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.
- 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. [survata]
- Replacing the DVR means you lose your shows – The technician that fixing my cable service today saw my old box and said he would upgrade me to a new one as part of the fix. I didn’t have much of a choice. The shows live on the hard drive of the box, and they can’t open up the box and switch out the hard drives. Technologically this is very, very possible, but it seems that Motorola specifically didn’t build the boxes to allow for it as a hot-plugable drives would be fairly easy. My guess is that they were worried people would start using the drives with other hardware than their own, download them, and share them over the Internet.
- There is a “black” HD DVR with double the hard drive space… – I asked if the new box I’d be getting would have more space. It’s been four years. The 500GB hard drive that was probably $150 at the time could easily be replaced with a 2TB hard drive, for a cost of around $80 – probably much less with a bulk purchase. The technician mentioned that there’s a “black” HD DVR with double the hard drive space. I asked how I go about getting one and what the upgrade fee would be. He said that you just had to be lucky, its the same cost as the other DVR. I don’t understand the model. It is like buying an iPhone and getting either a 8GB or a 16GB version at random.
- You can’t buy a cable box (sort of) – I don’t know if this is really true. I’m still trying to figure it out. I thought there was legislation that made it a requirement for cable operators to sell the boxes instead of renting them. I spent some time searching the web today and I couldn’t find a way to buy a cable box. Mostly people in forums were asking and the answers were that you could try to buy one Ebay, but it most likely stolen and the cable company wouldn’t activate it. The cable companies don’t sell the boxes. The technician mentioned that I could get a Tivo and use a CableCard. That would lock me into Tivo fees though. I bet I’d be giving up the On Demand feature and possibly others. From a technical standpoint, the hardware on the box is probably less than $100 and there is a lot of free DVR software out there. We are paying $192 a year, which adds up.
- You can buy a cable modem – You can buy them on Amazon – Motorola Surfboard SB5101 Cable Modem. The $50 investment will pay for itself in about 6 months. It’s one the best, fastest moves you can make to save some easy money. I can’t figure out why I can purchase a cable modem, but not a cable box.
- Comcast will have be experiencing Sun Outages soon – While I was waiting to tell Comcast my problem with the service, a recording mentioned that there are planned solar outages. Turns out that twice a year there’s a solar phenomenon that impacts the satellites and causes brief outages for brief periods – 15 minutes or so. This struck me as odd because Comcast is a cable service not satellite. However, in thinking about it in more detail, the stations are routinely broadcast by satellite. This is more of a “huh… I didn’t know that” secret… and it’s not just a Comcast phenomenon. [/survata]
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”.