or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Reference Question of the Week – 12/1/13

   December 7th, 2013 Brian Herzog

headphones required signI've seen some weird things while helping with tech support, but this is really one of the weirdest damn things I've ever encountered.

For awhile now, we've been getting complaints about YouTube videos not working on some of our computers. The problem has been easy to reproduce, because, sure enough, the video will play for a second and then the viewer window goes black/staticy and displays a "video cannot play" error.

Usually the culprit is an out-of-date browser or plugin, but even with the latest versions the problem persisted. Searching online didn't really turn up anything useful. I got so frustrated that I had to go to my second-to-last-resort, YouTube's help suggestions - still nothing.

Finally, I went to my last resort, asking our IT person to take over the problem because I wasn't making any progress. It baffled her too for a little while, but after some more online searching, she came up with a fix: plug in the headphones.

I believe our computers automatically mute their speakers when headphones are unplugged (so as not to play sound otherwise, which may bother the patrons around them). YouTube must be looking at some sound setting in the computer and doesn't like not having available speakers, and so just doesn't play the video at all. But if you have headphones plugged in before the video starts, it works just like it should. I have no idea why YouTube videos would not play without this, but there you go.

I don't understand it, but it works, so maybe I don't need to. Just, thank goodness for smart coworkers.



Tags: , , , , , , , ,



Reference Question of the Week – 1/8/12

   January 14th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Cell phone with headphones plugged inI found this question interesting, even though I couldn't help much. An older woman came up to the desk one afternoon and said:

I have message from my granddaughter on my cell phone that I would like to save. How can I record that to a CD so I can listen to it whenever I want?

As you might suspect, I'm decently competent when it comes to tech questions, but I know nothing about cell phones. However, I suspected there must be some web interface she could log into and see all of her account's voicemail as mp3 files or something - at least, I hoped there was. Short of that, there was always the low-tech method of simply holding her phone close to a tape recorder.

Her carrier was AT&T, so I called the local AT&T store and asked them about downloading voicemail files - this is the guy's response:

No, we don't have anything like that - just tell her to hold her phone up to a tape recorder*.

Man. Yeah, I'm sure it'll work, but the quality would probably be pretty bad. So, I tried searching online for recording voicemail from cell phone and after reading a few posts, I found the obvious answer of using the phone's headphone jack to plug into a computer and use that to record.

The Ask MetaFiler post was particularly informative, as it provided multiple options including a list of the different hardware and software options available. Of course, we didn't have any of this in the library, so I couldn't help the woman directly. But it did provide me with enough information to call around to a few local computer repair shops, and ask them if they had the equipment and ability to record her message for her.

Of the shops I called, one said they'd do it for $10 and one said they'd do it for free, and the woman was very happy. She said she's try the free one first, and if it didn't sound good enough, she'd try the other.

It's kind of too bad we didn't have the right cable to do this - now I'm really curious to see if it works (but not enough to actually get my own cell phone).

 


*The guy at the AT&T store also did say that if the woman was being threatened she should take it to the Police, but that wasn't the case.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Reference Question of the Week – 9/18/11

   September 24th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Sony flat panel televisionA patron came up to the desk with "SONY" written on a piece of paper. He said,

This is the kind of TV I have; can I plug headphones into it? I looked at the television but there are so many little plug holes that I don't know what they're all for.

I explained that Sony makes lots of different models, some with and some without headphone jacks. We really needed the actual model number of his television to answer this, so he said he'd go home and look for that and call me when he found it.

20 minutes later he calls, and I do an image search for sony kdl32l5000 to look at the pictures. My logic was that a headphone jack would probably be right on the front of the television if anywhere, so it should be easy to spot. If that didn't work, then I'd look for specs or a manual.

I found lots of pictures of the front, back, and sides of the television, but didn't see a headphone jack anywhere. None of the reviews mentioned headphones either. To double-check, I visited the Sony's product webpage for this television. I did Ctrl+F to search for headphone on the page, but there was no mention - and disappointing product images, too.

All the while, the patron had been describing the jacks he could find - none of which had a picture of little headphones next to it.

For a quick last attempt, I did another search for kdl32l5000 headphones and found the manual, and also the chat log of someone offering support for this exact question. I found the chat log hilarious, but between that and everything else I'd found, the conclusion was that there is no headphone jack on this television.

The patron was fine with that when I told him. However, in the meantime he had inadvertently pulled all the other wires out of the television while sliding it around, so the headphones were now the least of his worries.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,