Tag Archives: TiVo

High Definition TV recording and playback

I have mentioned HD TV before. In fact I do have a HD TV, but it’s ‘only’ 720 lines; technically it’s a 720p LCD, compared to full HD which is 1080p.  BluRay disks are 1080p so I wouldn’t be getting the full resolution if I was to buy a BluRay player. The TV also has a built in HD tuner, so I can watch HD TV, but not record it.

In actual fact that’s not 100% true. And twice over:

  1. My Standard Definition (SD) Topfield recorder can actually record HD TV shows, but it itself can’t play them back. You have to copy them over to a PC then use something like VLC to play them back.  The copy process is quite slow. Then there’s another problem, which we’ll return to in a minute.
  2. I also have a HD USB Tuner which can attach to the main desktop PC or the laptop. I’ve had it for a few years now and it’s fairly reliable. It was used regularly before I got the Topfield.

Now the problem with both of these solutions is the same. Only the desktop PC has the raw processing power to play back the HD TV recordings. The laptop a-l-m-o-s-t makes it, but stutters and the picture breaks up. And I don’t want to watch TV on my PC in the computer room!  The laptop is in the lounge attached to the 720p TV. No, the desktop is too old and noisy to just move it to the lounge.

The solution is not to get a TiVO. Early reports are that it’s very nobbled. Maybe the firmware dudes will get out there and release ‘jailbreak’ software for the TiVO soon; to free it up so you can attach it to your own network, copy your recordings off, skip adds etc.  But it’s not for me, nor anyone else – I’d suggest – who naively want’s to just replace their VCR. Will they get a shock when they try to work out how to keep a recording, like they currently do with their VCR!

Anyway I’ve got a two-pronged wish list:

  1. Get a dedicated PC in the lounge. A Media Centre. Purpose built; fast and nice and quiet. Would have dual-HD tuners and the capacity to play back BluRay disks, but without – initially – a BluRay player on board. Just a DVD.  Whirlpool maintains parts list of a suggested system.
  2. Later on, when the price of add-on BluRay players for PCs has fallen, simply drop one in and go. 

Hopefully by then I may have a proper 1080p TV too. Dream on…

TiVo: Only a few days before we find out what we (get, don’t get and need)

With the apparent July 1st announcement only a few days away, speculation is out and about as to a number of TiVo things.

There’s talk of needing an Internet connection, possibly broadband, to be connected to the TiVo. This would be for three main purposes, it is assumed:

  1. Downloading of the Electronic Program Guide (show info: channel, start time, duration, description, genre, actors/presenters). Enabling the recording by simply selecting the shows name from a list etc. Apparently it does not support the EPG that is delivered over the ‘air’ ; as part of the digital TV signal
  2. Downloading of updates/fixes for the TiVo itself; specifically the firmware
  3. Streaming (like YouTube) of video shows directly off the Internet. May not be YouTube as such, perhaps things like TEDs.

Initial reports are that the TiVo will come with the ability to plug directly in to a wired network (your typical Ethernet blue cable) but you may have to purchase a wireless adapter, should your home network be wireless.

The things that I’d be interested in finding out include:

  • If the recordings can be copied up to a PC, are they encrypted or protected with DRM
  • Can it play back media files from your local PC, hard drive, USB thumb drives etc. Things like MP3s and AVIs.
  • Can you really record two shows at once whilst watching back an earlier recording, or starting to play back one of the shows still recording?
  • Is it a ‘closed’ box or can users install their own code to enhance the base function, like some Topfield PVRs support?
  • Does it work with universal remote controls, such as my Logitech Harmony?

All will hopefully be revealed very soon.

TiVo PVR finally arrives, but the wise may hold fire on buying one.

Well well. Nearly 10 years after the TiVo hit America we finally get it here. This hard drive Personal Video Recorder lets you record TV shows – these days two shows at once – and play them back later. Unlike VCRs you can start playing back a show as it’s still recording. Depending on the model other things are available too, including:

  • Playing back of an earlier show, whilst two others are being recorded
  • The ability to skip-ads on ‘live’ TV. Not really live; the machine automatically records the show at (say) 7:00pm and you start watching it at 7:10 and skip the ads that way. A button jumps forward 30 seconds to help here
  • Recording via a simple point and click on the show’s name in a schedule. The much-fought-over Electronic Program Guide. Even lawsuits!.
  • Smart recording: record a show – by name – regardless of when it’s on and if it runs over time. Trust me this over-run is very common. Up to 15 minutes! So you can ask it to record “Battlestar Galactica” and if it’s 10:30pm Tuesday one week, and 1am Friday the next, you still get it recorded.
  • The ability to copy the recording off to your PC or Mac, so you can keep it or create a DVD etc

Anyway the TiVo rumours suggest most of the above, with Ad-skipping being the one that is uncertain. Also the TiVo is High Defintion. But can also record normal (Standard) definition TV as well, so you won’t have to get a new High Def TV to use it.

It’s the price that’s the killer. $700 is the report. And that’s quite cheap, compared to its current competitors.

So therein lies the message. Wait and see what the market does. There’s no way the current PVR makers can still be hundreds of dollars dearer, even if they (in theory, at least) offer some more cool, geeky features. But the mass market is the target of the TiVo, not we ‘early adopters’. But it’s most probably going to force down the prices of the current competitors, like Topfield, Pioneer, Sony etc. And hence better value all around, you’d assume.

Of course the current PVR makers could go another way. For a bit more, say $799, have similar features to a TiVo but offer some sweet extras. Perhaps a DVD burner and player on-board. Or the ability to play most (any) common media formats, like DivX AVI movies, either from DVD,CD (RWs too) or via a wired/wireless home network.

You know something has made it big when it becomes a verb or is mentioned in pop culture shows. Back in 2001 (!) on Friends, in the episode The One with the Stripper this exchange took place:

Dr. Leonard Green: What’s new with you?
Rachel: Um… I got TiVo!
Dr. Leonard Green: What’s TiVo?
Phoebe: It’s slang for pregnant.

Quote from IMDB