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Here We Go Again

November 28th, 2007

Before finalizing a decision on getting a new DVR/DVD recorder, I figured that I’d try calling Toshiba to at least find out what’s going on. And I was quickly reminded of the fact that Toshiba customer support sucks bit fat hairy ones. I called their number, and they now have a “choose one of these three options” voice menus. The first one includes the “RD Series,” so I dial it. They answer right away, but tell me that for my model, the RD-XS53, I have to call again and choose #2 from the menu–and no, they can’t transfer me. So I call again, and choose #2–this time there’s a 5-minute wait, after which a guy gets on the line and says that for my model, the RD-XS53, I need to dial #3.

And it didn’t get much better after that. After a 10-minute wait on hold, I found out that #3 was actually the extension I needed (they didn’t try to send me back to #1, at least), but the person there had a terminal case of polite speech, as is often the case for these people. That is, they use the most polite speech form in Japanese, which is nice and all, except that it uses all kinds of alternate verbs and vocabulary words and I can’t understand a damned word they’re saying. I ask, for example, “can I call the repair center?” and the support person gives me a 60-second answer, and at the end, I have no idea what the hell she just told me. And I’m no slouch in speaking Japanese. I’m not fluent, obviously, but I don’t deal with the ultra-polite speech enough to grasp it.

So I do my usual “I can’t understand what you just said, polite speech confuses me, could you please use normal speech with simple words” request, and as usual, the person is incapable of doing what I ask, so I suffer through yet more incomprehensible yet polite speech. At least I am guessing it is polite. For all I know, she’s cussing me out royally but saying it in a polite and perky tone.

Finally we get to the point where she finally understands that all I want is a ballpark estimate of how much a repair would cost me. She can’t tell me, so I ask, “who can?” And after five or more minutes of more polite speech (I swear I am not exaggerating on the time), she agrees to have a repair guy call me. So all she needs is my name, my phone number, and my address. “Why my address?” I ask. “Because we need to know which repair center will deal with you.” “Will you use the address to send me junk mail?” I ask. She answers politely for about 40 seconds, so I don’t know what she said. I tell her my city, ward, and neighborhood, narrowing it down to an area only about 5 blocks square or so. She asks for the whole address. “Is there more than one repair center in that area?” I ask, and she says no, but keeps pressing me for the whole address. We compromise by me telling her my building address but not the apartment number, and I tell her if the repair guy comes to visit, I’ll give him that when the time comes.

I swear, sometimes it’s not worth even trying with these people. Really, I just want confirmation of what I already suspect–that the repair won’t be worth it. Someone suggested in the comments that I swap out the HDD myself, and I might do that, but I don’t know if the disk needs to have any special software or partitioning or not, so it’s a bit of a risk (I’ll ask the repair guy all the same). Besides which, the DVD drive is bound to crap out sometime soon anyway, and so I face having even more repair expenses soon.

So, I’m figuring on getting a new setup. Panasonic seems to be well-rated for these kinds of machines in the U.S., and they happen to be the company that makes the cable tuner box my cable company uses–and one feature I very much want is having to set only one machine to record at a future time; without the connection, I have to set the DVR and the cable box separately, and neither is dead simple to program.
Panasonic has a DVR/DVD recorder in Japan called the XW100, which seems to fit the bill. It has a 250GB HDD, H.264 encoding (triples the amount of video it can save), can write to DVD-R/RW/DL/RAM media, and has compatibility with HDTV should we switch to that before this machine dies as well.

And it can communicate with some cable tuner boxes. Just not the one I have. The one I have is the old, simple box; the cable company did not splurge on the new simple boxes with the special controlling connector. The only one that my cable company offers which will work that way is one that itself has a 250GB DVR built into it. It would cost an extra $10 or so a month to get it, but it would double the capacity I’d have at hand, and supposedly it can transfer video files to the DVR/DVD recorder, so it’d be just like having a 500 GB disk drive. I figure I might go for that setup.

I am, however, running into roadblocks: my cable company has digital broadcasting, as all of Japanese broadcasting must go by 2010 (according to the cable company), and digital video cannot be recorded as a traditional DVD-Video mode; instead, when you make a DVD-R, it creates a Video DVD disc using “VR” mode, as part of CPRM (digital rights management technology). So, will I be able to play the DVDs it makes on my computer? Will it play on my DVD player? Does it still have the same structure as a traditional Video DVD (with a “VIDEO_TS” folder), or something new? Will I run into problems if I record a movie or TV show because it’s DRM-protected? The answers seem a bit hard to find. As far as I know, I could be buying a recorder that’ll make DVDs that only it can play, or that might be hit-and-miss depending on what I do.

Ain’t it fun to shop for technology, especially when DRM is involved? Nobody wants to tell you what problems you’ll face, and so you wind up getting blindsided…

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  1. ykw
    November 29th, 2007 at 16:46 | #1

    I rent a tivo box from my cable company for $15/mth, it has a terrific user interface, I only watch tivo’ed shows (to eliminate commercials), and am very happy w/ it. Also, I have a very cheap dvd player, which cost approx $50, which just plays dvd’s. I’ve never burned a dvd w/ video in my life. Yet if someone wants to grab a show, and then burn the dvd, and then hand off that dvd to someone else to watch, at their leisure, then they’d need something w/ more horsepower.

  2. Ken
    December 1st, 2007 at 03:32 | #2

    Yeah, as Westerners trying to learn the Japanese language, we can all relate to the “keigo” frustrations you referred to. It’s almost ethnocentric in that, if the customer cannot comprehend the highly polite speech style, it’s his fault.
    If I was in your shoes, I would try, as you did, asking the bloke to speak using normal words. If he is incapable of that, ask him to transfer you to someone else who is.
    (Futsuu ni hanaseru hito to hanashitai!)
    If that doesn’t work, just aks to be transfered to someone who speaks bloody English!

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