Motorola DVR Possessed By Evil

Laura’s DVR is possessed. After months of living with a flickering, psychotic DVR and getting the usual Comcast run around, Laura patiently waits for her 5th replacement box. In the meantime she’s suffering through life with a possessed DVR.

For example, just today:

“The DVR started out by simply not responding to any command to change channels, etc. Suddenly, it switched to channel 3, then 4, then 5, 6, 7, and so on. I managed to pause it for a second, but then it just jumped to channel 233 and stayed there, pulsing on that channel while the DVR box flashed the numbers. This story really isn’t terribly interesting on its own, but the channel it stopped on was a religious channel with a priest featured prominently on the screen.”

As you can see in the video the DVR stopped at channel 233. And, as everyone knows, 233 is 34.98498498498498% of the beast.

Laura’s problems are reportedly stemming from her Motorola DCT3412 DVR, and not from Comcast (like every other problem known to man.) Motorola has not yet issued a much-needed firmware update, and until they do, people like Laura will have to suffer with DVRs that randomly make them watch religious television.

The horror! Read Laura’s email inside:

Laura writes:

    “Hi- I’m am yet another angry Comcast customer. This is my ugly story (so far). Since upgrading my Comcast service from basic to digital/HD in August, I have experienced nothing but problems with both the television picture and the storage capacity of the DVR. I recently sent a letter of dissatisfaction to Comcast. Most of the text of that letter follows:

    ——– On August 15, 2006, I was upgraded from Comcast’s basic cable service to the digital/HD service. After years of being satisfied with basic service, I opted to upgrade to take full advantage of my HD-ready television as well as get the dual-tuner DVR. I also decided to switch from Qwest’s phone service to Comcast’s service. However, since that date, I have had nothing but trouble with the DVR, experienced constant picture problems, and have been mired in endless hours of phone calls, service calls, and internet research, with no solution yet in sight. A breakdown of my experiences to date:

    Immediately after installation, my television picture started intermittently stuttering/freeze-framing. The technician sent out to address this was not at all helpful, didn’t understand the problem, and told me it was likely the hot afternoon weather causing disruptions. He didn’t do anything else to attempt to correct the stuttering.

    When the stuttering did not disappear, another technician came out. He was a bit more knowledgeable, replaced and tightened some wires, and checked my house’s tech box. He thought that would fix the issue, but it resumed the stuttering after he left. On top of that, the DVR now indicated it was full after just a few hours of recording. The technician had told me to call him back that afternoon if the problem continued and he came back out, witnessed the stuttering, and fiddled with some other things. No luck.

    I called Comcast back. The CSR explained that I likely received a bad box and that she would send someone out with a new one. When the technician arrived with the new box, I asked him why the box would think it was full. He had no idea, telling me that he knew nothing about the DVR. Several hours later that day, I tried to program this new DVR, but it only gave me “record to VCR” options. I called Comcast back again. The same technician came back out with yet another box. It appeared to record, but the stuttering was still there.

    I went online and spent hours over several days poring over various websites and message boards. I discovered that many other people had similar issues and that it was actually a problem native to all Motorola DVRs; until the firmware update is developed and sent by Motorola, this problem might continue.

    I called Comcast yet again to inquire about this firmware update. I explained that I was on my third DVR with no acceptable fix. I demanded someone more capable be sent out and wanted a better explanation about the DVR problems. This time, a much more experienced technician came and he replaced more wires, added a “Comcast-friendly” splitter to my tech box, and replaced a bad connector previously unseen by the other three technicians. He also had me reset the DVR, which caused me to lose the programs I was planning to save. I pressed him for more information about the firmware issues and he confirmed that it is a problem Motorola and Comcast were aware of and that Motorola was working on a fix. In the meantime, because of contractual obligations, there was nothing Comcast could do about this issue with Motorola.

    That same evening, I returned home from class to find that the newest DVR only recorded one hour of programs before it thought it was full.

    Livid, I called Comcast again the next morning and was told the earliest I could get another box would be the next day. Or I could pick one up myself. I told the CSR that, given my issues, this was unacceptable and I ended up having to call the last technician I had dealt with on his cell phone. He immediately returned with a fourth box. He also replaced a line in the cable box in my backyard and told me to call him with any other issues. In fact, he called me back a few days later to follow up with me.

    The stuttering continued. On October 11, the DVR indicated it was full again after 4.5 hours of SD recording. I was able to get it to record again, but it is obviously unreliable.

    To summarize, I am now on my fourth DVR in two months, with no resolution to either the picture stuttering or DVR space issues. I was initially told that some of the boxes are just bad, but had a hard time believing that I am unlucky enough to get only bad boxes. Then after doing my own research (and realizing that bad boxes aren’t necessarily the issue) and confronting Comcast, I was told that the firmware update from Motorola is imminent, but I haven’t heard anything further about its arrival other than “sometime in October.”

    However, I have yet to have it confirmed that this is indeed the problem I am having and am very doubtful this update will fix both issues. In the meantime, my picture still stutters, often to a degree where it is difficult to watch; pausing and restarting usually helps, but it is absolutely ridiculous I should have to do this. And now the television is losing sound intermittently in addition to the stuttering. Finally, the DVR space issues are maddening; I record (and, more importantly, save) many hours of shows and I expect to have a reliable recording device. I have had TiVo service for quite some time now and have never once had any problem with it.

    I upgraded to your box, partly because I had to for digital/HD compatibility issues, but also to enjoy the dual-tuner features at a reasonable price. I should not have to be subjected to missing programs and the anxiety that ensues. It is unacceptable that Comcast knows about ongoing issues with their Motorola DVRs and still continues to give them to customers. Perhaps the most troubling aspect is the runaround and bad service I have received from Comcast. Most of the technicians sent out were useless and could not help me or offer any further explanations about my problems. Or they simply did not know their products. The CSRs have largely been less than helpful; they were friendly, but it wasn’t until two technicians came out that it was suggested my problem could be attributed to a bad box (although as I mention, it really appears to be a software issue, which was never brought to my attention at all).

    The technician I have been dealing with most recently has actually been fantastic; he has followed up with me, was upfront about the firmware issues and the implications, and is willing to take my calls. He has apologized on behalf of the company, understanding that I am a very dissatisfied customer. Frankly, he is embarrassed for the company. I have already done all of the research into competitive satellite services and am close to canceling service with Comcast–it has mostly been the technician’s reassurances that a fix was on the way that I haven’t already switched to another carrier. However, my patience is more than running thin and I think I have put up with much more than is necessary.

    I am highly disappointed in the quality of your products and your technical support and unfortunately know that other customers have experienced similar issues. I appreciate a response to this matter. Unless this situation is remedied to my satisfaction very soon, I will be canceling your service and encouraging others to follow suit. But because of the many hours I have already invested in this matter, I am honestly hoping it doesn’t come to that. Nevertheless, I believe that some sort of compensation is reasonable to make up for the troubles I have encountered and the energy I have expended in finding a satisfactory solution.

    ——– It all gets better… As I was preparing the letter to Comcast two weeks ago, I read a timely column from Joanne Ostrow, the TV critic for “The Denver Post,” touting the wonders of the Comcast DVR. She had just switched from TiVo to the Comcast DVR and was very happy. This is her original column:

    Obviously, I felt compelled to email Ms. Ostrow in response to her column. I also attached a copy of my letter to Comcast. Then last Tuesday, there was a followup column in the paper, full of readers’ comments to Ms. Ostrow’s previous column.
    I was quoted several times. Here is that article: Just today, I experienced a truly bizarre DVR issue that I hadn’t seen happen previously. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but I managed to capture a portion of it on my digital camera’s video. The DVR started out by simply not responding to any command to change channels, etc. It’s done that before, and while it’s annoying, it’s not usually too upsetting and resolves quickly. However, this time, it wouldn’t do anything for several minutes. Suddenly, it switched to channel 3, then 4, then 5, 6, 7, and so on. I managed to pause it for a second, but then it just jumped to channel 233 and stayed there, pulsing on that channel while the DVR box flashed the numbers. This story really isn’t terribly interesting on its own, but the channel it stopped on was a religious channel with a priest featured prominently on the screen. It was reminiscent of “The Exorcist” or similar. Hilarious. I uploaded this snippet to YouTube. It can be viewed here:

    So this is my ongoing saga. I haven’t yet received a response from Comcast and will be interested to see if they do respond. Thanks to the article in the “Denver Post,” I may be making a name for myself in Comcast dissatisfaction circles here in Denver. In addition, I have also been blogging my experiences in my personal LiveJournal. Many of my friends considering Comcast’s DVR or service have opted wisely to go with TiVo or other cable or satellite carriers after reading about my continuing troubles. I am hoping I now have Comcast by the balls. We’ll see.




Edit Your Comment

  1. DaveB says:

    Laura you are not alone. I am on my 6th box!!!! Everything you just mentioned is or has happened with my service. As a matter of fact the comcast rep left here just 20 minutes ago. Every time I try to explain the “stuttering” problem, the Comcast phone reps have no friggin answer.

  2. DeeJayQueue says:

    My box is a piece of crap. The one I had through Comcast wasn’t too bad, but my RCN box is terrible. If you’re recording something you all but have to push a button, wait a minute for it to recognize that you pushed a button, then push another button, etc. I had the same issue if I accidentally put it on an HD channel before I got an HDTV.

  3. Mike_ says:

    First, make sure the unit has adequate ventilation.

    The diagnostics menu on that box can be accessed by hitting “OK/Select” immediately after powering down the unit. This will show you signal status (d03), current firmware version (d08 – I’m running 10.13, Feb 10), and DVR status, including disk utilization (d13).

    Option d13 also has a temperature report, including an “over temp” counter and a “max temp” record. Overheating electronics tend to act goofy, and replacing the box won’t help if you let the new one overheat.

    One of the problems I have with this unit is that it will sometimes hang when I’m navigating the on screen guide or changing channels. When it un-freezes, it executes all of the commands it queued up while I was impatiently mashing buttons on the remote control. So, if you kept hitting 233233233 while the unit was busy “thinking”, it will do exactly what you videotaped it doing. I’m not saying that’s what happened here, but I have seen my box do something similar.

    I have seen the DVR think it was full when it wasn’t. I unplugged the unit and plugged it back in, and the problem went away. Another well-known problem with this device is the video breaks if you don’t leave it turned on all the time. Not a big deal.

  4. Mike_ says:

    Oh, and as an aside, if you’re using the component outputs for your HD signal, make sure the box is actually configured for HD. Look under option d12 on the diagnostics menu. If it says “480i”, you’re watching a standard picture on your HD display.

    (You can change the settings by hitting “menu” immediately after powering down the unit. I set mine to “16:9” and “1080i” for my plasma TV. Comcast should have done this for you when they set up the box, so if you’re looking for another reason to give them a hard time, this is a good one.)

  5. Antediluvian says:

    Stick w/ TiVo. They’ve got a multi-tuner HD box out (Series 3). It’s TiVo, so it works and works well, and it’s HD.

  6. bravo says:

    The TiVo Series 3 is only infinitely more expensive to acquire than the Motorola box ($800 vs. $0 from my cable company), and costs $5 more per month in monthly service fees ($15 vs. $10 from my cable company). Sounds like a great deal…

  7. TedOnion says:

    I am curious if the problem here is not with the DVR, but with how Comcast is dealing with bad units. It occurs to me that comcast is cycling bad units between customers. No one gets a good one so they just keep trading. Why else would they have so many in the truck?

    Try asking for a new unit, as in, brand new in the box, unopened. My guess is that they will be unable to give it to you because they don’t have any new units, just old, used, busted ones.

    If this is the case, then Comcast needs to repair the bad units, or send them back to Motorola for repair before they give them to new customers.

    Laura, have you received a new DVR? Can you call and find out if you can get a new, unused one? I’m quite curious now.

  8. Metschick says:

    Yeah, that’s why I stick with the DVR that my company gives me. Even though I really just want to take it out and shoot it behind the shed.

  9. Kangarara says:

    Any chance it was scanning the channels to see which ones existed & which didn’t? That’s a pretty normal thing for a TV to do if you tell it to – any chance you confused it into setup mode?

  10. beutherlm says:

    If I did, it wasn’t intentional, Kanagarara. I was just watching the news when it went berserk. And I think like Mike_ above mentioned, I probably had hit a bunch of buttons out of frustration, and then when the DVR “unstuck” itself, it landed on 233. I certainly didn’t aim to put it there.

    And TedOnion, this last box was supposedly a brand new one. The problem seems to be that Motorola doesn’t have the proper fix yet, so until they do, any of the boxes might cause problems.

  11. billhelm says:

    I agree with the Mike_ on the ventilation thing – we had constant problems with ours until we pulled it out of the enclosure it was in. It was totally overheating.

    I’m on my second box, the first one failed right away, but this one’s been going strong for almost a year. It does require the occasional reset when it does something wonky, but recovers well.

    Mike_ also mentioned to leave it on all the time – that’s what we do, and it seems to prevent some of the weird video problems from occurring to begin with. We just control our tv with the AV tuner…

  12. spryte says:

    While I have certainly had my share of horrific Comcast issues, I have to say that the new DVR box I picked up a couple of weeks ago has worked just fine. We haven’t had any trouble with space issues, picture quality, etc. So I wonder if it’s not all DVR boxes but just a stock of them at her local Comcast office? I wonder if any of her neighbors have experienced similar issues…

  13. Mike_ says:

    Yeah, I just looked at the video again. I don’t think it has enough space to ventilate properly. Laura, try separating it from the rest of your gear and make sure it has enough head space to breathe.

    TedOnion, it wouldn’t surprise me if Comcast was re-issuing failed equipment. There’s really no way for the customer to know, unless she notes the serial number and they’re stupid enough to give her the same broken one twice. I’d hope they’d at least put it on the bench and test it for a few minutes before they restock it, though.

    I currently have a DVR-2 box, but a friendly tech told me I should ask for the DVR-3 with RF output (tell them you want it for Picture-in-Picture). There are fewer of these in circulation, so you’re less likely to get one that has been returned.

    Also, I’ve been told if you have one of the older non-DVR set top boxes, you can get a newer one by asking for one with digital audio output (spdif, I’m guessing). The newer equipment supposedly keeps the video on the screen as you navigate the on screen guide, similar to the DVR boxes. It’s probably a little faster, too.

  14. elvisaintdead says:

    Thanks for the tips, Mike. I’m lucky enough to (so far) have a non-possed comcast box/dvr, but it was set on 480.
    So THAT’S what HD really looks like……..

  15. beutherlm says:

    Thanks for the info, Mike_. I will try moving the box so it has better ventilation. Of course, the many tech guys who have been out didn’t say a thing about ventilation (and in fact, set it up that way). But then again, why would I expect them to?

  16. jwissick says:

    I have the same problem with my comcast dvr. I got it when my tivo became a slug with the kidzone update… and tivo refuses to fix it.. even with the problems comcast has with its dvr, it is superior to Tivo’s slugged out series 2.

  17. Pilam69 says:

    This is an interesting issue. I have a Motorola DVR from Comcast as well. As part of our rollout to the new HD boxes we are testing a Microsoft programming guide. I’m honestly not sure if the rest of the US gets this yet or if they are still testing it. I keep my box above our TV, alone, with plenty of open space above and behind it and it works fine. I never turn it off and it has worked consistently well for over 2 years now. I have also experienced the “hanging” issue from time to time on commands but I find that if you just sit it out for a minute or two it will come back to you.

    Or, maybe it just needs an electronic exorcism.

    I wish you luck with your unit. Oh, and it won’t hurt to ask for a discount on your service to make up for the inconvenience. They can, and will, give it to you. Especially if they think you will leave for dish or other service. I have had some minor problems with Comcast in the past and they have consistently impressed me with their willingness to give a discount when they goof up.

  18. SexCpotatoes says:
  19. Mike_ says:

    Hey Laura, did we fix your DVR?

  20. beutherlm says:

    Well, Mike_, until the firmware is upgraded from Motorola, I doubt anything will really completely fix the DVR. I have been pretty much told as much by Comcast (after confronting them). But as soon as I get some time and can do some rearranging with my shelving, I’ll try to move the box to allow for more ventilation. If I can figure out your other suggesions, I’ll look into those as well. But I do appreciate all of the tips. It’s been eye opening to see just how many people have similar issues. Comcast should be ashamed.

    As soon as the dual tuner, HD TiVo is affordable, you can bet I’ll be buying one of those.

  21. djigoo says:

    We’re on day 3 of a useless Motorola DVR. Comcast Twin Cities says it’s a system-wide problem. It started with a screen freeze whenever we tried to play a recorded program; “live” video still worked. Soon, however, the whole thing went down. Comcast has been of absolutely no help. “We don’t know what it is and we don’t know how long it’ll take to fix” is essentially what we’re being told. Anyone else in the Twin Cities have a similar story? I’m contacting the BBB and the AG of Minnesota if it’s not up and running by Monday…we’re about to get snowed in, and I WANT MY HDTV!!!

  22. sburkeg says:

    It has been very helpful to know that I am not alone with all of the problems dealing with Comcast and the HD/DVR. Comcast made me feel as if I was the only one on earth experiencing the various problems. We are on our 4th DVR and I actually had to take “pills” to calm me down after the last three days of dealing with the people who answer the phones and the technicians that came to the house. Had Verizon FIOS for a 30 day trial. The product and the people were both great, but the DVR was lacking (3) features the Comcast DVR had, so went back to Comcast. Now, after (3) days of problems with the reinstallation, I have no idea why we went back. As soon as Verizon catches up with the “features”, we will go VERIZON.