About four weeks ago, a debate was raging in my household. My wife, being of sound mind and body, was pleased with HDTV, primarily for its ability to fill our screen (a nearly 4yo Samsung HLM-507W 720p unit), delivering a level of clarity and screen-filling that sated her desire for such classics as, “CSI”, “ER” and er… “Dancing with the Stars”.
But never mind that.
We had a Comcast Motorola 6419 STB. It was a marvel… for 2003. I had conversations with folks who talked about the challenges of writing to this box, the things they had done to get around hardware issues and I was (and continue to be) amazed by the abilities of the box. But, it was suffering me. Or rather, I was suffering IT in our household.
There’s a not-so-subtle metric among those of us who have battle scars in digital media. It’s called the “WAF” or “SAF”. It’s the dreaded “Wife Acceptance Factor” or “Spousal Acceptance Factor”. I fell victim.
You see, where I live, OTA HD (ATSC) isn’t even a remote option. Between two hills, I believe the technical term is SOL. And after getting a taste of HD, my wife was hooked. The Moto box did well enough. But the gateway drug of “On Demand” never took hold. Forget HBO and their on-demand, who appears to split up their seasons to extract more $$$ on DVD sales. I’d go to Media Center if it were an option, but it’s not right now until Vista ships. Instead, I have my Comcast box. A marvel given the hardware, this thing freezes up, has IR reception far shorter than anything I’ve seen resulting in this exchange:
“It’s a commercial!”
“Did you hear me? It’s frozen up”
“The angle’s all wrong, try holding it up by your ear”
“Ok, I think that’s working”
“You’ve overshot it. Rewind!”
“I am rewinding”
“You went too far!”
“I’m trying to get it back but it won’t respond!”
“Put it up by your ear”
“For the sake of …”
This is the “WAF” or “SAF” I speak of. What is family harmony worth to me? Priceless.
Enter the TiVo Series 3. After serious negotiation, my wife agreed that it made sense to get a TiVo. This was after trying convince the kind folks at TiVo to send me an evaluation unit. Then, all hell broke loose (tm?).
Hell? I had one CableCard and picked up another at the local Comcast store. I tried to auth both on my TiVo via the phone to no avail. Long story short, Comcast was “Cold initing” both cards, resulting in a 10 minute delay, yet the Technical Support Rep (TSR) knew to wait only about 4 minutes before trying a truck roll. Major kudos go to those TSR’s I spoke to, because they held in there and were sending a truck the same day. Yes, you heard that right- 11am and they’re saying they can send someone out by 4pm the same day. Major, major kudos to Comcast on that one.
This made me want to stop the poor Comcast “Truck Roll” guy from having to come out the same day. So, I started researching and came across the following article. My gosh, I’ve never seen such an articulate description of the workings of the Cablecard process.
Ten minutes after I hung up with Comcast, I checked the TiVo again. Bingo- the 1 (of 2) cards was now initialized. I was getting HD.
Then I went for #2. I called Comcast and explained the situation. I told them what I had read and the TSR asked me to send them a link to the article. I did, and he was mighty appreciative. His supervisor was over his shoulder and they were impressed when the second card was correctly initialized. They thanked me profusely for helping them, and I know they get scored on # of truck rolls so they were happy to see that get cancelled.
I felt good. I was up and going, and I had given back to my cable provider. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling actually. Not sure why, but I guess I figured others wouldn’t have to go through what I did.
Since then, my wife has taken to the new TiVo Series 3 like [insert saying here]. She loves it. She doesn’t need on-demand. She records those educational programs for our son, and we’ve practically negated our Netflix subscription (what is it about crappy movies these days anyway). So I digress. The TiVo has rebooted a couple of times and of course, I’m pissed about lack of KidZone, or Multi-Room Viewing (MRV), or TiVo To Go (TTG), but it works as (relatively) advertised. My wife hasn’t complained about it more than once (the first reboot). My son doesn’t even miss on-demand.
So what do I miss about the Comcast box? Nothing, except the additional $$ in my pocket. Heck, I could have bought a full-fledged PC with ATSC tuning in my area for that amount! But there is a dollar amount on SAF and WAF so for that reason, despite the fact TiVo rebuffed any request to contact them, I will say I like my TiVo Series 3.
I’ve used Media Center in Vista, and it will give TiVo a real run for it’s money for those customers with Cablecard-enabled PC’s. Will I ebay my TiVo for Vista Media Center? Probably at some point. Even then, I have little buyer’s remorse over the TiVo Series 3, other than the ridiculous price. Once set up, it works as advertised.
Disclaimer: I don’t work for Windows, Windows Media Center, Media Player or anything that starts with Media or ends with Media. Though Media might be somewhere in the name. But more on that at a later date. 😉