2009-11-02

Comcast and TiVo adventures

Last month, Comcast sent the latest notice that they were going to discontinue analog service for many cable channels.  Users who did not already have a digital conversion box would need to get a free one.

Last week they actually turned off some of the channels.  And that’s how The GF and I found ourselves at a Comcast service center in north Seattle.

We knew we were in for trouble when the signs pointed us to the overflow parking lot.  There were lines of customers stretching out the door.  It probably took about 25-30 minutes before we spoke to the rep.  She was pleasant, despite the teaming hordes of frustrated cable customers.

We left with a new cable box – the Motorola DCT-700.  It’s a nice, small box, but it was one glaring flaw – it has no serial connection. 

The GF has a TiVo.  Under the analog system, I could plug the cable input into the TiVo box, and use the TiVo as a Tuner.  TiVo could easily change the channel as needed.

That doesn’t work under digital cable.  With digital cable the cable box needs to change channels and then just send the video signal to TiVo.  That means TiVo needs to be able to tell the cable box what channel to tune to.

The cable box in my apartment has a port on the back so I can wire the TiVo directly to the cable box for changing the channel.  The GF’s new cable box does not have that port.  In order to change the channel, you have to use IR emitters. 

This device is a cable that runs from the TiVo box to two tiny light bulbs that simulates the remote control that came with the cable box.

And that’s where the problems began.  I setup the emitters, taped them to cable box, and went through the TiVo set up process.

The set up process is important because that’s where I have to teach TiVo how to talk to the DCT-700 (the cable box) because different cable boxes speak a slightly different language.

And for the next hour TiVo and I went through every conceivable remote code multiple times, trying to get the channel to change.  I Googled the configurations.  I read forums.  And had not luck.

In frustration, I dug through my collection of AV cables and tried a different emitter. And magically, it worked. So despite my internal swearing and thinking all sorts of nasty thoughts about Comcast, General Instruments, and Motorola, eventually it came down to a damaged 5 year old cable.

I’m just glad I didn’t call tech support.

4 comments:

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Ain't technology fun? We live in the country and have to use an antenna and converter box. Now if a channel is coming in poorly instead of at least being able to watch a fuzzy show we get to watch pixel breakup, interrupted sound, or blue boxes bouncing around the screen saying Weak Signal. Progress? Not if you scorn the urban masses.

The GF said...

Thank you for fixing my teewee. :D

azone14 said...

The new TIVO boxes use a cable card of which I have and love it. The new TIVO's are awesome compared to any others I have used

Cromely said...

@Sharkbytes: That's unfortunate. I guess Satellite is the only option now.

@The GF: No problem. Eventually it complies.

@azone14: I've looked at those as a replacement for my Tivo. However, I can't transfer my lifetimes subscription to a new unit so I'll likely have mine until it's dead.