6 Comcast Secrets… Some of Them Dirty

A week ago, I stopped receiving some of the channels that I pay for on Comcast. The local affiliates for NBC and CVS showed a status code of “S0a00.” The “fix” was to unplug the HD DVR box and plug it back in. Essentially this is rebooting the operating system. I’m technology-minded, makes sense. The same problem occurred yesterday. This time rebooting the system didn’t fix things. This lead me down the rabbit hole to explore a number of things regarding Comcast and my cable service.

  1. There is a secret diagnostics mode – There’s a secret diagnostics mode on the cable box. If you are watching television, press power and then ok/select three times fast. You’ll get a white screen with a number of options. The fourth option for me was the Inband Status. From there I could get the value for “SNR” (Signal to Noise Ratio). From the channels that weren’t comming in the reading was 27 dB. On the good ones it was 33. You want a range between 33 and 37.

The research about not being able to buy a cable box, lead me to do quite a bit of research… actually a lot of research. In the next couple of weeks, I will likely expand on this in greater detail. That’s if I have the “Moxi”.

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  1. The “black” HD DVR story sounds so ludicrous but so Comcast (and every other cable company), so many have local monopolies that they don’t give a crap. In Baltimore, Comcast basically has a monopoly and they pay the city for it. You can have Comcast or Directv (since it’s a satellite) or you can go screw yourself.

  2. I’m under the impression that the legislation about cable boxes was that the cable companies had to provide a cable card for you to use with the box of your choice. I’m certainly not an expert, though.

    Why are cable modems easier to find than cable boxes? I’m guessing they don’t have as much proprietary technology as cable boxes (scrambling and such). The cable modems don’t have to deal with any issues related to content (say, ability to order/deliver PPV), but just need to serve up the raw bandwidth.

    Suck about not being able to transfer data from old DVR to new. There really should be a way to do this. If not with swappable drives, with some sort of transfer box connected to the old and new box.

  3. Jim, I’m going to look into AT&T Uverse to see if it’s a better deal. I’m not expecting it to be that much different or better.

    Kosmo,

    I think we are talking about two separate legislations. I seem to remember something back in the 90s about being able to purchase your cable equipment box. The CableCard is a relatively recent development (last 5 years or so).

    The CableCard should be the equalizer between cable modems and cable boxes. I should be able to buy a cable box that is just the processor, hard drive, etc. I should be able to download whichever software the cable company uses to it (Comcast’s will differ from Cox’s I’m guessing). The software should have a one-time charge like many PVR software packages… or be free like Myth TV. Then it should be a doorstop until I put the CableCard which solves the scrambling and such (as it does with say Tivo). That’s where I was going to go with a follow-up article.

    Of course people who want to continue to rent should have the option to do so.

  4. A while back I was looking into purchase of Comcast equipment. I gave up when I couldn’t find anything. So far as I know, you can’t hack the box nor purchase the box. I believe the same rules apply for fios, which I switched over to via Verizon. The whole system is simply so awful (i.e. the content delivery). However, at least there is competition in my neighborhood now – Comcast, Verizon, DTV, DISH, etc.

  5. He said he would have if he had any with him. They are in short supply and run out quickly it seems. I think I will head down to the office and see if I can get put on a waiting list.

  6. The “black” DVR they refer to is one of the Motorola DCX-3400 series boxes. Comcast does have them but they are VERY difficult to get.

  7. Yep, that’s my research told me too. I went to the office today and they said there was a 5 month waiting list. They said they wouldn’t even put my name on it.

  8. DISH Network is a better company all the way around. DISH Network is the leader in DVR, HD, and TV everywhere! I work for DISH Network and can tell you when you sign up for DISH you can get up to three HD receivers for free and HD free for life! DISH has extraordinary DVR’s that won Editors choice Award from PC Magazine and CNET. Our DVR’s have a 30-second skip capability and our 922 can record up to 100 hours of HD programming. Come check this out http://www.dish.com.

  9. There have been 2 bills passed in the last 15 years that are in regards to the cable boxes. The telecommunications act of 1996 stated that cable companies (as well as satellite/dish providers) must offer their boxes for purchase at MSRP. So, the telecom companies went right out and talked to the providers and made it a condition of using their products, the MSRP has to be unbelievably high. So Comcast for example, uses a specific model, and it gets it for $100 for 1,000 units. The MSRP is $899 dollars for that unit from the manufacturer. The reason is if you want to purchase the box, you have to pay the $899, or if comcast is being generous, they will sell it to you for $699. They control the content by requiring the box to be registered on their network to work, and for you to pay for the “digital” signal which you can unlock when you pay for it.

    The second bill was passed in 2006, which requires cable manufacturers (not dish/satellite) to provide for a resonable cost, a cable card which can be plugged into a TV or other devices which will allow you to replace “the box” from the cable company with your own box. What happened right away, the cable companies went out and started forcing TV manufacturers to quit making TVs with cable card slots in them (I don’t know what leverage the cable companies had, but they used it). You can still find a TV manufacturer that makes TVs with cable card slots in them – but it is usually the higest model for several hundred of dollars higer than a normal TV of similar value/quality/specs.

    So all that being said, I have a couple points for your points. Anytime you rent something (DVR, apartment, employement, etc.) it can be taken away from you at any given time, without you signing an iron clad contract. Most people don’t sign contracts with their cable companies, they provide a service, and here on their webpage is their terms of service. You don’t like it, tough. Secondly, I mentioned how you can buy a cable box, it is just not really feasible or likely. Third, Cable Modems come from IEEE specifications, so do *DSL modems. They are international standards and as such – anyone can make a product that follows with those specifications, it can be sold outside any external entities influence. The kicker is, you have to register it on their network, and cable/DSL providers are sticky as heck about, and usually charge large fees to hook up other people’s equipement.

    Just some random thoughts.

  10. Thanks for the comments Big – D. There’s a lot great information here.

    I have not seen a place where I can buy the Comcast box. Perhaps later today, I’ll them up and ask to buy the box. I’ve seen the boxes sold on Ebay, so theoretically, it should be legal for me to buy them and Comcast would have to activate it on its network. Otherwise, I think Comcast would be in violation of many consumer laws. I’m not an expert on this and I’m not a lawyer, but it seems like price-fixing (or something related to it) to require that I buy a product only from them to use the service.

    I tried to find the MSRP of Motorola boxes in general and couldn’t find them. Perhaps someone could find a listing and show me. The act in 1996 is pretty disingenuous if it allows companies to set MSRPs absurdly high. There are low-end computers that are much more capable for 1/3rd the price. Grrrr…

    As for the renting of something and being able to take it away, I think Comcast would have to terminate the service agreement first like employment, apartment, etc. Comcast wasn’t terminating my agreement. They took away content of which I pay a premium price to retain. It doesn’t sounds like that could be a sticky situation if legally challenged.

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  13. Another secret….some cable companies offer free IR extenders if you ask for them. An IR extender is a little device that allows you to hide your set top box in another room and only have a little tiny “eye” that picks up the signal from your remote in your living room.

    Really declutters your living space, not to mention can save you a couple hundred bucks on a fancy component rack (assuming you can just put the set top box on something cheap in your closet).

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  15. Just got off a heated discussion with Comcast. they are requiring all TVs to have a black box or lose channels 25-72. Leaving me with the main networks, QVC, C Span I&II, and the religions channel with the creepy guy with a beard imploring me to plant my “seed of faith.”

    I have the works set up on my main TV, however I have just the basics on the TVs around the house. Here’s my beef… in addition to having to buy surge strips as the new box requires a plug, I also will loose the free HD ABC NBC CBS FOX PBS that I get. I questioned the legality of this as these are not their channels. They said I could buy AV switches. I again questioned the legality of this and they offered free AV switches. Here’s the BS I now have to get behind the TVs to switch to HD then if I wan to watch a different station I have to go and hit the switch again.

    I don’t like the inconvenience; but blocking signals that they do not own, seems like an illegal and monopolistic practice.

    Another thing they said was it was a law that all TVs had to have this box. I asked what law? They said contact the gov. Really? Sounds like bad to worse.

    It would make my day to see them in a Class Action suit, in fact, it would be Comcastic.

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  17. Yes it is true they do have black boxes that hold more DVR space. They are in the process of being rolled out and will become the only boexs available. They are called the RNG 150 and 200. Not everyone has them now because they are new and it isn’t possible for every single customer since DVR was invented to have the box. You get the boxes at random because of the highly limited inventory. They will be more available shortly. Yes you are welcome to purchase your own modem as well, but only for internet. If you have a phone service that is also being run through your cable modem, good luck buying your own. Some customers can use a EMTA modem for Comcast phone, some can’t. Why is that? Not even employees know.

    Don’t buy an after market cable box. We won’t let you use it. Serial numbers for cable boxes are attached to accounts and are distributed by corporation area. The county I live in alone has 3 corporation areas. So, it just isn’t going to fly.

    The Cisco/SA and Motorola design the DVRs and no the data is not transferable. Not a Comcast rule, that ties into media legislation. Try xfinitytv.com you have a DVR function there. Save stuff you must have.

    The “secret diagnostic mode” yep if your SNR is low that means you have sound interference on your cable lines. This can cause outages, pixelation, tiling, loss of service all together. We can see that too. Your knowing that doesn’t help. Just tell us what the issue is and we can tell what’s going on from the office.

    Solar outages are true as well. Yes we bring you broadcasting through coaxial cable, but 99% of programming IS transmitted via satellite to hubs, to headends, to lines, to your home. Why is this different from satellite? because when it rains coax cable still works. It is more consistent in many regards than satellite bouncing in some regards. Not here to shove opinion back and forth.

    Also regarding the DTAs that all customers need to have on their TVs now. Ok consumer here is why that is being required. First it is 2012!!! Technology is changing and being broadcast in all digital and soon to be in all high definition! Just because you have a high definition TV, doesn’t mean you can just automatically get the programming JUST through coaxial cable any more. Remember the government gave out coupons a few years ago to give you equipment to allow you get channels so people who still use antennas (for pete’s sake). The reason why the government offered those is because it became a requirement for stations to not broadcast on microwave frequency anymore and to broadcast digitally. Why did they do this? So more frequency would be available for emergency workers and government use. So Comcast offers up to 3 pieces of equipment (in most cases) FOR FREE for people who do not have cable boxes to watch their TV. For the people who are fighting this… REALLY? You are too cheap or too ignorant to pay for digital cable, so you want to trip about putting a FREE box on your TV? Really?

    Also, people that want to complain about cable rates. Digital Starter or full basic runs about $61 a month depending on the area. That is 2 bucks a day and most people have their TVs on for 3+ hours a day! We all know the cost to go see a 3 hour long movie! You are looking at least $30 to see a movie where you can watch all the movies and shows you want for $2 a day. At the end of the day, that isn’t that expensive. Turn off your TVs for a week and see if that $2 a day suddenly becomes more affordable.

  18. Thanks ComcastEmployee,

    It’s sad to see that even a year after I posted the article, the new black boxes aren’t being offered everywhere. I understand that Comcast is huge with millions and millions of customers so it is A LOT of boxes, but most people just want a bigger hard drive. The boxes should be designed in a modular way to make the drive swappable. The new black boxes are already low on the storage space front.

    As for using a phone service through a modem, I’ve got no problems with my Ooma. I bought the hardware once for $150 and only pay $2 a month in regulatory fees and taxes since. I’ve had it for a year, so I’ve saved money from my Vonage account and what I would have paid Comcast for the service. And by having my own modem, I don’t pay that rental fee either.

    I realize that it is a media legislation issue with data transfer, but that’s not entirely true. I have a CableCard now for my HDHomeRun Prime on a Windows 7 Dell Zino and I’m able to get all the channels and I can transfer it depending on the DRM copy flags. Any legislation should apply to my conglomerate of approved hardware just the same as a Motorola box.

    The Comcast employee couldn’t see the SNR without me entering the codes. This only happened after I made a complaint. It would have been helpful for me to see that I had sound interference on my lines. I would have complained about it earlier rather than just chalking it up to a bad day or something like that.

    I only included the solar outages because I thought that was interesting. I’m guessing the average person hears about a solar outage with their “cable” company and is thinking, “WTF?” It makes sense with a longer explanation, but that is often lacking.

    I don’t remember about mentioning anything about DTAs. Since I like to get the latest technology and write about it, I hope my readers are not impacted by that. HDTVs with a Mohu Leaf should be all that a consumer needs for great broadcast TV. HDTVs are much cheaper now than when I wrote this article a year ago. Stores are almost giving them away.

    Re: Cable prices. Most people watching their TVs for 3+ hours a day are watching broadcast channel that can be had for free. That’s got to be around 75% of the television that is watched today (we could compare ratings from NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, CW, PBS, etc. vs. the other cable channels combined to get a good number). So the average person gets an average of around 16 hours a week of their television entertainment (assuming 21 hours of television a day and 75% of it being major broadcast networks) met with a one-time $40-50 Mohu Leaf. What is annoying to consumers is that to get the last 25% of programming that they want, they need to pay $732 a year ($61 x 12). How does that look like a good value in comparison to what people get with no service contract?

    Comparing the movie theater experience to television at home is like comparing going to a nice restaurant to cooking at home. It’s very different and isn’t a good comparison. More and more people are realizing that switching to broadcast television, supplemented with Internet entertainment means that they don’t have to turn off their TVs for a week to notice that they don’t need cable.

  19. @ Dishnetwork guy, Comcast’s
    dvr has a 30sec skip forward function too. You just have to reprogram one of the remote controls button to do it. (I reprogrammed the stop button like the tutorial I read suggested but I highly reccomend doing it to a dif button as I very much miss my stop button, lol

    btw: you can swap hdds in most of comcasts dvr’s but I’m sure comcast would highly frown upon it. I have one of the black dcx3400’s. I had to make two trips to the office before they had one available. It came with a 320gb hdd (as compared to 160gb in the silver dvr box it replaced). I opened it up and replaced the 320gb with a 500gb western digital I had laying around and it works great. (I can tell it reconizes the extra space by checking the diagnostic menu). I believe it can handle up to 1TB drive with no mods but I already had the 500gb & hdds are not cheap anymore these days.
    As another note when I first spoke with a comcast rep about getting a dvr with a larger hdd I was told that I could get the dcx3400 with a 500gb drive (instead of the (340gb drive) but it is only avail with the any-room dvr service which costs $10 more a month. I consider that a rip-off!
    btw: the dcx3400 has a plastic security tab that has to be broken in order to open it and replace the drive. I believe these may be sold on ebay

  20. You can not buy a cable box to use with your Comcast service. The serial number on the box is what makes all your premium channels work or not work depending on what you pay for. There is no way around it. Aside from that, your account works off of codes. Comcast has a code for a customer owned modem or a leased modem. Even if you have purchased your own modem, Comcast must track the make, model, and mac number of the modem in order for it to operate. For example, if you went out and purchased a modem and connected it, it would not work or activate to your account until 1)the account codes were changed 2) you provided Comcast the required info.
    As far as the black DVR, your best chance to get one is to request it by mail or to keep checking at your local payment centers for its availability. The hard drive is only a tad bigger, not doubled the amount of space. The reasoning that most techs don’t have them on the trucks during a routine service call or install is because they are reserved for 1)Anyroom DVR subscribers, 2)The local warehouses just don’t keep enough in stock to go around.
    As far as your error codes, most likely is some sort of signal problem. Things to check before you call a technician out are to make sure that all of your connectors are finger tightend to both the equipment and the wallplates. Check your splitters for the same thing, and if you come across any gold splitters in your home anywhere… Go out and spend the extra money for the best one you can buy. The gold splitters are usually rated at 900Mhz, which will wreak havoc on your digital carriers (knocking out all of your services intermittently) All of the above mentioned will save you a service call charge, unless you subscribe to the Inside Wire plan (which i recommend if the wires in your house have not been updated in the last 5 or 6 years.) Hope that answers some of your questions!

  21. I have purchased a box. It’s a discontinued model of digital box but I can use it as a digital box. It also has a dvd built in and an fm tuner. It also has a built it surround sound system. This unit cost me $300.00 . When I got it I called comcast to put it in and at first they did not want to but I kept on persisting until I got on with an manager and he put in for me and it works great and I don’t pay a monthly fee. So there you can purchase your own box cause i did.

  22. The only guaranteed way to obtain the new DVR (DCX 3400) is to request SIK (self install kit via mail). These devices are not mailed from local payment centers but from one of the distribution centers throughout the country. They only have brand new equipment.

    As far as purchasing a cable box, Comcast will not sell anyone a cable box. In the event you are able to purchase one, you are being scammed. How so? Simple. The person who is selling or sold it once leased the device from Comcast and never returned it. Therefore, he/she was subject to unreturned equipment fees. Once you pay the individual for the equipment and you call in to have it registered, the cable box has a serial # that will pull up the account it was originally registered to. At that time, you are informed (or should be) that you will need to take it to your local payment office to have it unregistered from it’s previous account and registered to yours (@ this point, the seller is no longer responsible for the unreturned equipment because it has been removed from his/her account and has your money as well). And guess what? Since Comcast never sold that device, its still Comcast’s property. Once you add it your account, you are financially responsible for it in the event you fail to return it after disconnecting your services. Why? Once again, Comcast never sold the device.

    Another reason Comcast doesn’t sell its cable boxes….in the event the cable box goes bad and needs to be replaced, a TC (trouble call) is assigned to a tech who comes to replace (no charge). Anything outside of Comcast equipment would be subject to a TC fee (BTW, splitters, coax cable, AB switches, HDMI cables, component cables are not considered Comcast equipment once installed….they can easily be replaced @ any local retail provider.)

    In regards to using digital adapters (DTA), these devices were designed to allow customers to access basic and expanded basic channels only (no VOD, PPV, or channels above the digital starter lineup – pretty much the same channels you got when you connected the coax from the wall directly to the tv prior to the digital migration.) Comcast didn’t force any consumer to utilize the device. Every customer has the option to obtain the digital converter that was provided by the government to access OVER-THE-AIR channels or purchase a new TV that has a quam tuner. However, if you choose to connect a DTA to an HDTV to access channels that are not considered OVER-THE-AIR channels, yes you will lose access to those HD OVER-THE-AIR channels. Unfortunately, @ this time the DTA’s are not HD compatible.

    Hope this info helps

  23. Can I re-activate my MOTOROLA COMCAST digital cable box. It use to work, then after 30 days COMCAST de-activated it. I have basic COMCAST economy cable service of $38.00 per month. Is there a way I can re-activate the cable box with software or through USB port on back of device?
    Any help or suggestions are appreciated.
    Duane

  24. I have a used Motorola digital cable box that I bought from the FLEA MARKET. It did work for 30 days getting channels 2 thru 200. After 30 days the cable box was de-activated from COMCAST. Can I activate it through the hidden menu option?
    Any advice or help is appreciated?
    I have a Motorola DCT 2000 Model.
    Duane

  25. I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog site that’s both educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding ; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this.

  26. I lost my husband of 16 yrs, then lost my job, unemployed for 2 & 1/2 yrs, then my home I had since 1990 (thanks Obama)When they took my home & we moved (we were homeless) into the basement of a friend. We returned the 2 cable box’s I was renting. But realized we had 2 other cable box’s (kids to young to have stolen them)When my parents stepped in & helped us get a roof over our head, paying for heat, rent, water & food was more important than paying for cable. Then after being in this house, that had cable with the previous owners. I remembered those 2 cable boxes. One is in the living room with our HDTV and works fine, getting all channels 2-271 or so. The other cable box is in my bedroom with an analog tv, it gets channels 2-18, 69-117. Both Working fine for over a year with no problem & not paying for cable. Then last week, the tv (analog) in my bed room stopped working. I mean something isn’t working. The cable light is On,& the tv is on, but no picture. If I push the channels button, I can see what is supposed to be playing on tv. You know the Tv guide shows up. But no picture. Tv in the living room works. What might be the problem? Is it the box? the tv? & if it is the box, can i get another one to replace it & have it work since the one in the living room STILL works?

  27. I would appreciate some good advice on this situation.Put husband through 8 years of law school, he only pays $125 Per son in support. and doesn’t even see the kids cuz he is to busy with his new younger wife. He keeps my chin high in court, where i have to defend myself with no lawyer & my High school education doesn’t allow me to make more than minimum wage to be the sole supporter of my 4 young sons. Waking up at 6am every morning and watching “Funniest Home Videos” on channel 6, with the boys before work & school every day, has been the only thing we had to bring laughter into our lives, it made us feel rich. Thank you kindly,
    Poor mom of 4 sons, rich in laughter.

  28. PS
    Comcast doesn’t know that I live here, home under family members name, not mine. The box in bedroom is under my aunts name (she died 2008) and other box in the living room, was under her sons name & he past away Aug 2011. After clearing his home out, is how we acquired the box’s.

  29. I remember back in the day when home phones where in every house. Bell Telephone tried to monopolize on there phones and would not allow any other phone to be hooked to their service. Then in the 70’s or 80’s legislation was passed stopping Bell and allowing anything to be connected to their lines inside your own home. I know for a fact this has passed onto cable and internet. if Comcast refuses to allow you to use your own equipment they are in violation. So we should be able to use anything we so desire as long as it is equipped to accept the standarized signal, I think this is where they are monopolizing the system.
    Recently within the last month my 32″ Dell tv/monitor which is a little older has stopped reciving cable signal and there is a message stating that I need to contact my cable provider which I might add is brodcasted over the cable lines. I also have a newer Samsung in the living room without a cable box that has no issues. The Dell is a digital reciving tv, I do not want a box since it is in my bedroom and don’t use one now. This is all about money and ways to own the subscriber. I use a computer in my bedroom also to stream channels online like hulu, netflix, and justin tv on the Dell. Streaming is the way to go for me, the basic cable is crap. I don’t speak or understand foriegn languages but have seven out of twenty channels of it. I just use it to watch the news. My next thing is to get a cable card for the computer but fear that it will happen with that also. Any suggetions on what specs to look for and what my rights are as a consumer. if they are violated I would like to help with a class action suit, and to the cable guy no I don’t want to pay for things I don’t need. Would you like ketup on your steak cause thats the only way we serve it oh’ and it will cost you extra.

  30. JL –

    What is required is that cable companies have to provide a method for you to get access to their encrypted cable. This is with the Cable Card device which you can rent for $10 a month from any provider (FCC mandated). Basically the Cable Card is a device that has a standard connection and can be used in any device that has a cable card slot. The problem is that manufacturers determined that people did not want to rent the cable card, and quit making devices with them in it. As such, they have effectively died on the vine.

    As for the encryption. There a cable company can encrypt all their channels (as of 10-18-2012) however they want as per the FCC. This is to stop theft. This means that even that basic cable that was available via QAM (unencrypted) cable service now are encrypted. I don’t consider this a bad thing, but for sure people will now have to pay for something they should have been paying for before. Cable is a service and when cable providers price them out of the market, they will suffer.

    I don’t have cable anymore. I did for years, but once I started having to pay for my HD channels, pay for boxes for each of my 2 TVs, pay for a DVR, and then pay for the service itself, it was just too much. I use Over-The-Air and have not looked back. I miss Monday Night Football and Mythbusters. That is all.

    People are not entitled to cable, they pay for a service. When the service gets to be too much, people need to vote with the wallets and move to other methods to get what they want. If it is worth 200 bucks a month for entertainment to you, then more power to you. I don’t find that much value in it, so I don’t pay it.

  31. The black box would be the DCX 3400 I got upgrade free of charge by my local guy and his other worker wore fixing some issues. He said they had to swap it with it since that’s all he had but that it’s much better. Also got the new modem 3 months before they started mass upgrading. Also we just moved and they UPSed me the successor to the dcx3400 the dcx3400m with a 500gb hard which almost double the previous black box one. It also comes with hd coax hdmi cord and the new hd remote.

  32. My name I TC and I have a small Comcast box ,it be longed to my nephew ,and when he switched ove to at&t , my box of course got turn off , is there a way to over rightit so it will pick up on the Digital code of the box

  33. Comcast is now charging way more for the dvr boxes than before. My mom read you can buy them for $150 now but I can’t find that anywhere online to know if that’s true. Does anyone know about that? The price went up so much we are getting rid of most of our boxes now! I guess they want less customers who will pay more than more customers. :( Sad but when the price gets so ridiculously high we can’t pay then we won’t. The only reason we still have Comcast is because our main business is out of our home so we use the internet/phone. But it’s looking more like the $7 netflix account is better and the $ hundreds of dollars Comcast bill is going bye bye.

  34. I know of no $150 box that you can buy from Comcast. Unless it really is from them, don’t buy it. It is probably illegal.

  35. Hmmm, this is an older article, maybe they’ve updated the boxes since then? I don’t have Comcast or a cable box any more so I can’t really test for you.

  36. Hi!

    Comcast upgraded us from three of the legacy (grey) DVR to the X1 (black DVR) hubs (@500GB each). Honestly, the X1 has yet to work correctly and we’ve had it for 58 days. Currently I’m tracking around 23 tickets covering various issue and have 11 suggestions submitted to Comcast.

    Some of the issues:

    1) I’ll have scheduled recordings simply (A) not start, (B) start but late (some times as much as 54 minutes late for a 60 minute program), or (C) say they’re recording, but then never show up in the recording list after finishing.

    2) OnDemand comes back with multiple errors and even with power cycles, signals, etc it doesn’t work for days on end. Given issue #1, if I miss a program I can’t even see it via OnDemand.

    3) Items on the Priority Manager list will go from being there to being “Not Available.” The message say it is temporary, but is 11 days and counting temporary to you?

    4) Closed captioning for the hearing impaired stops and starts with no rhythm or reason. One home tech person said Comcast does not support Closed Captioning on the X1, period.

    5) The X1 costs $2 per unit more than the grey box, which is fine when it works. Yet I have yet to see it work 100% even for one day.

    6) I’m seeing X1 boxes not on my account and am able to delete and erase recordings from those X1 boxes. I’m also noticing I have recordings moving from the recorded list to the delete list without anyone here doing it. Thus far we’re guessing:

    A) Someone or something (a program) at the server level is playing around.
    B) Another home with two X1 DVR units is able to see our units and we can see their units. OR
    C) Someone hacked into the cable and is playing around with our X1 units.

    Whatever the reason, we’re seeing recordings move around without anyone here doing it.

    7) The Fast Forward, Rewind, Play, and Pause buttons don’t always work or work slow. I’ll do a FF and then a Play, but the X1 continues the FF to the end of the program (e.g. FF @ 5 minutes and FF ends only after hitting the end at 60 minutes.). The same happens with the Rewind going all the way to be beginning. I’ll press the pause part of the play/pause button and the pause won’t go into effect for up to 10 seconds.

    There are other issues, but these are just a sample of the ones I’ve been seeing for quite awhile.

    Per the home techs each of the X1 hubs has it own Internet Modem. I’m wondering about X1 hackers … do they exist yet, will they exist, etc? Given my recordings simply are disappearing, maybe its hacking by a 12 year old neighbor kid . . . I honestly don’t know.

    I hear the X2 is coming and it is even more cloud based then the X1. I hope it means more security and reliability than the X1.

  37. Yikes that’s a nightmare, PrisonGuy! I don’t like cloudbased DVR, because it locks you into monthly fees for paying for a hard drive.

  38. Lazy Man wrote
    > Yikes that’s a nightmare, PrisonGuy! I don’t like cloudbased DVR, because
    > it locks you into monthly fees for paying for a hard drive.

    Just FYI: Comcast employees has been telling me is the X2 doesn’t have a local hard drive, but you get 1 GB of cloud space to hold the videos you are saving. I’m not sure if this is 1 GB per account or 1 GB per X2.

    What bothers me the most with a cloud based DVR is the latency and lack of FREEZE FRAME support. In this household we used on the Comcast grey boxes the freeze frame a lot! Where / How / Why?

    — Sports: Freeze frame is great for many sporting events. Not only do you get to look at the action yourself, but you can look at it as a ref would during say a video call (e.g. US football).

    — Fashion: OK, I admit I’m a sneaker head! I used to use freeze frame and its advance frame by frame to look at sneakers. The X1 DVR has several issues in this regards, such as:

    1) The pause button won’t pause immediately 100% of the time. I’ve found many times I have to wait 3 to 10 seconds before it takes effect.
    2) Some times when I use the pause button in combination with FF and REW to try to get the X1 to pause at the correct play, the X1 will freeze or reboot or start acting funny requiring a reboot. By acting funny, I mean when trying to start a recording, the DVR page will come up and hang. I’ve seen where the NBC logo will come up on the box and never leave till you reboot.

    — Wiki / Reviews / ETC: I’m active on TV.com and other sites (e.g. various wiki) that deal with TV series. I used Freeze Frame and its advance frame by frame to:

    1) Find continuity issues in program.
    2) Step through the ending credits (also give the X1 pause issues because of the cloud)
    3) Other reasons …

    BOTTOM LINE: Cloud for data is OK! Cloud for CONTROL is NOT OK.

    I used to work for Cray Research, Inc and this entire cloud technology reminds me of issues we had when creating UNICOS (Cray’s version of UNIX). Cray super computers weren’t meant to be interactive, but by going to UNIX the computer allow users to run interactive commands, such as “vi” (an editor).

    This created issues because Crays supported swapping and not paging (as most UNIX based computers at the time supported). Thus when an user pressed a key while using vi, the Cray would have to roll in the user’s entire address space.

    We solved the problem by coming up with a foreground processor. Comcast could do the same by buffering data in the X1 (or X2) and then allowing the local machine to perform functions without always communicating with the cloud (server).

    Anyway, I’m sure in time Comcast will learn what it took Cray years to learn. I just wish people would realize you can learn good stuff from mainframes, as many of the things they’re trying to do TODAY we were doing back in the 1980 — SUCH as clouds.

  39. Great conversation, PrisonGuy. I could see them putting a small amount of local storage for a short-term buffer. I could also see them saying that your use of freeze frame is an edge case that they aren’t interested in serving. I don’t think enough people will complain about it to get their attention.

    I think the cloud has limited benefit when it comes to DVR. If you put in good place-shifting like SlingBox and good local storage, you meet the needs of most people. Unfortunately, for business reasons, cable companies are going to push the cloud DVR on consumers. The business reasons are to lock people in and tie people to monthly subscriptions. As I once wrote, I have paid Comcast $2000+ in DVR fees over ten years. They’ve improved the software a little bit, but in general they’ve rented me a 250MB hard drive to me for much of this time. If all my content is saved up Comcast’s cloud it makes it more difficult for me to leave.

    Today, I have my content saved in my Microsoft Media Center with HDHomerun Prime that takes any CableCard. It meant that I didn’t lose any content when I moved across country and switched to Cox Communications. It really is how the system should work, but it’s a little more difficult as you have to manage a full-blown Windows PC… and Microsoft charges more for Windows Media Center in Windows 8, where it was free with Windows 7.

  40. well my comcast explorer box cable just ubruptly shut off as it should have as i have stopped paying but it seems wierd as i still have my internet through them as you can see now…i hope it lasts. cheers!

  41. Sorry to say but most of your comments are of no use and they are not secrets its all public info u can find rite on any Comcast site but keep trying

  42. HMM. I refurbish cable boxes for a living. I could help if you needed it, but I think you’ll be a bit frustrated. Btw, cable boxes come with a multitude of identificatiin features. You can buy a box… Cancel service and they’ll charge you 500 bucks. Make sure you get one with a cable card.. that is the key to service. Also, cable companies want to profit roughly 10k per box. Motorola makes tpr most common ones, and trust me, tbsp are pretty easy to fix. The common problems vary between different boxes. DVR devices are garbage. I recommend a VCR with a timer. Good luck on your quest. Send me model numbers, unit addresses, host serial numbers, and mcard unit addresses if you have questions.

  43. You should also know that the U22 chip inside the dcx3400 boxes is worth about $12, labor for replacing the et also costs about 12 bucks. It is the chip with the heat sink right above. That chip is responsible for power, a/d conversions, hdmi output problems, sound and more. I guess my point is, don’t overpay for the box. It really isn’t worth it, and just because the box is in high demand doesn’t make it worth a damned. If you do get one, it has either been refurbished or it will get refurbished. If any of the problems are from that chip, I put flux on, take the heat gun at 830 and reflow the chip back on with pressure from a nut driver. Seriously? Where is that 10k going.? They rental fee for the boxes pays for one repair/month. Don’t get suckered in. Not worth it.

  44. In reference to “Comcast will have be experiencing Sun Outages soon”, can how come cable experience these? All providers (Viacom, Fox, Disey, Scripps, etc) deliver their feeds via satellite, which in turn are downloaded in Denver, CO, and then uplinked back again for distribution to local headends, the cable portion is from your local headend to a node near your home.

  45. The secret I want to know, which the call centre reps don’t or I would because I have connections, is the secret to going straight to a rep or the secret way to force yourself off hold from the consumer end.

  46. Funny how in America the internet prices stinks and the service and speeds sucks balls and yet we tell other countries what to do… here at home basic shit is broken! Monopoly = Comcast…

    After a 4 day power outtage, they unregistered my modem and now are having a hella of a time trying to get it back on line, the most retarded company ever!!!!

  47. I have the newer X5 remote. Since I have received the newer STB and remote I can not get the diagnostic menu. I can get the configuration menu, but not the menu I need to check.

    Any help would be appreciated,

    Gene