The View From Wisconsin

Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Better is not always a Good Thing

I've learned something this week about technology: improvements are not always a good thing.

On Sunday afternoon, I was going to sit down and watch Super Bowl XXXIX from the comfort of my own couch, on my digital cable box-enhanced TV.

Only one small problem: the channel that was carrying the game in Milwaukee, Fox affiliate WITI-TV 6, wasn't coming in.

This was somewhat strange, because I had actually tuned in to the station before-hand that day (just to see the blathering about the game), and there hadn't been any problems.

But there was one, and I hadn't noticed it - because I'd tuned in to Fox 6 on my TV in the basement, next to my computer.

The issues was what cable techies call "blocking and tiling" - the picture freezes with blocks of incorrect colors or blacked-out "tiles" interspersed among the picture. It can be frequent in some digital cable channels that are on the "weaker" end of the spectrum, and more sensitive to "line noise."

After doing some soft resets of the box - and then a hard reset that involved unplugging the thing - I got nothing but a black blank screen. The lady at customer service suggested that I just unplug my cable line from the box and plug it directly into the back of the TV so I could watch the game.

Now, I don't think I would have done anything truly different if I'd been using digitial cable to watch the game, but there might have been the temptation to flip over to ESPNews afterwards to see the post-game press conference, or something to that effect.

Still - not having the game on digital was frustrating enough. To add to that, the technician wasn't going to be coming out to the house until Thursday.

Thursday came, and channel 6 came back - not at 100%, though. There were still issues of blocking and tiling, and a few times when it black-screened. The techie did a whole analysis of the line, saw that I was still getting errors, even when we bypassed the cable amplifier in the basement.

Then he did something that struck me as something right out of Ernest T. Bass or Larry the Cable Guy: he ran a line directly from the common cable box in my condo building's unit right in to the back of the cable box.

Guess what the problem was? Yep - the line coming into the house from the junction box outside - which is currently covered by several inches of ice and snow.

TWC's customer service e-mail was succinct: "A sidewalk bore is needed to replace and run the new drop [their term for a new line into the unit]. Unfortunately, this requires digging and cannot be completed until spring. I will adjust your account for the inconvenience you are experiencing."

Like Dana Carvey said when he played the Church Lady - "Well, isn't that special."

And what's worse is, I was planning on dropping digital cable at the end of May, anyways, because that was when the prices were going to be going up.