A couple of weeks ago I decided to upgrade my media centre PC with all of the queued, recommended Windows 7 updates that had been building up over the past few months. Unfortunately what entailed was a whole load of headache and frustration even though the final solution was very simple, that said, the process reminded me of a couple of valuable life lessons.

When I booted up my media centre to watch a film before going to bed and the speakers simply didn’t work as they should have done, I preceded to waste about 4 hours trying to find out why, after updating the Windows system the 5.1 surround sound speakers I have plugged into the media centre PC had stopped playing through the subwoofer and the rear speakers, very frustrating given no hardware had been changed.

Just around the 4th hour at about 3am after taking the sound card out and putting it back in, reinstalling the drivers, trying other third party drivers and even considering an entire reformat of the system to revert back to Linux I realised, purely out of luck, that I had a simple setting on my 5.1 speakers remote control. Two buttons. One read 2.1, the other 5.1.

Now when you’re running in 5.1 mode and the audio output is not a true 5.1 stream (like YouTube for example) you’re going to lose the effects and the audio is not going to play properly through the speakers, which was exactly what was happening to my setup, if it’s a true 5.1 audio stream you’re only going to get the benefits of the 5.1 audio if you switch the speakers into 5.1 mode.

The solution after 4 straight hours? I simply press on the “2.1” button and the sound reverted back to a full audio experience.

Now given this took me about 4 hours to solve and probably added a couple of grey hairs, it taught me, or at least reminded me a valuable life lesson that you should always ensure you check off before entering into any problem solving situation. I see this day in day out, people spending so much time working around problems that, if you step back, would be very simple to solve, but most of the time we’re all too busy and dive straight into fixing the issue rather than giving it some more thought, I think we’re all guilty of this.

This can translate across many experiences, from a simple computer sound card issue right though to a large multi department work based project:

Always remember to check the most simple solutions first.

Being a software and hardware geek, it’s all too easy to assume that an issue is going to be solved by a complex solution, sometimes the easiest and most simple solutions are the best, which goes for pretty much everything I’ve experienced so far in life, quite often they’re the most rewarding too.

The other lesson I learnt is patience, not to always dive straight into the problem solving task, I’d probably have been better off in this instance grabbing a book to read and tackling the problem when I was less tired, I may have solved it in 5 minutes, rather than have taken 4 hours.

Some food for thought, and a good reminder for me of an important life lesson.