M-Card: Possible Page 2
Before our guide, a little background: A CableCARD is a palm-sized metal plug-in that you can pop into a number of flat-panels or other TV-signal receivers like TiVo Series 3, TiVo HD and Niveus media centers. This little unit works as a TV tuner, letting you watch all your cable channels (that you subscribe to, anyway) without a cable box. So, you get more free shelf space for less money: Cable companies tend to charge just a small monthly rental fee to use their CableCARD - say, $1.50 a month (in my case) - as opposed to, say, $10 for a cable box (more, if you're renting a cable company DVR).
I wanted that newer CableCARD, the M-Card, which, as mentioned earlier, does the work of two regular CableCARDs. Install one in your TiVo HD, and you'll be able to record two channels at once via this one card for that mere $1.50. (TiVo Series 3, on the other hand, currently gives you dual-tuner functionality only if you rent two CableCARDs - standard or Multi-Stream.)
I was all for saving the moohlah. And I was never too pleased with my cable company's crappy DVR. I wanted a TiVo HD (the key letters there being "HD"), I wanted to be able to record two channels at once, and I only wanted to pay for one CableCARD. And that's where my nightmare began.
Before the hostage crisis First, I made a preliminary call to my cable company, RCN, to find out if it had M-Cards. At one point, someone I spoke to there said they "don't support TiVos."
A couple of weeks later, I ordered the M-Card from my cable company. I did everything I could to emphasize that I needed a Multi-Stream card, not a regular CableCARD. My gut told me they weren't really "getting" my request (M-Cards are still a relatively new phenomenon). I told them to make sure the cable guy brought several, since I know these cards can be buggy.
I even called RCN back before the installation to make sure they understood what I needed. I still wasn't sure they understood me.
The first cable guy arrived. I asked him if he brought an M-Card, as opposed to a regular cable card. Yep, no problem, he told me. He popped the card in, called the home ship to send through a signal, and sure enough, my TiVo worked and was getting all my channels - including my premiums. But there was a warning, which I ignored: A TiVo prompt read something like, "To get dual-tuner functionality, you must install two CableCARDs." I figured maybe even the TiVo itself didn't completely "get" the M-Card and its talents. I figured the problem would go away. Cable Guy left. I was starting to have doubts. I called him on his cell (I luckily had his number). "Are you sure you gave me a Multi-Stream CableCARD?" I asked. "Yeah, that's what you've got," he answered.
Only then did I find the part in the TiVo instruction manual that explained how to switch from one tuner to the other. I hit the tuner button.
TiVo bass-drum sound of failure.
At that point, I realized I only had a single tuner working. Either this was a non-M-Card or it was incorrectly installed.
Called back RCN to complain. Got a technical support woman. Was put on hold many times. When I realized she didn't understand what I was talking about, I asked to speak to someone who actually had a clue. She warned me that I'd have to wait on hold a long time all over again to reach someone. I tried to give her another chance. At one point she asked me to explain, "what a tuner is." She also warned me that if the malfunction was with the TiVo and not their installation, I'd have to pay for the second cable guy visit.
Got her supervisor on the phone. She seemed more in-tune to the problem. Scheduled Cable Guy No. 2.
Cable Guy No. 2 came by. He removed the old CableCARD from my TiVo (which turned out to be a regular CableCARD - it didn't say "M-Card" on it) and popped in a real M-Card. He thought the M-Card had the ability for two-way interactivity, so I could order pay-per-view, on-demand, that kind of thing. I explained to him that two-way CableCARDs weren't on the market yet. He wouldn't believe me.
He installed the M-Card. It still didn't give me two-tuner access. I called TiVo support, put her on speaker. She said the card needed to be "paired" again to activate the second tuner. Cable Guy called the mother ship. A second signal was sent through.
TiVo Lady also told us that we'd have to launch the TiVo setup all over again. (That whole initial process that can take the better part of an hour.) I told Cable Guy he wasn't going anywhere till the TiVo gave us the green light. And that's how he wound up sitting in that chair, watching the wheels go 'round and 'round . . .
At the end, though, everything finally worked.