My 1st DVR: Motorola DCT6412 III
Only about 5 years behind the times, I have finally gotten a DVR (digital video recorder, like a VCR but uses a hard drive instead of a tape). Do I even need to state what a DVR is anymore? My mom had a DVR before me! She actually has an authentic TiVo unit.
So my thoughts on how a DVR changes your TV watching habits in general. Well, first off I already have semi-weird habits to begin with. My viewing has been a mix of live TV watching, and downloading of TV shows. Some shows like Doctor Who and, until this past week, Call For Help aren't even available in the US - so I must download them to watch. I also watch a variety of tech related internet only shows like Diggnation and commandN. Then there are shows like FOX's 24, which is so intense my wife and I can't handle waiting a week between shows. So we don't watch any of the shows (or commercials) until the entire season has aired. Meanwhile I have been downloading and storing the episodes away. Then when the season has ended, we watch them in a mad fury of 2 or 3 weeks (basically as fast as we can) getting the entire story in a straight shot, rather then spread out over several months. My network and home entertainment setup lets me easily pump downloaded content onto our television via my Sony Vaio notebook. There is also another type of show that I download. These are shows that I hear are good, but we down have the time to watch. I basically do the same thing as with 24, I download the season as it airs and store it away. Then during the repeat season when we have viewed all the shows we like, we start watching these shows, and if we don't like them, you just clear them off, or if you do like them you can watch the whole season. This past season that what we did with ABC's Lost.
Because of this mix of downloading and watching shows on our own schedule, we basically had our foot one step in the door of having a DVR. Or so I had thought...
Actually having a DVR is a much better experience. At one visit to my house, Mike had complained about not having the ability to pause or the instant replay feature during watching a show with us. Personally I thought he was kinda faking it just to rub it in that we didn't have a precious TiVo like he and Carrie do. Now actually having these features for day-to-day TV viewing, I don't doubt at all that his comments were genuine. Any time the phone rings or there's a knock at the door you can pause without missing a beat. I can't count how many times in the past my wife has gotten upset with me because my attention turned to the TV when she was trying to tell me a story, now I can pause and avoid such incidents. And the instant replay is great for when something funny happens, or even better when you have a "what did that person just say?" moments and you need a double take.
There are shows my wife and I like, but we would never make time to watch them, or set the VCR to record, cause in reality they aren't that important. These are shows like The Soup, Best Week Ever, Street Smarts (which got moved to like 3 PM - how am I supposed to watch that, it was much better at 11:30 PM), etc. When we have time to kill at night we no longer ask "What's on tonight?". Now we just go to "My Recordings" and pick a show. The only time I view the live TV guide or check "what's on tonight" is when I am wondering if there are more shows I haven't thought of that I want to setup recordings for.
There are some technical issues, and I am not sure if they are related purely to my Motorola unit, or just DVRs in general, or to the company supplying the guide information to my cable company (or maybe the stations supplying the information to the guide company).
So here is one problem I am having so far. I have a show "Attack of the Show" that errors on week days at like 5 PM, and then repeats like at 3 different times during the evening and morning before the next new episode the following afternoon. I tell my system to record new episodes only. But it records all airings. This is because the guide information does not correctly specify if the episode is new or not. It could be the station providing crummy info, or it could be my cable company not correctly processing the guide info. In any case it is annoying to have so many copies of the show.
Which brings me to problem number two. I could easily overcome this with setting up a non-guide recording and create a time/channel based recording and just tape the show I want. Well, this uncovers an issue with the DCT6412 unit itself (or maybe just the software which might be used on multiple units). I can setup a time/channel recording, but I can not set such recordings on a repeating schedules. Only for single use only. Which makes them really useless. I haven't had the unit for even two weeks as of writing this, so I am hoping I am wrong and future use will show me how to do his, but so far I haven't had any luck.
My next issue is that sometimes my recordings will miss the first or last 30 seconds of a show, this has been an issue with MTV's Real World. So the fix is to set the recording setting to start and end a minute early. Problem solved. But a new issue has now been created. When I record an extra 1 minute of Real World, I can not record the show immediately following it. This is a really bizarre problem, especially since I have a dual-tuner DVR unit. I do not think I have anything else recording at the same time (it only brings up 1 conflict), so the second tuner should be open for use. But lets just say that the second is in use, that shouldn't stop me from setting an overlapping recording, and then just choosing which show has the higher priority to record during the overlapping time, and the unit should be smart enough to record both - my old VCR was. But instead it just flat out stops be from setting up a new recording. In this particular case since I want to record the following show on the same channel, I can adjust the Real World recording to not run late, but what if I wanted to immediately jump to a different channel and start recording - just a minute late. I should be able to.
The sales rep at the cable company didn't know much about the unit. She did know that it was dual-tuner, but then she said you couldn't record two shows at the same time, only watch one while recording another. Thank goodness she was wrong. The dual-tuner lets you record two shows at a time, and even watch a third program that you have previously recorded (dual-tuner TiVo units act this same way I believe).
Also like authentic TiVo units the DCT6412 does have some hacks. You can program a 30 second skip button onto your remote [hack found here]. And you can even use the Firewire ports on the back to pull video off the unit and onto your Mac or PC. I have done the 30 second skip button (increases the value of the unit 10 fold), but I have not tried pulling video off the unit onto my computer yet. The process seems kinda long, but I want to try it out someday.
Some features it lacks over the TiVo units is the thumbs up / thumbs down rating for shows, Fast Forward / Rewind "snap back", suggestions (where TiVo auto records shows it guesses you might like, and maybe the TiVo software might not have the same scheduling issues that I am facing - I can test them out when visiting my mom this weekend.
Overall I am very pleased with the jump to DVR, and I think it definitely earns the extra fee of $10 a month on my cable bill. Hopefully some issues get fixed via software updates. Maybe I can find a suggestion box on-line somewhere?