you went and bought those new hard drives, let's make use of the gained storage space.  Rip her chick flick DVD's that you bought her for Christmas.  Put her favorite CDs on the system along with album art and all the trimmings.  Some might call this "sucking up".  I prefect to think of it as self-preservation.

 

Test First:

Now, who hasn't got all excited at the sight of a big brown box full of parts?  Your first instinct is to throw it all together and make it available for "public consumption".  Wrong.  Test the new system for a while to ensure it is stable and all functions operate as expected.  Having your wife stumble across an obvious glitch is not the way to build WAF.

 

Conclusion:

The things mentioned above should steer you toward the path of smooth change. The over all theme here is use common sense.  Put yourself in her shoes and try to make things such that they "just work".  After all, this is supposed to be an easy-to-use media appliance as opposed to a inherently complex PC with a fancy GUI.

I'm sure I'm not the first to make the HTPC transition.  Take a moment to give additional tips based on your own experiences by clicking the "Comments" link below.

Comments

Really this is where the prior planning comes in handy.  There should be ways to get the old media at least somewhat viewable in the new system.

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