I got my Comcast Xfinity cable TV service a couple of weeks ago. The TV package is pretty stripped down, but includes maybe 10 decent cable channels plus broadcast. With Dish I had a DVR and had added an external 2 terabyte hard drive to store more recordings, so I wanted to do the same with the new box if possible. But first, there were some interface challenges with Comcast. Dish had a pretty good interface. You could set up custom channel lists, so that when you went to the program guide, you would see only the channels you wanted and as you changed channels up and down, it stayed within that list until you changed to a different list. Xfinity doesn’t seem to have that, but you can get to a list of favorites with a couple of clicks, just not as convenient as just one click. Also it isn’t as easy to scroll through channels in the guide since it stops at an ad every 4 channels. Since I don’t get 95% of the channels, why would they have the guide force me to scroll through all of those? Even if I use channel up and down, I have to go through all of the channels. It’s a terrible interface.
But the biggest complaint was that during playback of recorded shows, it was horrible trying to skip commercials. The Dish remote had a button that would skip 30 seconds ahead and make quick work of commercials, even if there were 10 of them (which sometimes there are). On my programmable remote I actually wore out that button. Eventually I started using Dish’s remote which was set up to control the TV, DVD player, and home theater. So I wasn’t using my JP1 remote anymore and in fact, couldn’t hook it up to my computer anyway since the cable connected to a parallel port and my current computers don’t have that. Meanwhile, the new Xfinity remote could control the TV volume and power, but that was it. And there was no 30-second skip. You could fast forward over a commercial, but by clicking fast forward once, the speed was barely faster than normal speed. If you click fast forward again, it goes blindingly fast and you overrun the commercials, then have to back up, and it’s just terrible. I thought maybe there was a way to set things up to enable commercial skipping and quickly found instructions for how to enable a hidden 30-second skip on the remote. But my remote would only do a commercial skip if it was controlling a newer X1 box instead of the older Motorola box I have. But the old silver remote that those boxes originally came with could also do a commercial skip. It could be programmed into the remote by holding Setup and pressing a 4-digit code. That sounds familiar, kind of like my JP1 remote. In fact, the silver Comcast remote is a JP1 remote! It has the the six pin connector in the battery compartment and everything, though I don’t think it can learn from another remote. And it could control two other devices, making it a little more like the Dish remote (though it could do three other devices).
So I needed one of those remotes. I think you can ask for one from Comcast (and they will ship one to you for a fee), but I found one for $1 on Amazon plus $6 shipping, so I just did that and got it yesterday. The first thing I did was program that commercial skip in there and it worked great! Then I tried to enter the 4-digit code for my Sony TV and was getting nowhere. I found some help that told me how to reset the remote to Xfinity settings and then really reset the remote to factory settings. After a long time I figured out there were two different Xfinity silver remotes made, one with a gray OK button and one with a red one. I got the red one, which requires 5-digit codes, but the last 4 digits are the same and the first digit is 0 for cable, 1 for TV, and 2 for Aux. So eventually I got that figured out and the TV and DVD player can be controlled, but only after clearing out the memory of the remote, including the cable box setting. So I had to find the code for the Motorola box, which is 1376, or 01376. Now it is pretty much perfect.
I don’t have the hard drive hooked up yet. The Motorola box uses a eSATA port and my hard drive is USB. Rather than try to find an external eSATA hard drive, I was able to find a hard drive enclosure for $26 that has an eSATA port and then I paid $5 for an eSATA cable, which is on the way. I should be able to get the hard drive out of the external USB hard drive enclosure and put it in the new enclosure. Meanwhile after only a couple of weeks, the internal hard drive is already 25% full.
So I’m out about $40 so far that I wasn’t planning on spending, but I should have a pretty good setup at least for the next year.