A random look at the life and times of Jim Rising recovering radio addict and newspaper columnist.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

More TV Tales

More to the previous post….
The solutions to the problem of the in-laws wanting to see Channel 7 (analog) but using digital converter are:

1. Cable. Father in law (FIL) just says no. Won’t let me pay for it. End of discussion.
2. An “A-B switch to interrupt the antenna feed and bring it to the box or the TV.
3. A Digital box with analog pass thru.
4. A new Digital ready TV. See #1.

Current TV is a 1990’s vintage CONSOLE Zenith.

Here’s what happened.

Revisit the in-laws. I love them but…..two times in one week in the severely overheated house is a bit much. Plus the Father in-law is, well…a little hard to explain the finer points of new technology to. It’s partly a communication problem and partly my lack of patience in testing for understanding. When I used my cell phone there the other day he wanted to know if I could hear his landline. Also what was the range?

The box in question bought with the Government coupon is a Magnavox TB100MW9. It cost, if I remember right, about $10 with the coupon. It works fine but:
The remote control is the biggest POS I have ever seen and I have looked in an open cesspool before. It’s tiny. About the size of a deck of cards. Offers NO universal capabilities. And the most important buttons, THE ONES THAT CHANGE THE CHANNEL are, no exaggeration, not only the SMALLEST buttons on the unit but they are the size of grains of rice.
Come on! Who is the genius that designed that? The market for these converters has to be mainly people who can’t afford or don’t want cable. They probably live rural. They are probably OLD. So why build something they can’t see to operate with and make it tough to use with old arthritic hands. Bastards!

How would I know this when I bought the damn thing? And how did I know there would still be an analog channel that the In-Laws want to see?

I read the manual until it fell apart but I could not find any mention of analog pass through. With unit powered down no joy.
A 1 800 call to tech support got the usual foreign accent.
“Does this unit have an analog pass through?”
“No we are not having analog pass through.”
“Is there a universal remote control available for the unit?”
“No we are not having…”
“Put a supervisor on, please.”
“This is Akmal. How can I be helping you?”
“Akmal, I know this is not your fault but your unit sucks. It’s designed badly, has no analog pass through and is in general a piece of….”
At this point I am getting daggers looked at me from the long suffering wife so I give up and hang up on Akmal.

It should be said here that I have limited amounts of patience when dealing with tech support. I am getting pissed off and my usual method of decompressing is to shout and swear at the top of my lungs. This will NOT go over big in the In-Laws house with the Blessed Virgin Mary statue (near life size) next to the TV. I am a pressure cooker.

First of all I am ENRAGED that our government has made such a mess of this. And I am burning with shame that I can’t make it work for my In-Laws.

I am ready to kill. Plus I am tired and hungry.

So now we go to Radio Shack.

I am angry and beyond rage with this whole situation. My finely tuned brain is seething. I am hungry Did I mention I am on a diet? I can’t for the life of me figure out the signal path standing in the aisle.
The antenna lead must go to the box. And the TV. The box must feed the TV. Ow! Ow! Ow! My head hurts.
I finally decide on a small “A-B” switch. $5.98.
Previously I have found some cables and a splitter at the house.
Just out of curiosity ask the kid behind the counter if they have a box.
Yup they do. An Access HD DTA 1080 U-and it has the words “Analog pass through” in bright red on the side. It’s footprint is one third the size of the POS Magnavox.

It also has a Universal Remote Control. It lists a code number for Zenith.

It costs $69.

We have no coupon.

This really sucks.

Can we return it if it doesn’t work? Yes He guesses so.

We do have a discount coupon for $10.

He can’t figure out to use it. This takes half an hour with phone calls to store manager before we get out.

We are now out $64.80. Plus the ten for the Magnavox box. $74.68 if you are keeping score at home.

I am ravenous now. Did I mention I am on a diet? When am I not? Breakfast was at 5am and was….small. It’s now 1:30pm.

Lunch sucked. We went to this cutesy little place that had vase centerpieces filled with candy hearts. I love soup. The only soup was Clam Chowder. I don’t eat fish. No soup for you! Chicken Caesar, hold the Caesar. Literally one cup of greens, one teaspoon of Asiago cheese and about 2 oz of chicken sliced paper thin. $7.98. I could have had a seven course meal for that price. A foot long hoagie. And a six pack.

I am not in a good mood.

Back to the In-laws. While we were gone FIL had stoked the plutonium reactor in the basement so it was now 100 degrees in the house. It’s cold out so I have a heavy shirt under a sweatshirt. I am sweating as soon as I come in the door.
Good news…FIL is taking a nap. Bad news. I am not.

New box fires up and seeks stations. Five minutes later it has all available. Better picture than POS Magnavox. Plus on channel change it doesn’t have to search each time like POS. Channels come right up.

The remote control programs for the Zenith and works the volume, on off and the function menu flawlessly. The menu is important because FIL wants the brightness turned down when he watches at night. Something about burglars. You can see my problem communicating here? He also loves the color set to green. See?
It does not change TV channel. Only the Box channel no matter what mode you are in. Hmmm.
Shut box off and tune TV to Channel 7. Success.
But you have to tune TV with old remote control. The whole point of Universal remote was to 86 one control.
Work with Mother in law (MIL) to explain new control. You have to switch modes to control the TV or the Box. She can get the TV on and switch to the box mode (labeled STB the RC) but the unit will not power for her. I try and it only powers up every third try and in fact locks up so you have to pull the plug to get it to work again.

I am not having a good day.

The acronym is “Halt”

Hungry, Angry Lonely and Tired.

I am angry, tired and hungry. The only thing I am not is lonely.

This box will not cooperate. It locks up and no matter what I try will not change channels on the TV.

It is no good. I call 1 800 and am told via recording that they don’t work weekends. I have only one option. Cue shark theme from Jaws.”

Back to the POS.

Now I have to figure out how to make the A-B switch work.

After long thought I come up with it.

Here is how you do it. The antenna goes into a splitter. One lead goes to the “A-B” switch. One lead goes to the box. The output of the box goes to the other side of the “A-B” switch then the switch feeds the TV.

My brain is squirming like a toad.

I am short one cable. The Access HD DTA 1080 U has one. I need it. Now I can’t return it.

I make it work. It’s an ugly snarl of cables. The long suffering wife asks “Do you need all those wires?” I don’t know how to answer that.

I write out instructions in large block letters.

The A-B switch I set so to see Channel 7 is “A”. Channel 7 as mentioned below is Catholic TV. I explain that “A” will be for Angels. MIL has trouble with switch. It’s stiff and new and unfamiliar. Eventually she gets it and can navigate the changeover flawlessly.

I decide to tidy up the wires. This is a near fatal mistake.

The cable from the A-B switch to the TV is the shortest one so I replace it with a longer one to get the switch closer to the front of the TV. Then I wrap the cables and secure them with ties to keep down the snarl and avoid the Long Suffering wife’s question about so many cables. In the process the box gets moved around.

I try the deal out one more time before we leave. The box WILL NOT POWER ON. But it was working fine just a minute ago.


I try changing out the power. I try new batteries in the RC.

My blood pressure is now 300 over 300. I am so close to stomping my feet and screaming that I am literally lightheaded. I can contain my anger no longer.

I pick up the POS box to throw it on the floor so I can stomp it to death and notice….there is a rocker switch on the side. Why would they do that? You turn it on with the RC and they go to the added expense of adding a master power switch? Huh? It must have gotten shut off when I was frigging around with the wires.

Breathe. Breathe deep.

It was all working when I left. I went to the website for the Access HD DTA 1080 U and searched to no avail for the answer to the channel changing dilemma. Wrote them an email because I still want to believe it’s a better unit and can do what I want. Plus I so want to take the POS Magnavox and hit it with a hammer until it’s mostly black residue and mail it back to those sons a bitches.

More updates to come, I am sure.