TiVo breaks serial control in 7.2; no film at 11...because you can't change channels any more!

by Matthew Gast

Related link: http://forums.tivo.com/pe/action/forums/displaysinglethread?rootPostID=10185802&…

Almost a month ago, I received version 7.2 of the TiVo software, and it broke my serial-port channel changing. 7.2 is the first release of TiVo-to-Go, which I was interested in until I found out that it broke my channel changes.

After posting a rant to my blog, I started a thread on the TiVo Help Forum. (I selected the name "tivomythics" because this problem is apparently TiVo's suggestion that I move entirely to MythTV…) The problem seems to have affected a number of users; the Help Forum thread received four posts today.

First, to set the record straight, I did not receive beta code. I was apparently one of the first users to receive the 7.2 software after it had released. However, that does not excuse the poor performance of TiVo's support department. I called them with a completely diagnosed problem, and was told to replace my serial cable because it had probably gone bad. The rep I spoke with was unable to access any internal documentation on changes in the new software release, and also unable (or perhaps unwilling?) to file a bug report of any kind. All in all, it was one of my worst technical support experiences ever. In most cases, when I have brought a reasonably specific problem report to a technology company and offer to spend time on the phone running any test they desire to further diagnose the problem, I am not told that my hardware coincidentally broke during a software upgrade.

I suppose I could have called back to find another rep to see if I had better luck with somebody else, but that is the beauty of a help forum. Many affected users have called, so a picture of the problem has emerged. There are two incompatible serial-port protocols used by DirecTV receivers. There is an older protocol, used by my Hughes HTL-HD, as well as some other devices. The long-running thread indicates the Sony HD-300, LG LSS-3200A, and the Pioneer 810H are also affected. I believe the Sony and LG are clones of the HTL-HD. A newer protocol was developed for the latest-generation DirecTV receiver, the D10. (This new protocol may have been pushed out in a DirecTV firmware update to the D10 receiver. I can't quite tell from the forum.) The two protocols are incompatible. TiVo made the decision to discontinue support for the older protocol in favor of the newer protocol. DirecTV D10 users are happy because they can move off IR to serial. Those of us on older receivers are quite unhappy because we have to start using IR, if we can find our IR control cable after all these years.

Many of the affected customers have been told that TiVo will not be producing any sort of fix. We are supposed to revert to IR blaster control, and call DirecTV and have them fix our old receivers. Some users on the thread have reported doing exactly that, and being told to call TiVo, since their fix broke the software. The excuse that they can only support one protocol is not compelling. My TiVo has supported multiple serial protocols in the past. In the pre-7.2 releases, I had to choose between the MPG and APG serial protocols. Why not have two APG choices for "new APG" and "old APG"?

Regardless of whose problem it really is, TiVo should step up to the plate and fix it. TiVo's success has been based on their incredible ease of use. While I was able to diagnose this problem readily, I wonder what would have happened if one of my more technophobic relatives had been hit. Can I really recommend a service that has poor support options? Does TiVo treat all problem reports with this level of disdain?

In the last two hours, there has been some confusion about whether or not TiVo will be attempting a fix. One user reports that there will be no TiVo patch, while more recent poster states that he was told they are working on a fix. I wish us mere users could get a better statement of direction.

In the meantime, if you've been hit, this post suggests you can call and get your money back for the outage.