Life Without Cable Week 4: Attack Of The Remotes


Photo: Steve Rosenbaum

Well, this is the week that I renew my love affair with Tivo. Or that was the plan. Tivo Premier arrived with its familiar mascot and super-friendly remote. 

Digging around my Tivo account I was a bit stunned to see that my first registration date was 2002. Which is to say – Tivo has been part of my family for a very long time. So long ago that I remember when Tivo sent me a replacement DVR and told me that I had to find a land line to get the software updated. I told them I didn’t have a landline, just broadband, and they said would I mind asking a neighbour if I could come over and borrow their phone line? Ah, yes – so quaint back in the day.

Setting up Tivo Premier isn’t the plug-n-play experience you’d wish. There’s a crazy journey into set up screens, zip codes, Tivo remote codes,  and the reboot time on the box is very very long (15+ min each time). This is a brand new box with, one supposes, a beefy chip set,  but still slow -and bizarrely no progress bar. Just a painful wait. On the good news front, the HD is beautiful and the two tuners mean you can record two shows at a time – also great. 

But clearly there’s old code new code in Tivo Premier, and you can feel the CRUNCH when the box flips from new tivo back to old tivo.  Also, because there’s a bunch of different sources of content (antenna, cable, Netflix, Amazon, etc.) the experience is uneven. 

For example, the Netflix implementation on Google TV is much better. On Tivo, you can find movies on Netflix, but for some reason can’t add them to your instant queue. It’s either watch it, or move on. 

Tivo tries to be an ‘all source’ box, but its first love is still cable. Strangely, it seems to have less web sources than my old Tivo box (where is Shelly Palmer’s Live Digital, or the NY Times podcasts?). It may be in there, just can’t find them.  

And then, the box crashes. Hard. Multiple times. Spinning green wheel of death. Which means another 15 min re-start. Again. Ugh. Maybe it needs a software update, maybe the box is wonky, not sure yet.  

So, week four is a potpourri of devices and sources. GoogleTV for web and a better Netflix experience. Tivo Premier for HD recording off the air, and some random web content.  And, the old standby DVD player for movies.   

So far, no killer app.  Boxee now has Netflix and Amazon has a new streaming offering out – so we’ll continue the hunt for the perfect web video set up… Ah, joy.

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