John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

AV Phone Call Nightmares

Posted on July 2, 2014 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (2)

Customer: Hi, this is Mr. X. Do you remember me?


Me: Umm, I think so… We did a job for you quite a few years ago, right?


Customer: Yeah. You put in a system for me in my new house about 5 years ago. And now my remote isn’t working. I need a service call.


Me: OK. Well, can you tell me a little about your system?


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Better Than a Concert Hall or Movie Theater

Posted on June 25, 2014 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

We routinely send out letters to prospective clients introducing our company and the services we offer, and one of the lines in that letter says, “Whether you are interested in concert hall sound or movie theater video...” I came up with that line, and I used to love it, as it created a visual that everyone could relate to. But now as I’ve gotten a bit older and gone to several concerts and movies, I’ve come to realize that this visual might NOT be the e...

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Custom versus Production

Posted on May 27, 2014 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

We so frequently work with custom builders on custom projects where things like, “I need that wall reframed for my center channel” or, “We’re gonna need to have the electrician do this for us” are just standard operating procedure that we may lose sight of the experience that non-custom purchasers typically experience when they buy a “mass built” home from a production builder and want it outfitted with some audio/video system.

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The Cost of Doing Business Locally

Posted on May 15, 2014 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it's enemy action.” – Ian Fleming, “Goldfinger”


Remember in the early, Wild West days of the Internet when we used to counter the specter of online retailing with the ominous threats of getting ripped off, receiving the wrong product, or being stuck with some grey-market or broken good that could never be returned? Yeah. Not so much anymore.

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Hot Potato: After Hours Service Calls

Posted on April 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The other night, as I was just settling in to a wonderful post-work IPA, my cell phone rang. It was 7:15 and it was one of my clients. I answered the phone to see what they needed. The crisis? They couldn’t find Wheel of Fortune on TV. (I’m not even kidding.) They had moved to a new home with a new cable provider and couldn’t find Wheel. She grew up with Vanna, enjoyed watching Wheel every night, and by God, where was Wheel of Fortune on the new TV we sold her...

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Why DISH Made Me Stop Being Agnostic

Posted on March 19, 2014 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (3)

When I started off as an installer back in the late '90s new clients would frequently ask my opinion on whether I thought they should go with cable or satellite. (Over-the-air antenna is not really an option in our area. Unless you really like watching all ETV all the time, in which case, brother, we have got you covered!) My pat response was that our systems were technology agnostic and they would work fine with either one and it was really up to them and what they want...

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Does the Academy Awards Actually Encourage Piracy?

Posted on March 6, 2014 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

The Simpsons re-ran an earlier episode on piracy the night of the Oscars which perfectly articulated my blog. Enjoy quotes from the episode liberally sprinkled throughout!


Bart: “Homer, you don’t need a theater to watch the movie. You just have to illegally download it.


Homer: “Illegally download it...? Is that legal?


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4K is coming! Does anyone even care?!

Posted on February 4, 2014 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

This year’s International CES could just as easily have been called, “The Great Big Giant 4K TV Show!” because if you ventured anywhere into the central hall, that is practically all you saw or heard about.


(OK, it actually isn’t 4K, as that technically refers to the theatrical format that is 4062x2160 resolution at 17:9 aspect ratio. We all need to start getting into the habit of nipping this 4K thing in t...

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"Simple" Things Aren't Always So Simple

Posted on December 10, 2013 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

By virtually any metric, I would consider myself a pretty tech-savvy individual. I’ve programmed multiple Control4, Lutron and URC systems. I’ve set up, configured and troubleshot so many home theater systems I couldn’t possibly keep count. I’ve also installed Escient, Kaleidescape, Sonos and almost everything in between. Point being, there aren’t too many pieces of tech I’m not totally comfortable with.


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Should We Bill Like Lawyers and CPAs?

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I remember reading John Grisham’s novel, The Firm, several years ago, and recall Mitch’s marching orders from the nefarious firm of Bendini, Lambert and Locke as being something akin to, “If you talk to the client on the phone, bill them. If you make a photocopy for the client, bill them. If you even find yourself at your desk, drinking a cup of coffee and maybe flipping through a magazine, and your mind happens to wander to where you even think about t...

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Installation Holy Grail: Recurring Revenue

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (1)

Our industry's Holy Grail seems to be developing some form of a recurring revenue stream. Far better than the one-and-done-and-on-to-the-next-one install we typically do, recurring revenue is like that mythical Golden Goose that just poops out stacks of money on a regular basis, while you sit back at your desk, feet up, sipping some Macallan 30 watching all those hundos rolling in and thinking of all the ways to spend it.


In reality, get...

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Smartphone: I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds

Posted on November 5, 2013 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

When the robot overlords take over and finish thoroughly examining each bit of the yottabytes of accumulated data that make up the entire collected history of human culture – sadly a process that will only take them around 2 seconds with their quantum logic computing power stolen from the NSA, but it will be a merciful two second reprieve from the constant whippings and cruel task mastering – they will likely determine that the smartphone was the most powerful and d...

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Why 3-D IS and ISN'T Dead

Posted on November 1, 2013 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

There was a time not that long ago when you couldn’t walk 10 paces at an electronics’ trade show without being bombarded by some TV huckster wanting you to see their latest 3-D demonstration.


There would be people lined up like cattle at a feeding trough, crowding around for their turn to grab a pair of glasses and then stand ogling a screen playing an endless demo loop of some carefully selected, overly-bright eye-popping 3-...

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The Case Against the Integrated Thermostat

Posted on October 15, 2013 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the big announcements at the CEDIA Expo this year was Nest finally opening up its API for 3rd party integration, starting with Control4. Before the show, there was a lot of resentment and anger towards Nest for creating a product that was so cool, so cutting edge, so popular and Apple-like and yet one that wouldn’t interface with all of the systems that we install. (I might have been guilty of piling some of this on as well...)


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A Server by Any Other Name is Not a Kaleidescape

Posted on July 30, 2013 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Last week Kaleidescape introduced a new product, the Cinema One, that I and many others in the industry – Residential Systems, CE Pro, Home Theater, Digital Trends, Engadget, USA Today – felt was pretty big news. (You can read my post on the Cinema One here.) For a company known for making systems for the luxury market c...

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How many custom installers does it take to change a light bulb?

Posted on July 18, 2013 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (1)

Answer: “Just one. But it takes several hours to first research the bulb type and load, compare it to the list of approved bulbs, replace and reprogram the new dimmer and then change the bulb.”


That joke would be funny if it wasn’t so painfully true. Because if you’ve been in this business for any amount of time and you’ve ever installed a lighting control system then you have received or will r...

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What's Your Dress Code?

Posted on July 10, 2013 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

“Dress for the job you want.” – Your High School Guidance Counselor


“Dress for the clients you want.” – Me


Sometimes it seems like many members of our industry have co-opted the title “installer” as a license to wear any manner of “edgy” clothing. I remember walking the halls of my first CEDIA and I was shocked at how many people were...

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Preemptive Problem Solving - Sharing the Tribal Knowledge

Posted on June 20, 2013 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

My favorite blogs to read are those where other installers share their personal experiences in the field and their interactions with clients. It helps us to see that big company, small company, young company or industry vet, luxury high-rise condo in Manhattan, or 1,000 square foot cookie-cutter development in BFE, things are pretty much alike all over.


Last week I read a blog by Heather Sidorowicz titled, “

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Why Custom Integrators Can Still Thrive Without Mega-Rich Clients

Posted on June 5, 2013 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Perusing the June 2013 issue of Residential Systemsthe digital issue no less; you can read it here – I came across a column by Ira Friedman entitled “Targeting the Mega Rich: Why Ultra High Net Individuals are the Best Custom Integration Clients.”


Ira had some interesting points in his p...

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Translating Client-Speak for Custom Installers

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Over the years, I’ve had my share of customers that used odd vernacular to describe things that I had to interpret what they were actually trying to say. One client called up complaining that his monitor wasn’t working. “Monitor?” I asked. “You mean the TV?” “No, not my TV, my monitor.” “Which TV are we talking about?” “My monitor! Not TV, Monitor!” We went back and forth for several minutes before I was ab...

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