August 2011

July 2011 -- 2011 -- September 2011

August 25, 2011

Time Warner Cable in Austin is completely incompetent. More on this in a bit.

This all starts off with that I finally upgraded my beloved Tivo! I got a Series2 back in 2005 and it's kept me happy through the years, even after I upgraded to a HDTV and even after getting a Time Warner HD DVR so I could record HD shows. I HATED the Time Warner one, as it's miss TV shows randomly and was ugly, but it's one of the things you do for HD.

Fast forward to the 6th (er, well backwards now) and Kara and I were wanting to watch Parks and Rec on Hulu without having to hook up the laptop. I was curious if new Tivo's could do that, and not only can they, but Tivo dropped the price of a new box down to only $99. Went to Best Buy and picked one up that day and started streaming Hulu in HD on the tele. Life was glorious!

But this is where Time Warner comes in. The new Tivo's use Cable Cards, which are little hardware dongles you plug into a Tivo or TV to decrypt cable channels without having a big bulky box. The FCC requires them to allow for at least some innovation since cable companies have a monopoly in most places (such as my apartment complex). I call up, ask if I can just pick up a CableCard, and the lady so no. I have to wait till Wednesday and get charged $40 to do this. I can't imagine they're that hard to install, and ask how difficult it really is, and she replies that it's very difficult and they have to do lots of configuration. Ok, sounds maybe plausible.

Wednesday rolls around, and I have a 8am to 9pm call window. Thanks TW! However they call you beforehand, theoretically giving you time to rush home to meet them. So I give them my cell phone number. The perks of white collar work. Kara had an appointment, so I work from home for the afternoon. The phone rings. My home phone.

Luckily I am at home, so I answer and let them know I'm waiting. Guy shows up a few minutes later, and I go meet him to direct him to my hard-to-find apartment. First thing out of his mouth is "I don't really know how to install these cards, do you know where you're supposed to plug them in?". I'm paying $40 for this???

So we plug in the CableCard into the back (Tivo instructions are very clear) and he calls a number, reads them off TWO numbers from the screen I directed him to, and voila, TV! All looks good in the world! Until I realize I'm missing about a quarter of my HD cable channels, including Kara (and my) favorites Food Network and HDTV. Guy continues calling his support person on the phone, no luck. Another TW guy shows up, tries new cable, no luck. Tries another cable card, that one doesn't get anything, and then switches back to the original card. Finally gives up and says it must be a bad cable cards, tells me to reschedule another appointment to get more cable cards, and then leaves. So $40 to bring two very small cards and call a phone number to read off two numbers? Really?!?!

Cue more calls to TW to schedule another appointment (a week wait!) and more Googling to try and figure out what's going on. Also call to get a partial refund on the install fee since they didn't even have a full install.

So late that evening, after more Googling, I find out that the reason I'm missing those channels is that they use Switched Digital Video (SDV) which requires a Tuning Adapter (TA) to get those channels. TW has required these for 3+ years when using CableCards, and out of the 8 TW tech's so far, not A SINGLE ONE has ever mentioned this. So I call up yet again, ask how I can get a TA, and the support guy has no idea what I'm talking about. After he google's it, he returns to the phone and says that yes, I can pick that up from their offices. No tech visit required.

So I pick it up the next day, get home and plug it in, and it's not working. It's blinking 8 times, which from my Googling meant it had to be "re-hit" with a bunch of signals. Apparently a very routine matter. I call TW twice, and both times they have no idea what I'm talking about. One women keeps trying to get me to tell her what model of Cable Box I have. Finally I found out there's a national TW Cable Card hotline number (1-866-532-2598) and they are the first people (out of 11 techs so far) that actually have ANY idea what they're doing. He gets it going in about 30 seconds. So 6 days after I buy the Tivo, I finally have everything working!

The frustrating part in all this is that I then find out that Time Warner is LEGALLY required by the FCC to let me self-install a CableCard. They are also legally required to support the CableCards like their own boxes. So in a perfect world, this 6 day ordeal with a 8 phone calls and 11 techs should have taken all of about 5 minutes had they let me install the card myself and I just called the national Time Warner Cable Card number. Needless to say I filed a formal complaint with the FCC, so if enough people complain maybe they'll take some action against them. And of course chewed out some manager at TW, so got lots of fun freebies for a year for all that pain.

Of course, the story doesn't end there as the next day I lose 4 channels out of the blue. When I call up TW, the guy keeps trying to blame the CableCard until I pull out my old TW DVR I still have and prove it's their cables, not my Tivo, that is dropping the channels. So another week wait for someone to come out. They got out here last Friday, poked around, and went "Yep, cables, need to schedule a guy to come out and replace them." ARRGGHH!! I could have told them that! So now waiting yet another week for someone to come out and replace them tomorrow. It just never ends!

At least the Tivo's been awesome. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Pandora, and Tivo in HD. TV Life is good.

August 26, 2011

The guy came, replaced a splitter, and replaced the outside cable, and now I get all the channels, and my Internet is almost twice as fast. And the Tivo lets you look at Signal strength, and it's almost double what it was before hand on all channels. So if you are on Time Warner in Austin and can't see KXAN (NBC) in HD, that's your problem.

Tonight Kara and I are going to see The Goonies at Austin's Urban Mini Drive-In theater. We first went for her birthday a few months ago, and been back a few times since. We don't do the drive in part since it's kinda expensive, but it's only $5 to bring your own chair, and it's BYOB as well. Definitely check it out if you're in the Austin area.

Also thanks to T-Mobile's free WiFi calling I was able to drop phone service from my cable bill, saving about $35 a month. Of course, if (once...) that's stupid AT&T/T-Mobile merger goes through, that'll be the end of that nice little perk. But I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

After that merger, I'll be moving over to Sprint anyways. I've heard WAY too many horror stories about AT&T, and Verizon is too expensive.

I like Friday's. I don't like that the sun goes down at 8PM now. Summer's almost over.

August 29, 2011

Google Voice has gotten a lot better than when I first tried it when it 2 years ago. They finally fixed the annoying delay between sending a text and receiving it, as it used to be HOURS between the two, and now it's instant. That was the deal breaker for me. But recently after almost going over my text message limits again, mostly due to me and Kara texting each other, I gave it another shot and it's much quicker now. It still floors me that no one is offering free texting since it's 10 million percent (not a typo) cheaper than voice.

GV is also far cheaper than anything else for international calling. It's only 5 cents a minute to call Kara's friend in Kazakhstan instead of 19 cents on Skype or 35 cents when we were using Time Warner's phone service. Plus while T-Mobile now has free wifi calling, even after it gets taken away by the AT&T merger, GV still offers free calling to US numbers, so I'll still be set for free calling while I'm home. Which 95% of the calling I do at home anyways is international conference calls with India, Czech Republic, or Scotland anyways, so it doesn't matter what phone number I end up using.

Looking forward to having the day off on Monday!

July 2011 -- 2011 -- September 2011