Digital Television – Time Warner no better than Cox


We moved last week. This resulted in switching from Cox to Time Warner for cable, Internet and telephone service. These services seem to come all in one – which is nice and convenient – but there is no competition. Depending on your address, you have to use one company or another.

Our cost for services actually went down a bit, the kinks we experienced with Cox are gone, but there are new ones with Time Warner.

Let me start out saying that I am a computer programmer, with special expertise in device programming. Early in my career I spent years making embedded systems work, programming systems on the chip level, using logic analyzers, oscilloscopes, EProm burners and the like. You would say I am a highly technical person. I can figure things out.

But when it comes to alarm clocks, sprinkler systems, microwaves and finally televisions, I like things to be simple.

A decade ago, when you bought a television set – if it wasn’t a home theater unit with surround sound – you simply plugged the cable into the back of the unit, turned it on, and started clicking through the channels on the remote. And everything worked. You clicked to the next channel, and bang, there was video and audio. You could rapidly flip through ten channels in two seconds. It was quick and responsive, and it always worked. You selected channel 45, and there was channel 45, just what you’d expect. Also, the picture was always right. There was no horizontal or vertical distortion.

Now we have this digital video recorder (DVR) that Time Warner gave us. Supposedly we can program it to record shows, so we can watch them later. There are movies on demand that we can buy. And there are a host of other features that I don’t have the patience to figure out. There is also a channel up and down button that I like to use to flip through channels. So far so good.

However, when I select a channel number using the keypad, it takes at least two seconds after I push the last key before I have video and audio. Sometimes I get video right away and audio starts some seconds later. At other times, audio seems to be there first.

When you flip from one channel to the next, it takes several seconds, and while it’s figuring out what to display, you see several control screens. You see the blue screen (nothing on it at all), you see a channel information screen, and eventually you see the screen with the program you want to watch. If they are trying to prevent channel surfing, they are successful. It’s very tedious to surf channels when the system is this sluggish in its response.

I have also had situations where there seems to be no response. I hit the channel button over and over again, and nothing at all happens. It’s just locked. After I finally give up, 30 seconds later, all of a sudden it wakes up and rapidly rattles through all the channels, ending up somewhere random. Then I have to find my way back to where I started.

Occasionally, the whole unit goes on the fritz. It just stops working, the screen goes blank. There is no other way to get it back but to power the whole thing down, unplug it for a few seconds, and then turn it back on. It then takes literally minutes to get restarted.

And finally, what’s with the picture aspect ratio? I swear, I can’t figure out how to get the right aspect ratio for the programs I am watching. It seems to be different for television shows and movies, but it’s not consistent. I for one cannot get used to long faces and wide faces. I want my faces to be correctly proportioned in both directions. I have a display button that I have to press repeatedly and look at every display to figure out which one best approximates the true proportions. I am suspicious that not one of them is actually true. I find that the smallest is usually the best, but that one literally takes only half the display surface of our television unit, and there are black bars of wasted screen space on all four sides of the image.

Why isn’t there a button that allows all channels to be displayed in the right proportions? Why do I have to figure this out one channel at a time? Why can’t we build and design display units that just work with correct aspect ratios, or standardize our media?

If a techie like me does not have the patience to figure out how to use his television, how do we expect my grandmother to cope? We have a long way to go before television goes back to be the simple appliance it was back in the sixties and seventies. At least then, it just worked. Now we have digital television. I just can’t figure out why this is better for the consumer.

4 thoughts on “Digital Television – Time Warner no better than Cox

  1. Devin

    Time Warner is horrible. We have it also and hate it. We have not been getting any information on our channels, and it takes 10 seconds for the guide menu to come up. No cable is better than Time Warner.

  2. norberthaupt

    When you call technical support and ask why the unit reboots itself, sometimes several times a day, each time taking 10 minutes or more to come back up, the tech support people tell you that they have a real problem with the units and that there is nothing they can do about it, since they have some contract with the manufacturer that they cannot get out of. All users keep calling about units rebooting themselves.

    Great product.

  3. my on demand channels have been impossibe to get for a month.i’m not at home most of the time in the days to be able to have them come in to look at the box. but i don’t believe it’s the box. ..i called their support number three hours ago,the guy told me to unplug the box for 5 minutes then 45 minutes later try the on demand channels again. not only can i not get the on demand channels,but while all the other channels come in okay,the menu hasn’t updated and the channel info as well..i still see ‘to be announced’ everywhere. it’s been 3 hours that i’ve had the box connected/.

    i’d go satellite but i’ve heard that it goes out when it storms.and here in dallas it storms alot both in summer and in winter.

  4. Maliki

    Ok in response to alot of what I’m reading, first any techie knows the complexity @ which a cable box must go through to process the multitude of signals being sent. In the old days yes a T.V. was very simple to operate but with no hor or vert lines untrue, first of all that is caused by ingress which is when signals leak into an improperly connected or damaged coaxial line. Also DVR all of these boxes now are basically computers what does heat do to components in a computer, case in point do you place your tv on top of said box or in an inclosed space or with dvd vcrs on top all these things are bad, Yes the older DVRs not so good, but with newer technology comes kinks so yes I hope sooner than l8r they are worked out as well. I howerever may just be very lucky because I don’t have as many problems as others I talk to and I use Cox. As far as the techs there can’t say because I have had to contact them maybe two times in well about eight years I guess. So as for me I am happy and feel sorry for those of you who are not and if I was you I would issue my concerns to your provider and see what thier response is. Well that was just my two cents worth and it was interesting reading what you all had to say thx for your time and have a good one. 🙂

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