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Q: My Blu-ray player turns on and off by itself sometimes. Is it haunted?

A: You can blame a glitchy implementation of a basically sensible way for stereo and video gadgets to talk to each other — which, sadly, you can only fix by diving into the player's settings screens.

That standard goes by the ungainly moniker of HDMI CEC — short for High Definition Multimedia Interface Consumer Electronics Control. It's designed to let the thick HDMI cables running between a TV and other gadgets carry not just audio and video, but instructions to one another.

When properly functioning, HDMI CEC (marketed by Samsung as "Anynet") frees you from having to fiddle with multiple remotes to do things as basic as watch a DVD or Blu-ray disc.

Pick up one remote to turn on the DVD or Blu-ray player, and that gadget tells the TV and your audio/video receiver, if applicable, to turn on as well and switch to the appropriate input. And unlike first-generation implementations, this doesn't require that all of your hardware come from the same company.

That promise led me to recommend trying this option two years ago here. But in practice, HDMI CEC can easily scramble your screening experience.

For example, you may not know it's there until you plug in a new device, power it on and find that it or other hardware at the gadget end of the living room are now switching on or off unexpectedly. See, for example, this tech-support request from a confused owner of a new Blu-ray player.

Or the HDMI CEC conversation between devices may get lost in translation. That appears to be the case with our own Blu-ray player: If I turn it on, either with a remote control or by pressing the button on its front, the TV and the receiver/soundbar-speaker combo both switch on. But turning off the Blu-ray player leaves those two other gadgets on.

HDMI CEC can also magnify other glitches with your hardware. At some point, our Blu-ray player began spontaneously turning itself back on after being shut off with a disc inside — resulting in the TV and then the soundbar also being switched on, with a corresponding spike in electricity usage. And after being shut off, it would resuscitate itself unbidden once again, with the cycle continuing until I ejected the disc.

A long round of debugging led to me trying to reset the player to its factory settings (don't laugh, but I also had to do that with my TV a few months ago). That eased the problem somewhat, in that the player now only turns on by itself if I'd been playing a disc and, once shut down after that, stays off.

Before doing some kind of factory reset of your consumer electronics, try instead checking to see if it has any firmware updates available. On "smart" TVs or Blu-ray players that can connect to online video services like Netflix, you can make this check through their settings or preferences screens.

On devices without an Internet connection, you may have to visit the manufacturer's site to download an updater file that you can then transfer to the device on a USB flash drive. Either way — yes, I hate having to say this — you'll have to check your device's manual for specific instructions.

If that doesn't cure HDMI CEC hiccups, you may want to disable this option and go back to turning on devices one at a time. I thought about doing that, but I'm going to keep it enabled: As I type this, I have no idea where the Blu-ray player's remote went in the living room.

Tip: Perpendicular pointing for Wi-Fi antennas

The Mac Observer interviewed former Apple Wi-Fi engineer Alf Watt (also renowned for writing the Wi-Fi diagnostic app iStumbler) on its podcast two weeks ago, and its post summarizing Watt's tips includes one upgrade that doesn't require touching any software. To wit: If your Wi-Fi router, like many, features a pair of external antennas you can move around, point one straight up and the other level, at a right angle from the first.

(Watt's advice for routers with internal antennas, like Apple's AirPorts: keep them in their obvious orientation, with any plastic or rubber feet on the bottom.)

I came across the Mac Observer's article via a post at Lifehacker, and that's worth reading, too, for the helpful answers by Watt (typing as "iStumbler") in the comments thread.

Rob Pegoraro is a tech writer based out of Washington, D.C. To submit a tech question, e-mail Rob at rob@robpegoraro.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/robpegoraro.

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