The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

March 23, 2010

142 Hours and Nothing On

Filed under: Random Stuff, Technology — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:50 am

(Or, Why Nobody Should Ever Trust Me With Any Electronic Devices That They Would Prefer to Not Be On Fire)

It seems I may have been just a little bit premature when I made my post about a month ago about upgrading my TiVo to a larger hard drive.  Sure, it all worked out in theory, but as seems to be the case most of the time when I start tinkering with things I probably shouldn’t, something broke along the way.  In my defense, I’ll claim that it was most likely headed in that direction before I started tinkering around with stuff (the PSU was making noises a couple of days before I managed to make a nice little fiasco out of the whole thing,) but when all is said and done, I should probably figure out by now that the cable coming out of the wall usually doesn’t start magically spouting out signal errors at the exact same time I happened to open up the TiVo, void the warranty, and start tinkering around with things.  Not that it stopped me from going through two Cablecards, a tuner box, three trips to the Comcast office, and three calls to support trying to figure that part out, of course.

To make a long story short, if I just had enough sense to realize that high-pitched whining sounds coming from the vicinity of the power supply in the box generally mean there’s something wrong with said power supply, I might have also realized that getting zapped (twice) while trying to figure out where the noise is coming from was quite thoroughly unnecessary.  There was one place online that I could have gotten a replacement power supply, but it would have cost $99 plus shipping, and was inevitably backordered (shipping estimate:  see also Pigs, Flying.)  Even so, in a token futile effort to eliminate all possible sources of trouble besides the glaringly obvious, I headed for the Internet. the do-it-yourselfer’s most indispensable source of bad advice and red herrings.  One of these suggested that some obscure little “RS Uncorrected” indicator buried deep in some diagnostics screen indicated a bad cable signal.  Or at least it would if I was using a Cablecard on Verizon FIOS (which happens to be available here in Redmond, but it seems that this particular apartment complex will be getting it at roughly the same time those Tivo power supplies ship.)  Nonetheless, with a  shockingly convenient wrong answer to my problem in hand,  it was off to the Comcast office (which  just happens to be three blocks away from my apartment) for a replacement Cablecard.  This, as anyone with any idea what they were doing with this stuff would know, accomplished absolutely nothing, aside from adding a random $20 charge to my cable bill, and the picture corruption remained.  After this, work got busy for the next week or so, and I let the issue go for a while (most of the relatively short list of shows I watch regularly happened to be in reruns, so I wasn’t in too big a hurry) until this past weekend, when the 12 Hours of Sebring was on, and I really wanted to be able to watch it. 

At this point, I figured that the TiVo was pretty much going to be a loss, and that I had a couple other options:  Just give up on the whole thing and go back to the Comcast box (probably not going to happen anytime soon, since one of the primary reasons that I bought a TiVo in the first place was to get away from the Comcast DVR and its horrendous user interface,) wait on the shiny new TiVo Premiere  models that just happen to be shipping roughly two weeks from now, or try to find another TiVo HD to replace the one that I managed to fry (or at least provided a helping hand in the whole self-frying process, as the case might be.)  Figuring that either way it was going to be a while before I got the situation resolved, I made another trip over to the Comcast office where, after informing the helpful agent that yes, I am in fact paying way too much for my Internet service right now, and I happen to quite like it that way (not really, but until I figure out some way to get the stuff through a thoroughly Wi-Fi resistant solid wall, wouldn’t do me much good) I managed to procure a tuner to use until I got the TiVo issues sorted out (or until I managed to do the sensible thing and just toss it out the nearest convenient window.)    Shortly after this, I got home, hooked the tuner up, and found that I could only get sound on my HD channels, not video.  After the standard “unplug everything, wait 30 seconds, then turn it back on” procedure failed to solve the problem, I contacted support.  An Internet chat with a Comcast rep yielded the magical solution to the problem:  Unplug everything, wait 30 seconds,  then turn it back on.  Of course, this time it actually worked.  Although my years of tech support/cynicism taught me that such things are purely mythical, I’ll just claim that the guy hit the “make it work” button and leave it at that.

So, having been properly re-Hi-Definitioned for the time being, I set about trying to figure out what to do with the TiVo.  I found my answer shortly afterward in the form of a relatively cheap replacement off of Craigslist.  A couple of e-mails and a phone call later, a deal was arranged for a replacement TiVo, with the caveat that this one hadn’t ever worked properly with a Cablecard.  Having been assured it was probably a matter of a bad signal (now where have I heard that one before?) I proceeded to buy my new TiVo out of the trunk of some guy’s Prius with a The Cheat sticker on the back (after all, if you can’t trust a guy with a The Cheat sticker, who CAN you trust?) and bring it home.  Moving the Cablecard over to the new box, I found that as advertised, this new box didn’t want to bother playing nice with a Cablecard.  About 30 minutes of pointless troubleshooting later with another Comcast tech, I decided that it would probably be easier to just void another nonexistent warranty and see if I couldn’t break more stuff in the process.  Shortly afterward, I pulled the power supply from the “New” TiVo, placed it in the old one, and after calling back again to go pair the Cablecard back to the old box (in retrospect I probably should have just swapped the power supply over in the first place and called it good) the old TiVo finally sprang back to life, free of the dreaded RS Uncorrected errors and ready to return to its customary brain-frying duties. 

Not only do I finally have my TiVo back, but somewhere in the process I managed to get the hard disk upgrade to actually stick, thus increasing my storage from 20 hours of HD programs to 142 hours.  To put that in a bit of perspective, it would take six days of vegging out on the couch to watch all that, assuming you can manage to avoid pesky distractions like food and sleep.  Sure, I had to pay $100 (in unmarked bills, of course) for the replacement Tivo, and I’ve now got a second pile of slightly questionable Tivo parts strewn about the living room, but the whole thing seems to finally be fixed (for now, anyway.)   I haven’t got a clue what I’m ever going to fill that much space with, but I’d be willing to bet that somewhere along the line I’ll end up having one with 600 hours worth of HD storage on it.  After all, you never know when you’re going to need to record 900 infomercials, right?


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