A Tale of 2 Cable Companies and 2 Email Accounts

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In the last couple of weeks, my gmail account has been once again receiving strange emails. 

Some of them have been easy to unsubscribe to, others have taken much more effort to handle.

Such is the case with my experience with Comcast.  I do not live in an area where they service, but I have been receiving email from them indicating that I was a customer of theirs and they started to send me bills by email.

Unfortunately, there was no unsubscribe link in their email so I had to reach them by Facebook by posting to their corporate page.  After a couple of days, they contacted me back and said my email was removed from their system.

Or at least that was what I thought. 

The next day I received yet another bill from them and contacted them again using the same thread expressing my anger over them not fixing the problem.

The response that I got back from them was a link to their “Privacy Policy”.  This is hardly the type of response that I wanted especially given that I was not even a customer of theirs. 

I wrote back a third time and they had me send them a copy of my email to their email customer service.  Since I have not heard back from them in about a week,  I can only assume that the problem has been completely resolved.

Under NO circumstances should anyone have to go through so much trouble to opt out of their email especially since I was not their customer.  I guess they are no better than Time Warner Cable.

At least that is what one might be led to believe.

Over the last week, Time Warner’s webmail service allegedly got hacked into.   According to reports, approximately 300,000 accounts were compromised and those customers were notified by email and postal mail.  However, I never received either so I have to assume that my account wasn’t part of the hacking.

I am not really surprised over this given how inferior their email system is compared to more modern email systems like gmail and outlook.  What makes the product inferior is that the interface is old and limits customers to 1gb of storage and the number of emails that can be blocked are limited and once you reach that limit, the spammers can send you all the email they want and you cannot block them.  Certainly not the way any system should ever operate.  To make matters worse, the email system does not have a mobile version. In this day and age, this is just about a requirement for any website.

Since I did not get a notification from the company, I decided not to change my password because it was strong enough already.  At least I think I am still fairly safe with this account for now. 

Overall, it appears that both cable companies have failed along with 2 email systems as well. 

If this type of crap continues, this is going to be a VERY long year.

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The Deal That Died…

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It is officially dead.

 

The merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable (TWC) is history.

 

The federal regulators ended this possible merger by saying that the combined company would be too big.

 

Mostly, the combined companies would have over 30% of the total television market and over 50% of the broadband market in the country.  While the television amount is not that large, the broadband amount may have spooked the regulators to throw out the merger.

 

However, I believe that with so much competition out there that those broadband figure is way too high.  With so many getting their content on so many different devices and with so many different services, I think that this number is wrong.

 

While many have complained that the service would have gotten worse, I believe that the combined companies would actually have improved both the quality of service and quality of how it is delivered.

 

Anyone who has been a long time reader of this blog knows that TWC has had many problems with their recent upgrades to their service.  Many times the cable boxes freezes up and must be restarted and just as often channels just come up blank requiring a reboot as well.

 

Certainly the boxes could stand a complete program rewrite.  To those who remember the old blue & white screen system may recall that rarely did the cable box need to reboot.  Ever since they changed to the black version, problems have been epidemic.

 

While I haven’t reported any recent changes to the software in the cable boxes, the only significant change that I have noticed is that the guide now can go up to about 14 days in advance for most channels even though after about 7 days, the guide just gives generic descriptions.  This is a small step forward to getting full cloud guide and DVR service, but I expect that someday it will happen.  I believe that if Comcast and TWC had worked together, the software process would have been updated more frequently and been much more stable.

 

Now there is rumor that TWC wants to merge with the smaller company of Charter Communications (CC).  Since CC is a much smaller company, I think that this merger has a much better chance of going through.

 

But before we start thinking this is a done deal, the truth is that this is a lousy deal for those who have TWC service.  From a couple of checks of different areas, the number of available HD channels and channels in general are significantly less for CC when compared to TWC.

 

Does this mean that TWC will lose many of its channels when this sort of merger takes place?

 

My answer is quite possibly and the chances are that the number will drop significantly.  However, on the plus side, the CC DVR system looks more advanced and much more user-friendly.  If we could keep the channels and get CC’s DVR service, it would be a better combination.

 

But that is just my opinion of what I would like to see happen.  Reality usually would bring us the crappy TWC system for everyone and that would be mean that we would all lose.

 

While this entire merger idea is still in its earliest phases, I am slightly optimistic that this would be more of a positive than negative.

 

In the meantime, there are 2 other mergers that may meet regulators roadblocks as well.

 

The first is the possible merger between AT&T and DirecTV.  This one like the Comcast/TWC merger may have the same problems as these are two large companies that may create a monopoly in one category or another.  I don’t see this merger happening at all.

 

The other, which I have discussed in my other blog, is the Staples/OfficeMax/Office Depot merger.  While Staples claims that such competitors are companies like Amazon and Walmart, I don’t believe that this sort of logic will hold any water whatsoever.  Yes the 3 office supply stores are dying and must do something to survive, but in reality they should just admit to their death and become part of the retail history landscape.

 

Overall, any merger of that involves large companies never have a very good chance of happening.  The government wants to keep monopolies from happening, but sometimes misses what could be something good for all involved.

 

Then again, when has the government ever gotten anything right anymore (or ever).

Odds and Ends

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This week’s post will be fairly short but I want to talk about a few different topics this time around.

 

First up, fake news makers have been making real news in the last 24 hours.

 

Brian Williams of NBC News has received a 6 month suspension without pay for embellishing stories of events that he was involved in.  Certainly he was catering to the late night entertainment audience by his fluffing up his stories.  Anybody who has ever watched any of those late night shows knows that everybody does this.  Of course, a person like David Letterman is a sucker for this sort of banter.

 

I don’t believe that Mr. Williams should have been suspended.  The reason is that over time we all forget details of what happens in our lives.  So it is only logical that he made up parts to make his story sound better than it really is.  Those who believe that Mr. Williams integrity has been ruined by this is delusional.

 

For those of you too young to remember, David Letterman used to have a morning talk show and one part of the show was NBC newsman Edwin Newman.  Since this show was done in front of a live audience, Mr. Newman would regularly laugh it up with Dave.  Certainly his professionalism was never called into question, but then again I bet it has something to do with the new management at NBC’s Comcast head, who probably just was not a fan of Mr. Williams to begin with.

 

The other startling fake news person is the announcement of Jon Stewart leaving his late night show on Comedy Central.  While I have never watched his show any more than I watched Brian Williams on his nightly news show,  it seems like an odd coincidence that these two events would happen on the same day.

 

Rumors have been quickly spreading that Stewart is in talks to become the new host of NBC’s “Meet the Press”.

 

Does anybody else see the irony here?  We have a fake newsperson wanting to take over a real news program and a real newscaster thrown off a real news show for having fake stories.  Honestly, I think there is something very wrong at NBC, which probably explains why I don’t watch any shows on that network anymore.  It seems that they are just a lost cause.

 

Secondly, those of you who are regular readers of this blog knows that last year I wrote about somebody or some bodies was using my Gmail account and setting up things like twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, and some dating websites.

 

Now it has gotten much worse.  One self-storage company in California claims that my email address is valid with them despite that I live in Maine and have never done business with them.  This has gone one for over a year now and I now am considering reporting them to the Better Business Bureau for fraudulent activity against me.

 

In the past week, I have also received bills emailed to me of past due statements from a U-Haul rental in Arkansas and a student loan bill in excess of $20,000, which is not mine either.  The latter has been resolved but I am still waiting on the U-Haul bill that isn’t mine to be resolved.

 

Overall, Google offers no help to prevent this type of fraudulent activity and it is up to each individual company to do the right thing by eliminating my email address from these activities.  However, some companies just seem to refuse to do so.  I consider this a continued warning to those who have a Gmail account that there is very little protection when compared to other email services.

 

Finally, I want to talk snow.  Here in Maine, we have way too much.  This more than I can ever remember.  However, back when I was little, I remember these type of severe snowstorms that had huge amounts of snow, but for many years, the snow has been nothing anywhere near what this year has been.  Anybody who thinks global warning exists, I invite them to come to New England and take some snow home with them.  We certainly won’t miss it.

 

So that is it for this week’s post as I and everyone else awaits the next snowstorm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What NOT to do with Time Warner Cable

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Remember that game ELIZA from the early days in the computer world.

 

She/it was a great program therapist who almost had human intelligence and seemed like you were having a real conversation with a real person.  If you have never played with this program, there are several versions available online and also for download.

 

So why do I bring up this program from the far past?

 

Well, it seems that ELIZA lives on as employees of Time Warner Cable.  Not just one employee, but several of them.

 

So here is how the story begins:

 

Last week, I noticed that one of my favorite channels, Bloomberg TV started airing the high-definition signal on its standard definition setup.

 

So you are probably thinking…so what?

 

Well, the SD version of this channel has a scrolling listing of various stocks that I follow, while the HD version is cramped with only a vertical scrolling newsfeed.  Both versions of the channel used to have the scrolling stock list, but no longer.  I contacted the station about that change and I have not heard back from them in over a week.  Apparently they don’t care much about their viewers.

 

Enter TWC.

 

I decided to contact them about their change of which version of the channel is received.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I removed all the resolutions except for one of the 480 resolutions to get the SD channel.

 

My thought for this was to go through live chat instead of calling the company as this really is more of a complaint than a problem. Or at least that is what it started out as.

 

So I started my first chat from the main TWC page.  This was a short communication with the person as they sent a “signal” to the cable box and had me restart the cable box to “restore” the original channel.  Of course, this procedure didn’t work at all.  This was the first dumb person I dealt with.

 

The second time a few minutes later, I decided to enter the “my account” section of the TWC website and start a live chat there.  This person seemed very robotic in its conversation making suggestions such as the removing higher resolutions and by describing in detail on how to do it even though I said that I already knew how to do it.  The person also pointed me to alternative channel, which wasn’t even the same network as the one I was having trouble with.  This made me think that when I gave them my phone number they completely ignored the fact that this area had the new standardized lineup.  So much for an informed employee.

 

The next suggestion from this person was to swap the box for an SD box at my local TWC office.

 

Seriously, why would this fix the problem because they are airing a different signal on the SD feed?  Again from here it just went downhill.

 

In the midst of this conversation, my internet connection went out.  The lights on my modem started flashing and I was off the air in the midst of this conversation.

 

So officially this conversation which wasn’t going anywhere was over and to the phone to the idiots at TWC began.

 

After about 20 minutes talking to a person on the phone (5 minutes of that time I was on hold with the representative), I finally got my internet connection back.

 

Let me point out that I believe that I WAS purposely disconnected by TWC during this conversation.  It would seem odd that a live char would create such a disconnection, but apparently the person was frustrated by the conversation that went nowhere fast.  Up to that point, I had never lost my internet connection unless there was a power outage or the whole cable was out.

 

As far as I am concerned, this was an act of sabotage.  My recommendation:  DO NOT EVER use live chat with TWC for any reason whatsoever.

 

As for my problem is concerned, it still exists and I will never be happy until TWC keeps SD signals and HD signals separate and not bring the HD signals down to SD levels.

 

This is certainly a lesson to be learned something that even ELIZA would never have done.

 

At least that is what I hope.

 

 

Could Time Warner Be Reading This?

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Last time I mentioned that Time Warner Cable had discontinued the alphabetical listing in the guide.

 

Well, surprise in the last day or so, it has returned.

 

Also, I failed to mention last week that the star rating system has also been restored as well.  While the system is not perfect, it is still more of a guideline than nothing at all.

 

So is TWC secretly reading this blog as a guideline as to problems that exist and then try to correct them based upon what is written here?

 

That is unknown as the high definition/standard definition problem still exists and I see no easy solution to switching between them.

 

However, it does seem odd that the fixes that do happen appear shortly after my blog post.  Since nobody from the company seems to respond on this blog, I can assume that somebody somewhere may be passing along the information to TWC.

 

Either way, if somebody from the company is reading this, then I would make the following product suggestion:

 

Make Whole House DVR free.

 

The reason I say this is that the satellite companies already offer this service for free already and certainly would not take much effort for TWC to make this available to everyone with multiple DVRs.  It is already listed in the diagnostic screen so it would not be any difficulty to make this a standard free option.

 

Secondly, when I picked up my multiple DVRs at the cable company, the person at the counter said that the company would soon be having whole house DVR service available for free.

 

Whether this was a misstatement or a possible service idea is unknown.  The fact that it was said so positively made me think that they really wanted this service free, but changed their mind at the last minute.

 

With charges for everything now from the boxes to remotes, it would be appreciated if this simple addition would happen at no charge.  After all, the units are already network enabled.

 

Do I expect them to do this anytime in the near future?

 

If they want to make customers happy, then I would say yes.

 

However, given their past record, I don’t expect this to happen anytime in the near future.

 

Yet, if somebody at TWC is reading this, then you will make whole house DVR free as it is with everybody else and stop nickel and diming everyone to death.

 

 

Feeling the New Pain from Time Warner

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This week Time Warner Cable upgraded (downgraded?) their lineup here in New England.

 

This was not a minor reshuffle.

 

Consider it more of throwing multiple decks of cards up in the air and having them land wherever.  Then take this deck and put them together not by decks but by card rank instead.  Then take a few of these small packs and stack them and deal them out as any card game at all.

 

No matter what you will either make people angry, win every time, or nobody win ever.

 

Unfortunately, with TWC we got the latter answer.

 

Yes, once again TWC screwed up with its new improved lineup.

 

Certainly, everything is fine up to channel 99.  Most of these channels haven’t changed in years and some have never changed since cable was introduced to the area nearly 40 years ago.

 

Beyond channel 99, good luck.

 

While the channels are grouped by types such as news, kids, sports, etc., the logic of the grouping within each group is horrible.  Forget alphabetical order or any order at all, the stations seemed to be assigned their number positions totally at random.  This makes it even more difficult to figure out what channel you are looking for.

 

Of course, you could read the small foldout card that was mailed to you to see what channel you are looking for.  Again, good luck for that as the print is so small that it is almost impossible to read especially for those with old tired eyes like mine.

 

Then there are the local channels.  Forget about putting them in numerical order by their station id unless you think 8 come numerically before 6.  Did these people graduate kindergarten?

 

We also have the continued problem with standard definition vs. high-definition.  Now it seems that it is completely an all-or-nothing option.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had to change the resolution manually just to see the picture properly the way I want.  If you need to read about how to fix the resolution, search for “high definition resolution” on this blog.

 

Finally, there is the remote control.  Many of the buttons no longer point to the right resources when a button is pushed.  Many of the channels that existed before now just give information to turn to a different channel to learn how to program the remote to set it to the right channel.

 

Seriously.

 

Should the customer need to do so much work for so little benefit.  I think they should have kept the stations pointed to by the remote alone.  Given that we are paying for remotes now, then this should have been a given.

 

Last but not least, TWC wants to raise their rates by about 14% next month.

 

So let’s summarize:

 

  • Fewer choices for channels
  • Mixed up order for channel
  • Remotes that point to the wrong channel
  • Higher bills next month

 

Isn’t it time that TWC was sold to Comcast?  It can’t get worse but it may improve.

 

We can only hope.

 

 

 

 

Time Warner Cable Upgrades Navigator (Finally)

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After nearly a six month lull, Time Warner Cable has finally upgraded their Navigator service ODN to version 6 on Tuesday night.

It all started around 2 am when the cable box started receiving an upgrade to the cablecard unit.  After this I thought all was done since nothing else happened after a single reboot.  That was until about 3:05 am when the cable box again started doing another update to the ODN system.  It seemed all should have been fine after the update and the box rebooted.  This was not the case however.

The box got stuck on the error of “E-13”.  So after a few minutes of not doing anything, I manually pulled the plug to restart the box.  Once again it stalled on the same error.  So again, I did it a 3rd time and this time, it stuck on “E-08”.  Once again, after doing nothing for a few minutes, I rebooted the box yet again and again it stuck on the same error.

This time I decided to leave it alone as I thought that it might fix itself and within a ½ hour it started doing the software update again.  After the download completed, the box rebooted and once again stalled with the same error number.

After a few minutes, the box once again started the download yet again and it took forever downloading about 1% every 2 minutes skipping a couple of percentages every 10 minutes or so.  When this download was completed, the box rebooted and again back to where it was.  At this point, I had enough of this entire process and decided to go to bed (it was about 4:30am at this point).  When I woke up the next morning, the time was on the display so that meant that the update was finally completed, hopefully successfully.

Anticipation ran high with me on what new features would be added especially since the idea of Interactive TV has been mentioned in recent ads.  However, it seems that feature may get implemented soon as many of the features that previously required using the A, B, or C buttons on the remote control have been replaced by scrolling lists to select the desired function.  Another new feature is the “Display Colors” in the settings function.  The options in this menu is to have the scroll bar be either the current blue bar or the “classic” yellow bar from the old Mystro system. What is missing from the classic bar is the old blue screen; however, the grid on the guide appears with a blue background, which is not very readable.

Overall, not many functional changes except that the guide seems to run a little better now and don’t seem to freeze like it previously did.  However, the pixelating of the picture on several channels still exists and still no HD guide when using an HDMI cable.  While certainly positive moves were made in this version, it still is a long way from looking as good as it did in its Mystro days, but for now we will have to accept this upgrade.  I am not giving a score to this update as different people will have different experiences with it, but my personal grade is a 7, which means it lacks some functionality and some features have become clumsy to use.

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