TiVo Underscores the Mess that Awaits with Digital TV Switch

Converting TVs is just the start of frustration for viewers who depend on broadcast signals

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I've had more than my taste of the looming disaster of the switch to digital TV. I had another bite at the dirt pie today as I work to get my gear ready. I'm actually trying to follow my own advice and get ready well before the deadline next month.

Today's frustration was TiVo, my favorite TV recording device. I've got an older model with an analog tuner. Luckily, TiVo is nothing more than a specialized computer, which makes it possible to update it to work with digital TV broadcasts.

And luckily, the folks at TiVo have provided a software update for DTV. If only it worked smoothly.

The software enables TiVo to talk to a digital converter box that can receive the new digital broadcasts. It's a bit clunky, but should be no worse than getting TiVo to work with an digital cable box, which many of us have done before.

I carefully followed instructions, but it wouldn't install. TiVo's software would hang at a point where I would choose my external converter box. It took an hour's worth of TiVo tech support on two calls (one of which was inexplicably cut off) to get it working.

The good news is that TiVo's techs were good. One of them knew an odd workaround. I had to lie about my zip code, choosing a nearby one that gets the same broadcasts, to get past the stubborn TiVo software.

Now, I'm somewhat adept at this geek stuff. It saddens me to think of how hard this switch will be on consumers less equipped to wrestled with today's tech, particularly among the elderly and poor who are more likely to depend on broadcast TV.