Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Comcast TiVo Bungles American Idol Finale

So we're sitting here eating our popcorn, tensely gathered around the TV to see which David won this season's American Idol. To avoid any chance the TiVo would clip off the end of the show, we intentionally watched live. However, just as Ryan Seacrest was announcing that "The winner of American Idol is... David..." the freaking TiVo causes live TV to *freeze up*. I am not kidding. It wouldn't let me change the channel or rewind for 2 minutes and we missed the result. By the time we were able to get the piece of junk back under control, the winner was performing his victory song and we realized who won- but it would have been nice to see his reaction live. This occurrence comes on the heels of the TiVo insisting on changing the channel during the final seconds of this year's Super Bowl and really makes me question whether TiVo is a good thing.

Here's what it looks like when we try to watch the final moment:

The day after I posted this blog entry, I was contacted by a friendly Comcast representative who wanted to work with me to see whether the problems I've reported here with flaky TiVo behavior were related to our particular DVR box -or- whether they are known issues that are being worked on already and scheduled to be addressed via a forthcoming firmware upgrade.

The representative set up an appointment for a technician to come out to the house and they swapped out our old box for this newer box:

Since then, the overall performance of the box has been noticably snappier. The software is still doing some flaky things (for example, its been making the wrong sounds lately. As in every time we arrow up through a menu it gives a clumsy combination of the TiVo "tick" sound along with a mis-timed "bonk" sound which makes you think you've done something wrong when you haven't). I'll post another update after we've had the box for a longer period of time.

I would like to acknowledge that I think it is pretty great of Comcast to proactively search the web for folks who are having a rough time with their products and seek to make things better. This is a far cry from the response I received from Best Buy (ie, "crickets") when I posted this legendary scolding a few years back:

TiVo was doing some flaky things so I rebooted it. It never came back from the reboot and when I called tech support they were unable to revive it. Dead in the water, no TiVo all weekend. Service visit scheduled for Monday morning.

Update (September 19th, 2008):
Well, we've had Comcast TiVo now for quite a while. Since we got the newer box, things have been better. I also think that we've gotten used to working around the issues that bothered us initially. For example, we rarely watch Live TV anymore and consequently the slow "channel up" behavior doesn't bother us so much. The question I'm asking myself now is- at what point do we say "Okay, we're hooked on TiVo and we'll have it forever and as a result it makes sense to buy a TiVo box that has lifetime service?". I guess I'm still holding out a hope for a subscription-free AppleTV with DVR service that makes DVR subscription fees a thing of the past. I know that's a long-shot but hey- I can hope, right?
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