Sunday, April 18, 2004


Remember my cool new TiVo Series 2? Well, late in January it was no longer able to take audio from the satellite tuner — it still was able to send audio (the DVD player still worked). But audio in — that wasn’t working.

I finally got around to sending the unit into Toshiba, and they sent me a new box that arrived yesterday. Just finished hooking it up, and needed to do two things: get my TiVo lifetime subscription transferred to the new box (something TiVo does only if your unit becomes inoperable, which fortunately mine was — otherwise that would’ve been a couple hundred bucks down the drain), and get WiFi working. (This was the problem documented in the link above. If you’re a glutton for tech support nightmares, enjoy. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and just move on.)

Sure enough, step one was simple: took less than two minutes.

When I explained my other objective, the TiVo rep said, “Oh — I’ll give you Toshiba’s number.”

Here’s the thing: it’s not Toshiba’s issue. TiVo is a Linux-based PC, and it needs drivers for any accessories plugged in (which the USB WiFi adapter is). For whatever reason, these boxes don’t ship with the drivers pre-loaded. It’s a TiVo issue.

But if I didn’t know enough to push back on this poor guy at TiVo (who did listen, and dumped me into the support queue, where I’m now languishing), I would’ve waited until tomorrow to call Toshiba support (they’re not open on weekends), only to find out that I needed to call TiVo back.

When your car breaks, does it matter who made the engine, the spark plugs, the brakes, the muffler, the tires, the seatbelt, or the horn? No. You take it to the dealer, and they fix it.

Until consumer electronics manufacturers make supporting their devices as easy as supporting a car, they’re going to miss the mass market. And therein lies the problem — there are so many points of failure (is it a driver? a cable? a plug in the wrong socket? something else?) and consumers are often so inept at helping the support people diagnose and fix the problem that getting things like this working is far more difficult than it should be.

(Am I a glutton for this stuff? To a degree, yeah. But this was just a welcome reprieve from what was an otherwise eventful day. More on that later. Believe it or not, spending 15 minutes on hold waiting for TiVo tech support was almost pleasurable in comparison. Almost.)

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