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Blog Archives for September 2007

Channel Data

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007 - Comments (4) in Computers, Home Theater PC, Life, TV

I have a computer I built that is connected to my home theater. It has audio and video outputs connected to the receiver and the TV, cable TV inputs for recording television and a network connection to my LAN for interfacing with it over the internet. What I don’t have anymore is free channel data.

A company called DataDirect used to provide free channel data once you register with their website. My home theater pc (htpc) used to contact this site periodically and download all the listings so it knew what was on, where and when. So I could tell it to record “Southpark”, and it would figure out what channel and when, and even re-adjust the recording schedule if I were to add another show to record that conflicted with a pre-existing schedule. DataDirect discontinued its free service as of early September, 2007. This posed a problem because it effectively booted my DVR back 20 years. I would have to schedule all shows to be recorded by hand like we did with our VCR so many years go.

A few companies have stepped up and licensed the data from the big networks, but they all want monthly or quarterly fees for access to it. I pay enough money for our cable TV; I don’t want to pay more just for the convenience of being able to record it, with my own equipment.

You may be thinking to yourself, what about tvguide.com or the website of your cable provider? Sure I can load up Time Warner Cable’s website and see their channel listings, but they are organized and displayed in a way that is meaningful to humans, not computer programs.

I called TWC today and spoke with an enthusiastic customer support professional named Caitlyn. She had some trouble understanding what I was talking about. First she tried to explain to me that I need digital cable (which I have) with a digital set-top box (which I have 2 of) to get the guide data. Then she told me about going to their website to view the data. She just couldn’t wrap her head around the concept that I didn’t want to look at the data, I wanted to be able to interface with it. I guess even if you spend $150 per month on cable and related services, you shouldn’t expect to be able to use data provided for your service in a means other than how they specify.

Circuit Shitty

Monday, September 24th, 2007 - Comments (2) in Life, Rants

There once was a reason why I avoided shopping at Circuit City, but I don't remember it anymore. I think it has something to do with not being able to find a sales associate when I needed one, or maybe I hit a monster pothole in their parking lot. Either way, I never really consider CC for making an electronics purchase.

Today Rachelle went there to pick up my birthday present after seeing it on sale on their website. They also had an ipod case on sale that she wanted. She gets there and finds that the products in the store are more expensive (by like a 3rd) than they are online. So she asks an associate if they'll honor their online prices at the store. He says yes. She goes to the service desk and the guy there starting ringing her up. Then this chick manager comes up and says that it's against store policy to do that. So she could have purchased the item online and picked it up in that store for the cheaper price (with no shipping), but they wouldn't just give her the price. So she says she isn't going to buy either item and the chick is all like "have a nice day!"

So she comes home and then calls their customer service number to get the scoop on their policies. According the "Rose" over in India, they should have given her the online price. Rose also calls the store and talks to someone about something for like 20 minutes finally coming back on the line and says that we can go back to the store to get the merchandise for the online price. Rachelle then asks them to express ship them to us at no cost. Rose doesn't go for that.

So we go back to CC after dinner to pick up our wares. We find my present (I already knew what it is) and her ipod case and head to the first goon at a register. We gave him the stuff and a print out of the pricing on the website. With no arguing needed, he rung them up and adjusted the prices. He had a little difficulty when it came to charging her credit card, almost charging her $11,000, but we finally got there.

This will probably be my new reason for not shopping at CC.

Not a Fan of Lowes

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007 - Comments (1) in House, Life, Rants

Ok, Lowes has been irritating me lately. There used to be 3 different "home centers" in multiple locations around rochester: Home Depot, Chase Pitkin and Lowes. Two years ago all the Chase Pitkins closed, which really annoyed me as I lived about 2 miles away from one. Now that we live in Fairport, we're equal distance away from all of them. We were looking to buy a ceiling fan for the bedroom, so we ended up in Lowes looking at the fans. We found one on sale (and we had an additional coupon), but there weren't any on the shelf. Nobody was around, so I hit the "press me for assistance" button and waited 15 minutes for some guy to show up. We tell him what we want and he proceeds to spend like another 15 minutes looking around for the fan. Then he checks the computer which says they have 2 of them in stock. He then states that the system could be out of date, as it gets updated once a day. That just seems ridiculous for a big company inventory database to get updated once a day. I can't believe it isn't updated with every register transaction. Anyway, he says they must be out of them, but they get a shipment in a couple of days. He asks if we want to reserve one from the new shipment. We say yes and he puts our info in the computer. We walk up to the cashier, give her our phone number to pull the order up and then pay for it (in cash).

A few weeks before this we ordered some custom mirrors for our bathrooms and did the same thing where you pay ahead of time and they call you when they arrive. So we expected Lowes to call us when the item we reserved and paid for arrived. They didn't. So we go to pick it up when they said the new shipment would show up, starting at the service desk. We give them our phone number and nothing shows up. At least we find a couple of the fans we need on the shelf, but they never reserved one like they said, they just sold us a fan and never bothered making sure we got it. The problem was I didn't bother bringing the receipt, since the last time we just gave them our phone number and they handed us the mirrors, we didn't need a receipt. And if you remember I mentioned earlier that I paid in cash. So I hit the "press me for assistance" button again in the fan department and wait for 15 minutes again for some guy to show up. He looks in the computer and also doesn't find anything, no record of us "reserving" a fan and no record of us paying for one either. Finally we end up back at the service desk with some other chick and she pulls up the record no problem. I ask her again just to make sure I heard her right, and she was able to pull up our proof of payment in about 4 seconds. I don't know what was wrong with everyone else, but that took like forever when it should have taken 5 seconds.

The fan install was pretty easy, but putting in the box and the electric was sort of a pain as it required attic access and I don't really fit though the access hole to the attic.