After our third busted Comcast provided DVR (every one of them being a different model, with different capacities), we decided to get a Tivo. I’d long been after one, mostly because I’ve long wanted to be able to actually..uhh..SAVE shows that I might want to watch again without leaving them on the unit. Ever since NC State’s triumph over UNC got erased from our DVR a couple years ago back, I’ve been a different man. I need to relive these moments from time to time, usually when my good friend Dan (UNC fan) comes over for any reason.In the past, I’ve been successfully spooked by both Google and Apple and avoided buying a Tivo precisely because I thought either of those outfits would have come out with a solution by now, but neither company has executives that care about sports. If they did, they’d care about live TV, but they don’t, and instead are focused on delivering TV Shows and other serial type shows over the internet. This works great if you don’t like sports, don’t watch sports, don’t care about sports. It doesn’t work at all for watching sports, which for me fall into two categories: must-watch-live and can-wait-until-later. Wolfpack basketball and football: category one. MotoGP, Soccer, baseball playoffs, Tour de France: category two. Both categories must have HD, and 720p is not HD.So for my setup, here’s what I need: high definition video capture, with the ability to offload shows in HD to my Network Attached Storage. I can then transcode and eventually playback any stored media using my very impressive LG Blu-ray player for the TV, or on any other internet connected device. I also needed the ability to quickly and easily schedule things via the web. Tivo provides both of these capabilities and does so fairly reasonably. That’s good.Now for the bad: the interface mostly sucks. And the product is completely unfinished – half the menus are in High Definition, and half are in Standard Definition. For the life of me, I can’t understand why they wouldn’t convert them to be completely HD. It seems like it would be more complicated to support two menu systems, but there’s probably more than meets the eye. The box is sluggish too with the menus. There also seems to be a host of missing features that should be no brainers to support. Here’s a list, guys at Tivo, in order of preference:
- Slingbox: there’s an entire company out there providing a set top box to stream content over the internet. Do this too. It’s valuable and means one less device I buy. You can even route the service through Tivo.com and charge me a premium to not munge with my firewall settings and provide a nice Content Delivery Network optimized experience.
- More one-click operations. I should be able to delete shows in the list, or select multiple shows and then click delete.
- The guide seems poorly setup for sports viewers (and trust me, this is the only demographic that will matter in the future). Sports is the only reason I still have cable, still pay a premium for HD content, still pay a premium for premium channels, need to be able to offload shows from the unit. Provide me the ability to choose a favorite team for each major sport, then give me an ESPN like ticker across the bottom with any news, scores, upcoming games, etc. Provide me an in-program HUD that I can bring up that shows stats loaded while the game is in progress.
- Set up the box so it can stream from a NAS. Everything can do this now, even the blu-ray player. Why can’t you?
- Ship an iphone application that provides all my settings and tivo.com program listings in one spot, and lets me watch my content slingbox style.
- If I miss a show (power outage, forget to set it up, etc.) and then later say I want to record the season of “Glee” then automatically download the past few episodes for me if they’re available online.
- Provide an option to auto-skip commercials. Content providers don’t like this, so make it an option I can turn on myself, and ship it with the default as off. Partner with them to give me perks if I leave commercials on, like behind the scenes stuff, and still rip out half the ads.
Right now, the Tivo, TV, Blu-ray, Wii, and other devices are wirelessly bridged from the office GigE network, which sucks. Early this week, I’m getting two powerline ethernet adapters that should route my network via power outlets for a consistent networked throughput of up to 200Mbit, which should be a huge performance boost, and introduce stability to the entire setup. I’ll update more when we see how that works out.