Friday

Friday 8/11/2002It's been a long week, but I've got a couple of spare hours to play with a new toy that arrived earlier. The Hauppauge DEC 2000 is a set-top box for free digital terrestrial TV that also has a USB port.

Friday 8/11/2002
It's been a long week, but I've got a couple of spare hours to play with a new toy that arrived earlier. The Hauppauge DEC 2000 is a set-top box for free digital terrestrial TV that also has a USB port. So you can watch digital telly on an ordinary set, or plug the thing into your computer and watch it there, or record stuff onto your hard disk and watch it later. Great! Means you can pump stuff onto your laptop during the evening and watch it on the train going into work. And how hard can it be to watch television, after all? Let me count the ways. Having deftly sidestepped the cunningly mislabelled aerial and TV sockets on the back of the set-top box -- us experts laugh at such trifles -- I pointed the aerial at Crystal Palace and let the set scan the airwaves. Great! Loads of channels, pin-sharp reception, let's turn up the sound... ah. It was on BBC News 24, which was broadcasting a picture of a frankly thuggish man. A villain, you'd say without hesitation. Yet when he spoke, it sounded like Minnie Mouse on helium. Odd, I thought. Must be one of those voice-changing devices. But then the interviewer spoke, and Donald Duck had nothing on him for high-frequency quackery. A quick check of the other channels shows they're all like that. It's very entertaining, especially when you get someone particularly pompous. The thrill palls, though, so its time to track down the problem. Elton Adams to the rescue! This delightfully named technical guy at Hauppauge listened patiently to my plea, and identified the problem as someone else's software on the test PC. We removed that. It made no difference. We copied something else. No difference. He sent me a long list of instructions, part of which involved going into Safe Mode on Windows XP to tamper more effectively with its innards... which is great, only you have to press F8 during the boot-up sequence and my wireless keyboard, being USB, doesn't work until XP is actually running. Nothing is too much trouble for the readers, though: in two hours, I had removed my old DVD software, scanned the PC for rogue files, re-installed, changed keyboards, made absolutely darn sure that not a trace of squeaky file remained on the hard disk, and run a special Hauppauge utility that did something clever. Elton sent me that via email, at which point I discovered that our email gateway is set to delete executable attachments. Just in case they're useful, I guess. So that was an extra little treat, and another good reason to keep that Cix subscription going -- thus bypassing the antivirus stuff altogether. After all that, a clean reinstall and channel acquisition. Back on News 24, and an empty podium presages George W. Bush speaking to his and other nations. He steps up to the microphone, and one is suddenly very aware that on this man's whim the safety of the planet depends -- and it's not the whim you'd want to take home to mother. He opens his mouth... and it's Mickey Mouse all over again. That's not pungent political comment, that's the set-top box continuing in its mischievous ways. Then again, perhaps the world really is like this. To have your say online click on TalkBack and go to the ZDNet UK forums.

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