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It’s later than my DVR thinks…

March 10, 2007

Speaking of cheap patches for the Daylight Savings Time thing...

I was looking through the program guide on my DVR (a Dishplayer 622) last night, and I see that they “solved the problem” by offsetting the guide data by an hour. I assume that this will go on until the first Sunday in April.

Not a bad solution, but not exactly smooth and subtle, either.

Percussive Repair for Tivo Freeze-Up

March 5, 2007

So what do you do when you return home from a long absence, and find that instead of keeping track of all of the shows you watch, your trusty Tivo has decided to turn into a not-so-trusty Tivo?

Well, first you call for repairs, and then (after being told that you can pay $150 to repair a device they’re basically giving away for free these days), you do this…

I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel — “How to configure a bittorrent client…”

Done with Windows MCE

November 28, 2006

I’ve shut down my Windows Media Center, at least for the time being; it just isn’t what I need it to be.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the interface; I love it more than Tivo, and that’s saying something.

The big problem is HD. As HD becomes increasingly important to me, and as more and more HD content becomes available to me, MCE becomes increasingly irrelevant.

MCE does a good job of recording OTA HD. Unfortunately, two of my majors don’t come in terribly well with my antique OTA antenna. When it rains, most of them don’t come in. I could doubtless fix this, but since Dish now gives me my majors in HD off the satellite, I’m not terribly inclined.

More importantly, there’s the 25 or so channels of “premium” HD I now have available. There’s not a prayer on the horizon that MCE is going to get those, or the satellite based HD locals either.

There’s been a lot of talk about CableCard support in Vista, but it’s become clear that these are only going to be available for “certified” off-the-shelf MCE boxes. The odds of me being willing to a) spend the money for a pre-configured box, or b) being willing to live with that configuration if I did (vs. modding it and possibly breaking the CableCard DRM) are slim and none.

And Slim’s out of town this month.
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The Five Hidden Differences Between DVRs

December 23, 2005

Digital Video Recorders are fast becoming “commodity” items — Tivos are now selling for pocket change (leaving aside the monthly fee), cable and satellite providers are throwing in “house brand” DVRs cheap or even free for new and renewing subscribers, and some days it seems harder to find a Windows machine that’s not a Media Center than it does to find one that is.

Unfortunately, what makes a DVR worth using isn’t always the obvious features that they tell you about.  Sure, you can select between them based on recording time or disk storage, or how many standard definition or high def programs they’ll record simultaneously, but once it’s installed and you have to live with it, you’ll find that there are some major differences between the players.

Sometimes you have advanced warning — for example, this week DirecTV is taking a lot of heat for problems with their new post-Tivo house-brand DVRs, but often you’ll need to do a little online sleuthing around to find out what user experience are really like.

So what’s really important?  Funny you should ask.  Having owned a fairly wide variety of DVRs over the past few years, and played with a few different ones that friends own, I’ve decided that the following five issues are what really separate great DVR experiences from just another case of gadget misery.
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CableCARD uncertainty setting in?

November 28, 2005

Apparently a few other people are now wondering whether CableCARD support is going to really be available outside of designated pre-built MCE systems

Ed Bott writes in CableCARD and Media Center PCs: More questions than answers:

Does this mean that CableCARD-ready Media Center PCs will only be available from name-brand PC makers? If so, this is an unwelcome step backwards. The best news of last year was Microsoft’s move to make OEM copies of its Media Center software available to enthusiasts rather than forcing them to buy pricey name-brand systems.

The ideal solution will allow users on any Windows PC (assuming it meets the Media Center specs) to upgrade to Windows Vista, add a compatible TV tuner and CableCARD decoder. Expect screams of anguish if people buying high-powered PCs in the next year discover that there’s no CableCARD ugprade path.

No kidding.

There’s a bit of vague handwaving in the comments by some of the usual suspects, but the real question is becoming the same question we’re used to seeing where DRM is concerned, namely “How bad did the users get sold out to the content holders in order to make this happen?”

There’s plenty of evidence of other manufacturers drasticly affecting the user experience in order to make the CableCARD powers that be happy.

What makes us think Microsoft will be any different?

CableCARD and DRM

November 21, 2005

While I’m thrilled to see Microsoft’s announcement of CableCARD support coming to Windows Media Center next year, I still get a little nervous as to how all of the digital rights managment issues are going to work out.

‘Cuz things aren’t exactly rosy on the CableCARD front, even without involving DVRs.

For example, check out this thread over on the AVSForum’s Plasma and LCD forum:

Panasonic Policy prohibiting digital audio out with Cable Card?

The upshot of it is that owners of Panasonic plasma TVs with CableCARD support are finding that their digital audio output is disabled whenever the cable company sets a flag indicating that a channel contains “high value” content — basically, any time you’re viewing anything other than locals.
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Media Center Edition to support CableCARD

November 17, 2005

Speaking of recording premium HD content…

Thomas Hawk has the scoop — Microsoft has just announced CableCARD support in Media Center PCs — by “Holiday 2006 time frame”.

REDMOND, Wash. and LOUISVILLE, Colo., Nov. 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Microsoft Corp. and Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs(R)) today announced they have reached an agreement that will allow Microsoft and PC manufacturers to bring to market digital-cable-ready Windows(R) Media Center-based PCs in the holiday 2006 time frame.

These Media Center PCs, capable of supporting a CableCARD(TM) module, will allow consumers to enjoy one-way cable programming, including premium high-definition cable content, on their personal computer and throughout the home on compliant network-connected devices, such as Xbox 360(TM), while protecting cable operators’ investments in high-value content in a digital environment. Microsoft is working closely with CableLabs to document final approval of Windows Media(R) Digital Rights Management (DRM) as a content protection technology for OpenCable(TM) products that receive one-way cable content under the terms of this agreement.

This is great news, and has the potential to put Media Center over the top in DVR capabilities, but even outside of the lengthy wait (a lot can happen over a year), there are a few things about this that concern me.
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Lack of HD & multiple tuners killing Tivo?

November 15, 2005

Reuters reports on a new study that claims Tivo is rapidly losing mindshare…

Brandimensions, the research firm that conducted the study, said that TiVo’s standalone set-top box is failing in two areas: its inability to record two shows simultaneously and to play back shows in high-definition TV quality.

“This may not sound like a big deal,” wrote one TiVo user about the latter, “but after watching ‘Lost’ or ‘The Sopranos’ on HD, there is no going back.”

Can we have an “amen” from the congregation?
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Comcast DVR Comcastrophe

November 14, 2005

Over at “KGB Report”, Kevin Barkes details his woes with a brand new Comcast DVR…

What a Comcastrophe.

It took three visits from the installer and two different DVRs to get the service working right- well, not right, but at a level which did not invoke rage when attempting to watch anything.

Ah, where to begin? The digital cable box/digital video recorder itself: a hideous, silver, retro-styled device manufactured by Motorola which throws out more heat than a toaster oven and sports a hard drive that sounds like a fully loaded, out-of-control freight train going downhill through a tunnel.

It goes downhill from there…
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Dishplayer 942 issues

October 25, 2005

Speaking of stabilizing, I may finally have a handle on why my Dishplayer 942 has been missing recordings.

In short, this looks like the front end of a problem that has been causing the Dishplayer to crash repeatedly any time it’s getting an intense workout. This has been getting progressively worse, and it now looks like it might be a hard drive failure issue.
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