July 31, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Why my cable DVR stinks

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Because Media Center runs on a PC, it leverages gigabytes worth of data storage, super-fast processors and high-end graphics cards to deliver a rich experience for consumers. For example, the Media Center's program guide that accompanies the digital recording function can render 3D movie posters that consumers browse through and click on when they select a film.

"It's just a much richer user experience than you can get with a set-top box, which pretty much just gives you a text guide on a blue background," said Arvind Mishra, senior product manager for Microsoft's Windows Vista.

Vista as savior?
Microsoft claims it has already sold more than 10 million Media Center PCs, at a rate of about 1 million per month. And its next operating system, Vista, expected to be released next year, will have Media Center built into it. With that shift, the company expects more people to use their PCs to store, manage and navigate through their home entertainment content.

But critics say Microsoft's software has a poor track record in terms of reliability, which could hurt its chances of becoming the hub for home entertainment for the masses. Mischra said concerns over reliability will be a nonissue once Vista is released.

"There is this notion that PCs aren't reliable," Mischra said. "But we are marching to a day when Microsoft's operating systems will be as reliable as the old telephone network. And Vista will get us there."

Execs at companies such as Cisco believe the digital home of the future will offer a mix of networked services leveraging a simpler device, or thin client, and services relying on sophisticated devices.

"We are a networking vendor, so by definition our function is to make sure that all of this stuff that's going to end up in people's living rooms or in the carrier network can be connected together," Compton said. "Eventually, I think we will definitely see more content stored in the network, but there will also be a role for local storage in the home."

Verizon Communications, which is spending more than $20 billion over the next several years to build a fiber-to-the-home network to deliver TV service, agrees. Today, Verizon offers a set-top box for its television service that provides video on demand and digital video recording. But in the future the company may consider putting some of the functionality into the network, said Brian Whitton, executive director of technology for Verizon.

He likened the situation to the voice mail service that Verizon offers for voice customers. Voice mail is a hosted application that doesn't require users to buy and install a separate box next to their phones. While some customers choose to subscribe to voice mail, others don't and they buy a separate device.

Much more important than deploying simpler devices in people's homes, Whitton said, is providing enough intelligence in the network to allow service providers to troubleshoot devices remotely. Verizon is testing a technology on its Fios fiber-to-the-home network and on its traditional DSL network that will allow it to monitor and troubleshoot home routers, set-top boxes and home computers to make sure they are performing as they should.

"What stands between our customer and the $20 billion fiber network we're building is a $50 home router," he said. "So it makes sense for us to have some visibility into the home network to make sure the user experience is a good one."

As for me and my love/hate relationship with my DVR, Time Warner has assured me that my experience is uncommon, and representatives from the company are helping me resolve the problem. Still, I'm considering ditching cable altogether. If I really miss my favorite TV shows, I can always order the whole season from Netflix.

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A little Concerning
"Verizon is testing a technology on its Fios fiber-to-the-home network and on its traditional DSL network that will allow it to monitor and troubleshoot home routers, set-top boxes and home computers to make sure they are performing as they should."

Yeeeeeaaaahhhhh.....Cause I want a Verizon Tech snooping around my home network or on my PC.

Thanks but no thanks. I just hope they don't come to me one day and say you must use Router X or Y because they conform to our "remote monitoring standards".
Posted by LarryLo (164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I second this sentiment
I most definitely don't want some technician
from a cable company snooping on my home network
-- much less being able to do anything to it. I
have considerably more knowledge about computer
networks that anyone I have ever met or spoken
to from my provider and I would much prefer to
eschew their incompetence.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
By A Tivo
It goes without saying, you get what you pay for. People like the low entry price of the DVRs from the cable companies, but they are vastly inferior to the Tivo boxes. Now that the lastest edition Series 2 Tivos can record two programs at one time, you have little reason not to investigate getting one. Expandability options are better (750GB hard drive, no problem!), networking options are better (schedule programming over the web, useful for road warriers), DVD burning options are better, and there is much more. HD recording options are still limited, but that should be resolved with Series 3 late this year.
Posted by stephenpace (72 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oops, "Buy a Tivo"
Sorry for the typo.
Posted by stephenpace (72 comments )
Link Flag
The only downside to my series1 Tivo was the 40gb hard drive and
I upgraded that with a larger one from weaknees.com.

The best computer based dvr I've found is from elgato.com. Load
the software, plug in the tuner, and your Mac becomes one of the
slickest dvr's I've seen.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Link Flag
Sorry no HD
With comcast in CA and now Charter in MO I have used a cable company DVR because they both record HD.

Tivo was foolish to wait this long to offer HD support. I will belive a HD Tivo when I see it.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Link Flag
TiVO not bad, but not best.
TiVO is a great solution for the masses and will
beat the pants of any cable-company budget DVR.
It's reliable, simple to use, expandable, and
even hackable (simple PPC-based Linux computer)

That said, with TiVO, you still relinquish most
control of the device and service. That is to
say, it will cost you and you don't know how
much in the future, AND it's feature set changes
from time to time with software updates -- which
is ominous since TiVO is constantly under
pressure from industry organizations that are
looking for ways to squash it. Even if TiVO
doesn't get squashed, there's the possibility it
might change to the point of being an onus.

If you want to go to the next level, you build
your own. There are plenty of DVR packages for
the big-three operating systems with loads of
features, active development, and tons of
support. Most are as easy to use as TiVO and
just (even more) satisfying.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
TIVO Rocks, but....
I had a TiVo, I loved my TiVo. Unfortunately, my TiVo could not record 2 channels off of a cable box, could only record the analog output of said cable box, can not record in HD, and could not record the digital audio that I paid so much for a home theater system to take advantage of. Aside form that, I absolutely loved my TiVo.

Now I have the Time Warner DVR. While being able to get the digital features and such makes me happy, the interface makes me want to light the thing on fire. If TiVo could solve the drawbacks listed above I would switch back in a heartbeat, but that is simply not going to happen without a significant push for a technology like CableCard.
Posted by GOVEmployee (7 comments )
Link Flag
What about lack of total ownership??
With sat and cable, I'd have the knowledge that the hardware and software are not mine. But Tivo to me seems almost like a long-term hardware lease where the service provider can change the terms of your arrangement on a whim. Sat and cable seem like a month to month.
Posted by outofmanyone (6 comments )
Link Flag
Do your research about PVRs and PC-DVR
Funny how they only mention Media Center to do this on a PC. There are many, better, PVR software for the PC including GB-PVR and MythTV. Also Vista will include monster DRM's in it so most functionality will be prevented if the broadcast flag comes into existance.

Not to mention, a NON-Microsoft PVR is the best solution if you want your view habits to remain private.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
PC PVR's up and Downs
Not sure why the Linux Windows debate pops up in almost every discussion. Some seam to forget both have there issues, security is an issue on both. But thats a totaly different discussion.

PC PVR's are good does not matter which way you go. Sure VISTA may use copy writ protection to make sure you can't boot leg copies of shows around. I'm not sure I'm 100% against that, or why some would consider it an issue.

But the isseus with PC PVR's tends to be around the HD world.

Sure there are lots of off air HD Tunner cards but if you want the content from your provider, be prepared to put out a ton of cash on a Componenet Video Capture card, and be prepared to write your own drivers.

I have tired MythTv, Sage, and BeyondTV. And they are all great for the basic cable PVR.

Again though research ahead of time make sure your IR blaster supports your set top box.

My biggest frustration was to find that my Box was listed as supported but the IR blaster that came with my 150 card had the wrong LED, and I had to change it out to make it work with my Starchoice405 box.

But then I though why not use the UIRT, and control both my starchoice and my Directtv box? Only to find the UIRT did not support my H20-300 box. And I spent a day messing around to make it work.

all in all I spent about 40-60 hours of work to make my Pc PVR work, in the end I went with Sage, and with a Windows based platform just due to support, and driver issues.

Yes I know I could have written my own drivers. But simple reality is the packages out there are not ready for the mass market. Driver issues, configuration issues, technical issues. Make it a project that your average PC user will not have the desire or capability to handle.

I'm holding out with the Vista promise for the Card II support which should make many issues go away.
Posted by wolivere (780 comments )
Link Flag
It's not technology - it's values
No, no, no... not Conservative vs. Liberal values. I'm talking Corporate Values.

If unstable technology were the reason why cable co's DVRs are so unreliable, then why is my ReplayTV -- built in 2000 -- still running fine with 100% reliability, never once missing a show?

Because ReplayTV and TiVo are DVR companies. These companies spent the time, resources, and management focus on delivering an absolutely fantastic user experience from a set-top box perspective.

CableCo management is based on network technology, content acquisition and licensing, and customer service. They essentially outsource all of the DVR components in their business strategy: My Comcast DVR is Motorola, with the GUI built by TVGuide.

If something isn't "core" to your business model, you outsource. Thusly, these CableCos clearly don't see DVRs as their core business (yet).

Once they do, they will either more effectively manage these external vendors, or buy them up to ensure that their brands are effectively represented through the DVR GUI.

I know that if I ran Comcast's set-top box strategy, I would convince executive management that the DVR is where the brand touches the consumer -- and thusly requires additional investment in oversight, standards, and rigor in managing these vendors.

So, let's not let CableCo's off the hook because "technology" is getting more complex. Let's demand that they deliver what they're promising... and threaten to hold back our monthly payments when said services don't live up to their hype.

Only then will management get the financial incentive to invest more in the DVR experience.
Posted by JonDeutsch (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TIVO model is better for users
The TIVO model of having the box with a downloaded guide and all the shows saved into it as requested is by far the best for user experience.

The current generation of cable DVR is a step backward. The guides and navigation are slow and unresponsive, the recordings are less reliable, the boxes crash or need rebooting often, and once you try to use networked pay-per-view the network is sometimes too busy and you get a denial of service.

I have both TIVO and cable DVR, TIVO wins hands down on all aspects.

The future generation that the cable companies are trying to push to save $$$, where almost everything would be on the network, would be an even bigger step backward as far as customer experience. It will be even slower, even less responsive, even less reliable, etc.
Posted by open4free (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Network Provided DVR is not that simple
If you look the scalability requirements, interms of Hard Disk space and Processing requirements (MPG conversion, Hard Disk I/0 etc.,)

You are right that the old telephony system embedded all the intelligence in the network and was quite successful. But remember, it was a snail paced evolution over 100 years.

In your case, I suspect if network based DVR would really solve the problem. You just need better software on your DVR.
Posted by vrkiran (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well It Could
You mention Hard Drive Space and processing which really aren't that much of a hindrance IF the system where designed correctly. One way that they could alleviate some of the strain on the network would be to just make ONE copy of a program and then distribute it out similar to like what they do for On Demand type services. Rather then you and everyone else up and down the block recording American Idol or whatever programs you just make one copy and then stream it out to individual households on an as needed basis. This would also serve the purpose of over saturating the network with video / data. One of the biggest hindrances today with the existing infrastructure is the fact that when you turn on your cable box EVERY channel is being broadcast across the wire at the same time therefore eating up all of the available network capacity. I believe it was Time Warner who was testing a cable system in some market that took a "On Demand" / Multi-Cast topology network and what they found is that they freed up upwards of 75% to 80% of the available network capacity, and that typically everyone has a tendency to be watching the same programming at any given time. So the feasibility of a network based DVR is not entirely out of the question it's more just a matter of when and not if.
Posted by rtscadden (2 comments )
Link Flag
It's gotten rediculous
Things suck like they do because there's no competition. If you want a DVR, you pretty much have to go with whatever piece of trash your cable company has. Sure you can buy a TIVO and plug it in, but it doesn't know how to manage the digital channels without that goofy, unreliable infrared transmitter setup.

No, we need a standard way to let DVR's manage cable just like you can buy any phone and plug it in, and it works. I've been reading about CableCard which is supposed to solve this mess, but I have no idea when it will be readily available, or when supporting devices will be out.

Until then I guess I'll still have to "work the TV" for my wife.
Posted by ss_Whiplash (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No Need for Infrared
I have a digital cable box from Time Warner and I don't use the infrared transmitter setup. I just use the Tivo serial connection. It is very reliable. I've had two cables boxes of diffferent makes so far and both worked fine with this method.
Posted by stephenpace (72 comments )
Link Flag
Time Warner
You are not alone with your problems with Time Warner DVR's I have changed DVR's may times and I have to reboot do to pixiling. I even have trouble with the remote. BTW, Time Warner is my only choise for TV and fast internet connections. Fred
Posted by fredlock (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Motorola Boxes work fine
I can imagine how frustrating it must be to have a DVR which can;t event schedule a record. It seems just Scientific Atlanta and TW implimentation is to blame. I have Comcast, and it is relativley flawless, a few knicks here and there.... but the overall experience is Great... especially the ability to record HD!
Posted by D.G.Tal (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Create Your Own Instead
If you are comfortable putting your own system together, I would highly recommend it. It's much more flexible and doesn't infringe on your privacy the way that Tivo does.

I had a RebootTV er... ReplayTV for a couple of years. It was great when it worked, and sucked when it locked up and I had to unplug and plug it back in to reboot it.

I finally created my own media PC running Windows XP (I'd sooner douse myself in oil and set myself ablaze than upgrade to Vista when it comes out so I'll stick with XP). I bought a program called SageTV which gives me all of the DVR functionality I need without having to pay a subscription to access programming information.

I can view photos, listen to mp3s, browse the web and watch, record, and pause television video from the same box - all without Tivo or ReplayTV keeping track of my viewing habits which I think it none of their business anyway.

The only pain to all of this is that many satellite and cable decoder boxes don't have a way for a computer to interface with it to change the channel. For this, I use an IRBlaster.
Posted by mikekrause (90 comments )
Reply Link Flag
GB-PVR and MythTV are FREE
GB-PVR is an easy windows app compariable to SageTV.

MythTV is a open source Linux app. A lot more technical knowledge is required to set it up, but it seems to be the more mature product: even to today's commerical DVR boxes.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Link Flag
Cable DVR still better than Tivo
If you have Digital cable the cable DVR box is far better than Tivo. I have a digital DVR from Time Warner for $6.95 a month with no contract. It's dual tuner and able to record 2 channels, basic or digital, at once. Only recently has Tivo come out with a dual tuner box and it can't record 2 digital channels at once, only 2 basic cable channels at once or 1 basic cable and 1 digital channel at the time. Why in the world would I pay $19.95 a month, with no contract, to Tivo when I can get more functionality from Time Warner for $6.95 a month? Here's another kicker. If my cable DVR screws up then Time Warner will come to my house and replace. Does Tivo do that? Oh yeah one other thing. If you want to get the HD DVR from Time Warner there is no extra charge. Does Tivo even offer a digital cable HD DVR box? I would like to see Tivo succeed but they have a long long way to go.
Posted by drewbyh (91 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are you smoking something?
TiVo is simply better. An easier interface, never had a moment's problem with it in 5+ years.
Posted by kim&4catz (15 comments )
Link Flag
You're right only on the pricing
As a ReplayTV owner and a former TiVo owner, I only agree with you that it's crazy to pay $20 a month for TiVo. But I have a lifetime subscription to ReplayTV and I pay only $6.99 for the second box. My lifetime's almost paid for itself since I've had it two and a half years now.

As far as interface goes, however, you're out of your mind. TiVo has the best most logical interface you'd think Apple designed it. ReplayTV's is good but not as good as TiVo. But the cable dvr interface might as well be a DOS interface as primitive as it is. For the life of me I can't figure out why they didn't license code from either of the real DVR companies. It's embarrassing how bad their software is...
Posted by frankz00 (196 comments )
Link Flag
Depends on what you are looking for...
If all you are looking for is basic utility, then a cable DVR may be OK (but still painful). What Tivo provides is something way beyond that.

Anybody that quotes the spec sheet or pricing back in comparing Tivo to commodity DVRs has not used a Tivo. They just don't get Tivo's value. I've used both a cable DVR and Tivo, and Tivo wins hands-down every time.

P.S. if you are complaining about the few bucks extra per month for Tivo, perhaps you should look at your cable bill and see how much money you are already giving monthly to your cable provider. Does Tivo still look expensive compared to that?
Posted by bithead2001 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Cable DVR is simply horrible
The ONLY thing that makes me put my Tivo on the shelf in favor of Cable DVR is the ablility to record digital cable and preserve the features contained within that digital signal(digital audio, etc). Outside that one deal breaker for me, Tivo is superior by leaps and bounds in all categories, including pricing.

As for improving the situation, the only thing that prevents Tivo from implementing a digital recording solution is the Cable Companies' lockdown on their signals and decoding of those signals. That is the sole reason why there are no digital, HD Digital, etc... Tivo boxes.
Posted by GOVEmployee (7 comments )
Link Flag
you smokin' some baaad weed, my friend
I wonder if you have used a TiVo - ever - or if you're just comparing spec sheets. Your example regarding dual tuners is certainly valid, but otherwise the idea that you get "more functionality" from your Time Warner box than you would from a TiVo box is highly questionable. The TiVo interface, from its inredibly well-designed "peanut" remote control to the intuitive onscreen menu kicks the stuffing out of any cable DVR I have ever seen. In fact, it absolutely amazes me that the cable DVR people can't come up with a decent menu and remote despite having TiVo's example sitting smack dab in front of them for more then five years.

And as for your "kicker" about how Time Warner will replace your box if your cable DVR screws up - my TiVo has not had a single problem in the 5+ years I've owned it, not a single one. You only view the in-house service as a positive because you NEED it all the time with a cable DVR. I can't tell you how many time my brother's cable DVR has wiped all his shows or had other bizarre behavior, as reported in this article, which absolutely mystifies me. I mean, if TiVo could make a box that lasts for years with no problems in 2000, why can't the cable DVR people do it in 2006? I honestly don't understand.

Seriously, man, don't talk about what you don't know. If you've ever gone TiVo, you don't go back.
Posted by wernerlin (16 comments )
Link Flag
Digital Cable is a rip off in the first place
With DirecTV you get all the digitial cable channels, at basic cable price.

And yes, the DirecTV tivo is only $5.99 a month, records two channels at once, and has HD Tivo if you want it and have for years now.

You buy the equipment outright instead of leasing it. Just like my car, I'd rather own something rather then lease it.

The issues you have aren't with Tivo, it's with digital cable.
Posted by Don Key (186 comments )
Link Flag
If you have TW, get the HD DVR box
You get a 160 GB HD ver a 40. Mine has worked flawlessly for over a year. I know several people that have the standard dvr and theirs miss shows occasionally, I have not missed one.
Posted by bemenaker (438 comments )
Link Flag
SA 8000
I had the same problems with the SA 8000 box. I asked for it to be replaced with the SA 8300 and many of the problems when away. At least it's stable now.

The other issue I had was signal strength. The picture looked fine but the strength caused problems with the box slowing down and crashing. They added a 2nd line and it solve this problem.

The only reason I use the DVR from my cable company is for HD recording. Satellite has this, however they charge a lot more for this ability.
Posted by UCFCE (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Agreed -- SA8300 is *much* more stable, but still flawed
Though not without its faults (mostly with regards to user interface issues), the SA8300 is very stable. We had 2 SA8000s last year and both crashed frequently and garbled recordings (replacing them didn't help).

Since our local company (Charter -- blech) started rolling out SA8300s, our HD and DVR service has been very stable. We have two boxes and they have run fine for just over a year.

In reality, I seriously doubt anyone would purchase an SA8300 if it was our choice -- they still lack a lot of features and their UI is badly stunted in many ways. Examples:

1) Scheduled recordings don't adjust to daylight savings time. If you have a program set to record every Tuesday at 9-10PM and a bi-annual DST change comes along, you're recording will either be an hour early or an hour late. LAME!!!

2) If you're watching a program that's currently being recorded and you're behind in time, the DVR will immediately shift you to live TV when the recording ends (even if you're still behind). This especially sucks when catching up on sporting events -- you're in the middle of the 4th quarter of an NBA playoff game (not knowing who won), then suddenly you're hearing post-game commentary and the final score. LAME!!!

3) Do you really need more examples? ;)

At least the SA8300 HD video quality is good and it the isn't too noisy (not too quiet either).

Posted by Mister Winky (301 comments )
Link Flag
Two Words
ReplayTV. You wouldn't have this problem if you were using a REAL DVR..
Posted by frankz00 (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Love RePlay TV
I have a replay TV, it is on my home network and transfering the video from my ReplayTV to my computers is simple. Video quality is excellent and the box is very reliable.
Posted by Vaasman (9 comments )
Link Flag
cable companies have ONE thing that makes their DVR stay the best.

Until Tivo/ReplayTV/whoever offers a plan where you just send me a bill and I pay it, they'll always be second. It's totally convenience that I can simply call up Cox, say I want the thing, they ship it to me, and bill my account. No credit cards, no credit checks, no prescreens, no hooks. I don't like locking my plastic into some recurrent charge that I might get screwed on later (like them billing me $199.95 instead of $19.95, because Rep A wasn't paying attention when they typed in the price per month and added an extra 9. No thanks.)
Posted by ReVeLaTeD (755 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Boy are you misiformed. Replay is 12.95 for first unit and 6.95 for each additional unit. Also if you prefer you can pay a one time fee of $300 and that is good for the lifetime of the unit and how long does VCR or TV last? A long time and they either have moving parts or CRT/LCD to go bad on but not for an average of 7-10 years. The only thing that might go bad on a DVR is the Harddrive. Which you can replace in 20 minutes or you can call Cable and wait for 3 or 4 days for them to come out. Sure the cost of Hard might be more than you want to spend but hard drives usally last for at least 4 years.

So let's see I can call the cable company every 8-14 month wait 3 or 4 days (or Hassle with taking the stupid thing in) or have it work for as long as the harddrive lasts.
Posted by AngelaStarbright (4 comments )
Link Flag
TIMEWARNER is the best, Out of four companies that I've tried
After trying Time Warner, Cox Communications, Dishnetwork, and Directv DVR boxes in the last year, I have to say that the Time Warner box was the best performer of them all. Cox uses the same Scientific Atlantic box, but thier interface leaves so much to be disired. Dishnetworks box is fast, but thier guide leaves much to be desired, shows don't always have the right name. The Directv box seems like a first version box, becuase it is slow as ****.
If only I hadn't moved I would still be enjoying my Timewarner service. Bleep it all to Bleep.
Posted by psedog (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh yeah, forgot to say I had the 8300. They tried to give me that 8000 crap, but I went to the company and xchanged it for the 8300.
They revised it for a reason. Once you change it out you will see why.
Posted by psedog (40 comments )
Link Flag
My ReplayTV 3030 from June 2000 still works perfectly!
Too bad TiVo had to go and try to deceive customers by the "cheap" DVR but pay monthly fees hiding the true price making ReplayTV have to drop their $500 per box pricing to the same annunity-pricing-scam. And then TiVo copying most of the features of ReplayTV (30 second quick skip, between machine networking, internet sharing (cut because of MPAA concerns)).

I am happy I bought my Replay when I did and avoided all the tempormental DishPlayer/TimeWarner/etc... rebooting cruddy boxes.

I have a 160 GB drive in the Replay and it works great and will for years to come and haven't paid a cent for it since I bought it. Dunno why anyone would pay $10 a month to a cable company to 'use' one!
Posted by Anon-Y-mous (124 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It'a all about the Controling Content
Part of the problem with the lack of innovation on PVR/DVR etc&is rooted with content providers. These providers want to insure absolute control, or near absolute control, over all content delivered to consumers. If that were not the issue image how much innovation you would see out in the market, especially with HTPC (Home Theater PCs) or something you could call a Media Center. Image a HDTV cable/satellite card for your PC and the ability to manage all your content on one flexible platform, a PC. But alas this is not going to happen because content provider are afraid. Fearfully that many would hack into their systems and steal their precious commodity if they did offer more flexible solutions. Control by obscurity, build a highly proprietary system, therefore no one can hack it, of course that is also a myth. So, as for me the consumer, I would love to see a return on my invest in a media PC and an HDTV, imagine HDTV content across the board, a choice to use what every type of recording device I choose, we made it happen with the PC market why cant we make it happen with the television market?
Posted by SearchForTruth (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Motorola DCT series have similar issues
The Motorola DCT 6412 High Definition DVR has the same issue. On many occasions I have set up the unit to record programs in advance only to find out that they are not in the schedule to be recorded and refuse to go into the schedule. It seems to have a limited memory and you can only set up 5 or 6 'repeat' programs to record every week. Anything more than that and the unit will not even recognize the schedule. Yes, it is nice to record in HD, but only when the device 'actually records'. This has happened to me several times on 3 or 4 different boxes.
Posted by dogger596 (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Scientific Atlanta 8300 much better
I had the same sort of problems with my model 8000 DVR. The
worst was that the legacy analog channels would barely record.
More often than not the recording should show the same start and
stop time with no actual content recorded. I had Time Warner
change out the unit for a model 8300 after demonstrating the
problem to them. It has been much improved and I rarely lose a
recording on it. It also has much more memory ( 112 Mb vs 48 Mb
on the 8000) and has faster processors ( 250 MHz vs 164 MHz on
the 8000).
Posted by jhowarth (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
TIVO is King!
Tivo would be on many more shelves if they had been better at cutting deals with others. It was SO SOLID when I used it on satellite several years ago. Recently tried a ComCast unit; not good, crashes frequently! Just went from cable to DirectTV; their DVR unit is TIVO-like, but squirelly. Now learning to live with its idiosyncracic behavior, e.g. don't ever power it off unless you want to do a POR later.

Miss my TIVO! ??Perhaps I should buy one??
Posted by gpaulgar (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
that's the way the business *used* to work
It's exactly because of this issue that the CableCard standard was created: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CableCARD" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CableCARD</a> . With CableCard, you can get digital cable content onto 3rd party devices, like, say, TiVo Series 3: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060719-7304.html" target="_newWindow">http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060719-7304.html</a> . Though, of course, like everyone else, I'll get excited about the Series 3 only if and when someone actually gets their hands on one and can post a review...
Posted by wernerlin (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Scientific Atlanta Engineers
I have seen some of the inner workings at Scientific Atlanta.
Their software engineering groups are the suit-and-tie
Dilbertesque kind of outfits, more suited to a Telco or bank,
than to a commercial software enterprise. Additionally many of
them are young, inexperienced, or H-1B, the company being
VERY reluctant to pay the kinds of salaries required for long
experience and proven ability. Having cut my teeth at a Telco
right out of college, I can say that most software groups
organized in this fashion, usually have one or two bright
engineers that carry what they can of the project for a year or
two, and then flee to the Adobes, Apples, and Microsofts of the
world as soon as they can. Thus the projects tend to cycle over
time as new talented engineers train up and make real
contributions towards the end of their stay, and then, when the
engineer leaves, the project languishes and falls into disrepair.
The net result is that the projects never work properly, and in a
great many cases eventually just get abandoned in favor of
commercial solutions, if they exist. I would not be surprised if
TiVO software ends up on many cable DVRs over the coming
Posted by Mystigo (183 comments )
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Tivo records two channels at once, and has done HD for about a year
Why are there sooooo many uninformed users here? Tivo can... and does:

Record two channels at once
Record in HD
Doesn't require a credit card

DirecTV has had these options for years.
Posted by Don Key (186 comments )
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This is NOT a Tivo box
It simply uses Tivo technology licensed by DirecTV but requires a DirecTV subscription. People are not uninformed - they are talking about stand alone Tivo units.
Posted by mnbulldog (11 comments )
Link Flag
hello, TiVO!
how an entire article can be written about DVR interface issues and not mention THE DVR, TiVO, is beyond me.

needless to say, the award-winning TiVO interface blows the doors off every cable-DVR interface I've seen. it's smart, intiutive and very, very easy.

and it works!
Posted by pnoeric (5 comments )
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TiVO is STILL THE BEST DVR out there!
I too was scanning the article for the TiVo words. Then I was kinda baffled that it wasn't in there... at all!
I recently moved and could only get DirecTV because the Adelphia franchise here is managed under a bankrupcy court, hence their horrible offering.
Now, my DirecTV DVR lacks MOST of the features that my old TiVo had (left to my Mom). After a couple of recordings, it has become Slow, and annoying.
Now, if only TiVo could get out of the Hardware business and become a Software License vendor ONLY, and leave the hardware up to Sony, Philips, etc, we'd have a Killer TiVo!
Posted by theKingRich (5 comments )
Link Flag
Sci Atl has NO clue how a DVR should work. They need to team up with Tivo or MS. I have owned DVR's from RCA (Microsoft UTV), Hughes (Tivo), DishNetwork, Replay, Tivo, and Sci Atl.

Without a doubt the Sci Atl is the biggest piece of junk in the world. Constantly freezing, skips recordings, you can't start watching a show from the beginning while it is recording, horrible GUI, etc. I could go on and on.

UltimateTV (very similar to MS Media Center MyTV) was by far the best and most intuitive just edging out TIVO for ease and speed of use.

TIVO does rule now (only because MS decided to dump UTV for some reason)- except very slow on DirecTV HD DVR's.

Anything - and I mean anything is better than a Sci Atl DVR. Dish's new HD PVR series is suppose to be pretty nice but I have not seen it. And of course, DirecTV is releasing the NDS HD DVR sometime this fall - finally - to replace the TIVO based units.

If you never used any other DVR you might not know how bad a Sci Atl box is. However, anyone that thinks these boxes work well has clearly NEVER used any other DVR or they would be dropping these boxes on their cable companies doorsteps.

What happen to Comcast deal with TIVO?
Posted by mnbulldog (11 comments )
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