In re: Good bye WOW, Hello TWC and DVR Expander Fun

So if you read the title you probably don’t have a clue what I am talking about here.  Two things, one is I recently changed my cable provider from Wide Open West (WOW) the budget competitor to Time Warner here in Columbus (and other Midwest cities) back to Time Warner Cable (TWC), who despite having had past problems with I decided to go back to due to their better HD lineup (and especially having two HD Olympic channels).  WOW has two tiers of HD and in order to get channels like the Nat’l Geo HD, Discovery Theatre HD and FoodTV HD you pay extra (including for HDNet)  TWC also has the higher tier but it is only for the HDNet type channels which have more of a ‘premium’ feel to them rather than Nat’l Geo which is in their base pack (also Espn2 HD is included which WOW still doesn’t have despite having told me a year ago it was coming ‘soon’).  Anyway, HD is pretty much the only issue I was thinking about, oh and the ability to have a DVR, TWC uses the same POS DVR the Scientific Atlanta 8300HD DVR (some of the major flaws have been upgraded over time) but they use different software (more on this later).

Okay, going to get a bit more technical now so time to turn away for the uninitiated (if you want to understand DVR expansion via external hard drives a simple article in USA Today may help).  One of the reasons the SA 8300HD doesn’t suck is that it has an esata expansion slot that is active on most cable companies implementations these days that allows an external hard drive to expand the meager 160gb (funny that 160gb sounds tiny today…) anyway, when your recording HD you eat through Gigs pretty quickly (20 hours is approx what you’d get).  So I added a 500 gb western digital (My Dvr Expander (pictured)- supposedly optimized for DVR use, some people don’t like the price but it is now available for about the same price as comperable setups).

So I had the external drive setup and working with the Sara software that is running on the SA 8300HD box from WOW, but had read that it would also work with the in house software that Time Warner uses on their boxes these days called Navigator (on a side note, despite the flashy appearance of Navigator, people seem to universally despise the software and many people preferred the Passport software that was previously used by Time Warner (but that they had to pay licensing for).

There are too many reasons this DVR isn’t that great to go into, some of the flaws are the response time is slow (Navigator maybe the slowest software of the three), the features are paltry (Sara for example only can remember the position of the last played program, it is pretty unbelievable that they can’t add a bookmark of where you left off for multiple programs.  If you compare the features of desktop DVR software like SageTV (which I run, but only for basic cable) it is stunning that anyone would use the crap the cable companies push on us.  (Why do you ask don’t I grab a Tivo or a HD Sage box?  Well one thing is due to the crappy nature of Cable Cards and the future of Switched Video the Tivo might not last that long, secondly the cost of a $12 a month plus the cable card rental really adds up, I also would probably be switching to satellite (which Tivo doesn’t support) if I end up living somewhere I can fit a dish so I can get more HDs and more importantly more soccer channels.

Okay, so back to installing the external sata drive with my new TWC SA 8300HD box, like the instructions said, I powered down my DVR, unplugged got the HD connected and let it fly.  Great news, just like I had read on the many forums the Navigator software recognized the drive, but it didn’t ask to format it.  Uh-oh!

The problem seemed to be that my previous Sara SA 8300HD had formatted the drive such that my new DVR didn’t feel the need to format it, but also wouldn’t actually use the drive and so my storage filled up real quick.  I hit the internet pretty hard, searching for ways to reformat the external drive but came up empty, as the Navigator software doesn’t use all of the commands to reformat and reboot that the other software versions (Sara and Passport) do.  I tried all the various resets I could perform, soft reboots, hard reboots, unplugging the drive while running, but no luck.  I tried using my old box to reformat the drive but without a cable connection the old SA 8300HD wouldn’t allow all the reformat commands.

As of today my external hard drive is now working.  How you ask?  Well, some of it was luck, but through all the unplugging, attempting to reformat on the other machine and some hot pluging and disconnecting I think I corrupted the disk enough that my DVR decided it needed to reformat it.  Two minutes later it was done and my remaining space showed that I was now only using 10%.  So despite the flaws of the TWC software and the guide having very little information there are somethings it has that my previous doesn’t, it seems to remember the location of each show you watch.  So at this point, I can’t complain as I can fill my drive to my hearts content with Olympics coverage in HD.

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3 Responses

  1. […] – bookmarked by 1 members originally found by mikebd on 2008-12-05 In re: Good bye WOW, Hello TWC and DVR Expander Fun http://inreblog.com/2008/08/16/in-re-good-bye-wow-hello-twc-and-dvr-expander-fun/ – bookmarked by […]

  2. I was having the same issue of the hd not being available after getting a new DVR and the idea of hot plugging the expander worked perfectly!! Thanks.

  3. I had similar situation. My SA8300HD BOX developed a problem and had to replace it. When I got the new box, it saw the Expander but did not recognize the space. Followed the printed directions but to no avail. Based on the above, I just cycled the power to the Expander on and off a few times. Then voila, the format message appeared, I reformatted it and problem solved. BTW I am in upstate NY and get TW from Rochester.

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