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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Out With the Ti, In With the Vo

Recently, I found out I would be losing a dear friend.My wife got the phone call, jotted down notes and details, and gently broke the news to me. She made sure I was sitting down, talked me through the initial panic, then the anger, and then the grief. Finally, I accepted it — there was nothing I could do. The situation was out of my hands.

Our TiVo was going away.

Comcast phoned to tell us that as of today, August 1st, they would no longer be supporting the TiVo model we’ve sported under our TV stand for the past three years. Frankly, we were lucky to have that box in the first place. Most markets don’t have the option of Comcast + TiVo, even now from what I understand.

(Also? Comcast evidently hates dealing with the things. They have their own DVR, and they’d feel more than peachy in supporting it and nothing else.

Probably because their DVR is approximately as sophisticated as a pointed stick. And twice as dangerous. I hear the remote control is just one big button that says “EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND”.)

Needless to say, I was pretty glum as I weighed our options. Go back to satellite and have a dish glommed onto the building’s roof — if the association would even allow it. Check out some fly-by-night ‘underground’ cable company trying to horn in on Comcast’s local near-monopoly — and wind up with what? Fourteen working channels, half of them in Ukranian? Or knuckle under, drink the Kool-Aid, take big C’s Fisher-Price brand DVR and try to believe it’s “sort of mostly like TiVo, I guess”?


So I was pleased — or, if you prefer, ‘squealingly freaking ecstatic’ — to learn that Comcast wasn’t (finally) turning their backs on TiVo. They were merely ready to support new models, ones that came directly from the maker, and that effectively superseded the ratty old piece of junk cluttering up my TV stand.

“Having a brand new TiVo is like living with someone with sudden amnesia, or a body snatchee.”

(I know, right? How quickly we turn. I never claimed to be the sentimental sort.)

That left just two hurdles to a renewed state of television viewing bliss. The first — daunting like a pop physics quiz, or following a sumo wrestler in the bathroom stall — involved working with Comcast to achieve a successful installation. I had low hopes for this sorting itself out any time before SkyNet becomes self-aware and enslaves all of future humanity.

To be fair, this attitude was not based on personal experience. I’ve not been screwed over by Comcast in the past. Our tenure with them has been quiet and relatively uneventful.

(Verizon, on the other hand, can suck a sumo wang. But that’s another story.)

The thing is, I know people who’ve been bitten — some many multiples of times — by Comcast. Me, I’ve never needed anything special from them, so it’s been good. People who needed? They got hosed. Enough for me to pay attention.

(Ignoring them would be like saying you don’t think rabid maneating sharks are so bad, but then again, you’ve never gone into the water with raw steaks tied around your waist, but how bad could it be, really?)

Fortunately, I don’t have an especially harrowing Comcast tale to share. When the TiVo arrived, I went to the local office to pick up a cable card. I waited ten minutes, but was out in another ten, card in hand. I shoved it in the slot, called up Comcast to activate it, and a lovely woman with an impossibly high-pitched cartoon voice patiently walked me through the setup steps, one by one, until the process was complete.

Now, the thing didn’t work at the end of all that. Obviously. It’s not going to be that easy, when there’s a major cable company involved. I had an activated card, an account in good standing, solid network connection — and a two-by-three foot electronic paperweight that picked up Big Bang Theory episodes approximately as well as my dog’s fuzz-covered ass. But to their credit, Comcast was out on the very next weekday and fixed the problem in one visit. No hardware swaps. No missed appointments. No exploding cable boxes or random fires shooting out the back of the television.


So, a point for House Comcast. Color me pleasantly tickled.

That left just the second hurdle to clear — configuring the TiVo, so it knows what we like to watch. This isn’t a particular technical challenge — I’ve done it before, and I’m familiar with the interface; it just takes a looooooong time to manage. So many channels. So much to see. So much I want never to see. It’s exhausting.

It’s also somewhat surreal. Having a brand new TiVo is like living with someone with sudden amnesia, or a body snatchee. Everything seems normal. The menus are the same, the remote is the same, the channel lineup hasn’t changed. Same reliable old TiVo. But it’s like it doesn’t know me any more.

I go to bed, and it tapes the McLaughlin Group. I don’t watch the McLaughlin Group. I’ve never watched the McLaughlin Group. I don’t even know what kind of music they play — although it’s on PBS, so I’m guessing it’s folk. Or bluegrass. Something with clogs, and those jugs that people blow on.

(No, not those. The other ones. Sheesh.)

The point is, this new TiVo doesn’t know who I am yet. And its suggestions are all over the map, not to mention disturbing. It picked up the Simpsons, sure — but the Wiggles? I can’t watch the fricking Wiggles. For one thing, someone might see me. But even if I locked all the doors and windows, I couldn’t possibly get drunk enough to make it through an episode of that. Maybe if I took up acid, or peyote cocktails of some kind. But based on the vices I have now? No way, TiVo.

Clearly, the thing needs more data points. I’ve smattered a few “thumbs-up”s to tell it what I like — but it appears I’ll be mashing “thumbs-down” for a few weeks to squash this thing’s horked-up (il)logic circuits.

(Seriously. Seinfeld plus 30 Rock plus Community does NOT equal “ooh, I bet he’d enjoy this old episode of Life According to Jim! ERMAGERD!!1!eleventy!!”

It just doesn’t. No. Bad TiVo!)

So there’s still work to do. But we’re making some progress — and at least I get to see the Olympics and other stuff in the meantime. It does feel like I’m teaching the Helen Keller of DVRs sometimes — last night, I held F/X under its data stream and signed out A-R-C-H-E-R over and over — but we’ll get there. And then it will be tremendous again, and I can go back to blindly watching whatever happens to be on the screen when I turn the TV on. Because it’ll be good, and just the sort of thing I like to see.

And not the McLaughlin Group. Have they even had a hit song, ever? Come on, TiVo.

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “Out With the Ti, In With the Vo”

  1. Heyy, According to Jim was awesome! (& I dislike 30 Rock, don’t watch Community, but LOVED Seinfeld, lol)

    Randomly here via research on the switchover, your first paragraph is awesome ;P I do not want to give up my Comcast TiVo box- if they’re getting rid of them, I wonder if that means I can just.. find a way to keep it as long as it works! I’ve now got the TiVo but am not finding the transition easy at all, there’s so many differences from the remote to the captions to the display & nowhere near enough options to customize it to be just like the Moto I’ve considered “my precious” for the past three years, heh.. ah well.

    I’ll link back here when I’ve fully posted my own first impressions somewhere ;D xoxoxo

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