Monday, December 4, 2006

TIVO vs. dvr

I like to watch me some TV from time to time. There is a lot of crap on TV, and I am busy. So I need to be selective about my TV. To this end, I acquired TIVO. This happened many months ago, and as soon as I got TIVO, I realized (like the ads say) that I would never watch TV the same way again. It is truly an indispensible thing, once you've had it.

But TIVO isn't just an object you buy at the store and plug into your television. It is that, but not only that. It is also a thing you subscribe to. You can either pay a monthly fee ($13-$15), or buy a "lifetime" subscription (lifetime of the box, not of you). But for this, you get lots of stuff (more later).

But so then, after enjoying my TIVO for many months, I determined that I just wasn't getting the most out of my TV watching experience (ok, yes, I am a consumer, so kill me). I determined that I would step forward out of the mindset of if-I-just-wait-a-little-while-longer-plasma-TV-costs-will-go-down-more, and not let another college football season go by without watching it in Hi-Def on a large TV. So I did my due diligence (surfed the web for a couple of hours), and went out and bought an HD Plasma TV.

So now I'm all ready to watch college football in HD on my big plasma TV, right? Of course not. Now, I need actual HD programming to watch. For that, I must contact my friendly local cable monopoly (which in this case is Charter Communications, possessor of quite possibly the worst website in the history of the interweb). After much extraneous bullshit which I won't detail here, I come to the understanding that in order to watch HD programming on my new TV in my accustomed manner, I must do three things: (1) extend my cable subscription to include the "HD Channel Package" (cost: $10/month; includes: 10 whole, entire HD channels(10!)), (2) acquire an HD capable cable box/dvr (cost: $15/month; includes one Scientific Atlanta HD 8300 unit (pictured)), and (c) retire my TIVO.

But so now, aside from spending these additional dollars, and aside from having to spend a not insignificant portion of my personal time in various dealings with my friendly local cable monopoly, I am finally ready to watch HDTV, right?. Well, yes. But...

I am ashamed to say that I used to gripe about my TIVO. Not harshly, just in a "hey guys, that's great and all, but you really can do better, ya know?" pep talk kind of way. Sort of like the way the basketball coach who spends part of the Fall coaching the freshman football team might talk to his second string tight end on film day. I thought it was just a bit too much pitched toward the lowest common denominator of TV watchers. It wasn't reaching its full potential.

Now I know better. The TIVO is so far advanced beyond my current dvr, I am pretty much at a loss of where to begin. Maybe I will update this later with the details, but for now suffice to say that the Scientific Atlanta HD 8300 (pictured) is, at least when coupled with cable service from Charter Communications (it is difficult for me to separate hardware issues from service issues), a horrible, insanely illogical, utter piece of crap. Stay away. Stay far, far away.

Here is a NON-comprehensive list of SOME of the many monumentally stupid failures of the Scientific Atlanta HD 8300 that I have found UP TO THIS POINT:

1. the list of recorded programs does not indicate which CHANNEL the program was recorded from (despite PLENTY of on-screen space to do so);

2. the list of recorded programs does not include the episode name, only the name of the program;

3. programming information (which you use to select programs to record) is only available (at most) 7 days in advance;

4. you cannot search within all available programming data for a particular program without first navigating to the DAY on which the program will be broadcast (kind of difficult if you don't know which day (or even channel!) the program is on);

5. you cannot search by program genre;

6. you cannot search by actor, director, or topic/subject;

7. when setting up a TIVO-like "season pass" for a program, you cannot set it to only record first-run programs (meaning you wouldn't then record all re-broadcasts of the same episode);

8. in fact, since the Scientific Atlanta HD 8300 does not recognize episode names, it can make no distinction whatsoever among different episodes of a program;

9. there is no mechanism for setting priorities among different season passes;

10. if you have set a season pass for a program, and you for whatever reason want to cancel the recording of a particular episode, you CAN'T, you can only cancel the recording of ALL episodes of that program (this is unfathomably, absurdly STUPID);

11. if you set a program to record, and then, sometime after the program has started, you decide you want to watch that program, when you click on the program to begin watching (either from the program list or from the program guide), you DON'T start watching from the beginning of the program, but rather from the point in the program as it is currently being broadcast(!!!);

12. if #11 above happens, you must inexplicably, unbelievably, REWIND from that point in the program to the beginning, and THEN...;

13. if the program you are watching in #11 and #12 above ENDS (in real broadcast time) while you are watching the recording (which it most likely will), the Scientific Atlanta HD 8300 will then SKIP FORWARD(!) to the very end of the program and start showing real time programming from whatever channel the program WAS on;

14. if the program you are watching in #11, #12, and #13 above happens to be a football game, the programming being broadcast AFTER the end of the recorded football game will, ain all probability, be the last two minutes of the very football game you are watching,which has run past its scheduled timeby a few minutes, in which case you will, without any warning whatsoever, see the SCORE of the game as it exists in the final minutes (or seconds) of the game, THEREBY ruining your ENTIRE football watching experience;

15. when navigating through a program using the rewind and fast forward buttons, there are no "chapter" markings (e.g., at fifteen minute intervals) which you can skip to, therefore making navigation of the program INSANELY slow, especially in the case of a 3.5 hour football game (and thus BADLY compounding the problems noted in #11 and #12 above);


Jill said...

This turned out to be not long-winded at all. It is a very well thought out list of flaws. You should most definitely send this exact blog to Charter and Scientific Atlanta. I would also call Charter and demand a discount on your DVR. I think you could easily make the argument that it is no better than a standard, non-dvr cable box. Threaten to become a satellite customer for Pete's sake!

LLM said...

As a TiVo fanatic/evangelist since, I think, 1999, I obviously agree that once you go TiVo, you never go back. I'm surprised at the ways upon ways that the Other box is so disgustingly inferior. Any single one of those things would drive me bugfuck, but all together ... well, I'm surprised the Scientific Atlanta 8300 (pictured) made it through its first week in your house without its guts being smashed with a baseball bat.

Satellite rules.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, thanks for an explanation. As always all ingenious is simple.