Monday, October 8, 2007

Kickin' the TiFaux to the curb

All Brambleton residents have FIOS; we pay for the basic service in our HOA fees. But any and all extras (like the set-top box to get all the channels) are yours to pay direct to Verizon. Since we got FIOS TV, many Brambletonians have had problems with the service - especially with the HD-DVR (lovingly known in my house as "the TiFaux," since we have also have a Series 2 TiVo with lifetime subscription). When the TiFaux was first deployed, it ran on a Microsoft OS - so if it had problems, Verizon would tell you to turn it off, unplug it, re-plug it, turn it back on. Fine.

But in August, we received a fancy full-color mailing with a screen shot of a TV listings guide, captioned, "Wait til you see what's coming." Verizon had "upgraded" its software (completely homegrown now, because you techies know how well that scales) and it was just around the corner! Great! The fonts look nice! It's shiny and new! About a week later, Brambledirt got a voicemail from Verizon reiterating the fact that I was soon to be blessed with the latest, greatest software EVAR!!1!!! (I don't know anyone else who got the phone call - it was weird.) And then, the next day, when I turned the TV on, golden rays streamed down from heaven and the choir of angels sang, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The software is here!" I played around with it a little bit, and I actually liked the way that the On-Demand section worked better than the old. But we didn't do much with it, since we were still in the dregs of summer reruns and crappy replacement series.

I should mention here that TV is very important chez Brambledirt. My husband starts making plans during the network upfronts in the spring. As the fall schedules are unveiled, they are blocked out in a Google Docs spreadsheet. The household members take turns marking out what they'd like to watch/record. Conflicts and Season Pass hierarchy are negotiated. With the TiVo and the TiFaux (and on rare occasions, the VCR), pretty much everything is covered. We watch almost nothing live; due to various work and social commitments, we have to time-shift our TV viewing.

So, as the fall premieres approached, we were worried when neighbors started reporting problems with the new DVR software. Big problems. Including (but not limited to):
  • DVR randomly powering itself off (and not as a result of an upgrade)
  • DVR freezes (during live TV and/or recorded TV)
  • DVR randomly deletes previously recorded shows
  • DVR claims to set recording, but it doesn't show up in the schedule
  • DVR records, but then playback is messed up (gives "Bad recording" message)
  • DVR status inaccurate (e.g., right now there are no recordings on our TiFaux, but the status says there's 34 minutes of HD recording on the drive)
  • WE ALMOST MISSED THE PREMIERE OF "HEROES" because the Guide information had the wrong time listed
  • and others... many others...
Brambledirt has not had it as bad as some Brambletonians, some of whom have decided to dump the TiFaux, replacing it with the new TiVo HD (or the slightly more expensive TiVo Series 3). Basically, instead of renting the DVR from Verizon, they rent CableCards which are installed into the TiVo (which requires a service call from Verizon techs, but you may not have to pay for the service call if you tell tech support that you are returning the DVR because it doesn't work). For these folks, the math is pretty easy:

TiVo HD ($249 and free shipping from Amazon) + TiVo service fee (from $8.30 - $16.95 per month, depending on plan) + CableCard rental (2 cards @ $2.95 per month = $5.90 per month)


Verizon DVR ($12.95 per month) + having a broken DVR that works only intermittently

As tempting as it sounds, BrambleDirt won't be jumping on this bandwagon just yet, due to some big-ticket outlays elsewhere in the household budget. But I'm hoping that Verizon gets their software issues fixed with the maintenance release that is due after the new software is rolled out to all customers nationwide.

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