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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Worst Piece Of Electronics I Have

I don't usually rant on this blog but "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," to quote the movie Network. I admit it, I'm somewhat of a geek. I have just about every type of electronic gadget there is, from smartphone to e-reader to iPad, iPod, iPhone, iMac (and 4 other Mac's large and small as well), to a wide range of professional and consumer audio and video gear. Not all of it is the latest and greatest, but most of it is within a generation of the latest. I'm frequently on the bleeding edge of software updates and I'm not afraid to get inside any electronic piece and tangle with electrons. OK, you can see how that qualifies me as a geek.

There is one piece of gear that I "rent" that completely baffles me in its utter inadequacy - and that's my two Scientific Atlanta HD cable set-top boxes. Talk about a dumb device, I think my very first cell phone ten years ago had more processing power than these supposedly new devices have now. I realize that the cable company has a lot to do with it (in my case Charter Cable), but come on.

You mean to tell me in 2011 that you can't even display the entire TV listing and have to cut it off because of lack of characters?

You mean to tell me that in 2011 you have zero interactivity? Why should I have to buy a connected TV? Am I not connected to a network already?

You mean to tell me that in 2011 the boot time for On Demand is so slow that it's unusable. I mean, who wants to wait for literally 5 minutes for it to boot up?

And worst of all, you mean to tell me that in 2011 you still build a box that is so unreliable that I've been through 5 of them already? The two that I have now have the same problems as the previous ones. They decide to reboot at the most inopportune times (which is good for 10 minutes of downtime or so). They freeze the picture and audio randomly. I have to change the channel to unfreeze or God forbid, manually reboot. They will play a channel perfectly then suddenly give me prompt that says "Looking for the channel" then "This channel is not available." Guess what, time to reboot.

And they sometimes have an audio clicking that sounds just like the clock problems that we all used to have with our early DAWs 10 years ago.

How do these people stay in business? Why does every other piece of electronic gear hardly ever have a problem, yet these things are a daily pain, even after they're replaced?

The thing is, I'm fairly happy with Charter's cable service itself, but these things are so frustrating that I'm beginning to think it's time to "cut the cord" as they say in the cable industry.

Sorry for the rant, but I'd love to hear any suggestions, alternatives, experiences or remedies from anyone.
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wabaus said...

Cut the cord. Get Netflix, Hulu Plus, and a high-end over-the-air HD antenna. Your TV, Blu-ray, Wii or XBox probably already support these. You'll save $ every month. And Netflix even works on lowest-option "high-speed" cable internet (not to mention the iPad, etc. you already own).

Geoff said...

Such is the way of disposable Chinese made junk these days. Unfortunately there is no alternative, since they put most local manufacturers out of business. I have boxes full of Chinese landfill that failed well before the expected lifetime, either though poor manufacturing, fake components or bad firmware. Very frustrating, and can happen with reputable brand names too.

kavebill said...

The problem is not with your set-top, but in the implementation that your cable company has used. As any engineer knows, garbage in = garbage out. The set-top can only display and process the information that the cable company supplies.

And, btw, these are designed in the US, manufactured in Mexico. And, to be fair, I am an employee.

DonD said...

Cable is a choke-point between you and your content. It's a toll booth right there in your home. As long as that toll booth works the cable operator has little incentive to fix it and, let's face it, the thing works perfectly. Every month, it moves a hundred bucks or so from your balance sheet to theirs. No fuss. No Muss. No costly upgrades necessary. That's as clos to perfect as any business gets.
[Listen to Wabaus, above.]

Juan said...

Every system seems to have their fault, but to be honest, cable are the most likely to fail. I used to have cable, and a lot of the problems that i had with that is the fact that electrical system at home was not properly or equally grounded as the cable signal itself. The cable technicians are supposed to check/fix or at least notify you this before attempting to connect anything. So every time a power failure happened, I ended with a fried box, or a damaged TV set.
Now, my DirecTV HD DVR also takes like 30 minutes to boot up, only using 50% of its hard disk. Time increases as you use it more. Sometimes the image flicker a lot so you have to boot up again… so, if you have something like a baseball game to watch, you´re screwed.

So don´t expect too much of an improvement over those issues when it comes to digital satellite systems. I solved this -there´s a lot of power problems where I live- buying a UPS to avoid DVR from shutting off.

Alex Page said...

Man, i've experienced so much hassle with both Cox Cable and AT&T U-verse's service and equipment in the past few months. The only alternatives I can see is satellite, or just going with services like netflix and hulu, which also have been giving me problems lately, and they don't have the one channel on cable that I do enjoy, Palladia...

Freddy said...

Comcast gives out those god-awful 8300HD boxes as well. They are totally devoid of features and positively ancient today compared to other services (FIOS, Uverse, both satellite companies, etc.). And the worst part is that there's nothing you can do about it, it's either use those crappy old Scientific Atlanta/Cisco boxes or nothing at all.

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