Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wrestling with technology

Today will be wrestle-with-televisual-technology day at the Griffith-Eskridge household.

We got our first TiVo in 1999. We were the only people we knew who had one. It changed our viewing lives. For a while, it even changed my understanding of time.This notion of just...watching a TV show whenever I wanted really jarred my orderly notions of the universe. For a while I was confused. (Me: "Let's watch Buffy now." K: "But it's not on until Tuesday." Me: "What's your point?")

TiVo meant that I started watching less and less television. When I could get anything I wanted, and then watch it whenever I wanted, I stopped feeling that watch it! watch it! urgency. Also, it meant that I could enjoy my secret passions (Antiques Roadshow and science/history educational programming) without worrying that I was frittering away my precious time with Kelley on something she wasn't terribly interested in.

So, anyway, TiVo rocks. We bought a lifetime subscription right at the beginning. We upgraded every time there was something worth having. Currently we have a TiVo Series 2 Dual Tuner: recording two shows at the same time! An upgrade from omnipotence to omnipresence. We like that...

But the Dual Tuner feature became useless when Comcast stopped playing nicely with TiVo a while ago. (Why did Comcast stop playing nicely? Because they could. Because they are, essentially, a monopoly. And they want their subscribers to use their proprietary DVR. Given that Comcast's UIs are, to put it kindly, primitive, we've eschewed it.) This means we've been bending ourselves further and further from Standard to get both cable and TiVo without spending a zillion dollars on upgrading everything every year. This involves splitting the signal in weird and complicated ways, feeding it in two steps through... Ah, never mind. Here's a photo instead:

As you can see: a big spaghetti mess of cabling. We're tired of it. Also, we're tired of the degraded signal. Tired of not being able to recored two shows at once. Tired of not being able to stream programming from Netflix, iTunes, all that stuff. (It's embarrassing to be a science fiction writer--at least sometimes--and not be able to watch stuff from the intarwobble.) So we finally caved and have shelled out for the nifty new TiVo Premiere. And an M-card from Comcast. Now we should be able to get rid of our cable box and watch anything on the planet. More specifically, we should be able to record Camelot and Merlin at the same time, in glorious HD. Assuming that, y'know, today's wrestling goes our way.

You'll notice that I've been using the magisterial (and occasionally godlike) 'we'. But when it comes to technology the Griffith-Eskridge household doesn't operate as a team. This is because we have a different process, different approach, and very different attitude towards following instructions. Which we discovered when we bought our first some-assembly-required furniture. In other words, when it comes to technical instructions, working as a team leads to madness (and grumpiness, and glares). So now one of us does it. And Kelley is the TV cable queen. On this one, my job is to stay out of the way. Mostly. And when I do appear, to simply offer encouragement, and a few 'Those bastards!' and promise a splendid evening at the pub when signals are flowing, the last boxes and bits of cable have been put away, and the divots in the wall replastered and painted. (Just kidding. K never attacks the house. That's my speciality.)

Wish us luck. I'll let you know how it goes.

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