Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Why Do Americans Have the Worst DVRs?
June 22, 2013 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Our digital recorders cut off the last minutes of sporting events and our favorite shows. That doesn’t happen in Europe.
posted by beisny (60 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you're in the US and you haven't got a Tivo, I'd say that's why this happens to you.
posted by routergirl at 7:11 AM on June 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


46 percent of america uses DVR services? that must be due to cable TV set top boxes.

Given all the other crap going on in the US these days I really don't see why "tweeting my congressperson" about this issue would be anywhere on my top 10 list, however. I think it's a little bit of a first-world problem the writer is having.

A better solution is to watch less TV and enjoy life more, but I suppose that doesn't sell advertising much, does it?
posted by EricGjerde at 7:20 AM on June 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just set my video recorder 10 minutes either side.
Seems to work.
posted by Mezentian at 7:21 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've never had a problem with my DVR (Time Warner Cable, NYC) doing this. It's pretty great about knowing that Mad Men ends late, stuff like that. The one annoying thing though, is that it doesn't tape the premiere of Survivor: Caramoan, for example, because that's a different show than Survivor: South Pacific. Learned that one the hard way.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:25 AM on June 22, 2013


Uh, I'm not sure this article is entirely true. Maybe the BBC and ITV get it right most of the time, but a lot of the minor digital channels often get it wrong. I watch a lot of Eurosport and the EPG rarely matches what's actually on the screen. You set your box to record cycling and you basically take pot-luck with what sport you actually end up recording.
posted by afx237vi at 7:26 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


ESPN in Europe is terrible for this - particularly with UFC events. I have got into the habit of adding an hour and a half at the end so I don't miss the main fight on the card.
posted by longbaugh at 7:27 AM on June 22, 2013


Virgin Media's cable box, despite being a Tivo, seems to just record 10 minutes either side. Sometimes this means we lose the beginning or end of something. Things aren't quite as rosy as the article points out.
posted by pipeski at 7:28 AM on June 22, 2013


Many set top boxes have the ability to record to flash memory and that's disabled on US boxes as well.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:31 AM on June 22, 2013


It is a first-world problem, but it speaks volumes about how things operate today. It used to be that making the customer happy was the appropriate way to grow and run a successful business. Now the customer is the last concern. Fuck you, customer, you'll take what we give you. Our responsibility is to the advertisers and accountants, and you can have (maybe) whatever dregs are left.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:31 AM on June 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


You forgot copyright holders. You will watch this show on this device at this time and watch these commercials while doing so and pay us what we ask!
posted by cjorgensen at 7:33 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


One thing that article doesn't mention is that this has existed since the VHS era. The BBC started broadcasting PDC signals in 1995!
posted by grahamparks at 7:34 AM on June 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't use the DVR as I don't watch much TV, but my roommate does. We have Charter. They used to us Moxi, which was actually a fucking AWESOME DVR, but supposedly it had a tendency to "catch on fire" or something and so now we're stuck with Motorola. Forget issues about recording times... GIVE ME A GODDAMNED DECENT INTERFACE!

Compare Moxi to something close to what we have now (part of the horrid UI is in the navigation itself, the other is this horrible blocky menu up on submenu in small text, so a picture doesn't convey the full horror if this thing).
posted by symbioid at 7:40 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


We've only had this problem a handful of times over the last decade of having a cable company DVR. We currently have a Motorola one from Comcast that works fine as long as you don't mind the horrible user interface.
posted by octothorpe at 7:41 AM on June 22, 2013


Wait until the author discovers internet access is drastically cheaper in a lot of Europe, too.
posted by hoyland at 7:42 AM on June 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm sure US cable companies will roll this out, just as soon as they've figured-out a method of monetizing the new "feature" as much as possible. Add this amazing new technology to your plan for only $10/month!!!!*

*In addition to your normal cable subscription. Rite-Time™ Recording Technology requires subscription to Deluxe-Ultra-Extreme Digital-Plus HD™ package and Digi-Phone Voice™ service, and a two-year service commitment. Equipment lease fees extra.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:43 AM on June 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Guys, we have a cynic in the house.
posted by Mezentian at 7:44 AM on June 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


It used to be that making the customer happy was the appropriate way to grow and run a successful business.

I am trying but entirely failing to figure out what utopic era of history you are referring to.
posted by solotoro at 7:47 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why Do Americans Have the Worst DVRs?

Hello from Canada! Ours are worse.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:02 AM on June 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


I am trying but entirely failing to figure out what utopic era of history you are referring to.

There really was a time when the prevailing business model held that profit (and happy investors) came when you focused on providing consumers with a high-quality product or service at a reasonable price, with an eye on building a sustainable business for the long-term. I'd say things seriously began changing to the short-term-profit-focused model we all know and love as the 1980's approached.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:04 AM on June 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


A better solution is to watch less TV and enjoy life more, but I suppose that doesn't sell advertising much, does it?

That's another question altogether.
posted by fairmettle at 8:06 AM on June 22, 2013


I'd say things seriously began changing to the short-term-profit-focused model we all know and love as the 1980's approached.

The 80s, you say?

How Shareholders are Ruining American Business
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:10 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've managed to totally avoid the whole DVR "problem" by just getting all of my television from Netflix/Hulu/Amazon on my Roku. And BitTorrent for the stuff where the content providers (HBO, Showtime, etc.) only want me to give them money by way the local cable monopoly, instead of letting me buy it from them directly.

I simply do not comprehend why there are still people who are perfectly content to throw $80/month at a service that in most cases comes to them through the same set of data pipes as their high-speed internet service, and comes with a substantially clunkier cable-box interface that you have to use it through.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:56 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


How Shareholders are Ruining American Business

I hate to be the one to break the news, but we have businesses and shareholders in Europe too. The explosion in telecommunications technology started in the 1990s when the formerly state-owned PTTs (post, telephone, and telegraph) monopolies were sold to shareholders and the airwaves opened up for competition.

Communications in Europe are cheaper, better, and more widely available as a result of more shareholders, more private investment, and less government regulation.
posted by three blind mice at 9:02 AM on June 22, 2013


THis is why I only watch artisinal, hand-knotted programming.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:04 AM on June 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


Not a single socialism joke?
posted by fullerine at 9:09 AM on June 22, 2013


Go for it.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:10 AM on June 22, 2013


That's hilarious, I thought that was half the point of a DVR. I still remember missing the last few penalties in the England v. Argentina game in the '98 world cup because our videotape literally ran out (anyone saying "ten minutes either side should work" must not be talking about sports, and may have skipped a few examples in the article).
posted by jacalata at 9:16 AM on June 22, 2013


Our Tivo has an option to start recording [x] minutes before a show is scheduled to start, and/or to keep recording [x] minutes after a show is scheduled to end.

If it's a show on a channel that routinely goes, say, 5 minutes "over", then I can set the options appropriately, and everything turns out fine.

But even when I don't fiddle with the settings, it still doesn't cut things off; it seems fairly smart, as DVR boxes go.
posted by Annabelle74 at 9:21 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sports are probably the main reason I haven't given up cable for a netflix/hulu/apple TV solution. I'm amazed that some here are saying their Motorola DVR + Comcast sitch works fine, because mine most certainly does not. Maybe it doesn't help that I watch cycling, relegated to 3rd tier channels and bumped with nary a care in the world, so often even adding a full hour or more to the end of the scheduled recording still misses the final sprint or climb of the race.
posted by misskaz at 9:25 AM on June 22, 2013


DirecTV does this perfectly. I was actually shocked the first time a game went over and the DVR automatically adjusted itself. Also shocked that we were recording sports at all, I'm not sure I've ever watched a whole game of anything in my life. Apparently my wife has always watched football and was to embarrassed to tell me.
posted by miyabo at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Funny thing. Verizon just started charging me $16.99 for a DVR... 6 months into an alleged two year contract. Doesn't DISH do this for free?
posted by Gungho at 9:35 AM on June 22, 2013


"Communications in Europe are cheaper, better, and more widely available as a result of more shareholders, more private investment, and less government regulation."

Or, alternatively, because of more government and EU regulation. GSM - with inter-carrier roaming and coverage guarantees - was created by European state dictat, and roaming charges between EU states are to be abolished next year through regulation. Ditto the nature and amount of competition between carriers.

And anyone harking back to a golden age when consumers came first should go and read up on the US communications industry, which is a constant tale of knavery and sedition against the interests of the punters. The introduction of radio, FM, of colour TV, of digital standards; all have delightful resonances with what goes on with contemporary industry. In the UK, it has been quite different due to a much stronger quasi-state monopoly in content and transmission through much of the 20th century. But now, it's much more business as usual (I think the latest is an investigation by the Met into Murdoch sponsored hacking of rival cable companies' encryption systems).
posted by Devonian at 9:38 AM on June 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


That doesn’t happen in Europe.

The fuck it doesn't. I am in Europe and my DVR regularly fails to record the start and/or finish of even regular programming, let alone events that have no specified finishing time.
posted by chavenet at 10:38 AM on June 22, 2013


"Communications in Europe are cheaper, better, and more widely available as a result of more shareholders, more private investment, and less government regulation."

Or, alternatively, because of more government and EU regulation.



OTOH: GSMA: Europe trails U.S. on LTE deployment, mobile investment
posted by gyc at 10:45 AM on June 22, 2013


Perhaps they can invent an inverse-Tivo. Because you dutifully subscribe to cable, it should be moral (if not legal) to torrent the show and watch the torrent instead of the error-prone DVR recording in peace and perfection. Then, if you still feel guilty, your inverse-Tivo has recorded only the ads during your show, so you can do your moral duty and watch the 16 minutes of advertising all in one self-reinforcing consumerist blast. Everybody wins.
posted by chortly at 10:46 AM on June 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


About that investment/LTE deployment thing - one of the reasons that roaming charges are being abolished is to encourage consolidation, to create large enough carriers so that investment becomes easier. Roaming charges are intensely high margin - effectively free money - and that distorts the market. A well-regulated market is more efficient than an unregulated market, it turns out; a badly-regulated one is worse. But quis regulatiet ipsos regulates?

LTE is an interesting case; I don't particularly buy the 'faster=better' argument unless there's a 'because' attached, so it's primarily competition rather than demand which will drive it. (People don't particularly want faster mobile broadband, but they sure as hell want cheaper.)

The one pragmatic fact to take away from this, I feel, is that anyone who claims that a simplistic political approach is the cure-all is best advised to spend the rest of their lives quietly programming their DVRs for the big game...
posted by Devonian at 10:55 AM on June 22, 2013


My TWC DVR sucks. It is buggy as hell and often won't record programs for no apparent reason. Also, that "setting for ten minutes on either side" doesn't work on say, several NBC comedies on a single night, when it won't allow you to overlap, and yet it misses those lovely bits at the end of Community EVERY DAMN TIME.

(and yes, kill your television, take a walk outside, blah blah blah. But we pay for it, and it seems it should actually work.)
posted by 41swans at 11:33 AM on June 22, 2013


Actually, on the topic of bad PVRs in general, I'd like to throw it out there and wonder why it is that every DVR I've ever used from any cable/satellite company is just such an utter piece of shit compared to the old MythTV machine I was running at home until I had to switch to digital cable in my new place?

I mean it's a really sad state of affairs when a piece of software written by volunteers in their spare time runs rings around a software/hardware package that people are paid money to design and build. Problems I've noticed with the commercial PVRs:

- Occasional to frequent freezing, only solved by rebooting
- Doesn't record what you tell it to
- Awful menu layout
- SLOW AS MOLASSES to navigate menus
- Laggy response to stop, rewind and similar video controls
- Guide data frequently only available 2 or 3 days ahead of time (used to get 7-10 days with Zap2it on my Myth box)


Granted my sample size has only been 3 (Shaw, Telus and Bell satellite) but still, the experience was uniformly awful.
posted by barc0001 at 11:44 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seems we're learning what it's like living in a second-world country.

It's nigh-on-time for Europe to pay us back for WW2 and drop in and save us from the Huns.
posted by Twang at 12:33 PM on June 22, 2013


Actually, on the topic of bad PVRs in general, I'd like to throw it out there and wonder why it is that every DVR I've ever used from any cable/satellite company is just such an utter piece of shit compared to the old MythTV machine I was running at home until I had to switch to digital cable in my new place?

I mean it's a really sad state of affairs when a piece of software written by volunteers in their spare time runs rings around a software/hardware package that people are paid money to design and build. Problems I've noticed with the commercial PVRs:


It's because you are the target customer for myth TV so it meets your needs or it withers and dies.

The PVR + cable provider combination is setup so that you are not actually the customer (you think you are but you really aren't). The DVR you use is designed to serve the needs of the cable company, the networks and the content producers that the cable company buys their deliverable content from and advertisers with your needs being somewhere around 5th or 6th on the list. The only goal they have with regard to you is to not be so terrible that it motivates you to switch providers (and for people in alot of places that isn't even an option do to apartment building contract monopolies).
posted by srboisvert at 1:18 PM on June 22, 2013


> I think it's a little bit of a first-world problem the writer is having.

Second world. We've been demoted.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:00 PM on June 22, 2013


Communications in Europe are cheaper, better, and more widely available as a result of more shareholders, more private investment, and less government regulation.

posted by three blind mice. Natch.

Yeah, our processes of capitalism are the best things in the world and are responsible for sunshine puppies rainbows cookies orgasms etc.
posted by JHarris at 2:44 PM on June 22, 2013


sunshine puppies rainbows cookies orgasms

Two out of five ain't bad.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:43 PM on June 22, 2013


As an Australian with more than a passing knowledge of both the DVB-T EPG/N&N/associated data & the (encrypted, proprietary) Freeview EPG/associated data, I'll let in on a little secret:

You can safely replace all occurrences of the word "Australia" in the article with "Magical Rainbow-Shitting Unicorn Land".

It's obvious Slate have relied on Freeview Australia's marketing material & other PR junk and made no attempt to verify it themselves, or even ask anyone using a Freeview PVR. Not that you'll find many of the latter; Freeview approval here means PVRs that are so restricted - limited ffwd/rwd, minimum 10 min skip, no digital copying / restricted analogue copying / other DRM enforcement (i.e. "no record" flags), etc - that most people aren't buying them. When I spoke to a few PVR distributors late last year, sales were about 10:1 in favour of non-Freeview units (and Freeview restrictions were responsible for the majority of complaints & returns).
posted by Pinback at 6:32 PM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


sales were about 10:1 in favour of non-Freeview units

You mean you have alternatives??? You're not stuck with whatever they force on you?

"Magical Rainbow-Shitting Unicorn Land" exists!
posted by Sys Rq at 6:37 PM on June 22, 2013


Our TiVo automatically asks if I want to add more time if I record a live sporting event.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:04 PM on June 22, 2013


Is there a DVR out there that will let you save the recorded shows to external media, so they can be played again at the whim of the viewer? I'm way behind in this area.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:07 PM on June 22, 2013


Who cares when there's the pirate bay?
posted by delmoi at 10:59 PM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only goal they have with regard to you is to not be so terrible that it motivates you to switch providers (and for people in alot of places that isn't even an option do to apartment building contract monopolies).

Why the fuck don't those fall afoul monopoly/anti-competitive behavior prevention laws? I mean i know the answer is "these companies have a ton of money and good lobbyists" but seriously, that is like some eagle is crying anti free market shit right there. Every time i've been boned over by this(and i've had friends who were as well) it was just blatant robbery while the authorities looked the other way. I'd get shitty service, at a shitty price, and the company would treat me like shit(for instance, at one place they refused to give me cable without seeing a copy of my lease to prove i wasn't the previous tenant, and a LOT of other personal info/paperwork no other company has ever asked for. and generally acted like some scammy back alley shop every time i talked to them).

I just don't get how those sort of contracts can possibly be allowed.

Who cares when there's the pirate bay?

While this would be nice, for a lot of people it pretty much means "you must not only have VPN service, but know how to locate, setup, and use VPN service in addition to even knowing it exists or is an option". At a place i used to live at the only option was TERRIBLE DSL. They advertised it as 7mb, but really it was "3mb constant, 5mb average, 7mb peak. Our 3-5-7 package!". It really only worked at about 1.5-2 when connecting to anything but their own speedtest server, which of course was the only one they'd accept results from on support calls.

In addition to the awful speeds, if you pretty much even opened a torrent your service would get shut off and you'd get sent a cease-and-desist email itemizing what you'd attempted to download. Several times it got shut off because a friend came over and connected their laptop without realizing they hadn't closed their torrent app that wasn't even actively downloading stuff, maybe just seeding. This was in a house with a bunch of roomates, so calling and getting the internet re-activated happened multiple times a week.

Being able to openly torrent without shit happening is a privilege for sure. Much less having it happen at a speed greater than "I'll start this before i go to bed, and when i get home from work tomorrow it might be done"

That's not even getting in to people like my mom, who even if they could figure their way around all that just couldn't be arsed and would rather use DVRs or netflix.
posted by emptythought at 11:15 PM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've managed to totally avoid the whole DVR "problem" by just getting all of my television from Netflix/Hulu/Amazon on my Roku. And BitTorrent for the stuff where the content providers (HBO, Showtime, etc.) only want me to give them money by way the local cable monopoly, instead of letting me buy it from them directly.

This may work for you as an individual, but unfortunately, without those other 100 million-or-so households paying $50 or $60 a month in subscriber fees, many of the shows you love would not be able to exist.

A viable a la carte pricing model for television does not yet exist, nor would it be in many studios' interest to pursue it. (At least not the major ones)
posted by ShutterBun at 1:14 AM on June 23, 2013


It would be technically EASY to add the tiny bit of "accurate recording" metadata to every broadcast, but it would take a standards body and/or regulation to make everyone do it the same way. Also, Rovi, formerly Macrovision, would probably sue everybody for imagined patent infringement. (And many generic DVRs are just plain crashy and flaky, so nothing would help them. However, there are competent ones, e.g., real TiVos, many DIRECTV DVRs, etc.)

To deliver program listings to the box in real time, Analog TV used to have "Extended Data Service" (XDS, part of the "line 21" closed captioning standard) but hardly any broadcasters used it (maybe 1 in 30). Now Digital TV has EIA-708 standard captioning which has 10 times the bandwidth of the original closed captions, so it's still a problem of the will to do it, not a technical one.

I wrote the original code that sync'ed and calibrated every TiVo box's (not particularly accurate, +/- 5 seconds/day) hardware clock to atomic time (via NTP). There were a lot of random bugs before we shipped, and people would call me over to their cubicle to complain that their TiVo had the wrong time because it was cutting off recordings. I'd whip out my big honkin GPS (super accurate clock), show them that their TiVo's time was right, and explain that the networks were the ones who were broadcasting shows early or late. Overall, the networks have gotten WAY better at their timing since then. Before TiVo, few really cared if your show started and ended 15 seconds or even minutes late.

There just isn't a perfect source for program listings, but Tribune Media Services (TMS) data is WAY better than when TiVo started working with them. (Their business then was TV listings printed in newspapers.) They had at least 200 people whose job was to get all ~2,000 TV stations in the U.S. to tell them what they're planning to air on all their channels, usually by FAX or telephone. Unless viewers complain, the stations aren't motivated to provide accurate programming data to TMS or anyone, and sometimes don't even know accurately in advance what they will broadcast. Again, it would take a standards body or regulation to make accurate data happen.

One thing I wanted to do when I worked at TiVo was to gather feedback on listings vs. actual aired content. At the end of each playback, besides "keep" and "delete," additional choices could be "this wasn't the right show" and "this recording was clipped." (TiVo already feeds subscriber complaints from the call center about inaccurate data back to TMS, but that only captures the egregious cases.) However, the UI engineering was understaffed, badly managed, and under constantly increasing pressure, so they couldn't reliably add more than a few features per release. So my crowdsourced feedback feature just wasn't going to happen.

Over the medium term, channels, networks, and even stations will become increasingly irrelevant as someone (Apple, Bittorrent, DISH, YouTube, a newcomer, or some combination?) breaks the networks' ability to bundle and charge for wanted and unwanted shows into channels. Anyone remember buying music albums with two good songs and 10 crappy ones?
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 3:30 AM on June 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've managed to totally avoid the whole DVR "problem" by just getting all of my television from Netflix/Hulu/Amazon on my Roku. And BitTorrent for the stuff where the content providers (HBO, Showtime, etc.) only want me to give them money by way the local cable monopoly, instead of letting me buy it from them directly.

This may work for you as an individual, but unfortunately, without those other 100 million-or-so households paying $50 or $60 a month in subscriber fees, many of the shows you love would not be able to exist.


I should hasten to point out that I do end up paying for a good 99% of the stuff that I torrent, once the content makers put out a DVD or non-DRMed downloadable video format. I'd gladly pay HBO for individual episodes of Game of Thrones as they come out, but I can only get a subscription to HBO if I'm also paying for a full cable subscription that I will not use. It's like if a restaurant required you to sign up for a timeshare in Florida before you could order a steak. I just want the programs that I want to watch, and not all of the extra reality TV / UFO documentary / infomercial crap that passes for cable programming these days. That's why I've been quite dutiful about buying the individual Game of Thrones seasons as soon as they appear on DVD/Blu-Ray -- which typically takes around 10 months after a given season ends -- but if HBO decided to release the DVDs sooner, they'd have my money a lot sooner too.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:35 AM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sys Rq: "You mean you have alternatives??? You're not stuck with whatever they force on you?"

Only if you're one of the ~70% of Australians who watch free-to-air TV.

If you're one of the ~30% who subscribe to Pay TV, you're pretty much SOL. If you live in the city you have a choice between the PVR that Pay TV Monopoly leases to you, or the same PVR leased to you by their reseller. If you live in 'The Bush' (i.e. anywhere outside 3 or 4 of the state capital cities) you might have a PVR leased to you by their competition, or maybe even one you bought that takes your subscriber card - but not for long, since the monopoly bought the competition a while ago, & they're forcing everyone to lease Pay TV Monopoly PVRs…
posted by Pinback at 10:39 AM on June 23, 2013


Dumb cable/sat boxes connected to HD-PVRs (way cheaper to buy and don't have DVR service charges) -- one per live channel required (you can also add HD-HomeRuns for pulling in OTA channels), a MythTV backend, and as many MythFrontends as you please (on a plethora of devices you probably already own, including aging computers collecting dust).

MythTV project -- and wiki
Mythbuntu

There are also other free solutions out there, like XBMC (among many more), and commercially supported packages too.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:56 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, #ntp is one of the more interesting little corners of the internet that I've had occasion to kill a few hours chatting in.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:04 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aside: How Channel Seven ownership created and eliminated TiVo in Australia.

Short version: greed, avarice, fear, & stupidity. The only thing missing from that story is the part played by Channel 9 / HWW's stranglehold on TV guide data and their (largely successful) attempt to cripple the independant TV guide providers.
posted by Pinback at 12:49 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


After going through ReplayTV, MythTV and various other options before falling in love with Tivo...and then moving to Canada... I would pay a great deal of money for an HD Tivo here. But my options in Canada are crappy cable company DVRs or more crappy DVRs for sale. It makes me quite sad, honestly. We kept my standard def Tivos going for quite a while after moving here. We didn't ditch them until we figured out how to stream Hulu from the US.

Our DVRs skip programs entirely even though the guide is correct, the recording is set, and nothing else is recording. They are utterly random, mysterious, built with an intolerable interface, and annoying as hell. If the only thing they did was cut out 5 minutes at the end I'd consider it progress.
posted by routergirl at 6:22 PM on July 5, 2013


Only option, because a self maintained software solution was deemed too cumbersome? Or is there some additional barrier in Canada to getting dumb STBs with component out from the cableco or sat provider?
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:00 AM on July 6, 2013


Setting up a tunerless DVR with an IR blaster to control the cableco box is irritating. It prevents you from using the STB to just normally watch TV unless you're getting an entire second box. Some modern boxes will only allow you to use one output at a time as well.

I remember playing around with this stuff back when slingbox was all the rage. The clunky IR blaster setup just sucks. The whole point of a DVR is that it has its own tuner and is well integrated. The clunkier they force you to make your setup, the more they're constructively blocking you from using anything but their AssTech Poop-o-mat 3000 DVR. Especially in the sense that they're definitely shoving out everyone but the actual nerds. Saying that getting an extra STB and dedicating it to just the tivo is a solution is just really not. I mean, it would work, but it's really crappy and you shouldn't be forced to do that.

Oh, also worth noting that at least where i am(in the US, mind you) they have completely phased out STBs with component out. You either get composite(or even coax), or HDMI. They don't seem to want anyone getting analog HD, and i bet the big networks and HBO type channels had a hand in this move of closing the "analog hole".

It honestly surprises me that online video services still let me use my PS3 over component in HD.
posted by emptythought at 3:59 PM on July 7, 2013


I agree with all of those complaints. For my part, I'm in the US, and have stuck with DirecTV for all their horribleness precisely because they still support standalone HD STBs with component out--and serial or HTTP control. They have to be locked to 720p/1080i to keep them from refusing to display some channels (like HBO) over the component outs--but otherwise they work. And I think my HD-PVRs capture at 1080i anyway.

With a network DVR system you usually need fewer dumb receivers than you'd need typical receiver/DVRs as the receiver is separated from the viewing location. The TVs can be attached to any computer than can keep up with HD, or often to a uPNP/DLNA client device of some kind, like a blue ray player. So yes, a second client box, but not a STB--some other device you already have.

But yeah, if DirecTV dumps component HD or serial/network control I'd probably dump them.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:34 PM on July 7, 2013


« Older Matt Welch, Reason: The Death of Contrarianism Kle...  |  During my service in the Korea... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments