TWC staff: You need a Digital Cable Adapter for everything.

To expand a bit more on my interaction with TWC staff yesterday: Late yesterday afternoon, while running errands, I stopped at the Time Warner Cable office in Augusta to inquire and (if they had them) pick up two Digital Cable Adapter boxes. There were some banners on display about the digital conversion and they had a temporary table setup to right hand side as you come in, with two computer stations and two staff members dedicated to customers coming in about the Digital Cable Conversion. Behind the table were a stack of boxes with the adapters. They asked me how many TVs I had and I said I was just going to pick up two adapters for my analog DVR & DVDR. Both staff members said that everybody needs a Digital Cable Adapter per TV set. I replied asking: Even if I have modern HDTVs with a digital tuner and I already get some digital channels, I will really need on of those boxes? For every TV? They said: Yes, you need an adapter per TV, no matter which tuner it has. They insisted that unless you have one of their big (higher tier) Digital Cable Boxes (pointing to one mounted on the wall behind them) you will no longer get any cable service. Everything that is attached directly to the cable / wall needs an adapter or box. No adapter or box, no cable TV. The guy said Cable TV is going password protected. Etc. Boxes can already be authorized on the network. I was told to call the number in the box from my home phone and follow the automated prompts. There was some positive spin of course, that customers have reported they get better service and a clearer picture, etc. I will try to put that to the test shortly. Stay tuned.

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Digital Cable Adapter – First look

I picked up a couple of Time Warner Digital Cable Adapters this afternoon, so here are a few quick snapshots. I will share more photos at a higher resolution and additional details tomorrow, as I got home late and it is nearly midnight. I think the photos are pretty self explanatory with a few shots of the box cover, content, manual, wall wart, cables. The cables are a coax cable and an IR cable to control your TV. The device is a bit bigger than a credit card and quite small actually. The casing is metal. It feels weighted and robust. The remote is small, basic, cheap … common with inexpensive TVs & the Over The Air antenna boxes. It is capable of being programmed for your TV set. The wall wart is quite big and will take up a considerable spot on your power strip. Depending on your strip it may need three slots. Off note: when I picked up these adapter boxes, I was told, more than once, that anybody without a digital cable box will need one of these adapters per tv. More on that in my next post. To be continued …

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Digital Cable Conversion – The end of analog cable is near

We are one of the ‘lucky’ 90000 people in the central Maine area where Time Warner Cable is launching its pilot program Digital Cable Conversion plan on Oct 18th. It will go statewide and then nationwide later. Through the AVS forum, I learned this is going to be true for Comcast subscribers as well and that apparently they are starting this conversion in Maine as well. I think Brighthouse and other providers probably will follow suit as well. If two major players in the industry do it, more will follow. I learned about this after catching part of little Time Warner Cable ad Tuesday morning, featuring a small cable box that transformed into a flying bot, etc. The TV was muted, so I didn’t catch the audio and I haven’t seen the ad again, to describe in full details. Summary Starting Oct 18th, Cable TV as we know it, is going all-digital, starting with central Maine. Basically, anything with only an analog tuner – older TV, VCR, DVR, DVDR, computer tuner card … – will no longer receive any stations, unless you get the digital cable converter box (( or upgrade to the higher tier digital cable boxes //// or cut cable and go over the air with an antenna and digital antenna box )) and then you still face the hurdle of controlling the channels and programming the devices for recording. Most existing equipment will not know the remote code to transmit a channel change via an IR blaster, if they have one at all. So it is not good for people with lots of money invested in analog recording equipment. You will set your TV or device to channel 3 or 4 and receive cable via the converter box. Consumer opinion / consensus * The consensus so far between a few local affected consumers, based on what we have read & learned, seems to be that: A) Channels 2-24 considered basic cable will be transmitted digitally clear and unencrypted and be receivable with a modern TV with digital tuner, or other device. No digital cable converter box needed, if you have a recent TV with digital tuner. If on the other hand you have an older analog TV, you will need the digital cable converter box. This box is similar to the OTA / Over The Air digital adapter box we learned about a few years ago, but smaller. It needs to be authorized and activated by the cable company and you have to use its remote for your channel functions. The converter box is offered for free, for us, through 2013. Then they will charge 99c/mo rent thereafter, per converter. B) Channels 25-70 considered expanded cable are most likely to be transmitted encrypted and will require the converter box, per device that you wish to view those channels on. So, if you have a QAM HDTV and expanded cable 2-70, you presumably (no confirmation from the cable company here yet) will get basic channels 2-24 unencrypted in…

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Acer Aspire 5570Z vs Vista SP1

The first attempt failed two days ago without error messages or explanation. The Windows Vista SP 1 upgrade went fine all the way through Step 3 100%. Then reverted. Armed with the knowledge that the display driver is incompatible with Vista SP1, I updated the display driver successfully and made another attempt. Now after Step 3 100% it complains that the “installation was not successful” “Windows Service Pack 1 was not installed on your computer. Error code 0X800F0826. See http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=101139 for details. Ok. At least we get an error message this time. The error box links through to: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/947366 – Error message when you try to install Vista SP1 “Installation was not successful” or “An internal error occurred …” and gives some recommendations: 1. Restart and try again. Really? 2. Check your hard drives for errors. 3. Run system file checker tool. Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and was unable to repair some of them. Details are included in the CBS.Log – C:\Windows\Logs\CBS\CBS.log Not bad, if it weren’t that the file is 148626 lines long. 4. Run Vista Memory Diagnostic tool. Error: “Windows cannot check for memory problems” – ” A Problem is preventing Windows from checking for memory problems during startup. Try to check for problems again by running the tool manually. ” Isn’t life great. Another useless MS error box. 5. Restart and close any applications that may be running. Another attempt, despite the corrupt files and memory problems (which never have been diagnosed nor an issue before) did result in the same problem. Interestingly there is a Windows Update error 800f0826 Windows Help article: http://windowshelp.microsoft.com/Windows/en-US/Help/2d96561c-0a7a-492a-b48f-8317cf4f1fde1033.mspx suggesting to look at the update history and trying to resolve the individual update error(s).

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Toshiba Satellite U305 vs Windows Vista SP1 catch 22

The first time I tried the installation, using the standalone downloadable installer, it went all the way through to step 2. Then crashed upon reboot with a blue screen of death (BSOD), was unable to repair the startup problem, but was finally able to do a system restore. My two conversations with Toshiba Technical Support were of no help in identifying the problem I experienced, other than that in the mean time I figured it out on my own. Or, I should say, at least figured out one part of the equasion, namely that the display driver on this machine is not Windows Vista SP1 compatible. The Intel 965 Express driver on the Toshiba Satellite U305-S2804 is v 7.14.10.1329. This versions fits right into the beginning of the range 7.14.10.1322 and 7.14.10.1403 that is incompatible according to Microsoft (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=948343). But, there has to be a newer driver out, right? Using the “Update driver” feature within the device driver window, Vista kindly alerts me that my driver is up to date. Of course this is not surprising me when in the mean time I already looked up that Intel has released several newer versions and is currently at v 7.14.10.1437 (http://www.intel.com/support/graphics/intelgm965/#anchor1) A quick download later, the Intel driver installation alerts me that this driver is not certified for my machine and that I should download the latest version from the manufacturer. Mmmm. Back at Toshiba there is nary a download for the U305. Through a chipset search I find that the latest driver predates my machine’s purchase and matches v 7.14.10.1329. So, no SP1 love right now for this Toshiba notebook. And, of course I have to be the first and only one at this point in time who can’t install SP1 on this particular machine. What are the odds? Update: Toshiba is bumping me to level 3 tech support, advanced engineering since it is a driver/firmware issue and their department will be giving me a call back in the beginning of next week.

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Vista SP1 – Installation Issues and Incompatibilities – Check your drivers

Microsoft is giving me, and countless other people headaches with the Vista Service Pack 1 update. Luckily I haven’t had an inoperable operating system yet, and right now, my personal install score is: 2 failures – 1 success. Since I have a near factory fresh Toshiba laptop on my desk which experienced that BSOD, I gave them a call to see what’s up as their site didn’t tell me anything about Vista issues. I received some bad advice and feel sorry for people that may follow it blindly. No surprise really, and many manufacturer’s may unfortunately say the same thing. Toshiba’s Level 1 advice: a) a program you installed is incompatible, do a factory restore then try again. Sorry, this machine only has an additional browser or two and a card game. b) something you installed caused a driver issue, do a factory install and try again. Sorry, I did not update any drivers and the factory restore for that matter would be useless, it would just set the device drivers back to where they are now. c) call MS. Oh right, who will say call Toshiba. Toshiba’s level 2 advice d) download the standalone installer, don’t go through update. Fair. I prefer to work that way anyhow. Unfortunately that was the method I used the other night. e) there are no known issues between SP1 and Toshiba notebooks. All are Toshiba notebooks are Vista SP 1 compatible. No upgrades or downgrades of drivers are required. Red alert! While I was on hold, a little light bulb had flipped on in the back of my head. Clearly my BSOD was some driver issue (didn’t catch the name, it rebooted on me the second I noticed it from the corner of my eye) and the reason of my call to Toshiba. Microsoft didn’t give any install notes about hardware incompatibilities, driver issues and I didn’t find it upon a first quick search. Anyhow.

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Vista Service Pack did not install. Times 2.

One of the two notebooks (dual core, vista home premium pre-installed) I use prompted that Vista SP1 was available as an automatic update. I figured why not, since this is the official release from 2 days ago. Speedy download. Installation goes pretty swiftly. Step 1, step 2 and step 3: 100%. Sweet. Reboot. And then this: Excuse me? It just did 100% on all three steps, taking its sweet little time overal, and then it says it couldn’t do it? So what exactly happened during all the installation steps? If it checks something that critical at the very end, how about doing that little hardware and software check (or whatever it is) at the very beginning of the update process? And, where can I trace the cause of the problem? I did not see any error information? Nor suggestions? Fortunately this botched update did not ruin the machine. Everything still looks the same and essential applications work. Small sigh of relief. And, now of course Vista SP1 is ready to be installed again. Funny. On a second Vista notebook the SP so far refuses to show up. Haven’t tried any other machines yet, but something tells me I will exercise some patience. There are plenty of similar stories on the web already too. Anyhow, you have to love Microsoft, right? Update: I am too curious what the failure rate will be so I am already trying it on another machine. This one is a year younger, pretty much ‘stock’ (or factory default) and faster. We’ll see. Update 2: Absolutely fabulous. 25 minutes into the installation. Step 2 is completed. System reboots. A blue screen of death. My system is unable to start. Windows Startup Repair can’t repair the problem. System restore … attempting … Update 3: Fortunately I landed back on my desktop after some very long 15 minutes. My conclusion, with two failures and especially after that Blue Screen Of Death, is that this Service Pack 1 for Vista is not ready for prime time. Two solid and fast machines, less than a year old, from mainstream manufacturers and neither can be updated? I recommend others to just wait. Maybe once you hear on the web from somebody who has the same machine and updated his/her’s fine; you can be confident it will work. To me it is not worth the 40 min hassle nor risking data and possibly having to reinstall the machine. I have read some reports where it took several hours to both install and revert SP1. I can’t imagine sitting through that worrying if the machine will boot.

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