(Part of an occasional series that follows cable technicians on the job.) "You have to be like Sherlock Holmes," Time Warner NY tech Irvin Aviles says after finishing a grueling, 21/2 hr digital cable and troubleshooting call in NYC. Agreed. We arrived at Stuyvesant Town, just before noon, with no clue what awaited us. Stuyvesant Town is almost a city within a city, made up of a maze of decades-old high-rises. Some, as we were soon to find out, haven’t been completely wired for cable. It’s also a competitive area for Time Warner, evidenced by the RCN van a few doors down. It seemed like a routine digital cable install, until Aviles started talking to residents. Turns out, they had just moved into the apartment from elsewhere in the city. Another installer had already hooked up their old DVR/digital set-top, but the VOD had stopped working. The residents had hooked up their old cable modem themselves, but it too was no longer working. Then there was the matter of installing 2 more digital cable boxes in rooms without cable connections. Aviles set to work on the existing set-top, hoping that switching out the box would solve the VOD problem. No luck. He took a signal read and discovered it was negative 13-well below the positive numbers he wanted. Perplexed, he measured the signal coming into the cable modem. It was positive. Aviles figured the reason the modem was not working was that it had been moved without alerting Time Warner. He called to report it to HQ, and within minutes one mystery was solved. But there was still the weak signal on the DVR/digital box. Until that was fixed, there was no point even trying to add more digital boxes to the apartment. Aviles began examining the cable wire that wrapped around much of the living room. "It could be the staples," he said hopefully (otherwise, he’d have to travel several blocks on a cold, rainy day to find a Stuyvesant Town guard with a key to the cable box). He showed me where one of the staples holding the cable in place had cut into the coax. We got on our hands and knees and started searching. "I think I found one," I said. Aviles had found some as well. He replaced the coax and carefully stapled just above the extremely thick baseboard and took another signal read. It was good-I believe it was somewhere around a positive 7-and the residents were soon navigating a favorite VOD episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Somewhere along the way another tech arrived to fix the modem problem that Aviles had already handled. It turned out to be a blessing considering how time-intensive the job had been, and Aviles put him to work installing cable in one bedroom while he took another. There were a few mishaps (a hole mistakenly drilled into the wall in the wrong place), but overall, it was a success. Even the residents were thanking Aviles for the time he had put in (he’d went to the trouble to install their modem service with an email address and password, something they’d never had; he set each remote in the house; he even carried a large television through the apartment). Afterward, over a slice from what Aviles assured me was one of the best pizza joints around, he apologized for the lengthy house call, but added, "I’m glad you got to see a tough one." So am I. Digital Rights Management USA Video Interactive is hoping to sell its "MediaSentinel" digital watermark technology to cable operators. "We don’t claim to be the only answer to piracy, but we believe we are a complement to some of the other methods being used now," pres Ed Molina says. The newly released solution has been tapped as the "official digital watermarking company" for this year’s "American Film Market," an annual gathering of more than 300 motion picture companies and 7K film execs in CA this week. USA Video is relatively new to approaching cable operators, as it’s more firmly planted in Internet media delivery, but it has been around for more than a decade. It recently sued ‘Net movie on demand service Movielink for patent infringement. The case is expected to go to trial next April.

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