February 12th, 2004


I got a DVR from my cable company yesterday, and I’m a little disappointed.

DVR = digital video recorder = TiVo or ReplayTV and the like.

It’s basically a VCR, but it records shows to its internal hard drive. It’s a pretty cool device, as it has all sorts of connectors on the back: USB, FireWire, Ethernet, DVI. None of them currently work, but it’s pretty cool. Eventually, they say, a person might be able to hook it up to one’s network and yadda yadda yadda.

They also tell me it will eventually be able to do things a DVR ought to be able to do, like tune itself to the channel and record something. As it is, if you tell it to record from 6:23 to 10:22, it will record whatever channel you happen to be on. How stupid is that? There isn’t even a function to tell it what channel to record! Now, I did find that if you go to the guide and highlight a coming-up show and tell it to record, it will kind of schedule it. By “kind of” I mean that one minute before it is to start, a message comes up on the screen that says “Do you want to switch to the channel and start recording?” This is a useful function for when you are away on long trips.

TiVo, from what I understand, will let you set it to record any instance of a show…say, Seinfeld. Whenever it sees an episode of Seinfeld on, it records it to the hard drive. Later, when you come back with your big bowl of cereal, you can sit down and pick which episode of Seinfeld you want to watch and fast-forward and rewind through it like it was a tape.

Guess what? My DVR won’t do that, either.

It’s a proprietary system, not a TiVo or ReplayTV, so they’re working from the ground up on this thing and not everything has been implemented yet. Or so they say. It is supposedly a “dynamically updating system,” which means software upgrades will be pushed down over the cable lines as they become available. I’ll believe it when I see it.

To be fair, the new little box also incoporates an HDTV decoder, which gives me HDTV versions of channels that hardly ever have anything on them I want to watch. I will say this, though – that HDTV is sweet-looking. Very clear and sharp. And widescreen, which is important.

So, I’ve got a DVR. It ain’t perfect, but neither am I. We’ll see how the two of us get along.

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