My cable box is haunted.
May 11, 2007 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Cable box filter: Why does my cable box turn off by itself??

Sometimes when I come home from work or from a weekend away, I go to check my Tivo all excited to see shows that I missed. But then, when I go to access the show, it's a blank screen!

House? ANTM? The Office? Ace of Cakes? Mythbusters (yes I tivo mythbusters) Where arest thou??

At first, I had no idea what was going on. On the phone, my brother told me the cable box might be off. I went to check it, he was right. This has happened about 5 times over the past year. I don't live with anyone at the moment, I don't have any pets. Nothing in my apartment can physically turn off the cable box.

I usually wouldn't be worried about this, but I am going on vacation for the next 2 weeks and I'm going to be missing Bob Barker's last Price is Right and the season finale of America's Next Top Model. I know I can eventually get them on the internet, but I really want them on my Tivo at my convenience.

I have Time Warner cable. I live in an apartment building.

I have been on hold with Time Warner for the past 20 minutes. *shakes fist*
posted by spec80 to Technology (14 answers total)
Guess: some other device is producing remote-control interference.
posted by box at 8:30 AM on May 11, 2007

Best answer: I had a scientific atlanta digital cable box from Time Warner that had a power save mode. It would shut down in the middle of the night when if figured you weren't watching TV [if you are watching TV you see a notice come up on the TV saying to press any button on the remote to leave it on]. You could turn that off in the settings.

If your box doesn't have that option, then maybe it is the box that is flaky. For one reason or another I go through about 3 cable boxes a year. I live really close to the TWC office so it isn't a big deal to swap them out.

The last reason could be TWC is sending down firmware or other updates that require a reboot. Again, they do this in the middle of the night, but not very often. When the box reboots it stays off and you have to turn it on.

When I went to HD, retired the Tivo for the HD DVR so I didn't have to deal with the Tivo blisfully recording nothing when the cable box was off.

If I got city council meetings recorded instead of what I wanted, I actually discovered my cat would from time to time push the 6 button on the cable remote. I guess she likes to keep up on what is going on in local government.
posted by birdherder at 8:43 AM on May 11, 2007

I too have this problem with a Time Warner Cable Box, I have chalked it up to the firmware updates that birdherder mentioned.

Mega-fustrating to say the least.
posted by mmascolino at 8:49 AM on May 11, 2007

My RCN Motorola HD DVR cable box does this every so often for firmware updates, but there's an option in the menus for forcing it to default to "on" after a reboot.

My major gripe with the built-in DVR is that (US) Emergency Alert System activations stop all recordings and they won't restart after the alert. With AMBER alerts occuring once a month or so, it gets pretty annoying.
posted by backupjesus at 8:56 AM on May 11, 2007

Does the box ever cut out while you are watching? If so, it might have an overheating issue. But first check out what the guys upthread suggest.
posted by ilsa at 9:03 AM on May 11, 2007

Overheating seconded. Is any other device on top of your cable box, blocking the vents? Leave nothing on top of it.
posted by poppo at 9:10 AM on May 11, 2007

Response by poster: No, my cable box is on its own well ventilated shelf. I think the firmware explanation might be the case, but I will still check settings regarding the Power Save mode.

Thanks all!
posted by spec80 at 9:24 AM on May 11, 2007

My RCN Motorola HD DVR cable box

*groans* same situation here. for the record: motorola boxes sucks donkey balls and RCN blows goats. avoid at all costs and get a real Tivo and a satellite dish instead.
posted by krautland at 9:49 AM on May 11, 2007

Is it the Motorola one? It's just broken.

Comcast has the same problem, and all they do is insist on swapping the DVR out. Sometimes it records 10 seconds of a show and then records black screen.

It's like russian roulette with your Tivo... but with a semi-auto. ;)
posted by drstein at 9:51 AM on May 11, 2007

If it does it alot, it's probably broken.

I've had two flaky boxes, and one box that has lasted for more than a year and a half with no problems, they seem to be a crap shoot.
posted by drezdn at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2007

Time-Warner is a content provider. Content providers would rather you not use Tivo because Tivo users tend not to watch commercials, and sponsors are beginning to insist that ad rates be reduced to reflect reduced commecial viewing by Tivo users.

So, Time-Warner is doing something which interferes with your ability to Tivo, and probably depresses Tivo sales-- what an amazing coincidence!
posted by jamjam at 10:02 AM on May 11, 2007

One possible (although unlikely) explanation:

Many years ago, our family's cable box would randomly turn itself on and off, and flip through channels in the early evening. It was as if a ghost with ADD got home from his day haunting job and liked to relax to a little TV.

Eventually we discovered the culprit-- infrared light from the setting sun was hitting the remote sensor. Some of these random signals were close enough to the remote's output to trigger a response.
posted by justkevin at 10:51 AM on May 11, 2007

I wouldn't doubt justkevin's story but I do know that in my case the issues seem to be in the middle of the night (I can tell by see what shows recorded successfully and which ones just recorded a blank screen).
posted by mmascolino at 11:48 AM on May 11, 2007

Say hello to a shiny new Series3. ;)
posted by wierdo at 7:14 PM on May 11, 2007

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