I May Never Get Off the Couch Again

Potato Head - Couch Potato : )

A brief consumer note.

Awhile back, our cable provider, Comcast, "went digital" on us, requiring us to get a Motorola digital decoder box; only some broadcast channels remained on their analog feed.

But a few weeks back, Comcast yanked the analog feed, replacing it with an ugly text screen saying, in effect, "you shouldn't be seeing this." Sigh. Fine. Welcome to the future.

Why this mattered: we had a TiVo Series 2 DT DVR. It had two tuners, and we could feed one from the Motorola box, the other direct from the cable. It took a little bit of pre-planning and care, but we were able to reliably record two shows at once (or watch one and record one) as long as one was on the analog feed. It was a little kludgy, involving an IR "blaster" cable strung between boxes which allowed the TiVo to change the Motorola's channel. But it was OK.

However, going to all-digital changed all that: no longer could we watch one show and record another. And we couldn't record two shows at the same time. Argh. Back to the dark ages? Never!

Fortunately, TiVo had a solution: The Premiere 4. Which has (woo!) four tuners.

This took a bit of bravery. Because the Premiere 4 requires a plug-in multi-stream CableCARD™ to do its magic, and you need to get it from Comcast. It is not encouraging when a simple Google search takes you to this page, a thread entitled "Multi Stream Card & HD Tivo Nightmare", dedicated to headaches experienced by some folks trying to put this all together.

But I'm here to tell you that it all worked:

  1. I ordered the Premiere 4 direct from TiVo; you don't have to do that, but if you do, it comes pre-authorized. (Otherwise authorization is a separate step.) You get a UPS tracking number when it ships.

  2. On the arrival date, the local Comcast service center gave me the required multi-stream card with no hassle: I just needed to show them my latest bill.

  3. Once everything was at home, the hardest part of installation was the de-installation: navigating the tangle of cables and cords to yank the old TiVo and the Motorola box.

  4. But then, just followed the clear directions: (a) hooked the cable up to the Tivo; (b) hooked the TiVo to the TV; (c) plugged the 802.11g adapter from my old TiVo into the new one; (e) plugged in the power, and turned on the TV. "Welcome to TiVo" came up. Yay!

  5. The onscreen guided setup is also straightforward, although the initialization procedure involves some internet downloading at wireless-G speeds, so takes awhile. I was prompted to insert the CableCARD™, and it was detected straight away.

  6. Later, I copied the old system's "Season Passes" to the new one; this happens via TiVo's website. It took a few hours to become effective. Minor gripe: the priority settings were lost along the way, but with (again, woo!) four tuners, that shouldn't matter a bit.

The only bump in the road came when it was necessary to call Comcast to "pair" the CableCARD™. The nice lady at the other end had a thick accent, and I had to keep asking her to repeat. After she did the pairing procedure, we were slightly concerned that I was not getting TV at that point; as it turned out, she thought I was at a different stage of the setup process than I actually was. She assured me that if I just muddled through, all would be well. And it was.

So it's a total win: one fewer box, one fewer remote, a lot fewer wires. The new box has some new fancy features the old one did not. The Comcast "On Demand" material is accessible via the TiVo interface.

And wow, four tuners. But will there ever be four things I want to watch on at the same time? We'll see.