I Miss Music On Hold

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We’re sorry.  Your call is very important to us.  Please remain on the line, and the next available customer service representative will be with you shortly.

Sound familiar?  Well, it should, as many telephone systems have similar recordings that usually repeat every 30 seconds while you wait on hold for 3 minutes… or 30 minutes… it really depends on who you are, and reason you are “on hold”.

If I am ordering a pizza, for instance, and I get put on hold for more than 5 minutes, I know they are busy, and I will often just hang up and dial another establishment.  But if I am trying to reach my credit card company or cable provider, I usually have a reason that I need to call them in particular, not someone else.  Oftentimes, it does not matter when I call, I will be put on hold.

In the old days, you would be put on hold and hear nothing. Silence. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? But I guess some people did not know if they were still on hold after hearing silence for a few minutes, so someone invented “music on hold”.  The music source could be a service like Muzak but usually, it was just a short loop recording of classical music that would repeat.

Then one day, someone (let’s call him or her The Devil) got the bright idea to add the “We’re sorry.  Your call is very important to us…” and made it REPEAT OVER AND OVER.  Does this really help anyone?  Seriously, I swear, it was The Devil, Bobby Boucher, The Devil!

The last time I was put on hold, it was even worse: in between the verbal lashings of digitally remastered sarcasm mentioned above, they had inter-weaved advertisements for their services!  It was at that moment that I realized we need a revolution.  If We, The People, have to be put on hold, we demand respect; I personally think we should be educated and/or entertained while on hold.  Here is what I think should happen:

You have been put on hold and you are listening to an automated telephone system. I will try to make it as painless as possible by speaking to you in a polite, personal tone.

First, push 1 to mute me at anytime; push 1 to un-mute me.

You will be on hold for approximately 10 minutes. That is a estimate, and I will try to keep you updated if that amount of time changes significantly.  You can press 2 at any time to find out the estimated time you will still be on hold. 

Now for some entertainment, if you are in the mood for it…

Press 3 for local news, sports, traffic, and weather forecasts

Press 4 to listen to light classical music

Press 5 for jazz, funk, and r&b music

Press 6 for rock or indie music

Press 7 for rap and hip hop music

Press 8 for country music

Press 9 to hear these options again

Otherwise, I will leave you to wait in silence, ok?  Just speak up if you need something.  Sorry about putting you on hold. I know its really rude, but we do it to keep our internal expenses to a minimum, which in the end, should mean cheaper prices for you. Thanks for waiting. 

-pk

I Propose(d) An Infocomm Northwest (And My Wish Came True!)

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Paul Konikowski, CTS-D, LEED Green Associate:

I wrote this blog post proposing a west-coast Infocomm less than a year ago, and now my wish is coming true! Hoping to see some #AVtweeps this Wednesday (or Thursday) at the San Jose Convention Center for Infocomm Connections. Not exactly a ‘crystal ball prediction’, but still shows that Infocomm and I are on the same wavelength!
http://infocommconnections.org/

Originally posted on PK AUDIOVISUAL:

Leaving Las Vegas: Why InfoComm Should Also Visit Seattle or San Francisco, Where AV Innovation Is More Than Just Stagecraft

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

I was honored to be a special guest this past Friday on AVweek, a weekly podcast produced by AVnation.tv that discusses current events of the audiovisual industry.  After the podcast, the other contributors and I started talking about how the annual CEDIA expo may smell a little different this year, as this September, CEDIA expo-goers would now have the liberty of trying some of Denver’s new, umm, legislation…

I started to think about all of the cities where I have attended conferences geared towards audio and video.  I have traveled to Philadelphia, PA for EduCause; Amsterdam,NL for ISE; Anaheim,CA for InfoComm and NAMM; Indianapolis,IN and Denver,CO for CEDIA; New York,NY and San Francisco,CA for AES; and Orlando,FL for Infocomm.  And, of course, Las Vegas,NV for both CES in January…

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Cybersecurity In Audiovisual Systems

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You Should Consider Cybersecurity During All Phases Of An Audiovisual Installation

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

Earlier this month, the San Francisco Bay Area was graced with the presence of President Barack Obama, who was here to participate in a Cybersecurity Summit at Stanford University.  *Side note*, I am still unsure if it’s spelled as one word or two, cyber security, or with a dash, cyber-security, and the online jury seems to be rather undecided. So for the sake of brevity, I am sticking with the one-word-version, cybersecurity. *End side note*. At the aforementioned summit of cybersecurity experts, students, and information technology managers in Palo Alto, Mr. Obama signed an executive order encouraging the private sector to share cybersecurity threat information with other companies and the U.S. government.

Rising stock prices of cybersecurity software firms like Palo Alto Networks (PANW), FireEye (FEYE), and CyberArk (CYBR) have also reflected this increased level of awareness. Why? Because unlike guns or nuclear warfare, cyber hacking can happen right under our noses, for years and years, without anyone even noticing. Larger firms have realized that they need the best of the best to combat these criminals, and investors have taken notice to the growth potential of these new age software “heroes” who will do battle for a price, much like the Routiers, the early mercenary soldiers of the Middle Ages.

As audiovisual experts we also need to become IT cybersecurity experts, at least to some degree. At minimum, we have to know what risk we are adding to the network before, during, and after the AV installation. Here is a list of ways you can protect your audio, video, and control systems against theft and hackers, in no particular order:

  • Have a frank and honest discussion with the project team about cybersecurity. Find out who is in charge of the network, and who will need access to the systems.
  • Use motorized projection screens that are fitted into the ceilings to discourage theft.
  • Mount projectors using security boxes, or scissor lifts to hide them up inside the ceilings.
  • AV touch panels and camera controllers often have passwords, but are they updated?
  • Portable TVs and poorly mounted speakers are easy targets; don’t “tempt” thieves
  • Ping all projectors and flat-panel television type displays once every minute. If the display does not respond, assume it is being stolen and automatically email security
  • Interactive whiteboards, mice, and keyboards are generally trustworthy, but who is really checking that USB stick that automatically downloads this or that app to the laptops?
  • Don’t assume that the person in charge of your computer network is the best one to test the AV installation for bugs or security breach points. Hire an expert to test it.
  • Backup all files at least once a day to a secure offsite and/or cloud storage facility.
  • Microphones and tableboxes should be periodically checked for James Bond type “bugs” that can listen to private meetings. It’s not always the newest technology that you need to worry about!
  • Videochat and audio conferencing suites should never be left unlocked while not in use
  • Make sure that end users know when a camera is on or when microphones are open.
  • Digital signage and way-finding kiosks are updated via website; use unique passwords.
  • Unfortunately, most AV equipment racks are made by just a few manufacturers, and each uses one or two different key codes in their door locks. Once you have a set of the common AV rack keys, you can open almost any locked AV equipment rack in the U.S.
  • “Security screws” can also limit the amateur thefts, but any real crook will have tools.

These are just a portion of the areas that the AV Design Engineer and Project Manager need to address during a project. The real problems are the bugs and “holes” that are accidentally left in a program, that nobody catches, mainly because, no one is looking for them. That is why it is critical that today’s AV integration firms hire a well-trained, experienced QA (quality assurance) department who will double-check the engineer’s design, the programmer’s code, and the completed installation.

We all make mistakes, its human nature. And even when we don’t make mistakes, we certainly overlook things that others might catch. Having someone else check your AV design, bug test your code, or evaluate your network or website for cybersecurity threats will always uncover more than checking it yourself.  If you are not putting up “constant vigilance” against the hackers, and paying an expert to test your systems, then you are just living in denial, thinking that your systems are working properly and secure. If these hackers can break into insurance companies and Target, you have to assume that they are trying to hack into your systems as well, (or that they already have!)

constant vigilance