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I want TiVo back
Previous | Next by elfie 29 October, 2007 - 4:52 AM

I've had my sexy HD tv for coming up on two years now. Shortly after buying it, I ordered all the HD programming that Comcast had to offer. It was sexy. But my TiVo Series 2 was not capable of recording HD programming. I told myself that I'd occasionally watch live HD programming in order to justify the cost of the service, but it just never happened.

About a year ago, TiVo came out with their Series 3 receivier to support HD programming. Awesome. I could finally start taking advantage of the HD programming I'd been paying for and not using. It cost $800. Not awesome. But I had been wanting one of these SO bad, so I decided to start prepping to take the plunge.

First step? Just for fun? Check to see what HD channels I'm actually getting... huh, what's this? Only half the channels are actually working. The other half are either blocky or not coming in at all. Sonuvabitch. I called Comcast. They scheduled a tech to come out. He never showed. I called and they scheduled again. He seemed to have fixed it. Two days later, blocky again. They sent another tech out. Bad signal, he said, someone would have to check the line. I didn't have to be home for it. Time came and went, still didn't work. I called Comcast. Nobody ever checked the line, they'll send someone out to do that. Still didn't work. Sent a tech to the house again. Bad signal, he said, someone would have to check the line. Fuck this. After at least eight scheduled visits from Comcast techs, I concluded that they were incapable of getting my HD channels working again. I switched to DirecTV.

My dad had been a DirecTV subscriber for long enough that their tech support people sometimes emailed him when they couldn't figure something out (yes really), so he had lots of equipment and having just switched to FiOS, he had an account in excellent standing that he was no longer going to have a use for. So I took over his account, got everything set up, and it's all working great. Of course TiVo doesn't work with DirecTV, but DirecTV has their own HD DVR service. It... functions... mostly. Things that are a breeze on TiVo are painful on the DirecTV DVR. And they don't have the CW (which carries Smallville) in HD, which means I have to get that via antenna, which... functions... mostly. Two out of five episodes of this season have dropped out after 20-40 minutes. Annoying as shit. I can't take it anymore. I want my TiVo back.

TiVo has recently released a new HD box called TiVoHD. It's a slightly scaled down version of the Series3, but it only costs $250. Awesome. So what are my options? Well. FiOS, which my parents have, is also awesome. The FCC says it falls under the same standards as cable, which means it has to support CableCard, which means TiVo Series3 and TiVoHD will work. I want FiOS so bad I can taste it. But FiOS isn't in my neighborhood yet and there is no estimate on when it will be. Could be weeks, could be years. So what's that leave me with? Fucking Comcast.

I really really want to give Comcast another chance. Before I canceled, they said they were in the process of upgrading all of their lines in my area, which should fix my signal problems. I didn't feel like waiting around for it then, but maybe it's better now. Maybe. I don't want to switch my whole house over and risk it still not working though. What I really want is to run a temporary line to my TV and let Comcast plug into that. If they can get my HD channels working, fantastic. I'll pass the DirecTV account off to my sister and buy myself a new HD-capable TiVo! But if they still can't get it to work, I don't want to pay for any of the time that they were dicking around with it. And speaking of dicking around with it, I can't be home every-other day waiting for their techs like I was the last time around, so they really need to get it working on the first or second try.

Any bets on what my chances are of actually getting them to agree that I won't be charged at all for television service if they can't get HD working and/or that they actually will be able to get it to work? A friend of a friend is apparently one of Comcast's best local techs and I'm going to talk to him about my woes on Wednesday, so I'm somewhat optimistic. I guess we'll see.

Other incidental information:
  - The slightly cooler Series3 has come down in price to $350 after mail-in rebate, so I may go for that instead of the TivoHD if this all works out. It doesn't suport Multi-Card, but it's got a sexy display on the front that tells you what it's currently recording! Hot.
  - There exist HD DirecTiVos, but they are no longer supported by DirecTV or TiVo and they don't support the newest HD channels that DirecTV has been releasing over the last month or two. It might still be a good option while I desperately wait for FiOS in my neighborhood though. They're only $100 on eBay right now. I think that's my backup plan.

10/29/2007 >> muhgcee

Sounds like piracy might work better for you.

I don't have cable, or an antenna, or a TV, and I get all the TV shows I want sometimes before they are even aired on the west coast with the commercials already cut out.

10/29/2007 >> elfie

Piracy is already my backup for when Smallivlle fails to record, but it's far from convenient. I understand there are sites and software that will allow me to set up subscriptions for certain shows to download automatically (which I would be interesting in learning more about). But that doesn't solve the problem of needing to have a computer permanently on and attached to the tv. Right now we use Pie's laptop for our computer-based television viewing and the last time I downloaded a full HD episode of Smallville (at about 2GB), her machine wasn't beefy enough to play it correctly. Audio was fine but video was about 3FPS.

10/29/2007 >> muhgcee

Oh wow that's a bummer...

I guess my strategy works better for small apartments like mine where the computer is the TV and is directly across the room from the couch.

10/29/2007 >> elfie

Yeah, I managed to get a more compressed version that played just fine, but the difference was noticeable (to me anyway).

10/29/2007 >> AnarchyX

We have FIOS laid in the neighborhood but the fuckers at Verizon have'nt lit it up yet. Fuck Comcast. It took me three months to finally get my cable, internet straight after moving. Do not try to transfer your service when moving because Comcast will fuck it up and then think you stole the equipment and then try to sue you. (Long story)

11/1/2007 >> elfie

So I discovered a possible third solution to my television woes. I can get Millennium in my area. They have all they HD channels I'll need and if I get TV, Internet, and Phone through them, I'll be paying about HALF of what I'm paying right now for all three to DirecTV, Comcast, and Vonage respectively.

That sounds like a big winner for me, especially if I can just run them one line to the tv and have them just plug that in and get my HD working and then if that all works great, I'll run the rest of the lines myself and turn off my other providers.

My only concern is that I've heard a couple bad things about Millennium. My dad had them for about a month and hated it, though I honestly don't remember why. That was a few years ago though and they're in a different neighborhood. A friend of his had a more recent problem where a contractor accidentally cut their line and it took Millennium 3 weeks to get someone out to fix it and even then it was the wrong guy and they had to wait longer for someone ELSE to come out. Again, that's not my neighborhood, but it's still concerning.

Apparently Millennium had been working on a deal to sell out their Anne Arundel County customer base to Comcast, but that fell through. If they're looking to get out of the game, am I really safe getting INTO the game with them? Has anyone had any experience with Millennium? Should I just take the pricing they gave me and see if Comcast will match it if I threaten to leave?

11/2/2007 >> C Mo

Like 5 or so years ago I worked for Millennium doing tech support for their internet. They were oversubscribed and underfunded. It was nice to have the competition in the area but it never so much seemed to bring the prices down as much as you would think.

I hate Comcast with a passion, but Millennium was pretty terrible at times, and I've heard the same rumors that they are getting out of the game.

I don't think I'd bother with Millennium past using them as a lever to apply pressure on Comcast to match their prices.

I can't wait for FIOS to get into my area either. I am so sick of Comcast and all their B.S.

11/2/2007 >> elfie

C Mo, do you think it'd be worth getting Millennium just for the TV service if I stick with Comcast for Internet? Or would I likely have the same HD problems because of their lack of bandwidth?

11/2/2007 >> C Mo

It would be worth a shot. I know when Stu and Biff and I lived in Glen Burnie we had Millennium and I don't remember having many tv issues.

Then again where I grew up in Cape St. Claire it didn't matter if we had Comcast or Millennium, neither one of them could bring us a clean picture without digital artifacts. FIOS finally solved the problem there.

It might be worth a try getting Millennium hooked up for tv, the worst that would happen I guess is you cancel your service. It may be better than allowing Comcast to come in and screw things up again.

11/2/2007 >> elfie

Yeah, my parents live in Cape St. Claire as does my dad's friend who also had problems with Millennium. I don't know anyone in my area who has though.

I'll probably leave all my current services turned on for a week or so after I sign up for Millennium so maybe I'll sign up for everything and if their Internet service sucks, I'll downgrade to just television.

11/2/2007 >> rich

This is all yet another reason why having a BF TV is not high on my list. If I got one, I would just get picky about my TV signal and then I would go through the same machinations that Jamie is currently.

As long as I am not picky about occasional digital channels not working I am happy enough with Comcrap for TV Internet and Phone.

11/3/2007 >> elfie

hehehe well I'll test out every possible service FOR you and then let you know what you should get :)

11/8/2007 >> elfie

... ben, fix comment editing and deletion ... :p

11/8/2007 >> elfie

Latest update for those who are keeping tabs.

I called Millennium late last week and signed up for their $90 for every service (tv, internet, cable) and every premium channel. I confirmed repeatedly that if they couldn't get things working, I'd be refunded for everything including installation. Dude came out for the install Tuesday night. The only thing he personally did wrong was cut my Comcast line, but he fixed it after I explained that I was still using it. However, back at the home office, their software for activating CableCards was down. He said it should be back up by the next morning and I should call back to have it activated then. I SHOULD have refused to give him a check for the install since I was actually not up and running, but I feel so bad being mean to techs. It's usually not their fault.

So I figured if it should be back by morning, it could be back in an hour, so I went ahead and called in to have it actived. "You're all set, it should be working within half an hour." Half an hour later, all my channels were black. I called back. "We won't be able to activate your card for three days." ..... uh huh.

Since it was all plugged in, I did try out their Internet service. They advertise 6Mbps and I was getting 5. Not terrible. Though web sites did seem to be loading very slowly. I haven't gotten to test it yet, but I'm betting they've still got serious latency problems. Guild Wars seemed to be perfectly fine though. I went ahead and plugged Comcast back in for now. I'll try again and actually test the latency if/when they get the CableCard working.

Moments ago I got a phone call saying that they couldn't port my phone number. He asked if I wanted a new number or if I just wanted to take off the phone service. I said that I didn't think I could take the phone service off since I was getting a package deal and he said I could and that it'd knock $20 off the bill. Since that's a buck more than I pay for Vonage, I told him to go for it.

That's one service DOWN and two about halfway gone. I've gotten in touch with a friend who works for Comcast. After I finish talking to him about whether I can get him to be my tech and whether he thinks I can get Comcast to match Millennium's pricing, I'll give Comcast a call and schedule an install. Whoever gets me HD channels first wins.

11/12/2007 >> elfie

Final Update

I dropped off all my Millennium equipment this morning and got a full refund. By Friday morning I still had no TV whatsoever and some testing over the previous few days showed as much as one-second latency to sites like Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

After talking to Comcast on Friday, I got them to give me a really good new customer price (even though I'm not a new customer) so for only $14 more than what I was paying for just Internet, I'm getting that same 16Mbit Internet service, plus digital cable, plus all the HD channels, plus HBO and Starz. I also noticed I'm getting two channels of Encore and one of Showtime. Lesson of the day? All you have to do to get intro rates as a current customer is mention that you're comparing prices with the competition.

My friend who is a Comcast tech wasn't working yesterday when my install was scheduled, but he offered to swing by anyway if I called when the installer got there. The installer, who is the same one who tried very hard to help me out with Comcast a year ago when I couldn't get HD working, had me up and running in ten minutes. He was done and gone before my friend even made it over. Awesome. We went out for brunch and bought me a TiVo HD from Circuit City.

I have TiVo back. Mission Accomplished.

11/12/2007 >> muhgcee

Going to celebrate by watching 2-hour old Daily Show and drinking champagne?

11/19/2007 >> elfie

Actually I celebrated by watching the previous week's episode of Smallville, which I downloaded from the Pirate Bay, because the DirecTV DVR had failed to record it.

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