By December 6, 2005

TiVo, how I pine for thee

When I lived in Northern Virginia, the previous occupant had DirecTV installed in the townhouse I rented with Alexa. I bought a DirecTivo and upgraded to 240GB worth of storage.

Having TiVo was amazing. I was no longer slave to the clock — if I wanted to watch American Chopper I didn’t have to plan my life around being in front of the television at 8PM or whenever it came on. The TiVo and DirecTV combo also allowed me to watch things I’d never purposely tune in for, like Mexican boxing. So much better than American boxing! The Season Pass feature of TiVo meant never missing an episode, or tuning in only to discover it was a re-run. And, of course, being able to skip commercials is something I still miss to this day.

Unfortunately, when I moved to my apartment in Maryland DirecTV wasn’t an option, so I sold my DirecTivo to my friend.

And thus began the decline towards worshiping the idiot box on its terms, and not mine.

Now that and I own a house of our own, we can put a dish, or seven, up as we please. Except that DirecTV has their own homebrew DVR and not TiVo, and now TiVo is working with cable companies to provide TiVo functionality inside cable company-specific DVRs. In the meantime, however, my provider Comcast has their own DVR, including their own HD DVR. It’s an additional $10 or something, and it would allow me to record HD broadcasts, something that is only otherwise possible with a $1000 HD TiVo option.

As with anything, however, there are problems with the Comcast DVR. For one thing, it’s with Comcast, and I’d very much like to get rid of them once I get FIOS. We were paying almost $100 a month for premium programming, and thanks to our lack of a DVR we hardly used any of our premium channels.

For another thing, the meager storage capacity on the Comcast unit makes me wince. 10 hours of HD content? That’s not a whole lot, especially coming from my upgraded DirecTiVo. HD content averages 10GB/hour, so with the internal 120GB drive in the Motorola units used by Comcast we’re sad pandas.

Unlike TiVo, there’s no way to share data stored on one set top box to another. Meaning, if I want to watch American Chopper on the big screen downstairs or in bed, I’d have to DVR them twice, once on each unit. It would be much better to allow network sharing on the LAN. This is not even a possibility with the Motorola, as the onboard network port is deactivated from Comcast.

So, not much of a post for advice but a plea for better DVRs or someone who knows how to put a larger hard drive in the Motorola 6412.

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6 Comments on "TiVo, how I pine for thee"

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  1. configuratrix says:

    What about one of those record-it-on-your-home-computer packages? Once you have FIOS? With one of those TV cards for computers?

    I don’t know much about this, but I do know a few folks who do it (in NC, though).

  2. drfaulken says:

    A good suggestion, and one that I’ve thought about before.

    MythTV or WindowsXP Media Edition or just old school video capture is all very labor intensive. Frame rates, compression codecs, portability, storage — these are all things I’d rather not have to do day by day. Plus there’s the whole computer-by-the-TVs issue, which although solved by some Home Theater PC (HTPC) enthusiasts, is another whole ball of wax. I’d just rather have the device and be done with it — not because I can’t do the DIY version, but because I don’t want to.

  3. configuratrix says:

    I’d just rather have the device and be done with it — not because I can’t do the DIY version, but because I don’t want to.

    Sure. The DIY-ers I know seemed to have to go through a lot of fiddly stuff to get things working.

  4. zonereyrie says:

    You can still get TiVo through DirecTV, just ask for it. And their only HD DVR is still the TiVo unit – they won’t have a replacement HD DVR until mid-2006.

    You could also always get a standalone TiVo, which has a lot more features than the DirecTiVo – but only one tuner. No recording HD (well, you can, but stepped down to SD), but you could also have both the Comcast 6412 and a TiVo – use the TiVo for SD shows and the 6412 just for HD, which would help with the space problem.

    In the second half of 2006 TiVo software should be available on the Comcast 6412 DVRs, and TiVo will have a CableCARD DVR with dual-tuners that can record digital cable and HD natively.

    (I run )

  5. drfaulken says:

    Thanks for the reply, I really appreciate the information. My biggest drawback to the HD TiVo (I guess I wasn’t too clear when I was writing this entry all misty-eyed) was that the HD TiVo is horribly overpriced in my opinion. The best I could find a base HD unit for was $380 after a mail in rebate, which still means I have to get upgraded drives, etc. Plus there’s a year commitment for DirecTV to wrangle with, and who knows what will happen in 6 months, etc etc.

    Your information is invaluable, do you know if anyone has tried cloning the original drives in a Comcast DVR onto a larger drive? I wouldn’t mind upping the ante to a 500GB single drive instead of the two 160GB drives I put in my original DirecTiVo model.

  6. zonereyrie says:

    I haven’t heard anything about hacking the cable DVRs. I think people are reluctant because you don’t own the box, it is rented from the cable company and they have high fees (like $800-1000) if you break the box.