Paul & Vicki get HD – A Comedy of Errors, Vol II

So after the first day’s comedy of errors, we decided to go the CableCard+TiVoHD route. We ordered the CableCard installation, which was scheduled for a few days later. I figured I’d set up several TiVos in my day so that shouldn’t be any problem, so I left if for the night before the installer appointment. That was my first mistake.

I wanted the transition to go as smoothly as possible, so my idea was to set up the new TiVo in parallel to the old one, get that working, then move the old one and its cable box upstairs (I think I already explained how we had to keep the cable box in order to maintain our “package” pricing of channels) and set it up in parallel to the old upstairs one, then decomission the old upstairs one.

I wrote down all the Season Passes on the old TiVo. Then I unplugged the cable box and plugged the cable into the new TiVo, plugged the HDMI cable from the new TiVo to the TV, and the TiVo into the wall. Because the old TiVo still connected to the TV using the composite video cable, we could actually switch between the old and the new TiVos by using the “Input” button on the TV remote. Good, I thought, that will make the transition easier because we can watch stuff on the old TiVo while the new TiVo is waiting to start filling up.

I started to run the Guided Setup on the new TiVo. At this point, I confidently moved the USB network dongle from the old TiVo to the new TiVo. Uh oh, the box says it doesn’t recognize it. Well, I thought, the new TiVos obviously require 802.11g wireless rather than 802.11b. Probably time to upgrade anyway. But in the meantime, let’s see about using the phone.

Next problem: the only phone jacks in the house are more than 40 feet away from the TiVo, and the longest phone cord I have is 25 feet (TiVos used to come with 25 foot phone cords). No problem, I thought, I’ve got one of those remote phone thingys where you plug one device into the phone jack and the wall, and another device into the wall and your phone (or modem) and it sends the signal through the house wiring. We’d bought that unit when we’d first moved into the house because I didn’t have a network dongle for the upstairs TiVo, and it had worked fine back then. A frantic search of the house found the sender unit was down in the basement for no adequately explained reason, and the reciever unit was in my office, just not in the junk box I expected it to be in.

I tried the phone connection, and it said it couldn’t get a dial tone. I tried messing with the settings, and still didn’t get anything. A phone plugged into the reciever unit showed that it was working, if a bit noisy. After a good half an hour of changing settings and retrying, I suddenly discovered a new truth, or rediscovered an old truth:

If you’re feeling around behind an electronic device, don’t assume that just because it clicked in that it’s in the right slot.

Yes, you guessed it, I had the phone cable plugged into the ethernet socket. So I plugged it into the correct socket, and tried everything again. Now, instead of saying “No dial tone”, it said “Remote server didn’t answer”. Oh, big progress.

At this point, I was getting progressively more concerned. Vicki asked if we could just go out to the store and buy an 802.11g wireless dongle. Sure, except it was past 8pm and I didn’t know if anything was still open. Turns out that CompUSA was still open, but we had to move quickly. When we got there, there were a lot of 802.11g ones, and I thought a dongle is a dongle, so I bought the cheapest one. Turns out there is a difference, because the TiVo said it couldn’t recognize it. ARRRGGGHHH! So the next lesson:

Check the compatibility lists, and don’t cheap out when time is of the essence.

Ok, now it’s desperation time. There isn’t time to go back to the store before it closes, and I still need to get this thing set up before the installer gets there tomorrow. I looked at wired ethernet options. I have a 50 foot patch cable, but unfortunately it wouldn’t reach from the switch, down the stairs, and to the TiVo. I thought about running it down the outside of the house, but there isn’t an easily openable window near the TiVo. Besides, it was dark and cold and rainy out there. So I went back to fiddling with the phone remote. After a bit of experimentation, and the discovery that the phone sounded noisier if the light was on, I tried plugging the phone remote into a plug that didn’t have anything else on it, and it actually managed to make the first call.

Digression: When you do a TiVo set up, it makes a quick phone call to a 1-800 number to verify that you’ve activated the service, to download a day’s worth of guide data, and also to get the correct local numbers. Then when you’re done the normal setup, it makes a much longer phone call, which can be half an hour or longer on the phone, and hours of processing, where it downloads not just 14 days of guide data, but also any operating system updates.

So anyway, we got through the set up, and left it to do the long call while we went to bed. The next day, I checked it and found that the call had been interrupted somehow in the middle, and that it was unable to make another call. Oh oh. Now it’s time to pull out all the stops. CompUSA still wasn’t open, so I couldn’t swap the wireless dongle, but Staples was open so I could get a long telephone cord. I headed off to Staples, with a quick side diversion to a Radio Shack that was on the way, but it turns out that Radio Shack isn’t open before 9 am either. I bought a 100 foot telephone cord at Staples, which is overkill, but I wasn’t taking any more chances. I also sat around to make sure the phone call completed without interruption, which was overkill, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

Anyway, the upshot of that is that we got the TiVo ready in time, the installer installed the CableCard, and everything is working downstairs except we’ve got this annoying phone cord running through the living room, main hallway, and into the kitchen. We’ve also got a proper wireless dongle on order from TiVo, at 3 times the cost of the cheapo one that didn’t work. And the next night I moved the cable box and old TiVo upstairs, and that went off without a hitch. Next up: moving our ancient DVD player downstairs because the TiVo I moved upstairs is a Humax TiVo with a DVD player/burner built in. Then to Craigslist our old TiVo and extraneous RF modulator.

4 thoughts on “Paul & Vicki get HD – A Comedy of Errors, Vol II”

  1. One of the best moves I made when I bought the house was dropping Ethernet next to the cable coax. Now I’ve just got a little 4-port hub downstairs, and the TiVo and the Wii stay plugged in. I keep an extra 50-ft Ethernet cable stashed nearby so people who come to visit with laptops can plug in there too.

    It’s actually easier then dealing with wireless encryption.

  2. “We’ve also got a proper wireless dongle on order from TiVo,”

    Not anymore. It’s here. It looks exactly like a throw-away cell phone.

  3. I have to agree with Tina Marie – my best wiring move ever was to run dual ethernet next to the phone and coax. Having all my equipment hardwired makes my networking so very simple.

    But your tale is a lot more interesting.

  4. Hardwiring is great, until you move your furniture around.

    I’ve got at least two hardwired drops in our house that I can no longer use without extensions.

Comments are closed.