Too Much Technology

Given that I have close to half a century’s experience in programming, configuring, upgrading, repairing and building computers, plus plenty of time spent setting up printers, scanners, tablets, networks, DVD players and VCRs (!) there shouldn’t be too much in the way of electronic technology that leaves me flummoxed.

The sole exception seems to be a Cisco 9865 HD-PVR which my anonymous cable provider (Rogers) calls NextBox 3.0.

We received this mysterious piece of equipment as part of an Internet-TV-Home Phone Bundle. It replaced a perfectly easy to understand 4842 cable box. On the surface it seems like a pretty good idea:

  • It can record on one TV and be played back on another. There is a little network it sets up automatically with other HD cable boxes in your home.
  • It records in HD and has a big hard drive so you won’t likely run out of space.
  • You can record 8 different shows at a time. Why you’d want to I can’t say, but it’s a possibility.

That’s the good news. The bad news (even ugly news) is that it is the most exasperating piece of you know what to be released since Rogers’ own “advanced” wifi gateway. Fortunately we get it leased to us as part of a deal, and didn’t have the misfortune to buy it.

  • First of all when we got it, the picture the cable box part was displaying looked fuzzy. After some Internet research (there’s no manual) I found out that the default resolution isn’t what my TV is capable of, nor is it even what Rogers sends down the pipes to my house. I had to futz around deep in the bowels of the menu to set it right.
  • Second it never seems to work properly – and all it has to do is tune a TV channel. Often when we dial up said channel we get a message that “Channel X is unavailable, try later.” This channel is coming through fine on our simple 2nd cable box but not the HD-PVR.
  • Third we get freeze-ups and dead air, and the only way to get rid of that is take the ‘big hammer” out and reboot the system. I was doing this once a day for a while.
  • Fourth, often when you turn the box off for five minutes, it starts downloading heaven knows what and that takes half an hour before you can watch TV again. You get the dreaded DNLD sign in the display and you are finished.

Finally I got tired of all this garbage and swapped the unit for a new one at the local Rogers store. Well I tried to swap it; the local store had run out of exchange units so I had to go halfway to Ottawa to find a shop that had one. Is that a sign of anything?

The new one seems to be marginally better but it still randomly skips a scheduled recording. This might be a problem (missing the Y&R) but fortunately the 10 year old standard definition PVR we have in the basement never fails. I have it programmed as a backup.

Part of this conundrum is probably my fault. I never record anything to watch for myself, so I have never mastered the skills of my 6 year old grandson when it comes to manipulating a Rogers remote. This HD-PVR is just too much technology for me – sort of like an iPad or Android tablet. Something I don’t like, won’t use often and hence never acquire the skill needed to make it work the way it should. But I don’t think all of the fault lies between remote and cable box. This NextBox 3.0 gadget is just not ready for prime time. And you don’t have an alternative thanks to the cable TV monopoly.

We hear a lot about folks cutting the cable and going with IPTV – streaming their favorite show on Netflix. Given┬ámy experiences with NexBox 3.0 I can appreciate why.



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