You shouldn't unplug the ribbon cable and power on the unit, ever!
Make sure the ribbon cable is 100% in the motherboard, and the front ribbon cable as well, also ensure they aren't damaged. If you can't even get the startup screen, or any type of video output, then your motherboard is most likely shot and I'd see what tivo can do for you.
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The Tivo Series 3 uses two CableCards, one for each tuner. It is possible that the CableCard that is responsible for receiving channels on Tuner 1 is defective, has become corrupted, or otherwise is not paired correctly. Call your cable provider and have a tech look at it.
For some reason your Tivo is tripping the internal breaker of your TV. Check the cables and see that they are not damaged and are connected properly (all the cables that hook up to the Tivo). If you have a spare set of cables, try them to see if the TV still turns off.
They're lying to you, to charge you more.
A cable card is a cable card is a cable card. If your provider stands by their "special card" BS, switch to a new cable provider.
They're probably trying to scare you into getting their DVR instead of Tivo. And it's not the same, ever. Tivo is far superior to any other DVR on the market, free or not.
1) Connect the Tivo using the coax output of the cable box into the cable input of the Tivo
2) Exchange cable boxes with your cable provider for one with composite output jacks. It may require you to use a Motorola box that isn't High def depending on what your provider has. I know Comcast has a Motorola HD tuner that has composite outputs as well as component.
3) Upgrade to a Series 3 Tivo. Those units are designed for High Def. Use HDMI cable hookup.
Your TiVo is only recording basic cable (i.e., channels it can receive without a cable box). You will need a digital cable box from your cable company to record channels above 99. If your TiVo is a Series 2 you will not be able to actually record in HD either. You should be able to record the HD channels from the cable box, but they will not be HD quality. (This is my current setup and while the picture quality is much better than basic cable, it pales compared to bypassing the TiVo and watching HD directly off the cable box to the TV.)