It was my wife’s birthday last Saturday and my daughter had taken the reigns on arranging a marvellous surprise birthday party for her at our home. This was made easier by the fact that my wife had gone up to the yoga camp for a couple of days of yoga and food deprivation (as she said via text: “The food is so bad I can’t even bring myself to send you a photo”).

This gave me a couple of days to prepare my “present” to her: A video tribute consisting of a couple of dozen slides from our nearly 40 years together, stitched into a beautiful music-accompanied presentation. It’s quite a job sorting through 20 massive photo albums spanning such a time frame, selecting photos that would be au-point yet not too embarrassing, and finally scanning and photoshopping them into something workable. I used iPhoto to organize the images and then iTunes to assemble the album, music, pacing, etc.

The evening before people were due to show up, my daughter and I ran the presentation about a dozen times using Apple TV as the interface between the computer and the TV screen. It worked perfectly and seamlessly.

At 12:30 PM the next day, about a half hour before the guests were to arrive, we ran it again one more time to make sure everything was OK. Disaster! It refused to work, no-matter-what. I rebooted the computer, the WiFi and the Apple TV a half-dozen times. I reset the Apple TV completely, painstakingly re-entering the parameters using the Apple TV’s incredibly cumbersome letter-by-letter data entry system. Nada!

Now I was really sweating. People began to arrive and I couldn’t play host, my mind was in a tunnel: I spoke to them, but 90% of my mental energy was absorbed in trying to figure out why this thing wouldn’t work. After my wife had arrived to cheers of “Surprise!”, I managed to get it to work once, thank God! It was terrific and elicited many tears and some blubbering….precisely the effect one wants from such a  presentation. But for the rest of the afternoon, I remained preoccupied with why I couldn’t get it to work again and would wander back to the computer at any lull in the conversation. Hell, I even missed the buffet, finally picking a few leftover scraps at the very end.

I went to bed that night, still irritated and flummoxed about why I couldn’t get it to work. Then in the middle of the night I had an epiphany. I heard the words of the Videotron (our ISP) technician from 6 months earlier when we had been having trouble with our cable TV. He had said, “If everything else fails to fix the problem, unplug ALL the wires, including power, HDMI, USB, etc., from both sides of all components”. He had gone on to explain that in modern “smart” devices, even if you turn them off and reboot them, any form of current or energy stored in cables, is enough to keep glitches “alive”.

Next morning, I unplugged everything, gave it 20 seconds, replugged all the wires and tried my presentation once again. Worked perfectly! I tried it a dozen times, some on the computer and some on the TV. Perfect and seamless performance.

Moral of the story? When in doubt….unplug everything.