Monday, August 13, 2007

Installing the New Toy!

OK, so, I bought the Pinnacle PCTV to Go as a nice little treat for myself.  The box allows you to watch, and control, your television remotely from the internet.  The really cool bit about it is that you can control the DVR bit, too -- so I can watch previously recorded programs anytime -- and anywhere -- I want.

It arrived today, so I planned to set it up.

Here's what you need to know -- I have a fairly large TV, but it isn't a flat panel.  It has a huge butt.  It sits on a corner unit made especially for it.  Since it is in the corner -- and very heavy -- it is hard to get behind.  I can push it around on the shelf, but can't lift it.  Under the TV are four shelves, currently home to, in this order:  VCR, Cable Box, DVD Player, Second VCR.  Each one has various cords connecting it to the rest (and to a power strip behind the TV).  There are holes between the shelves located uncomfortably near the back of the entertainment center, through which all the cords have to go.

Setting up the Pinnacle TV to Go has all of 5 steps to it:

1.  Plug it in.

2.  Take the composite cable and run it from the "out from cable box" to the "in" part of the Pinnacle TV to Go.

3.  Hook up the IR Blaster.

4.  Get the damn thing on your wireless network.

5.  Install the software and configure away.

Easy as pie.

Step One:  Plug it in.

Since it will need to access the world wirelessly, I can't put it on one of the shelves under the TV.  Luckily, the entertainment center isn't JUST the corner part, but also has some shelves on either side of the TV.  I clear off some space to the left and set up the PCTV to Go on it.  I drag the power cord through the pre-drilled hole in the side of the shelving so that I can plug it in the power strip.  Problem:  there's only one slot left on the power strip and this AC adapter is WAY too big to fit in just one slot.

The nearest outlet in the room is on the other side of the TV.  I clear that shelf and move the PCTV to Go over there.  (Pulling the cord back through the hole in the wall.)  I set it on the shelf.  I reach the power cord over to the outlet.  It won't reach.

I go back over to the first position again.  I decide that I don't really need that second VCR.  I unplug it, reorganize the plugs on the power strip so that two open spaces are next to each other, plug the PCTV to Go in (running the cord, yet again, through the hole in the wall) and have FINALLY mastered step one.

Step Two:  Take the composite cable and run it from the "out from cable box" to the "in" part of the Pinnacle TV to Go.

Actually, I luck out on this. 

Sort of.

I mean, the advantage is that my cable box/DVR thingie actually HAS an "out" place for composite cable.  If it didn't, I'd have to use two sets of composite cables and insert the PCTV to Go between the cable box and the TV.  Considering how astonishingly difficult it is to get behind my TV with a cable, I think of this as something best to be avoided.

So.  Grab the composite cable.  Attach it to back of PCTV to Go.  Send it through hole in the wall.  Send it through hole behind TV, aim it down through the shelf with the VCR, and then on down to the cable bo--

It isn't long enough.  The composite cable won't make it.

It will make it to the first shelf.  All I have to do is swap the VCR with the cable box.

Of course, each of these items has various cables attached to it -- which will need to be swapped through that hole between the shelves.

There's nothing else for it.  I detach two cables from the VCR.  I shove them through the hole.  I set the VCR aside.  Then, I grab the cable box.  It has way more cables stuck to it.  Concerned that I might forget which cable goes where, I immediately move the cable box to the higher shelf, and detach/reattach the cables one at a time.  One piece of coaxial cable; then another piece of coax; then ...

... a composite cable.

What's odd about this composite cable is that, when I detach it, it falls loose.  The other end wasn't attached to anything.  And it'slong.

It dawns on me, at this point, that I could undo everything I've just done, put it all back where it started, and just use this piece of composite cable that was already hooked up to the "out" bit of my cable box.  But, y'know, I'm more than halfway there.  I might as well finish.

I finish.  Cable box relocated.  VCR relocated.  VCR cables reattached -- and one of them is really short so it takes a long time for me to screw it in there with my arm shoved way to the back of the shelf and doing this by feel. 

I turn everything back on and am thrilled to find that I still have cable TV on my TV.

I now hook up the composite cable from the cable box to the PCTV to Go.  It makes it, but just barely

(You realize you're getting the condensed version of this, right?)

Step Three:  Hook up the IR Blaster.

OK, this actually works.  That's because it's easy.  I just have to plug this into the back of the PCTV to Go and aim the other end of it in the general vicinity of my cable box.  (It's the thing that acts like a remote control for the cable box.)

Step Four:  Get the damn thing on your wireless network.

I turn on my computer.  I have my wireless network set up to only let in particular wireless things that I recognize -- in this case, my laptop is pretty much the extent of it.  I ask my router to scan around for other wireless things.  It's supposed to see the PCTV to Go, and let me add it.

It doesn't.

I have to type the PCTV to Go in by MAC address manually.  I find this on the bottom of the PCTV to Go.  I type it in my router control panel.  My router cheerfully tells me that it will gladly let this thing access the network.  It also points out that said item is not, in fact, accessing the network.

I face facts.  The composite cable was so short that in order to make the connection, I had to slide the PCTV to Go fairly far back into its shelving unit.  Where it is surrounded by wood and not likely to get much of a signal.

I have to switch to that longer piece of composite cable.

Back behind the TV, through the holes -- out with the short cable, in with the long. 

Now I can move the PCTV to Go much further out on the shelf, and my network can find it.

Step Five:  Install the software and configure away.

I install the software, from its CD, on my PC.  It then wants to download a newer version of the software, which takes about 20 minutes. 

Then, it tries to configure the PCTV to Go.  It can't find it.

Why the heck not?

Seems that the PCTV to Go must be configured from a PC with a wireless adapter.  Since my desktop is joined to my wireless router via an ethernet cable, this won't work.  I have to use my laptop.

I install the software on my laptop.  It does the upgrade-for-twenty-minutes thing again. 

Then it updates the firmware in the PCTV to Go. 

Holy cow!  I'm in!

(I feel like I'm breaking in to the Pentagon or something.)

It then runs all sorts of tests.  Makes sure the IR blaster works by changing channels on my TV, that sort of thing.  All of these things work flawlessly.

Until the bit where I'm supposed to adjust the color and contrast on the picture on my screen, and there is no picture on my screen.


The PCTV to Go is clearly working, but it isn't getting any data.  The obvious culprit is the ol' composite cable.  It dawns on me that maybe I had this cable just sitting there because it wasn't working.  I look for another piece of composite cable somewhere in my home -- I grab the cable off the back of the TV in my office, but that one is actually a few inches shorter than the one the PCTV to Go came with.  I put that one back.  I decide to go back behind the cable box and make sure all the connections are tight.

The connections are tight.  They are, however, connected to the wrong place.  They're in the "in" slots on the cable box, rather than the "out" slots.  I relocate to the right place.  Still nothing on the screen.


I am out of ideas.

But wait!  It's on the screen now.  There's a bit of a delay (I guess the signal takes some time to go wirelessly to my router and then back to the laptop), but there's TV!  On my computer!


The irony of it all.

I am now, as we speak, watching previously DVR'd programming on my computer.  This is way cool, and is, in fact, what I'd planned for with this system.

There is a bit of a downside, however.  My particular brand of DVR lists the previously recorded programs if you hit the "List" key.

The PCTV to Go does not appear to have a "List" button.

If I actually walk over to my TV and hit "List" on the cable box (or the remote control), I get the list of recorded programs -- and that list (with a short time delay) will show up on my PC screen, enabling me to select one, watch it, finish watching it, watch another, etc.  But unless I've actually been near enough to my TV to hit "List," I can't get the list on my PC to watch any prerecorded stuff.



hewasolddog299 said...

Congratulations! You did it! And my hat's off to you, madam (yes, that IS my bald spot peeking through the gray hairs -- thanks for asking) -- you've more patience by far than I ever dreamed of having.

An email to Pinnacle technical support may reveal a way to program a function key to reproduce the "List" function you so richly deserve. Just a thought.

How'd the play going and review writing go?

Again, my sincere congratulations on a job well done. When you're out my way, feel free to stop by and troubleshoot the lack of surround sound on my system...

Jake said...

On the Pinnavle PCTV To Go HD soft remote, the LIST button's function can be executed with the "Channel Enter" selection on the drop down menu. Shame on pinnacle for never fixing the many issues with this thing.