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My Old ReplayTV

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June 2007

Six months ago my ReplayTV finally bit the dust. It had been getting cranky, in the way old electronic devices do to show their age. Every once in a while it would freeze up and I'd have to power cycle it - really power cycle it. Cord pulling and all. Soon even that was not enough. All we'd get is the Please Stand By screen. A couple of times I cured that by dropping the gadget onto its feet from a few inches up. One day we were watching a show and - blip - the TV screen when black. That was all she wrote.

We tried to watch live TV so I'd have time to think through a replacement strategy. Oh, it was painful. The commercials were back and we couldn't stop 'em. Idiotic jingles were implanting themselves in my brain. The second night without our trusty ReplayTV Angela was on her laptop while The Soup was on the TV. She turned to me with something on her mind and said, "would you pause it for a second?" I gave her an exaggerated sad puppy look and replied, "there isn't any pause any more." Ha, ha, ha we laughed.

It must have been just a few minutes later when a commercial came on and I mindlessly picked up the ReplayTV remote and jabbed at the skip button. The remote was always sensitive to direction and I was holding my arm up to get a better bead on the unit. Angela gently said to me, "Jim, there is no more skipping." Gaaaaaah!

The last straw came later that night when I found Angela standing behind the couch. Her form was dynamic, one hand on the back of the couch, her legs bent to a slight crouch. "What could she be doing?," I wondered. A commercial came on and she was out of the blocks and off to the loo. Ahhh. I had to act quickly to stop the madness.

Amazon had a good deal on the Tivo Series 2, and three days later our life was on its way to normalcy.

The Series 2 has dual tuners. It can record two programs for us at the same time. That is way cool ("hellicool" to younger readers). The HD version was $600 more and I'm not HD yet, so I didn't get it. The way these things break I'll have to buy another one in a few years and the HD price will probably have come down by then. (June 2007 update: The HD version is now only $300!) We got the 160 hour version, so we really have an archival unit.

The Tivo interface is different than Replay. Some good, some bad.

On the plus side I really like the ToDo list feature. I can see and influence the priority decisions it has to make. (Although with 2 tuners there are very few conflicts to resolve.) I also like the "only record new episodes" feature- too bad it doesn't work well (see below).

On the down side are several things.

  • Too many shows. Some shows, like The Daily Show, have a new episode that is repeated about a bazillion times a day. I ask Tivo to only record new episodes and it records all of them. Someone has told me it's a problem with the metadata supplied to Tivo, but ReplayTV never had this problem. It was also suggested that I do a time based recording instead of a Season Pass. Unfortunately this gets me both new and old episodes shown in that time slot. I have not found a good solution to this big problem.
  • Lacking information. Going along with too many shows, Tivo does not tell me who was on The Daily Show. The description is some generic "current news and commentary", or some such. Again I was told that they don't get the metadata from Comedy Central. Again I say, ReplayTV had the data.
  • Too much white space. I find that Tivo has lots of white space on the screen. It's often taken up by their big twonky logo. Or it has a large title at the top like "Now Playing". As I move the cursor over a show I'd like this area replaced with a description of the show. Instead I have to navigate to another screen to see that crucial information.
  • Anticipatory stop. When doing a fast-fast-forward and I push the play button, ReplayTV used to guess my reaction time and stop a bit behind the time that I actually pushed the button. That was just perfect. Tivo tries to do this, but fails. And fails badly and stops way before where I wanted to go. I have to push play, then fast forward again, then play, then fast forward. I would actually prefer for Tivo to stop guessing and just immediately drop into play. Then I could jump back six seconds at a time until I was where I really want to be.
  • More button pushing. It's hard to describe all this here, but I feel like I have to push a lot more buttons on Tivo to get things done. Not in the scheduling, but in just playing back stuff from my Now Playing list.
  • No commercial skip. My old ReplayTV would automatically skip commercials. That was just an unbelievable feature. Eventually ReplayTV had to get rid of that to appease the TV studios. They replaced it with a 30-second skip ahead button. That was also very good. Tivo has neither of those. It is sadly missed. (Yes, I can apply that special hack, but every so often the software is automatically upgraded and the hack goes away. Grrrr.)
  • Categories. ReplayTV let me assign recordings to different lists. We had the "Angela" list, the "Jim" list, the "Both Of Us" list. That was really nice. Tivo makes us scroll through all of the recorded shows to find what we want to watch.

Still, even with all the missing features I wouldn't give it up.


March 16, 2009 The Day The Tivo Died

A few weeks ago I got a call from Comcast that they were changing things. It would be ok. They would take care of me. They were moving most of their channels to digital. They'd give me a converter box - and a remote! - for free. Oh crap. I don't want another box. I don't want another remote. I asked the nice lady, "how will this affect my Tivo?" She didn't know. It didn't sound good to me.

Today I got this email from Tivo

Dear TiVo Customer,

Comcast Cable is transitioning to all-digital cable. With all-digital cable, extended basic cable channels will be broadcasting only in digital, and you will need a digital cable box to view them.

Note: basic cable channels will continue to be broadcast in analog format, as usual. Your TiVo DVR will have limited dual-tuning functionality as a result of this change from Comcast Cable. Please contact Comcast Cable for information on which channels will be affected by this transition.

To ensure you are informed on the effects of this transition and your upgrade options, please visit our Support Page.

Thanks for being a valued TiVo customer!

Your friends at TiVo

That's it. Comcast put the knife into my Tivo. Damn, I loved my Tivo.

I just went to ATT and signed up for their Uverse product. I have been enticed by their offer of a free PVR with the ability to record four shows at a time. The free PVR comes with the cheapest package too! And I want to go cheap.

Unfortunately, the "ufamily" line up includes all the channels I want, except Comedy Central and Discovery. Shit. OK, I have to go up to the U100. U100 is same price, but more channels. How can that be? Oh, no PVR. So now I'm up to U200 and just over $100 a month for TV and Internet. I guess I'll live with it.

I do remember how bad the user interface was on the Dish Network PVR. It was so bad we cancelled the Dish. I guess now I'm going to take the leap to ATT and hope their PVR doesn't suck. Stay tuned. The guy installs this Friday.


Jim Schrempp is a sometimes freelance writer (only Vanity Press will publish his work) living in Saratoga, California. His writings have appeared on numerous pages on his own web site. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of anyone else (although Jim wishes more people shared his opinions)