We've all faced the problem of bringing home a great new piece of consumer electronics (plasma TV, DVR, 5.1 surround system), and trying to connect it to the existing system. Even for those considered tech gurus by their slightly more challenged relatives, this is not a simple problem.
First, one finds the the right cables may not be readily at hand. This either means another trip to the store (or web store), or making do with the wrong cables and lesser connections (e.g., S-Video instead of HDMI). And deciphering the back panels of various manufacturers equipment, with those wonderful icons (some designed for Martians, no doubt), is another intellectual challenge.
About two years ago, Dean Summers, founder of Partsearch Technologies (an Idealab company), came up with a better idea. This led to his leaving Partsearch and starting CE-interactive, and the launch of their Wirewize.com site. (First Round Capital is an investor in this venture).
You can set up a locker by selecting the electronics gear that you already own. Almost 10,000 of the top amplifiers, TVs, cable boxes, game consoles, etc. are already in the database. When you want to add a new piece of gear, wirewize.com can tell you what cables you'll need for the best connectivity, and show you detailed pictures of each back panel, with hard to mess up instructions for where to connect each of the cables that it told you to get.
Presto, fewer returns or return trips, better quality pictures and sound, and the ability to return at any time to wirewize and see if there is upgraded software for your devices (yes, much of the CE world now does this). And you can read many of the manuals online as well. Right now, the free version can be tried at www.wirewize.com. I've already used it to find a better way to connect my TiVo Series 3 and my Panasonic system.