I just wanna watch TV…

Last week, Sandy and I were watching a DVR’d show. Suddenly, the playback started to skip (kinda like a scratched DVD), and then we hear the awful sounds of hard drive preparing to eat itself. But then, it went away and all was right in the world again.

Then Saturday morning, I fire up the DVR to catch up on some of the stuff I taped during the week. I hit the list button and get an Unexpected Write Error. Hmm, that can’t be good. Then, I notice the box is strangely quiet. Hard drive not spinning at all any more. Man, this is gonna hurt. Bye bye to about 40 hours of taped shows. Sniff!

Monday morning, I call up Time Warner customer service line. They start down a line of debugging questions that’s pretty much endless. I tell them, I’m up on electronics stuff and I know its not TV or cable line, and that I’ve heard a hard drive singing out its final notes before. They offer to send a tech out. I counter offer by saying that I can bring the box in for a swap. For all the good times the DVR has given me, I’m ok with a little work every couple of years if necessary.  So I unhooked the 10 or so connections on the back and head over to customer service office.

I talk to a nice rep and they start along the same line as “did you try this, did you try that?” I tell them again, trust me, its dead. They say, “OK, lemme grab another one out of the back.” I cringe when I see her grab another box that’s just sitting on the counter. I wanted to see something come out of a nice new cardboard box. When she brings it over, I see that its definitely got some mileage on it already (cosmetically, its a little beat). The rep gives me some install guidance, “Don’t mess with the box until its done booting, y’know when the display shows the time, not that code stuff” I’m pretty sure the box is a really fine paper weight until then, anyway.

So I get it home, hook up those 10 wires, plug it in and wait.  Eventually, the time comes up, so I fire it up. Hmm, seems to be stuck on the boot screen. I leave it for a while longer, and it eventually kicks in the run mode. Either the box had been reset for a factory fresh, or the previous user had a different HDTV setup, because the output was only using middle of my HDTV with about 4 inches of black on all sides. So, I googled around for documentation for the box, as there’s some special non-obvious key combination to set the HDTV output settings. A few more minutes of messing around things seem back to normal. I change to the Simpsons and walk away to start dinner.

Sandy comes in is delighted to see the TV on and a new DVR box. Then she asks if its still booting. Eh? She says that the screen is black and the display on the DVR is scrolling through some jibberish. Crud, that can’t be good. I watch the display for a while. It says “d.###” where ### is a hex number decrementing. Hmm, I’m such a nerd, so I wait to see what happens when it gets to 000. Doh, it gets all the way to 002, stays for while, acts like its gonna reboot, but never comes back from the great bit beyond. I try the magic cure a few more times (pulling the plug and waiting), but get the same hex counter and reboot to oblivion.

Tuesday morning, I unhook the 10 wires again, and throw it (almost literally at this point) in my trunk and prepare to return to the Time Warner office again after work. I get a different rep this time. I give her the sad story and she gives me even better news. They don’t have any other HD-DVR’s available at the moment and they don’t really know when they’ll be getting more either. Great. So I ask, “Can you call me when you get one?” a reasonable request I thought. “I’m sorry sir, we can’t do call backs like that; Please call us back every day and we’ll tell you if we have one in.” Me, being reasonable, try to understand. “Can you give me a direct number, so I don’t have get stuck in the calling queue?” “Sure, here you go…” And she procedes to give me the general customer service number; gee thanks.

This is going so well, I press further. “Since I have to wait, can you tell me when there’s a new DVR box available, and I’ll just wait until then? I don’t wanna have to go through this hassle again when you give me another used box that the previous owner dropped down the stairs or spilled their beer in and it stops working in week.” “I’m sorry sir, we can only give you what’s
available.” I say since I have to come back eventually anyway, can you give a normal cable box so I can watch something in the meanwhile. She says that’s not a problem, and give a HD cable box. I finally move on to billing adjustment. I have to admit they did handle that pretty well, they credited my account 1 week of service and 1 month of DVR service.

Now the super kicker! After getting home hooking up the HD cable box (including the getting HDTV settings figured out again), the phone rings. Hmm, caller ID says its an 800 number. I’m feeling pretty fiesty at this point, so I take it. “Hello, this Time Warner Customer care making a courtesy call. I see that you’re digital TV and RoadRunner customer, how have these services been working for you?” “Buddy, you picked a great time to call…” I gave them the story above and he nodded along and said “I’m sorry you’re having trouble with your cable setup; outside of that are you happy with your service?”

Hmm, I think know where this is going. I said my Roadrunner generally works pretty good. He continues with, “well, I’d just like to let you know about our exciting new digital phone service…” I silence him, immediately with “don’t care, already use Vonage, very happy, pay less than half their digital phone charge.” He thanks me for my time, and bows out.

I guess I’ll be adding the Time Warner support line to my speed dial, as I think I’ll be ringing them a lot in the near future. Maybe I’ll go back to my idea about building my own DVR…

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