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Category Archives: Comcast

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Review Fire TV Stick December 30, 2014

Fire TV Stick has won the hearts in our household of two generalists and one techie. Google Chromecast may have been my favorite, but I’m waffling. When Amazon offered the Fire Stick for $19 to Prime members, I was one of the first wave who ordered it.

It arrived the first week of December. But, it wasn’t for me. It was for the normals. I’ve cut the cord. I cut it several years ago. I go to reddit for US & World news. I watch movies on Netflix, television on Hulu — all on my Android tablet in HD or on my old laptop. It’s not that I don’t have space for a TV, it’s that if I spend money on more electronics, I’d fill up the house with more gadgets not a TV set.

The thing that has rankled me is that although Amazon had promised a video app for Android, I couldn’t find it. I had a library of Amazon Instant video that I couldn’t access on my Android tablets. I’d bought full seasons of television shows that I could only use on my laptop. It’s five years old. The video was top shelf then, now it’s so-so compared to the HD on my Google Android tablets. That was a problem.

So, when the Fire TV Stick came up for sale, I had to try it, even if it disappointed. You know, it’s a new gadget. I had have one, and yes, Google Chromecast is very good, but I wanted to compare it to the Fire TV Stick. What I found was that in a sense Google Chromecast is more dependable than the Fire TV Stick. It’s easy to set up, it’s uncluttered to navigate from either my Nexus 2012 or 2013 tablet. (I might add that I powered both dongles.) But here’s the thing.

One person in our household has a smart phone, but not a tablet, and he doesn’t want his phone tied up with Google Chromecast, and he’s not comfortable using our tablets. He doesn’t like to navigate from Google Chromecast. The clicker included with Amazon Fire TV Stick makes him happy.

After getting comfortable with the Fire TV Stick navigation and clutter, and it’s extensive options like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime literally at his fingertips, he said, “take a good look because you might never see me again!” He’s an inveterate movie watcher, National Geographic kind of man. The Comcast cable offerings were stale. He’s watched and re-watched the same Sci-Fi offerings. This was big.

As a couple they watched “Hemlock Grove” on Netflix through Google Chromecast on the living room TV in November. This hooked them. They’d been watching some movies on their desktop but the sound was muffled, so to get the Internet entertainment they wanted on a big screen with super sound was, well, big.

In anticipation of the Fire TV Stick device with a real, honest to god clicker, and Fire TV Stick’s decent sized clicker, they bought a new TV set, with of course, the obligatory HDMI connection during the Christmas season at a sale price. It had a larger screen, better sound, and the set didn’t shut off intermittently while they were viewing the nightly news or “Grimm.”

As soon as the new TV arrived, the old TV and Google Chromecast were exiled to the bedroom. It’s getting some play there, but not nearly what the Fire TV Stick has gotten. Now in their third week they’ve found fresh Sci-Fi like “The 100’s”, and “The Fall” among others. Initially, Netflix’s “Hemlock Grove” captured them on Google Chromecast, and but they sat transfixed watching a crapload of stuff on Amazon Fire TV Stick, December, through the Christmas and New Year holiday season.

And, of course we watched “The Interview” on Google Play, me included. If you’re a techie you had to watch Seth Rogen and James Franco chase Kim Jong Un around North Korea. I don’t know about your house, but at our house, Comcast must be feeling lonely, and if other families adapted to the new, inexpensive tools for Internet TV like we have, ignoring Comcast’s offerings, Comcast, too, might be feeling a pinch.

We did have some glitches during Amazon Prime video. Our bandwidth faded during Christmas. I thought it might be hackers using the connection and bandwidth tor DDoS  elsewhere,  but there was a lot of network traffic during the holidays. We had no network connection, except we really did have network connection, Amazon forgot our wireless password, but it really wasn’t forgotten, and we experienced excessive video buffering. The video buffered so much that we unplugged the Fire TV Stick and the routers, half-dozen times. In the three weeks we had the Amazon Fire TV Stick this had happened only a few times. Now the video stopped at least twenty times.

In the midst of the buffering we talked about hooking up Google Chromecast. I got out my older Google Nexus 7 (2012) tablet for the family to navigate to the movie that was interrupted, and that’s when I knew — yes, they were ready to cut the Comcast cord, but no, they weren’t ready to give up the Fire TV Stick clicker. Google Chromecast does not have a clicker. We unplugged the Fire TV Stick once again and plugged it in again, and waited for the interminable buffer to fill up with video.

Intuitive navigation via the clicker was the game breaker at our house even though Google Chromecast probably seems a lot better about not buffering. The second game breaker is that whatever they were watching was free on Amazon Prime. Prime offered delicacies that Netflix and Hulu didn’t have. It completed the cord cutting package. For whatever reason, Fire TV Stick is just convenient. Natural. Music in the cloud and on the radio.

We like a radio station from our old hometown six states away. The music is outstanding. Now we could listen to any radio station on a tablet or phone with speakers, but the convenience of the Amazon Fire TV Stick allows us to listen to our music in the cloud or our favorite radio station on Tunein in a centralized place with rich sound. It’s like Amazon packaged our wants we didn’t know we had and included everyone, techie or not. Now that’s a feat.

This little stick might be Comcast’s worst nightmare. Normals or non-techies can cut the cord and never feel it. So what did I do once the television was free. I watched the Christmas season of ” The Wrong Mans” on Hulu on the Amazon Fire Stick! Sorry Google Chromecast I can just be so loyal.

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 THE INTERNET IS OFF AGAIN 8:00 AM. : The Internet went out again. All the lights were lit up as they should  appear on my modem. The blue light for the Internet was lit on my router. All was well with the world except the Internet would not work. Modem doesn’t work again this morning, Thursday, December 19, 2013. Unplugged, rebooted, waited 20 seconds, tried all the stuff you’re supposed to try. Hooked the modem directly to the computer, no router attached. Next move, the REFRESH.

Called Comcast technical support, asked for a modem refresh –not able to send a refresh rate message comes back, and I’m sent to TECHNICAL SUPPORT immediately. The last time, two days ago, when the Internet went out, the Internet signal intermittently did get through every 45-50 seconds before it went off, so it looked like we had signal, it seemed a whole lot harder to deal with. So, this time  got Dianna, quickly. She sounds Spanish, easy to understand. I ask for technical support to come to the house right off the bat, but Dianna asks to run diagnostics. After about 45 minutes, and several recycles she gets the modem working.

She says that if we continue to send signals from Comcast it could ruin my modem. She believes that there are STRONG POWER SURGES coming into the house causing the modem to go into STANDBY. She asks me if the modem is a Motorola. She says that an ARRIS modem would work better, they almost never have a problem with them. I say that I’ve been looking at the ARRIS. She doesn’t go as far as suggesting that I rent the Comcast modem. She explains that the ARRIS modems are built to deal with electrical current better than other brands.

Dianna also said to get something to modulate the power. Something on Reddit that I have to read. What’s the difference between upstream power and downstream power?  I’ll check those stats in my modem software page. Been having a problem with an intruder in Gmail and a few minor annoyances. Guessing that’s a coincidence. How unlikely is it that someone would attack a cable modem? I’m scratching my head here. Moving on. Will read reddit page again.

Dianna has explained each step that she has taken and why she has taken it. Part of the solution for Comcast is better customer service. Dianna is a better customer service representative than the last four to five male representatives I’ve had to deal with. In fact, the ARRIS female representative was better than those five males that I’ve dealt with in the last 30 days or so.

POWER SHUTDOWN:  As if on que, at 9:38 AM, the house power has flashed off and on, shut down my computer and the lights in the entire house have flashed off and on. A few moments later, and a resiet, and the modem is back up but the orange link light is flashing so that means the connection is slower. The blue solid light is gone, forever? grrrrh.

Next step: Go to reddit to read about a power modulator? Buy an Arris modem?

COMCAST BRING YOUR OWN MODEM RAGE

 THE INTERNET IS OFF AGAIN 8:00 AM.  The Internet went out again. All the lights were lit up as they should  appear on my modem. The blue light for the Internet was lit on my router. All was well with the world except … our customer-owned modem didn’t work again this morning, Thursday, December 19, 2013. I unplugged, rebooted, waited 20 seconds, tried all the stuff you’re supposed to try. I hooked the modem directly to the computer, no router attached. I’d jiggled connections, and checked and rechecked connections, but nothing. I had one option left, the COMCAST REFRESH.

Called Comcast technical support, asked for a modem refresh, and a “not able to send a refresh rate” message comes back. I’m sent to TECHNICAL SUPPORT immediately. The last time, two days ago, when the Internet went out, the Internet signal intermittently did get through every 45-50 seconds before it went off. The intermittent problem seemed a whole lot harder to deal with than the other problems we were having. So, this time  got Dianna, FAST. She sounds Spanish, easy to understand. I ask for technical support to come to the house right off the bat, but Dianna asks to run diagnostics. After about 45 minutes, and several recycles she gets the modem working.

She says that if we continue to send signals from Comcast it could ruin my modem. She believes that there are STRONG POWER SURGES coming into the house causing the modem to go into STANDBY. She asks me if the modem is a Motorola. She says that an ARRIS modem would work better, they almost never have a problem with them. I say that I’ve been looking at the ARRIS. She doesn’t go as far as suggesting that I rent the Comcast modem. She explains that the ARRIS modems are built to deal with electrical current better than other brands.

Dianna also said to get something to modulate the power. Something on Reddit that I have to read. What’s the difference between upstream power and downstream power?  I’ll check those stats in my modem software page. Been having a problem with an intruder in Gmail and a few minor annoyances. Guessing that’s a coincidence. How unlikely is it that someone would attack a cable modem? I’m scratching my head here. Moving on. Fugetaboutit! I’m grasping at anything that would make just a bit of sense.

Dianna has explained each step that she has taken and why she has taken it. Part of the solution for Comcast is better customer service. Dianna is a better customer service representative than the last four to five male representatives I’ve had to deal with. In fact, the ARRIS /MOTOROLA  female representative that I’ll deal with before the end of my ordeal, is better than those five males that I’ve dealt with in the last 30 days or so.

WHO WANTS TO VOLUNTEER TO CALL COMCAST, AGAIN?  As if on cue, at 9:38 AM, the house power has flashed off and on, shut down my computer and the lights in the entire house have flashed off and on. A few moments later, and a reset, and the modem is back up but the orange link light is flashing so that means the connection is slower, and the Internet is off. Grrrrh.

Should I go to reddit to read about a power modulator? Buy an Arris modem? Or ask my daughter to call this time. She’s level headed and smart, she can sort this out better than I can.

“Nope I did it the last time,” my daughter says, backing out of room with her hands raised, palms up. “I just can’t do this today. She’s refusing to call Comcast Technical Support, and I don’t blame her. I don’t want to call either but it’s my turn.

The Motorola, SB6141, SURFboard eXtreme, (now owned by Arris?), greeted me with an odd intermittent, flashing red light that wasn’t timed exactly right for the third time in a month, which, before I finish, will eat up nearly five days of my life, and has most likely made surfing the web frustrating for weeks. Our modem worked right out of the box. No trouble ’til now.

We waited an hour for the Internet to return, another hour fumbling with cables to see if I’d tripped up something, and nothing I do works. The inevitable Comcast call is staring me in the face. So, I make the call.

“Would you like to answer a survey BEFORE you talk to a technician?” Press 1 . . .

Is this a new twist on Chinese water torture? It won’t be the last time I’m asked to take a survey today.

I press 2 for NO. It’s best I don’t. I know right from the beginning I’m probably in for a day-long ordeal. I’m not happy.

It takes less time than usual, maybe 10 minutes to get through to technical support. This is going better than usual. I ask my daughter to at least listen in on the conversation. “What is your name?” Just tell them you’re me, she whispers. I pay the Comcast bill monthly, and I take care of the technical support, here, but I’ve never put my name on the account. Always before, I’ve been accepted, so I give him my name; I know it’s recorded in their notes.

He blitzes me: Sorry, you are not authorized to access this account. He’s going to hang up. So, I jam the phone into my daughter’s hands before the tech can hang up. She rolls her eyes, but takes the call.

The tech walks her through the expected steps, during which, he describes how much in love he is with his girl friend and what his plans are this weekend. Like a good sport, she chats with him, while giving me the WTF look; the conversation takes psychic energy, her face grows pale. The call goes on far too long, and ends with nothing resolved. She gives up, and goes to a dark room, puts a pillow over her face to block out any light. She has a migraine. In fairness, she says the migraine has been coming on for days, now.

So, the problem is mine. I give the next three techs her name when they ask, and I spend the rest of the day, on the phone with Comcast, going through the same diagnostics, over and over, with non-native language techs, who can sometimes make listening, a blood sport.

MAYBE YOUR MODEM IS GETTING OLD

On her first call, several weeks ago, a tech told my daughter, “Your modem might be getting old.” She tells him,“We like owning our modem, but thank you, we’ll buy a new one if this one is bad.” After she hangs up, while we are deciding what we should do about no service, the Internet comes back on like magic, like nothing was ever wrong. But, this time the Internet has not come back on it’s own, and perhaps we should buy a new modem.

The OLD Motorola modem was bought from Amazon this spring, but just in case, we chug over to Walmart to buy a NEW cable modem, which is ninety-dollars for the same model 141 modem because that’s all they stock, but it’ll allow me to double check the modem and all our connections, before the Comcast service provider comes tomorrow evening, between 3 and 6, and maybe fix our Internet problem, ourselves.

THIRTY HOURS

Google or Yahoo users would mutiny, if they were told they’d have a service outage of thirty hours. No reddit, no Digg, no morning coffee with the news, no bedtime Netflix or Hulu. It’s an information blackout.

And, what’s worse, although I buy inside coverage, each tech will tell me at the end of our impotent conversations, with somber, emphatic intonation, something like you know you are going to be charged $50 – $80 if the problem is INSIDE – not outside, meaning, you really should rent a Comcast modem?

Maybe not. Maybe it isn’t a ploy to get us to change to Comcast equipment. After all, these trained technical support representatives for Comcast cable, all agree that the signal is getting through, the problem is on our end. It would seem that either we have something hooked up wrong or the cable modem is bad.

ACTIVATE A BRAND NEW MODEM?

I unbox a new modem, hook it up. In an hour I’ll have Internet. I make the call.

“Would you like to answer a survey before you talk to a technician?” NO!

“We appreciate your patience, please continue holding, our customer account executives are still assisting other customers.” Every 30 seconds or so. Shrill, relentless. It might discourage the lesser obsessive, but not me.

Number 3 tech picks up the phone, non-native, but well-spoken, he begins by asking, “What do you need?” Ahhh! Someone who understands me, and I understand them, who doesn’t speak at the speed of light.

“I want to activate a NEW modem.”

“I see you have a history.”

The farther down the line I’m kicked, the edgier the tone of voice of the subsequent tech. Number 3 tech knows that I have ticket(s), that nothing was resolved by previous techs, that indeed, I have a history, I’m a trouble maker, and just like a Gitmo interrogation on Groundhog Day, the tech asks me to try the same frickn’ things over, again.

And I’m tired. I’m screwing up. I notice a plug has come loose in the back of the modem, I’ve broken the tab that holds it in the modem, and now our last try is a washout. And what’s more annoying, the tech INSISTS that his signal is going through, just like the other techs had insisted.

I beg for just one more try. It must be something I’m doing wrong if three techs agree. We are so close. I have a NEW modem. Ah, but no one likes the smell of desperation. He wants me off the line, gives me another number to call.

NEW ACTIVATION GUY

“This number activates your modem.”

“But I thought that’s what we were doing, you know, activating my NEW modem?”

So, I call the NEW activation guy. The tech says, “let me read something first.”

We go through the same steps that failed before. Did he say, “You might need a new modem?” What did he say? I started at eight this morning, working on the modem, calling, and it’s four-ish… what did he say? Deep breath.

Did he say you know I can get you an appointment to get a tech to come out to your house, blah… blah ..blah $50-80.00. I haven’t eaten this afternoon, and his words are a frickn’ blur. Robotic like, I say, “I have an appointment, if you check I’m sure you’ll see.”

ARRIS/MOTOROLA BROADBAND SUPPORT

Just because Comcast tag-team takes turns wearing down my resolve doesn’t mean that I’ve hung my hat up at 5:00 this evening. No, way. I notice while packing my new modem in it’s box, a warning: BEFORE RETURNING THIS PRODUCT TO THE STORE for any reason, please call Motorola Broadband Technical Support.

So, I call the modem manufacturer, 1-877-466-8646, and get ARRIS tech support, and a helpful, lovely female tech, who tests the modem to see if it’s answering.

The ARRIS technical support representative is communicative and she knows how to problem solve, but she can’t get the box to respond. She walks me through some ifconfig for Ubuntu, and pings, but nothing.  The modem must be bad she says, but there’s more to this story.

GOOGLE TABLET TO THE RESCUE

After talking to the ARRIS tech support representative about the NEW Motorola Modem, I think I know how I can prove that my OLD modem is good, that it’s the Comcast signal that’s going and coming. I remember the IP Widget that I installed on my Google tablet. I hook up my old cable modem, I hook up my Google tablet directly to the modem with an external Ethernet dongle. I open it up, and there it is, an IP address, it’s live. 

And there it isn’t. My IP pops up, then in about 43 seconds it shuts down, intermittent hell. No wonder I couldn’t get into the modem page on Ubuntu or Windows 7, I had to log in at the exact window when the Comcast signal was live.

I lose Comcast signal again, so I reboot the modem by pulling out the power cord. Again, I have an IP address on my tablet. I open the Motorola cable modem page 192.168.100.1  in Chrome. Beautiful! The Comcast statistics show every self test on the modem is good, my OLD modem is operational but the signal stays for only 45 seconds. 

I find that I can not only log onto my modem, again, and run all the tests, but I can reboot my cable modem from the page. The Comcast tests say “Done” and “Operational,” and it gives me the voltage and signal information. So the OLD Surf Modem works but it looks like the stats the ARRIS tech gave me for optimal performance on the Surfboard, are fluctuating, they’re off a bit.

ARRIS/Motorola support suggested 36 – 44 for optimal performance on Surfboard modems, if I read it correctly, mine reading was 57. The signal noise was off, too.

THE COMCAST FIX

To make this very long story shorter, after watching similar behavior in the signal the next morning, with no Internet, still, about 1:00 p.m. the Comcast modem statistics look like they are changing, getting better, stabilizing, and that afternoon, around 1:30 p.m., I check my Google tablet, and the Internet is back. I notice the design of the cable modem page may be different, an update, a patch, a fix, or was it the Comcast signal in their lines, intermittently, going out every 45 seconds? At one point I had 75% packet loss on Windows 7.

If indeed, Comcast fixed a signal that arrived every 45 seconds, only to leave every 45 seconds, no call came in saying that it was fixed. No email report. No text to say “You can surf now.” No one offered to reimburse me for five days of lost time, and a month’s hassle, or even knock a little off my bill. No one explained what had happened, and I’m damn sure not going to call them to ask. We cancelled the service visit.

Did they work on the lines? Did they patch the modem? Did they roll out the new IPv6 update, and it tanked? We don’t know what the problem was or how it was resolved. My modem page shows IPv6 service, but I checked, and I’m still running IPv4. Did Comcast send an intermittent signal that dropped off every 45 seconds? Surely not?

We’ve lost Internet time, which should be reimbursed, plus the stress of dealing with Comcast technical support, plus listening to wait-messages, every thirty seconds or so, like fingernails on a chalkboard, and for what?

Am I wrong to feel that I’ve been sent running around in senseless technical support circles? Am I to believe this is the first time Comcast has had to deal with an intermittent Internet connection? I see plenty of frustrated customers talking about similar problems on the Internet.

Am I wrong to feel that Comcast’s technical support seems more like a cold war to me than an attempt at good customer relations.

I have one take away from my experience with Comcast. Google I love your Nexus 7 tablet. Hurry up, will you, with Google Fiber super speedy Internet.