Category Archives: Uncategorized

Comcast, cable box, and Tivo

UPDATE  1/18/10: Followed MLD’s advice from Jan 6 — and it worked — the Tivo serial cable works better than the IR blaster.  See my comment, below, dated today.

My long cable box to Tivo nightmare is over.  I’m posting these instructions for those who may go through the same horrid mess. I didn’t find these anywhere.

Comcast in Berkeley — from who I have gotten truly terrible customer service throughout this —  is switching to new, digital equipment; independent of but, to confuse things, simultaneous with, the larger digital changeover.  I have talked with roughly two dozen people at Comcast (I’m not exaggerating) and gotten every possible story about whether I can, and if so how, still use my Tivo Series 2 and my analog TV with their new box.  I have a perfectly good TV and a Tivo box with lifetime service; I had no intention of buying new ones, not just now.  I find it annoying enough that I have to pay for cable, but the TV I watch is almost exclusively on cable channels.

Ta-da — here’s how you do it.

1. Get a Tivo IR Blaster. In theory, this came with your Tivo.  It enables the Tivo remote control to control your cable box.  If I did have one, I have no idea where it is now.  I got one at – they sell other Tivo accessories.  I was told to be sure to get the kind where the sensors at the end turn at 90 degree angles, like this you see in this image from

The purple end plugs into the back of the Tivo, into “channel change – IR”.

Use a flashlight to see the IR receiver behind the dark glass in front of your cable box. The two “boot” ends go over and under the box so that they both shine on the IR receiver, though another images from Tivo suggests you can get away with just one sensor:

2. Run the cables from wall to cable box to Tivo to TV.

3. Go into Tivo settings and have it run setup again. You have to tell it that you’re using a cable box (which I wasn’t before), and it has to figure out which one, which is what the setup process allows you to tell it to do.  (There’s probably a more direct route than running setup all over again, but I didn’t think of that in time.)

4. Make sure the Tivo and the Cable Box both require the same TV channel (slider on the back of the Tivo picks 3 or 4) and set the TV to the correct channel.

5. Finally!  You can control Tivo and the cable box simultaneously, using the Tivo remote control, and the Tivo can record from cable. Until I did all this, I could (1) set tivo and tv on ch 3 and see whatever channel the cable box was set to, but (2) could not record.

It has taken me approximately a month, two dozen calls, one visit to Comcast, and one visit from a Comcast service person.  The latter finally was able to tell me what to do (thanks, Keisha!) but couldn’t get things set up because I didn’t have an IR blaster. And she didn’t tell me that I had to rerun Tivo setup once I got it — I was stumped at why I had all the pieces connected but they weren’t working together.

Update July 28: One more thing: it only records correctly if I leave the Tivo box ON.  That’s a waste of energy, but I had trouble recording — it thought it had the right channel, everything looked right, the show listed was the one I asked to be recorded — but the content was wrong; it wasn’t changing channels.  It seems that the only solution is to never turn the Tivo box off.


Take me home – please!

Take me home – please!

Originally uploaded by NVH

From Santa Fe Photography Workshop

Dotty eats, Flora watches

Dotty eats, Flora watches

Originally uploaded by NVH

My niece and her hamster.  (Cameraphone)

Early Voting

I was in the Alameda county administration and courthouse complex today (for jury duty) and passed the line of people waiting to vote early.  At 8:15 am, there were dozens waiting.  At 12:30 pm, there were several hundred.  Asked a woman wearing an “I voted” sticker: she waited an hour.

Help Stop Illegal Telemarketing (and a good reason why it’s worse than just annoying)

If you’re on the do-not-call list and get a telemarketing call from Direct TV, you can help. 

Before I get into that, though:  last night I learned another reason why telemarketing is detrimental to the public good.  I got a call with the pause when I answered that indicates that it’s automated.  I usually hang up at that point, to avoid the pitch to refinance my mortgage (!), or how to vote in the upcoming election. But this time I didn’t, and it was the Berkeley police notifying the neighborhood that a child was missing. (Later, I got another automated call saying she had been found.)  If I had followed my usual practice of hanging up on automated calls, I would have missed this one — as well as any other such calls warning me of, say, a dangerous criminal on the loose or a toxic release in my neighborhood.

As for Direct TV: I’ve gotten two automated telemarketing calls from Direct TV in the last couple of weeks, despite the fact that (1) I am on the do not call list, and (2) I have never been a customer of theirs. This is a violation of the laws creating the do not call list, as well as being really annoying.

I went online and, with some digging, found a way to email the president of the company yesterday.  The good news is that I got a follow-up call from the office of the company’s president today. The bad news is that they kept saying they would take my number off their list. Good; I’m pleasantly surprised that they were so responsive.

But I kept repeating that it’s not just me, it’s anyone on the do not call list.  The guy I talked to suggested that this is a third party working on their behalf. I repeated that this is illegal.

What you can do:  if you get a call from them, here’s the webpage that allows you to complain to the office of their president:

Maybe they need to get a flurry of complaints to convince them that mine is not an isolated incident (which it can’t be — why would they pick on me?).

The calls are automated and clearly expect a person to answer the phone; they don’t even leave a contact number. The first call, I answered, and stayed on the line to find out what company it was so I could complain.  They say, select 1 to talk to a rep; 9  ‘if we have reached you in error.’  I punched 9; they called again. Second call was left on my answering machine, making it particularly silly — if I had wanted to buy what they were selling, they left no callback number, expecting me to have been there to punch 1.

Palin’s Banned Books List

I try to stay politically non-partisan here (thought I don’t always succeed).  When I read today that Palin had tried to get a school librarian fired for refusing to remove books from the library, though, I got interested.  The American Library Association has always, as a policy, resisted such interference in library matters.  And usually the books that people want to ban are books that others think young people should have access to.

Here’s part of the NY Times’ account:

Shortly after becoming mayor, former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.

Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Ms. Kilkenny said.

The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to “resist all efforts at censorship,” Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. Ms. Emmons, who left her job and Wasilla a couple of years later, declined to comment for this article.

In 1996, Ms. Palin suggested to the local paper, The Frontiersman, that the conversations about banning books were “rhetorical.”

Appropriating Technology: Montana golf

Montana Golf

Originally uploaded by NVH

Adapting technology to conditions.

Outside Wisdom, in the Big Hole Valley. This isn’t the rough; it’s the putting green. Seems to be an improvised “course” with a number of holes and maybe a couple of dozen people on the course on a Saturday, an hour from anywhere, two hours from Butte. Using pickups and ATVs to carry clubs.