We had a couple Time Warner DVRs. One Scientific Atlanta 8000 (non-HD) DVR upstairs on a Sony CRT (mostly watched by Julia these days), and an Scientific Atlanta 8300 HD DVR on our (lemon) Sceptre 23" 720p LCD TV.

They crash periodically, and Time Warner tells us just to reboot them and not worry about it. They are both inferior in numerous ways to our TiVo Series 1 (which is TiVo's original model -- so much for learning from the competition!). In early April, they both started failing to tune channels, and crashing a lot. We called Time Warner, they sent someone out, he "replaced a splitter" and left. A few days later we had more problems, so a second tech came out, "replaced a splitter" and yelled at Amy about a cabling problem to the TV (nothing to do with the issue, but it apparently caused him to waste some time). He left, but the problems stayed. In particular, a couple days later we got channel 1, but not 2-9 or 81 -- I didn't check beyond that.

Last week, I called Time Warner. The nice lady on the phone told me about channel 996, which provides status info on the DVR (including MAC, IP, and signal strength). She explained that my 33 "Reverse RF" (upstream?) dBmV (signal:noise) value was out of tolerance (35-65), and this was definitely the problem. So she sent someone on Tuesday to fix it. She also said "I'll put that number in the case notes, so they won't have any choice but to fix it." Foreshadowing! She also mentioned that since this was the third call they were supposed to send a foreman, but they did not.

Tired of not being able to get video onto my TiVo, I also asked to have our non-HD DVR replaced with a plain (digital) cable box, so I could reinstall our old TiVo S1. The TiVo has an upgraded hard drive, 10/100 Ethernet, and web server; so I can extract TV shows, convert to MPEG, and watch them on my Treo (it makes my 2-hour-daily subway commute go much faster). Unfortunately, this wasn't something that could be scheduled with the repair, so it was set for Thursday, at a $30 charge (it would have cost me $10 each way to get a cab to their storefront). Weak!

Tuesday, the repair tech came, disconnected a splitter (the same one that had been replaced by each of the previous techs, I presume, but he wouldn't say), and (with me) climbed up to the roof tracing out the cable. We then went into Song next door (the cable comes up from their yard, but it's behind a fence -- awkward! He re-crimped a few cable ends.

I asked about the signal strength (now up to 37 instead of 33, but still obviously not very good on either TV). The HD DVR crashed "tuning" to channel 7 (the 5th time Tuesday), so he replaced it (which I was expecting). He insisted that the signal:noise number was meaningless (several times), and we got all the channels, so he left. A half-hour later, Amy was tuning through the channels, and some weren't coming in again. At least the new DVR didn't crash on bad channels, just showed black. Talk about lowered expectations!

Oh, and the phone rep (when I scheduled the appointments) had promised me a credit for a month of interrupted service, but instead we got a bill for the full monthly rate. Amy called and the rep mumbled something about billing cycles, but the bill was dated several days after I was told the credit had been applied. Something to worry about next month...

Tuesday night we got a call from a Time Warner, asking if we were satisfied. NO Could they send a tech during the Thursday window, when I would be home? No. The TWC rep would call back, because he couldn't get a foreman that soon. We'll see how (if) they handle it. We currently have some channels, but not others.

It's enough to make us want to switch to RCN or DirecTV.

The pathetic irony here is that our problems have been a walk in the park compared to Alex's tale of woe. He spent months helping TWC figure out why their CableCards didn't work, but they didn't have any good ones to give him, so left him with incompatible CableCards. Last we heard, he thought they might have been fixed remotely, but wasn't willing to reboot to test this theory.

PS-An oddity is that downloding tystreams from the TiVo is slower than it used to be -- long pauses when nothing downloads, and generally just slower than it should be. I thought it was due to being uplinked through an AirPort Extreme via WDS, but connecting my PBG4 directly to the TiVo via an old 100mbps hub didn't help; something with the ancient TiVo, I guess.

Update: Our phone service was screwed up Wednesday. After several calls with Verizon (where they told us it was an inside problem, and that we should get a new phone, and that they would come Monday to fix it, but expected to charge us $90 to fix an inside wiring problem), someone showed up unexpected Friday morning and replaced an outside cable. Aside from the unpleasant similarities between Verizon and Time Warner, I'm convinced that the TWC repair tech caused the phone problem when he was tracing the coax up and down the outside of our building.