Sunday, January 11, 2009

Defeated by Electronics

I am rarely defeated by home electronics. Long-time readers may note that, whenever I have trouble with my electronics, I usually come up with work-arounds which, while not entirely as elegant as I'd hoped, have the advantage of actually working.

Not today.

The problem: My temporary furnished rental apartment (aka: the "shithole") comes with two TVs with basic cable, and a DVD player.

And a friend invited me to a concert tonight, and I said "yes" before I realized "24" was starting.

Dude. It's 24. I missed Monk on Friday, but that's easy enough to pick up in reruns. But the premiere of 24? I'm screwed for the whole season if I miss this.

I had a solution. I have a DVD Recorder. Admittedly, it's over at a friend's house right now, but I can get it back. It doesn't have a tuner in it, and I don't have one of the IR thingies to change the channel on the cable box. But if I hook up the DVD recorder, leave the cable box on FOX, and program the DVD recorder to record for two hours tonight, it should work.

Here's what happened:

Went to friend's house; picked up recorder.
Brought recorder home. Removed DVD player from current set-up. Hooked DVD recorder up where DVD player used to be. Cable box has an S-video out, so I ran an S-video cable to the inputs of the DVD recorder.

Turned on the TV. Told it to show me what was on the auxilliary inputs. And it gave me: lines on the screen. A screwy picture. I toggled through the DVD-recorder inputs and couldn't put it on something that gave me a better picture.

Figured maybe the cable signal wasn't going through the S-video for some reason, so tried something more basic. Put a DVD in the DVD recorder and hit play. This should totally work. After all, I'm using the same set of TV inputs their DVD player had been in, I've just swapped in my DVD recorder for it. And the TV gave me: sound. Perfectly. But no picture.

I made sure the video component was well hooked up. It was. Still sound without picture.

I pulled the S-video cable from the cable box and tried to connect the DVD recorder to the TV via S-video cable. Result: Nada.

I had a second set of component cables. I tried them. I even tried them on a second set of component inputs on the TV: Still no picture.

Dammit; dammit; dammit.

There's another TV in the bedroom. Let's move the whole set-up in there. It's a little more challenging because there's no easily-reachable A/C outlet. I'm running the cord across the room at the height of my dresser. (Even if I get this to work, I'm sure my cat will pull this out while recording 24 tonight.) Plug in the cables and: nothing at all.

Throughout this process, I learn that I can get a signal out of the component connections on the cable box, but this isn't going to do me a whole lot of good if I can't get a video signal from the DVD recorder to the TV.

Which. I. Freakin. Can't.

I try to figure out the problem from the DVD recorder manuals online. Which don't exist. But, from the specs, I learn that... well....

OK, here's the thing. I've never actually run a signal from the component or S-video cables out of my DVD recorder. I've always run it via HDMI -- but the two TVs here in the shithole WAY pre-date HDMI connections. So one of two things is wrong here. Either my DVD recorder is incapable of sending a video signal out of BOTH its component connection AND its S-video connection, OR...

... these TVs are too stupid to process my DVD recorder's video signal. I have a sneaking suspicion the problem is the latter. The DVD recorder is an upconverting model, and needs a TV a little more HD than what we have here to do its upconverting thing. But the panel on the front of the DVD recorder has little lights for the resolution it's using (480p, 1080p, whatever....) and NONE of those little lights are on when I've been testing it. I can't seem to find a button on the remote (or the unit itself) to force it to set to a low resolution. So whatever level output this thing is defaulting its output to is just too damn high for these TVs to read.

If I knew for sure that the output on the DVD recorder was broken, I'd run right out and get a new one. But I suspect it isn't broken (and, even it is, it might just be broken in a way that it defaults to a resolution that works fine when I have it with a decent TV), so I'm not going to replace it.

But I can't record 24 tonight, dammit.

Called my friend to ask if SHE'd record it.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

unlurking for a moment...have you been to hulu.com? They will be posting new episodes of 24 this season (legally!). Sometimes it is the next day, sometimes they wait a week. It is nice to be able to catch up things I've missed. Good luck!