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April 11, 2011

DVR Dies; Wii and Netflix to the Rescue

"If rebooting doesn't work, call customer service" is what the diagnostic on the blue screen says. Rebooting doesn't revive the DVR, so I call. Mary and I have already settled into the room with the big screen TV and the exhaust fan and lit our cigars to catch the last episode of the first season of Damages.

"Please tell me the reason for your call?" the robot asks.

"Diagnostics code 14-143," I say.

"The movie has not begun yet," says the bot. "Would you like to order now?"

"That's not what I called about," I say. "The DVR is not working."

"Would you like to order now?" the bot asks implacably.

I hit zero on the key pad.

"I don't understand your reply. Would you like to order now?"

I hit zero ten more times punctuated by profanities directed at the bot. One behavior or the other gets me a live agent, who, after determining that I am not having a nice day, transfers me to tech support. Bottom line, after tech support also determines that I am not having a nice day: the DVR is fried; a new one will be sent to me at no charge with a return mailer for the old one. No, there isn't any way to recover the saved content on the DVR's disk. Have a nice day.

Wonder if the DVR knows I'm working through a check list for taking down my dish? Wanted to reject me before I reject it?

We know we can download the missing Damages from Amazon but don't want to wait for that. We already lit our cigars. Besides, I still haven't gotten the HDMI to DVI adapter I need to make my PC work well with the HDTV.

But the Wii Mary uses for exercise is already plugged into the TV. We remember that daughter Kate once told us we could watch Netflix on the Wii. Have been meaning to try that. Sure enough, the Wii has a Netflix channel, which apparently popped up during an upgrade. When we select it, we get a code that we have to enter into Netflix on a PC to prove that the Wii is entitled to stream from our account. The Wii tells us that it can't show us the movie we select because "our account isn't current". Rebooting the Netflix channel on the Wii takes care of that and a queue of movies we've ordered from Netflix but not yet received via snail mail is available for streaming.

We still have slow DSL (on our checklist for upgrade); but the streaming didn't work badly. The Wii built up a buffer before starting to show us anything. There were three or four pauses during the movie to rebuild the buffer when our connection apparently hadn't delivered the content as fast as we were consuming it; but they were no longer than commercial breaks and less annoying. An onscreen progress meter reassured us that something hadn't just frozen. Stop and backspace with the Wii remote controller worked as expected.

Naturally we have now downgraded our $16.99/month 2 DVDs out at a time plan from Netflix to $7.99 "Watch Instantly Unlimited". In our case, since we don't watch more than a couple of videos per month, Netflix is probably losing net revenue. With heavy watchers, Netflix saves a bundle by having them move to streaming only.

We can also download and stream videos from Amazon on an ala carte basis. If Amazon ends up with a better selection of the movies we want than Netflix or is better at suggesting to us what we might want to watch, we may cancel Netflix altogether. Amazon can't currently be streamed to Wii; on the other hand Amazon supports both download and streaming while Netflix is streaming only. We don't usually watch movies more than once, but downloading is helpful to make sure there are no annoying pauses while you watch and in case you want to watch offline, on a plane for example.

One obstacle to cutting the cable or taking down the dish is the profusion of alternative in home entertainment sources and, so far, the need to use several sources to get all the content you want and to learn how to use each source. Cable and satellite have the advantage of one stop shopping. We didn't try Amazon Instant Video until we forgot to record episodes of a show we wanted to see and need a way to get them back; we didn't try Netflix on Wii until the DVR died. But cable and satellite companies are suffering from record numbers of defections and Netflix, according to the Huffington Post, has become the largest source of peak evening traffic on the Internet. Clearly it's gone beyond just we nerds switching to Internet-delivered content.

Related posts:

Cutting the Cord; Dismounting the Dish

 

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