On Tivo, TWC, and my car.

Last Monday, a friend asked if fifty bucks was a good price for a new Tivo. The answer to that question is unequivocally, yes. Then I had to ask how he could get a Tivo for fifty bucks. Apparently Blockbuster is unloading their Tivo inventory. These were all last generation Tivos and Blockbuster was selling the standard definition two-tuner version for fifty and the HD version for a hundred dollars. Last version or not, a Tivo is infinitely better than the crappy DVR we pay 17.49 a month to use from Time Warner.
When my payday, Thursday, comes around, I had my wife stop by Blockbuster, hoping to get in on this deal. Three Blockbusters later and no Tivos to be seen, she finally finds one with the sale sign and takes it to the counter and asks about it. The person behind the counter is very helpful and informs my wife that all the Tivos in Lincoln (where I live) had been shipped to a Blockbuster 60 miles away in Bellevue. Since I work near Bellevue (yes, it’s a long commute) the person calls that Blockbuster. No luck, but they are expecting one in sometime in the next two weeks. No they can’t presell it for the sale price or hold it.

Later that day, the Bellevue Blockbuster in Bellevue did, in fact, get a Tivo HD in. The next day, Friday, they sold it. That serendipitous customer was me. The woman at the counter had tried to call us the previous day, but we didn’t leave a number and weren’t hanging around the Blockbuster my wife had talked to her from.

Having social obligations Friday night, the new Tivo sat in its box until Saturday morning. Being a little on the smart side, I headed down to the Time Warner Cable office with their DVR to trade it for a cable card or two. They happily took my DVR and told me they don’t hand out cable cards; I have to have it installed by their tech. This irritates me. Their techs are sloppy and generally know how to fix things by replacing them.

We last had a Time Warner installer in our house Three times in four days because our Wii was making our cable DVR reboot. Their fix was to change a splitter on the first visit. They swapped out the DVR on the second visit for one that randomly flickered our TV. The third visit they changed the cables swapped out the DVR again. Meanwhile I knew all along that the wiimote was somehow sending the reboot signal when a particular button was held down – the button you hold down to make MarioKart karts go. I could cover the IR receiver on the original cable box and prevent a reboot. But did they listen to me, no.

On a prior visit we’d had a cable outlet installed in our bedroom. That one never worked, always a fuzzy picture. We moved that TV to our breakfast nook. After much discussion about where to put the kids to study, we decided to move the TV back from the nook to our bedroom. This would remove a source of distraction while the kids work on homework and give us a comfortable place to watch all the TV we record on Thursdays that doesn’t fit on our main TV’s DVR. I could wait for the technician to diagnose and repair the connection in the bedroom or I could do it myself.
The cables in the bedroom were good. The cables in the basement were good. Opening the outlet on the wall I discovered two things. The outlet plate covered a simple hole drilled in the plaster. The screws holding that plate to the plaster were just wood screws without anchors. Sigh. The cable connecting inside the wall to the outlet was also loose. I tightened that sucker up and now have a crystal clear picture.

I don’t think I’m more technically inclined than the technician simply because I can tighten coax. I’m pretty darned good at finding and setting the various little settings in the machines to make them work as I want them to. My internet connection for the Tivo is through a Linksys Router that I repurposed into a Wireless Access Point. That particular Linksys router had been designed to not have that function. I did it anyway thanks to an open-source firmware upgrade. If I can do that, I’m pretty sure I can install my own cable card.

I know it’s going to be a while before the cheaper Tivo service actually saves me money, given the initial expense. But Tivo is really that much better.

Our other adventure on Saturday involved trading our rental car in for a smaller more fuel efficient car. My wife had been in an accident in September and it was the other guys fault without question, so the rental car is free. Our normal car is a Nissan Cube. It’s technically an economy car. But, the reason we bought it was for the leg room of the back seat – because, not only do I commute over 60 miles a day, I carpool and putting full grown men into the backseat of most economy cars constitutes torture in 48 states. No a Cobalt or Fiesta will not suffice as a replacement rental. They gave us a Grand Cherokee. Okay, it was almost as big in the back seat as our Cube. on the downside it got only 2/3 the gas mileage.

It took them 10 days to find us a smaller car: An HHR. Our Cube is bigger inside than out. If you don’t believe me, find one to sit in. I have a friend who’s over 7′ tall. He sat in it and was comfy in the back seat despite the fact that he could likely carry a Cube on each shoulder. The HHR is cramped inside. The front window is little more than a slit of which a quarter is hidden behind the rear view mirror. Supposedly we get the Cube back tomorrow. I can’t wait.


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