Category Archives: DVR

Tech Serendipity



Sometimes things no one ever thought of simply seem to come together. Services and devices end up being used to do things the individual inventors and designers couldn’t have imagined.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about attaching one of the new Mac Minis to one of my TV’s and utilizing it as a home theater PC as well as an over-the-air DVR to record high definition digital broadcasts from the local TV stations. A late Sunday afternoon trip to my local Best Buy and a Mac Mini was mine.

I sat the Mac Mini up with Eye TV and a USB HD tuner attached to my outdoor antenna. Depending on how I have the antenna rotated, I can receive upwards of 17 or more HD and digital broadcast channels. Of course, keep in mind that the Mini is on my home network, so I’ve got complete remote access in a number of different ways.

The Eye TV 3.4.1 software has easy iPhone/iPod/iPad/Apple TV file conversion, so I’m easily able to convert the files to the format of my choice.

A thought popped into my head. What if I converted the files to the iPhone format and put them into my Dropbox? I also have the Dropbox app for Android installed on my Sprint HTC Evo phone. Since I have an 8 gigabyte SD card installed with the possibility of going all the way up to a 32 gigabyte card if I wish, could I synch the exported iPhone files from my Dropbox on the computer to Dropbox on my phone?

To my surprise, I don’t even have to synch the exported iPhone videos to my phone – once they are synched to the Dropbox server, all I have to do is open the file from Dropbox on my phone and the file immediately starts streaming. If I’ve got a decent 3G Sprint cell signal, the video plays perfectly without a glitch.

So, I’m taking multiple different technologies, and using them in a way no single inventor or designer ever envisioned. I can record local TV programming from home, export it as an iPhone format file into my Dropbox folder, and stream the files to my phone. Pretty phenomenal stuff if you ask me.

For sure, there are other ways to accomplish the same end result, particularly if one has adequate bandwidth. For situations where bandwidth is limited and more variable, this solution works surprisingly well.


Will We Ever See The New DirecTiVo?



When I signed up for DirecTV back in 2004 I received the, now legendary, DirecTiVo (the Samsung S4040R).  I loved it.  I almost cried in late 2007 when I bought my first HDTV and “had” to give it up for a DirecTV HD DVR.  Time marches on, though, and DirecTV and TiVo were no longer partners.

TiVo joined forces with DirecTV in early 2002 with units made by Phillips, Hughes, and Sony.  Later RCA and Samsung joined in.  Then in late 2006, when NewsCorp gained control of DirecTV, They phased out TiVo in favor of another NewsCorp company, NDS, which was already manufacturing DVR’s for the European market.

In late 2008, with NewsCorp out of the picture, DirecTV again announced a partnership with TiVo.  And, since then, we have waited….and waited….and waited.  Delay after delay has been announced.  It’s really gotten to the point where DirecTV subscribers are starting to think of it as gamers think of Duke Nukem Forever!

The latest release, which was scheduled for late 2010, has apparently been pushed to early 2011.  Rumors persist that beta units are floating around, but I know of nobody who has received one and requests to DirecTV are denied.

So, is this the ultimate Vaporware?  For that matter, after reading reviews of the new TiVo Premiere, do users really want it?  The current DirecTV HD DVR (the HR23-700) has a 500GB hard drive, which is more than most other DVR’s issued by cable and satellite providers.  The software (interface) isn’t that bad either.  I am starting to think that TiVo, as much as we all pull for them, are verging on extinction.  They seriously need to get their Comcast and DirecTV boxes out the door yesterday before the battle is completely lost.


Updated Western Digital DVR Expander



For those of you with a cable or satellite DVR or TiVo, Western Digital has updated their My Book AV DVR Expander hard drives.  Among other things, is the addition of a USB port, to the already existing eSATA port.  That means the drives are now compatible with the Sony PS3 and other media devices such as camcorders.

This is TiVo’s one and only “official” method of hard drive expansion.

The capacity has not changed – it’s still 1TB, but I think we can expect that to be expanded on in the near future.  Although, 1TB is an awful lot of HDTV recording.  I never came close to filling the 500GB drive in my DirecTV HR23.

One thing to watch out for, at least for DirecTV users (and I have no idea if this applies to other DVR’s) is that this drive replaces the internal drive.  The good news is that it replaces, but doesn’t overwrite.  In other words unplug this drive and reboot to the original internal drive and all of your previous recordings are still there.  It would be nice if it added to, instead of replacing, but beggars can’t be choosers.  And, since most cable DVR’s have ridiculously small drives, this is a no-brainer of an upgrade.

So, what do you pay for this convenience?  It retails for $149.99, but Amazon already has it for $119.00.  This is what we should have from our TV providers to begin with, but, for now, we  have to pay extra for.  And this is, by far, the best extra you can add to your DVR.