All About the DVR

December 19, 2005

Now that November sweeps is over, we're suddenly catapulted from a TV universe where there are all new shows on all of the time, to one where you can't find original programming (save sappy holiday garbage) to save a life.

It makes it all the more annoying that the cable box DVR just chose not to record The Apprentice finale last week. It's not that The Apprentice is that good a show. It's pretty much the same thing, season after season. And the people aren't especially intriguing or anything this season. It's just that I have the whole season of watching invested in the show, and now I've missed the last episode, and don't know who won.


Sure, I could look on the internet, but I'm not so interested that I want to read about the show. That's just crazy.

By far, the biggest drawback of Cox's standard issue DVR box is the fact that it sometimes just decides not to record your show. There seems to be no rhyme or reason, and an informal poll tells me that it happens to some people more than others.

We used to have TIVO instead of the cable DVR. There are several things that were better about TIVO:

  • Online scheduling: If you forgot to set your DVR for something, you can just log onto a web site, and schedule the recording from wherever you are. Very good feature.

  • Quality control: Chose to record programs in lower quality, and use less space on your disk. It's nice to be able to control that.

  • Home media: Assuming your TIVO is hooked to your whole home entertainment system, it can be used to stream your MP3's from your stereo through the computer. However, the user interface for this is kludgy, and it loses its connection with annoying regularity.

  • There are some TIVO boxes that allow you to burn your programming to DVD.

  • Better yet, some boxes will let you copy the programs to your computer. This will allow you to share video illegally, and to upload it to your portable devices. A pretty good feature if you ask me.

TIVO has also announced (but not released) a feature that would let you watch programming from other TIVO boxes. This would not only work for two boxes in the same house, but also across the internet. So, if the Saints game is blacked out in your city, you could be watching that game -- a second or two behind the live broadcast -- from your friend's TIVO in a different state. I haven't heard them tout this in a long time, so someone must have gotten wise to the potential copyright Pandora's box that this would unleash. On the other hand, the DVR has two big features that are both huge:

  • Two tuners: You can watch one program while a different one is recording. Or if you aren't watching TV, you can record two at once. The disk access speed is good enough to be recording two, while you watch a 3rd recorded program. I've tried, and it works.

  • HD: This is the biggie. It's inexplicable that TIVO doesn't yet support HDTV programming. They didn't see that coming? I would chose DVR over TIVO for that one feature alone.

If only it would record everything that it's programmed to record.