When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

24 October 2004

"One second while we reboot your cable box..."

We've been having intermittent problems with our cable service, and Time Warner finally convinced us to convert to digital cable... for about five bucks more a month than we'd been paying, we'd get about a hundred more channels (!) and an off-brand digital video recorder (as the TWOPpers would put it, a "TiFaux") thrown into the bargain.

We bit.

Aside from the news and college basketball, we don't watch a huge amount of television... though HBO's Sunday-night series (The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, and now Family Bonds) have got us pretty much hooked.

But there are some other shows we might like to watch, if they were on at more convenient times. I had visions of TiFaux-ing the BBC World News, Jon Stewart, and a handful of other shows that I'm either never at home or never awake for, so I was eager to get on with the installation. Bring on the hot-and-cold running Simpsons!

After waiting all day Saturday for the cable guy to show up during our "appointment window," he finally materialized, took our old cable box away and left a Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000 Home Entertainment Server in its place. He presented me with a remote control that ought to require a pilot's license, gave me a brisk three-minute orientation to the system, and split.

It was then that the troubles began.

The admittedly crisp digital picture on the screen kept jittering and freezing. The box wouldn't accept commands from the remote control. And the Interactive Program Guide (the basis for all of the digital video recorder functionality) suddenly went blank... it read "no program data" for every slot in the guide.

After twenty minutes on hold with Time Warner customer service, I got a bright, friendly young woman on the phone who walked me through a troubleshooting session. We rebooted the cable box/DVR (it's got a hard disk in it, a couple of tuners so you can record two shows at once--it's fairly complex) three times... one "soft" reboot, two "hard" (power-cycle) reboots. She "sent signals down the line" to try to electronically bitch-slap the Home Entertainment Server back into its right mind.

Finally, she booked an appointment for a technician to visit us. Next weekend.

This morning, the box is behaving just fine.

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