Archive for February, 2010

Because It’s in Surround, It Turns Me On…

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

I will reveal a secret that I probably shouldn’t. If you have surround sound on a DVD-Video or DVD-Audio (better, and this may be your chance to find out if your machine will do it) player, run out and get the 2-disc version of The Beatles’ Love. Make sure you hold out for the 2-disc version. It’s in a thicker cardboard box, not a jewel case. It’ll probably cost more than you’d like and you might have to wait for it if you order it from somewhere, but it’s worth it.

Now take that DVD and play it in surround sound to show your friends how badass your system is. If they want to borrow it, lend them the CD from the box instead. They’ll go crazy wondering how you got so much cooler than they are.

Only one of my disc players is a DVD-A player as far as I know. I’m certain my other Oppo isn’t. Guess I should try the rest of them now that I have a bunch of DVD-As around.

All the DVD-As I’ve seen include DVD-V content too, and it’s good, but the bitrate is way lower. Whether that makes much difference depends on your hardware, your ears, and the content. The Downward Spiral is considerably crunchier in DVD-A (or SA-CD) for example.

I’ve been buying up a bunch of multi-channel music lately and have only begun to listen to it on the new system. “Love” gives good demo, that’s for sure. And it has a much wider appeal than Trent Reznor screaming about suicide (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

It’s Comcraptastic! II: The Wrath of Com

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I had Comcast come out Friday to wire up the new room and check my existing cable connection. It’s a long run from the basement to the front of the third floor, so I wanted them to make sure it was fine.

I also got two cable boxes, an HD one for up there and a regular one to try with my existing gear downstairs. If I were to move my premium channels to digital cable instead of satellite, I’d want to make sure my DVRs can get along with their boxes, so it seemed like a good experiment even though it costs me bucks that using the analog tuner doesn’t.

The HD box was a little flaky over the weekend. A couple of times I didn’t get a picture. Powercycling seemed to get it going, so I wrote it off as an HDMI handshake issue or something. Worked well enough I watched a little here and there. Sat through most of the Super Bowl with T.

But last night was the first important event. I wanted to watch “Lost” in HD. That didn’t seem like much to ask. For years, I’ve watched nearly all my TV from recordings- even when I had to do it with tape. Not being able to record HD yet, I have to schedule anything I want to watch that way. If I’m going to put up with appointment television, it might as well be something worth the appointment.

So I turn on the cable box and there’s no picture. Tried powercycling. Tried recabling. Checked settings. Still no picture. Sound but no picture. I changed to an SD channel and it worked. Then I got the clever idea of trying to use the box’s GUI when on an HD channel. It worked, which meant the only possible problem could be in the box itself. Argh.

I contacted Comcast’s online help. The rep was well-versed in their procedures (might want to mix up the canned platitudes so they aren’t so obvious in repetition), but not very helpful. The lack of line wrapping in the web chat was a problem too. Not to get off on the don’t-make-me-scroll-sideways rant, but don’t make me scroll sideways!

After the usual preliminaries to confirm that I’m not an idiot (understandable- many who contact customer service are), I was told they’d “hit” my box as a diagnostic measure. Neat.

Rep said the signal was low and that was probably the problem. They’d send a tech out between five and seven PM today. No help for “Lost”, but OK.

So I switched to the SD ABC channel and the 4:3 picture was stretched out to 16:9. Ugh. I can’t freaking stand that. It’s especially heinous on a really big screen.

It’s sending out 1080 to my AVR, so it’s not being processed that way by me. It also doesn’t pop to anamorphic on the SD channel on my other set, so it’s not flagged wrong. The box is just doing it because it thinks I’m blind or a moron. Or a blind moron. Or a person who likes that- but I repeat myself.

So I asked the rep about that. I was told to change the mode on the box. Ain’t no mode on the box. Not in any menu I can see.

No, I’m told. You have to use the buttons on the front of the box. That would make sense- if you screwed up the output resolution, you couldn’t use the onscreen menus.

But there are absolutely no buttons on the cable box. Not one. I told the rep as much, and it was clear I lost them completely. They referred me to the online manual, which also mentioned the buttons. No buttons on the machine. “Press the menu button on the box.” Which part of “no buttons” don’t you understand?

I told the rep that they’d apparently switched to new boxes and not updated the documentation. Please forward that upstream. I’ll wait for the tech to come.

So this morning at 9:00am, a tech calls and says he can come over. Sorry, I’m already at the office. Window didn’t start ’til 5pm, figured I wouldn’t wait at home that long. He had it down as all-day availability. I explained the problem and he said he’d see what he could find out externally and call me back.

He calls back about forty minutes later and says my account was flagged to get no HD. He removed the flag and figured it’d work now. Hit him back later if it doesn’t.

So the message from all this is that Comcast may be delivering product just fine (not that I could possibly tell you yet), but they have serious accounting and documentation issues. In just one incident, I discovered that they a) can’t make appointments correctly, b) randomly deny paying customers of service for no reason and apparently without enough accountability for their reps to detect it, and c) field equipment that neither their documentation nor their reps can support.

And I still have my 4:3 channels stretched out. Well, unless the tech’s wrong and he fixes it when he comes over tonight.