Saturday, February 25, 2006


We recently upgraded our cable service to use a DVR. This lets us record shows to the cable box, and it lets us watch one channel while recording another (or record two channels at the same time). This is great, and a nice simplification.

But every so often, the DVR cable box would get into a state where no sound came out of the TV set. The screen said "Muting", but the TV wasn't muted and pressing the "Mute" button on the cable box remote did nothing. I gave my wife the big shrug and power-cycled the box, which fixed the problem but interrupted the Olympic event she was trying to tape.

On a lark, I did a Google search for "Comcast DVR mute problem" and the first search result provided a detailed description of the problem (a bug in Comcast's DVR software) and a fix (how to reprogram any button on the Motorola remote). Wow.

This is an experience that I often have. I am trying to solve a problem that is so obscure, bizarre, or obsessive that I am convinced no one has ever even thought of it before. But 30 seconds of Googling, and I have an answer.

Another example: my wonderful, sweater-knitting mother-in-law recently got a new Macintosh iBook to replace her ancient iMac. I've been trying to provide her with technical support over the phone, with some success. But it turns out that a person developed a wonderful free, secure toolkit that lets you remotely log in and view someone else's OS X session over the internet. This post was so awesome, because the writer was trying to solve exactly the problem that I was trying to solve, and he had exactly the same concerns:
  • No cost
  • Minimal configuration changes to my mom-in-law's system
  • Easy for my mom-in-law to initiate the connection
  • Secure, encrypted link.
I guess, in addition to the internet, I also like Apple, Google, and the fact that OS X is based on Unix.

Not simple, but something that I like.

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