Category Archives: Tivo-nation

Tivo Customer Service

Thursday, I had a very disturbing experience with Tivo customer service.

In the past, on the rare instances where I had to call Tivo’s customer service department, I’ve always had a very pleasent experience … my problem or question was cleared up right away with minimum of fuss & bother.

Last   Thursday, however, that trend was broken … not once, but twice.

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For some reason, Tivo has been recording a lot of old SF shows recently.

A lot of these shows I’ve been fans of in the past … Star Trek: The Next Generation, Highlander, Seven Days, etc.

As I watch these shows I’m amazed at how bad they are.   I’m truly amazed that I considered these shows good at one point.   I was actually a fan of many of them.

Now I find the acting wooden, the special effects primitive, and the plots flat.

Of course some of the shows I thought were bad initially are still just as bad … like Star Trek Voyager (then why do I still watch it on occasion?).

Maybe it’s old age?   I wonder if, as time goes by, I’ll start considering some of the shows I like now to be just as bad?

Freedom of Expression?

We’re watching TV right now and, as a bit of an anomaly, we’re actually watching a commercial … the commercial has a woman discussing that she loves “Freedom of Expression” … and then goes on to describe how she talked to her doctor about Botox treatment.

Um, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Botox actually paralyze the muscles in your face … thus freezing your expression?   It’s more like “Freedom FROM Expression”.

Regardless, shouldn’t any ‘cosmetic’ with the word “Toxin” in the official name raise just a tad bit of worry?

Standby … who needs it?

Tivo RemoteLast November we got a new Tivo HD … and one of my gripes about the new unit was it’s lack of a standby button.

Since we pipe the audio output of the Tivo through our stereo tuner, shutting off the TV didn’t stop the sound from coming out of the stereo.   The solution was to put the Tivo into standby.   Our Series 2 Tivo had a nice little Standby button that did that right quick.   The new Tivo HD replaced the Standby button with a button to change the video aspect ratio.   Nice if you actually have a HD TV (which we don’t, yet) but not so handy if you have a standard TV.

Well, after googling around a bit I finally found a perfect solution on TivoCommunity.

Just multi-task the power button.

To do this, hold down the “Tivo” and Power buttons until the LED stays lit, then enter the same code you used when programming the remote for volume.   Now, when you push the power button on the Tivo remote, it shuts both the TV and the stereo off.

Works perfectly.

New Tivo

tivo_logo_thumb.gifWe got a new Tivo box a few weeks ago … Tivo was running a promotion where you could buy a new Tivo Series 3 (HD) and transfer a lifetime subscription to the new box. As an added bonus, you could keep the old box running for a year.

Needless to say, it was not a hard decision. Although we currently do not have a HD TV, I suspect it’s just a mater of time before we get one.

The new unit arrived about 2 weeks ago … and I found a small problem. The new unit lacked the ability to control an external cable box via a RS232 cable. The old one had this ability. The new unit uses Cable Card(s) to decode & tune the cable signal. So I had to call Comcast to arrange to get a cable card (or two) installed. It took about a week to get Comcast out here … but they came out and installed a multi-stream cable card. Oddly enough, they arrived early and got the job done relatively fast.

Two nice things about using a cable card …

  1. No more ‘flip bar’ that shows up every time the cable box switches channels. That was really annoying to me, because Tivo already gave us much better information about the program we were about to watch.
  2. There are two tuners in the new Tivo and the multi-stream cable card will process two feeds at the same time. So we can record two shows at the same time.

The new Tivo has a few other nice features …

  • Built in RJ-45 network connection. We don’t have to use the USB. Of course I’m still stuck using wireless for the time being … at least until I figure out a way to get a wire from the basement to the wet-bar area.
  • It’s got an eSATA port … although it appears to only work with Tivo certified storage devices, we can theoretically upgrade the storage by just hooking up a external drive. I tried hooking up an eSATA drive that I had on hand, but it didn’t recognize it.
  • Although this isn’t really new to the Tivo, I was able to get an S-Video cable hooked up to feed the TV … and the quality difference is noticeable. Much better than the composite video we were using.

My only real gripe about the new unit is that the “Standby” button is gone. We used to push this button to put the unit to sleep … although it didn’t really go to sleep. It just shut off the audio & video feed to the TV. I can still put the unit into standby, but it takes 3 to 4 menu options to do it. If we don’t put the unit into standby, eventually it will automatically switch to live TV. Since we feed the audio through our stereo, that can be annoying.

Our options on this are to a) Use the menus to put the unit into standby, or b) mute the sound and turn off the TV while leaving the Tivo on. Neither is very handy. I called Tivo support and conveyed my disappointment.

Other than that, I really like the new Tivo. Maybe for the holidays Ginny and I will get a HD TV. The only big problem is that our current TV works fine. Oh well, maybe figure out something to do with it.

Of course now I have to figure out what to do with the old Tivo. 🙂

Reality TV

next_iron_chef.jpgI’ve never been a big fan of reality TV … but I have to say, I’m really enjoying the show “The Next Iron Chef” on Food TV.   I’ve always enjoyed The Iron Chef (although I do admit to liking the American version better than the original, Japanese, version … maybe because it’s easier to follow).

It really seems to show the pressure that the chef’s are under and the extraordinary challenges they are presented with.

I also see a genuine camaraderie amoung the chefs … they clearly know each other, know each others cooking, and respect each other.   They are friendly rivals instead of being out and out combatants.

I like the fact that Alton Brown, acting as commentator & moderator, is able to participate in the evaluation … if not acting as a full judge.

The other judges I could take or leave … they are unimpressive at the very best.   Boring in some respects.   This last episode, in the Lufthansa’s catering facilities, they included the head chef from Lufthansa … who added a unique perspective.   I really liked his inclusion in the judging.   IMO, he was probably the only person qualified to really judge this competition.

(warning, spoiler ahead)

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A Series of Unfortunate Events

(with apologies to Lemony Snicket)

Last week was not all that great for me computer wise.

I had three events that pretty much threw me for a loop. If it hadn’t been for Ginny, I would have probably been a drooling, babbling, idiot.

Where should I start? Hmmm, the beginning, maybe?

(cue fade to memory music)

It all started the week before last … I was figuring out what to do with the week off between Christmas & new years. My linux servers (Gondor and Rivendell) are both running Fedora Core 4, and Core 6 was released a little while ago. I figured it would be a fine time to upgrade both servers.

The original plan was to upgrade the servers xmas eve, while Ginny was at church. That plan got changed, however, because Ginny didn’t want her churches website down over Christmas. Ok, later in the week would be fine.

So on Christmas eve, we went to my brother Mitch’s house for dinner. While there, Mitch showed me his Hauppauge MediaMVP . It’s a pretty slick device that lets you play videos (and music & pictures) on the TV. Since we have a SnapStream Beyond TV software running on a system in the basement, we have a lot of video files that can be played. Currently the only way we can play them is to hook up a laptop to the TV and play the videos that way. I figured it would be a nice addition to our A/V setup.

Christmas comes and goes … everything is nice, had a fun time we the family.

On December 26th, my friend Steve calls and asks if I want to take a trip down to Frys to see if they have any deals or specials going on. Sure I say, that could be fun. I’ve been wanting to get the wire to connect my Dell PE430SC server’s AUX_LED to the PCI IDE controller … just so I can see disk activity.

Since I wanted Steve to be able to help me find this cable, I opened the case to take pictures of the connectors. Got my pictures and proceeded to close the case. This is when the trouble happened. I accidentally bumped the ArcoIDE Duplidisk mirroring adapter. This must have caused a temporary problem because the unit started beeping as if one of the drives had failed. A drive hadn’t failed … but the drives were no longer in sync. Well, this shot the trip to Frys.

I spent the next couple of hours trying to figure out what what happened … and get the drives back in sync. I had to call Arco because there were problems getting the adapter recognized by the management software. I ended up attaching the primary hard drive of the mirrored pair directly to the ide controller. Rebuilding the mirror would have to wait a few days.

I decided to fix the mirror and do the Linux upgrade on Saturday the 30th.

I woke up bright and early on Saturday, fed the cat, fed myself, and went down to start my work.

First thing to do is get the mirror re-established. It took a bit of work, because I still couldn’t get the software to recognize the adapter. I determined that it was because the adapter was attached to a add-on PCI IDE card. When I hooked the adapter up to the motherboard’s IDE (it only has one), it worked fine. This is going to take 3 hours for the mirror to be rebuilt. It has to duplicate all the contents of the primary drive to the mirror drive.

While this is running, I started to do the upgrade on Gondor.

While the servers were down, I had setup a dummy “This site is under construction” page on another machine (shadowfax, for what it’s worth). My plan was to assign all the IP’s I have to that one machine so nobody would think my sites were just gone.

Got it all setup … but I couldn’t hit the dummy page. I figured it was because the DSL router still had the old machine’s mac addresses in memory. This has happened before. No problem, I telnet into the router and select the “Restart device” option. The device restarts … but then the 4 lights that correspond to the ethernet ports on the router start blinking at the same time … and the DSL light is not on. I try telneting to the router again, but get no response. I try using the RS232 connection to log into the router, but get no response. Nothing is working.

I also tried connecting my laptop to one of the ethernet ports on the router and notice that windows alternates between saying that my ethernet is Connected and The cable is unplugged at the same frequency as the blinking lights.

I call Covad and talk to a tech … it’s pretty quickly determined that the router had died. The earliest they can get someone out to replace the router is Monday the 1st.

Well, the activity will be light because of the holiday … so I shouldn’t expect too many panic calls because there isn’t any list traffic.

So Sunday I decide to get the MediaMVP unit setup.

I had ordered it from earlier in the week, but hadn’t had a chance to set it up. My original plan was to use my D-Link DWL-G730AP Wireless Pocket Router in client mode. In this mode I can connect a wired ethernet device to it and it connects to my wireless router.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the two devices to play together. Well, my boss had given me a $30 gift card for BestBuy, so I figured getting a wireless gaming adapter would be a fine use for it. I went to the Schaumburg BestBuy, but they didn’t have any wireless gaming adapters in stock at all. I then went to the Arlington Heights BestBuy and found they had one. The Linksys WGA54AG Game Adapter 802.11A/G. I didn’t really need the wireless “A”, but it should work.

I got the unit home and started to configure it … but then found out that it didn’t support WPA encryption, just WEP. That’s stupid. Half the reason to use 802.11G is to have better encryption.

I bit of searching online and I found that CDW had the D-Link DWL-G820 Wireless Gaming Adapter, 802.11g, 108Mbps. Luckily, there is a BestBuy near CDW.

So off I go to Vernon Hills. I return the Linksys device and go to CDW. Unfortunately, although CDW has the DWL-G820 on site, it’s not off the truck yet. So I have to wait … about 2 hours.

I finally get the new gaming adapter and get it home … it works, although I still haven’t gotten the MediaMVP to work correctly yet. I need to futz with it a bit more.


Ok, New Years Eve is over … New Years Day is here. The Covad guy is supposed to be here between 8am and noon. Around 10:45 he calls to say he’s in the city, but on his way out … he should be there a little before noon. That’s refreshing.

He gets here exactly when he said he would … runs a few tests, says “Yeah, the router is fried”. Gets the replacement out and starts to configure it. About 30 minutes later, it’s all configured and we’re back on the air. All I have to do is re-implement my firewall filters. Sure wish I had backed them up a while ago. Oh well, they aren’t that complicated … it’s just a bunch of typing.

It takes me about 2 hours to get the router reconfigured the way it should … then I can get the networking on the linux boxes working again.

All in all, I did a lot of work … but ended up right were I started.

Seems to me that this kind of thing has happened before … a few days off from work, a grand plan to upgrade a system or two, and a bunch of failures that cause nothing but problems.

I’m cursed, I tell you, cursed!

[tags]Linux, MediaMVP, Fedora Core, DLink, Linksys, Covad, DSL, Upgrades, RAID, Wireless[/tags]

Dead TiVo’s Aren’t Much Fun

Well, our TiVo started to die.

For a few months it’s been locking up on us … didn’t seem to mater what it was trying to do. Record, playback, or just sit idle.

While we were on vacation, the Linksys WRT54G wireless router got screwed up … so the Tivo wasn’t able to download any new program info. Thus, it ran out of data.

When I got back and reconfigured the router (not sure why the router got screwed up in the first place), the Tivo tried to download 2 weeks worth of data.

Unforunately, it kept locking up when it was trying to process the downloaded data.

I figured it must be some corrupt data … so I decided to reset the entire thing and have it reload from scratch.

I ran the reset … and it locked up a few times when trying to download the data again.

Even after it was able to download the data, it kept locking up.

I called TiVo and they said it was probably dieing … and offered me an exchange. Exchanges cost $149. Oh well, better than buying a new unit and signing up for a new lifetime subscription (which, btw, is going away soon).

I opted for the advance exchange … where they send me the new unit before I send the old one in. Standard deal … they charge the credit card for the new unit and the cost of the old one … and issue a credit when the old unit arrives.

Got my RMA and waited for the new unit to arrive.

Yesterday, the new unit arrived. Same basic unit, except it doesn’t have the front panel buttons (which I kind of liked).

It took a while to get it configured, because it had a much older version of the OS pre-installed … and I thought my only option was to use the phone. We don’t have a phone line near the TiVo, so I had to use the wireless phone jack. It has a lot of static on the line, so the connection was much slower.

Eventually it finished the setup and we were off and running.

Now we just have to setup all our Season Passes and favorites again.

Luckily we had the snapstream so at least we could time shift our viewing.

[tags]Tivo, TV, Television[/tags]