The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Fri. Dec 28, 2007

TiVo Made My Head Explode

When you step outside the arena of computers and cameras, our home is surprisingly lacking in high tech devices that are common in many homes. We have not even one iPod between the two of us. No PDA’s or iPhones or smart phones or bluetooth ear bugs. We don’t “text message” anyone. No GPS devices or mobile navigation systems. Technologically, we are in many ways virtual Neanderthals.

And, for the most part, we’re fine with it (though I foresee an iPhone or two in our future when our current cell phone contract expires next spring). But Susan had been whining for expressed a wish for a TiVo. And she did it long enough ago that by Christmas morning, she had forgotten about it. So it was a very good gift.

Until I had to set it up.

I had a vague recollection that the three RCA-style video/audio inputs on our TV failed to work when I tried to set up the DVD player using them, and I had to resort to using a coax connection. And I mentioned to Susan, it is possible this thing may not work with our TV.

I hate it when my vague recollections are correct. Sure enough, Ye New TiVo and Ye Olde TV conspired to generate a blank screen when I tried to use the proper inputs. Having already consumed a chunk of my time, and a reasonable portion of my wallet, TiVo was about to bite off a big chunk more.

I already knew that our 25 inch analog tube TV was a dinosaur verging on extinction as the world converts to digital and HD broadcasts. And thus, I knew a new TV was in our near future (my brain defined “near future” as “maybe for next Christmas”). In fact, I’d already done some research into this new world of 720p and 1080i and all kinds of other new terms. I’d even picked out a well-reviewed current model, knowing it would surely be replaced by the time we were ready to actually buy one.

But suddenly, that new TV was not “near future,” it was damn near “present.” All it took was about a 45 minute trip to Best Buy.

Oh, yeah, and $700.01. Happy Birthday, honey.

If you haven’t bought a TV in the past five years or so, well, the technology has changed immensely. Our old 25 inch TV was about a 70 pound load, but the new 26 inch TV weighs about as much as a box of cat litter. Beyond that, on the back is a huge array of connections for every kind of device you can imagine. Including not one but two sets of AV inputs of just the type I needed. So I plugged the as yet uninitiated TiVo into AV1, and turned the TV on.

Big mistake.

You see, the TV has its own setup routine, which includes searching for channels from the available inputs. Of which there was currently only one, an uninitiated TiVo. So, it managed to find one channel of snow on the stubby connection to which an antenna might normally be connected, and that was all it would show us. AV1 showed me the same blank screen our old TV had. So did AV2 when I tried those plugs.

Seismographs in California are set off and record the rumblings beginning inside my head.

I’ve now realized that trying to go through the setup of two brand new connected devices at the same time was a very bad idea. So, I unplug the TiVo, plug the cable into the TV, and try to find the menu item that will allow me to rescan the channels and get the TV setup properly and “stable” (yep, TV technology sure has changed).

I spend the next half hour trying to find and activate this menu item. It doesn’t help that I am constantly interrupted by phone calls from California, in which seismologists ask if I am OK.

Finally, after much cussing, the TV deigns to import all of our cable channels, including a whole set of HD channels our old TV did not acknowledge even existed. Kewl! The rumblings calm … for a moment. Then I go back to the TiVo, plug it into AV1, switch the TV over to that input … and get more blank screen. No signal. AV2, same thing.

Susan runs from the room to get a mop and bucket, as my brains have spewed out of my head like a two liter bottle of Diet Coke that’s been filled with Mentos, and I have otherwise dissolved into a puddle of wrath.

I rip the AV cord from the TV and TiVo, run the cable to the back of the TiVo, run another piece of coax from the TiVo to the TV … and we see the TiVo Welcome screen.

Which, I realize now, would have also worked with the old TV, coax to coax, just like the DVD did. Susan now runs out of the room again, this time to get an army of maids with mops and buckets.

This TiVo has now cost me nearly a grand, an afternoon of my “vacation,” and my brain cells now line the walls of our living room. But wait, there’s more!

The TiVo setup requires it to be connected to the Internet. No problem, I’ve got an extra Ethernet cable and a free plug for it on our router. But Mr. TiVo can’t seem to have a proper conversation with our router’s DHCP server. It claims there is no DHCP server, yet the router is happily handing out IP’s to our wired and wireless computers. We get caught in a circular menu hell, in which it fails, and then returns us to the same choices.

Finally, out of desperation, I choose to let it use a static IP. It throws a number up on the screen, I recognize the first three as our network, and it has a “10” at the end. Fine. Whatever. Go for it. And we finally get TiVo setup.

However, all those kewl extra HD channels are now gone. Because the coax now points to TiVo, rather than the preferred AV connection. Just like the old TV. Grrrrr.

And then … our other computers start saying, they, too, are having a problem getting an IP from the DHCP server. Best I can figure, I had the router set up to issue IP’s in a range that ended with 100-149. And when the router then had to deal with the TiVo being outside that range, well, it appears it barfed and started refusing all connections. I had to reset the whole router and reconfigure the network to get everything back online. That was about 11 o’clock last night.

It was much much later when I got what brains I could scoop off the walls back inside my cranium. And there was a point yesterday where I was ready to toss everything that used electricity, including the Christmas tree, off our third floor balcony.

I’m a little better today. I’ve decided we can keep the light bulbs.

But everything else may have to go. I only have so many brain cells left.

Peanut Gallery

1  elburro wrote:

Wow, it’s a good thing we didn’t decide to throw wireless into mix with security encryption. The whole mess would be on the sidewalk by now.

I recall one time when I was experiencing some cable tv problems and I was on the phone with comcast explaining to them that simply rebooting the cable box was taking a while because the Tivo had to reboot too. Wrong thing to say. They then wanted me to totally disconnect the Tivo. “Uh uh, no way!” I said. “I don’t care if you never fix it and I have to switch to satellite, I refuse to go through that again!”. Yet another reason why I’m delaying having to purchase any new tvs.

I think you’ll find that after awhile, if it goes down, you’ll do anything to fix it. Kinda like people who get addicted to drugs. Welcome to Tivo.

2  Reid wrote:

donkey sez: “I think you’ll find that after awhile, if it goes down, you’ll do anything to fix it. “

I am now taking a “hands off” attitude towards TiVo. In fact, Susan managed to fill its 80 hour capacity in about 48 hours, which I did not think was even mathematically possible. But after all, she is an accountant.

She’s figured out which button not to push now (“select” also means ‘record”), and it is working, so I absolve myself of all responsibility.

Yeah, that’ll work.

Comment by Reid · 12/29/2007 09:17 PM
3  elburro wrote:

I’m reluctant to respond here because “somebody” will have to change a default setting, but Tivo defaults to the highest quality recording option. I don’t know about the HD channels, but for general stuff, a well-known tip is to change the default recording quality from highest to medium. The normal eye can’t tell the difference, and you can then fill up an 80 gig box with many different entire series like Sopranos with a bunch of movies thrown in.

Then if “somebody” hangs around the Tivo forums because they have a lot of time on their hands, that “somebody” can find out how to transfer precious recordings to a pc or mac where they can be legally burned to dvd by inserting Tivo’s code.

I really need to shut up, I can tell.

4  Paul wrote:

My Series 2 TiVo is sitting in a box out in the garage and hasn’t seen the light of day for over two years. After a software update, the thing wouldn’t boot up anymore and instead remained stuck on the “Please Stand By” screen. I called tech support and they sent me a new (and updated) one.

There was just one catch: to complete set-up, you had to connect it to phone line. Problem is, I hadn’t had a land line in over a year at that point and was using a USB antenna plugged into the back of the old unit to maintain a connection to TiVo. For some stupid reason, though, I had to connect the thing to a telephone line so TiVo could tell the unit what to go do with itself.

So, I hauled the thing into work late one night, plugged it into a phone line and then spent the next two hours sitting around while it downloaded the necessary software and completed a series of reboots. After the process completed, I took the unit back home, hooked it up, turned it on, and marveled as it remained stuck on the “Please Stand By” screen, just as the previous unit did.

I packed everything up, put it back in the box and ordered a DVR from the cable company, which has yet to fail.

5  emcee fleshy wrote:

I’ve had the DVR-inside-the-cable-box for almost two years. Just orderd it and plugged it in like I did the old cable-box. Took two minutes. Worked just fine. No conflicts with the HD.

Then there was trouble, when wan out of hard-drive space after about six-months.

So I went to the store and picked an external SATA drive off the shelf. I hooked it up with the USB connection, and have another 250Gb. This took four minutes.

Easy, easy, easy.

Also, spent no time at all sync-ing the remote controls, since they’re the same device.

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