Today after I finished my emails I punched up Spotify and got the dreaded Song Will Not Play error. Instead of running through the play list song by song with a few ads that aren’t really terrible mixed in, Spotify told me nothing was available! But! But! I thought this was free! so I started poking about to see what was happening and found this advice:
Which of course, after an hour of tinkering with Windows and verifying that this or that works, did not help. This is normal, usually no help information associated with Windows does help and Spotify did not go beyond this level. Windows did tell me something was disconnected, but I checked everything and nothing was. Hmm.
For a couple of years the speaker system I use has had a control problem, there’s a wired volume control and mute button that is getting old and scratchy so I’ve been dealing with this by setting it just precisely so and propping it on a wad of crumpled paper and remembering not to touch it. Today I guess it failed on one half of the stereo system and Windows could just not deal with this and accused everyone involved of either being the problem or working properly. Windows troubleshooting system does this a lot, should have a finger that points at things and yells “It’s not us!” because that’s all the help Windows Troubleshooting has ever been to me. After unplugging things and hearing pops and testing different programs I decided it was time to deal with the real problem, that little basic remote control that I never really need. It was the only clearly faulty thing I could find.
In the 70’s when I worked as an electronic technician, a scratchy “pot” was one of the most common faults we found, because unlike many electronic components, a pot is mechanical. It’s essential a little carbon-coated disc that a stylus rides upon. The more of the disc you use in the circuit, by moving the stylus upwards on the disc, the higher the resistance. So that is the basic analog volume control. It wears out. The carbon path wears away, the stylus corrodes, and the pot gets scratchy and then fails. Pots cost like twenty cents, but if you want a replacement it can actually cost you forty dollars, I worked for a company that actually did that to people.
Today I opened up the remote, which was so ancient that it was held together by two philips screws instead of being plastic welded together so you can’t get into it, and because I didn’t see anything fancy in there I clipped the wires on both sides and reconnected them, matching color to color, and threw the control circuit into the garbage. Now everything works fine. I have stereo and wonderful sound effects and I can listen once again to the soundtrack from The Civil War as narrated by Ken Burns, until tears come to my eyes and I feel the urge to play the flute (a dizi I acquired on one of my mysterious excursions in Thailand).