One CableCARD problem down, one to go

I sure hope Microsoft sends Ed Bott a nice Christmas card ’cause once again he’s helped out a fellow blogger on their quest to making Vista work. He left a comment in my original post, that helped me realize that configuring Vista’s Power setting to never turn off my display was a bad idea, because our favorite feature (HDCP) would break the output when it failed to handshake with a device that is off. So I set the Power settings to turn off the display after 5 minutes which makes the ATI driver stop trying to do the HDCP handshake when my Plasma is off. So now when I get up in the morning I’m staring at a black screen.

Unfortunately this isn’t my only problem. My ATI CableCARD tuner isn’t always working properly. Eventually it starts to macroblock very badly and sometimes even the entire screen turns green and freezes. I’ve found that the cure is to shut down the PC, unplug the ATI tuner for 30 seconds, plug it back in until the cable light turns green and then turn the XPS 420 back on. This buys me about one to eight hours of trouble free operation before the problem comes back. It starts out bearable, but then gets completely unwatchable, all the while the ATSC tuners continue to work perfectly.

After finding this helpful Microsoft page, I called Verizon and asked them to send my tuner an “init” and after a few minutes on the phone the helpful rep confirmed that my CableCARD tuner was communicating properly with their network and was everything was good to go as far as they were concerned. This ‘init’ made my tuner work perfectly again too, but by the time I got home the issue was back. Later that evening I was chatting with a friend who reminded me that when you buy an XPS system the support staff is in the US. So I gave them a call and although I don’t feel like they did a very thorough job of troubleshooting, they offered to send me a replacement. Unfortunately they said I had to call another department with my case number to get it, and you guessed it, that department was closed.

Although I don’t have much faith that a replacement tuner is the answer, I don’t have a better idea, so we’ll see how that goes, I just hope it doesn’t take another three weeks to receive it.

**Update** I received the replacement and it works perfect!

7 Responses to “One CableCARD problem down, one to go”

  1. ChrisW says:

    Not that I can add much to the discussion, I just wanted to say thanks for not just giving up and heading back to the Tivo. I’m looking forward to upgrading my media center to vista and I’ll either use cable cards, or DirectTv’s solution. So thanks for sticking through it, so we don’t have to.

    p.s. Hopefully a replacement ati tuner will fix it…

  2. Ben Drawbaugh says:

    Thanks for the kind words and support, but since I’m over my 21 day return policy with Dell and have already paid $150 to TiVo to cancel one of my TiVos, going back now would be a costly proposition.

  3. Al says:

    I’m with Chris on this. I appreciate your efforts, and your postings. My fingers are crossed that you’ll succeed, because if you do, I’ll be following your lead.

    Good luck!

  4. Ben Drawbaugh says:

    At this point I’m convinced it’s a bad tuner and just bad luck. It is impossible for any hardware manufacturer to have a 100% success rate so I don’t blame ATI one bit.

    I expect the replacement next, week so stay tuned.

  5. Grant says:

    Glad you fixed the black screen issue. I’m seeing this with my 32″ LCD and XPS 420 although I have it connected via DVI and have the monitor to turn off. Not sure what’s going on.

  6. Warren says:

    I’m about ready to give up on VMC. Spent way to many hours trying to debug it. Not getting much help from the MFG.
    My biggest issue is to get ATI cablecard tuner to switch to the second tuner when recording on tuner one. Any ideas?

  7. Ben Drawbaugh says:

    I have heard of that problem before, but thought a recent Windows Update patch resolved it. I know there is plenty of discussion about it on The Green Button. Personally that is one problem I never had.