M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Wednesday, August 22, 2007  

Musty TV Part II

Without the Internet, I was reduced to guessing what my internet/cable company's support line number was. Fortunately, since the number is 1-800-[name of company], I got it right on the first guess.

I'd called the number when we'd installed the first DVR months before, because apparently you can't just plug it in and expect it to work; they have to send some kind of signal to activate it remotely. So I waited while the operator did that. The DVR didn't work. She did some other things. The DVR still didn't work. She said it looked like I had a "bad box," and I could either exchange it at the cable company's local office or wait for someone to come over and swap it out for us at their convenience. At this point, the functionality (or lack thereof) of the DVR was the least of my concerns, since the whole house was effectively Internet-disabled. We were stranded in meatspace.

So I had her transfer me to the Internet support department, where they were no help at all. Pretty much all they could tell me to do was unplug my modem, shut down my computer, and then restart everything after a minute or so. Since I'd already tried that and it hadn't worked, I wasn't too impressed. And the frosting on the cake was that after I'd disconnected the input cable from the new (bad) DVR and reconnected it to the back of the TV, our reception was all staticky, like it was back when I had that TV hooked up to rabbit ears, except that this time I had a lot more staticky channels. This despite the fact that the picture on the downstairs TV was crystal clear. The guy on the phone figured that this had something to do with how our signal was entering our house. As he reminded me, the storms that weekend had caused a lot of outages (although not at our house), and there was a very good chance that someone was working on a relay component or something in our neighborhood. Trash and I didn't think that it was such a great chance that this work had begun at the exact same time I'd plugged in the new DVR to the cable, but there wasn't much I could do to prove it. So we were just going to have to wait until someone could come out on Wednesday. Again, this was on Sunday. When Trash was looking at a couple of days of working at home, doing research without the Internet. Might as well go to the damn library.

So I'm afraid I threw a bit of a wobbler. "So your company gave us this box, which broke our Internet and our cable, and we're just out of luck until someone can get around to us?"

Yes, that was pretty much it. He offered to "escalate" it, whatever that meant. I figured it meant someone would show up on Wednesday morning instead of Wednesday afternoon.

In the meantime, I called the cable department back, because hell, I had time, since it wasn't like any of us was going to be doing any web surfing. She advised me to check all the cable connections in the basement, which, again, I had already done. The only thing she could think of was that maybe the signal splitter in our basement had failed, which apparently they sometimes do. I'd always thought those little boxes were nothing but three jacks and some wires inside, but I guess there's more to it than that. Maybe a little goblin that had gone on strike.

So M. Small and I went to Target to get a new signal splitter that very evening, not very optimistic but out of other ideas and willing to give it a try. I brought it home and replaced the one that had been there before. No effect. It was going to be a long couple of days.

But then, tracing the cables along the basement ceiling, I found another splitter, or something very like it. I swapped it out for the new one, and guess what? Success! We were back online, both Internet and cable, after four hours in near media darkness. It was like in the pioneer days, when the snows melted and the supply trains could finally get through and most of your family was still alive.

Trash asked if I was going to cancel the service call from the cable company. I said I would, when they called me to tell me they were on their way. To their credit, that was the next morning, Monday. Having the satisfaction of telling the dispatcher, "Never mind, I fixed it myself" was almost as sweet as actually having fixed it myself.

While I was at Target, Trash had suggested I also get just a cheap VCR to plug into the old TV/VCR combo, which was now less of a TV/VCR combo and more of a TV/garbage disposal combo. You know what else they don't make any more? Just plain VCRs. It's all VCR/DVD combos now. Well, that and TV/VCR/DVD flatscreen combos, but I wasn't about to drop three hundred dollars on something that wouldn't even fit on my TV table.

But then on Tuesday during lunch, I went to the Target near my work to pick up a $60 VCR/DVD combo, even though the TV we were going to hook it up to will never display a DVD because it doesn't have the right kind of input jack. Alas, the $60 models were out of stock, and I wasn't in the mood to spend $70. So I went to Wal-Mart instead and got one for $50.

It wasn't until I got it home and set it up that night that I discovered that my cheap new VCR/DVD was in fact a VCP/DVD, as in videocassette player, and not recorder. This was after I'd already taken it out of the box, which Trash put outside in the rain the next day.

So now, my state-of-the-art recapping center consists of:
• A 13" tube screen TV/VCR combo with a VCR that doesn't play back, although it may still record
• A VCP/DVD player that will never record video, and will never play a DVD because of the TV it's hooked up to
• Two remote controls, one for the TV and one for the VCR, which I constantly get confused with each other.

In short, it's a far cry from the "beep-boop" recapping I'd envisioned. But I think I can still write it off on my taxes.

posted by M. Giant 8:31 PM 4 comments


How weird. We too were having internet problems though no cable problems. I called on Saturday and they couldn't send a tech until yesterday. They said he would show between 8am and 5pm. Guess when he showed... 5:01pm. Anyway, we are all fixed and up and running now. And yes, I too used the free wifi at the library.

By Blogger Finding My New Normal, at August 23, 2007 at 7:33 AM  

I think it's kind of poetic that you recap shows which are put together with the latest TV-making technology... and take them apart with just about no technology at all.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at August 23, 2007 at 5:00 PM  

If you have the same cable/internet company that we used to have, beware: the unplugging the modem/restarting everything is something we had to do almost weekly in order to keep the internet working. Occasionally it wouldn't work. We stopped calling technical support, because they once told us to "restart it 4 or 5 times before 'giving up'".
Of course, the new company we use has the most god-awful DVR, that it's not much better.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 24, 2007 at 6:28 AM  

Ugh. 'Escalate' - yeah, my ISP has tried to fob me off with that before. It doesn't seem to mean that the problem will be fixed any more quickly.

I had many problems with my connection until I downgraded from 8meg to 2meg speed - something about the line not being constant enough.

By Blogger LB, at August 26, 2007 at 5:08 AM  

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