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?


Nick and Brandi said...

Excellent timing by the tivo box. And I bet you watched the entire 2 hour fluff fest like we did just to get to that one second. We have a tivo box and have never had that experience, so maybe you're just unlucky. What I found most amusing about your post is that we have the same Sony TV circa 2001. I thought I was the only one still living in the analog age.

Robert said...

I'm a huge fan of analog TV. Bright picture, affordable, rock solid. :) We're secretly wishing it would die so we can carelessly toss a 42+ incher in the cart next time we're at Costco.

Given the flakiness of the Comcast TiVo box, I'm considering falling back on the standard Comcast DVR -or- perhaps pursuing real deal TiVo. I see they're once again offering lifetime subscriptions so we'll see...

Erin said...

The easy way around this is to set the recording to go long, 5-10 minutes is usually enough. I know its not in keeping with the simpleness of the DVR but come on, at least you aren't rewinding tapes anymore. I only wish I hadn't missed the last 20 laps of the Indy 500 last weekend due to my DVR cutting off...

Robert said...

Hey Erin! That's a good tip. I need to look and see how to do that. I haven't seen that option jump out at me when I set up recordings on the TiVo software but it's gotta be possible. I wonder whether you could set it for all recordings, for just a given season pass or just for a specific important recording? I'll have a look soon.

It seems like this would be a frequent problem with live sporting events. Especially something like baseball that can go into extra innings. I'm surprised the boxes aren't smart enough to figure it out somehow.

My frustration isn't so much that the recording cut short- it is that Live TV froze at an inopportune time. I suspect that it had to do with writing a 2 hour program to disk after it completed. I guess that situation could have been improved by setting the recording to go long too though.

We got a newer generation Comcast box last week and it seems snappier. I'll post back with information on how that performs after we have a chance to see whether the overall experience is better with newer/faster box.

Christy said...

I actually laughed out loud watching that video clip. That stinks! I agree with setting the Tivo to record long for the show. We do that for sporting events (if not, you always miss the overtime goodies) and of course for AI finales (this happened a couple years ago too, when AI went overtime on their finale). I do have to say that the long feature doesn't always work if you are trying to record marathon CSI episodes on SpikeTV. In this case, I try to set each show to go long by one minute, but it won't allow me to because the next CSI episode starts "on time" and I can't schedule the Tivo to start 1 minute late for the proceeding shows. Tivo does not offer a "late start" function. At least not my Fivo (Fake DirecTV Tivo - complete with Tivo noises and GUIs).

All in all, I guess it is still better than VHS tapes. We have some couple friends that insisted on VHS recording, and when we finally convinced them to take the plunge with newer electronics, they ended up getting a recordable DVD player. Huh?

Enjoyable post. Hope your newest Comcast box doesn't let you down.

Robert said...

It's amazing how many comments the TiVo topic has gotten on our blog. We all must love our TV viewing.

I agree that, relative to VHS and other options DVRs are a great innovation. Maybe I should stop whining about the little glitches they have from time.

Lately, there aren't many shows we're religiously watching. All of our favorites seem to be on hiatus. I got a couple of good suggestions from Michelle Crandall ("Ugly Betty" and "My Name is Earl"). Do you have any shows that you watch every week that you'd recommend?

Christy said...

During the summer I catch up on re-runs from shows that I never watched when they were on. I always seem to be a couple years late when it comes to television hits. Right now I Tivo the marathon reruns of CSI Las Vegas and Without a Trace. With so many episodes playing in one day, you can usually see 3 years of shows in a month. You just have to watch out for overload on your DVR; it's easy to run out of space. My favorite recent discovery was "Scrubs" - a surprising hit for me. I didn't think I would like it, but fell in love with it after a few episodes (at first it is hard to like). I tried "My Name is Earl" a few times, but just couldn't get into it. I think it was too slow for me. I also love Nip/Tuck on FX. Pretty racy and far-fetched, but it's fun to watch and see what crazy schemes they come up with. Definitely not for the Right Wingers.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...