« "Are your men on the right pills?" | Main | "Mephistopheles of the cathode ray, big brother to the ungrateful dead." »

"There's been a little complication with my complication."

A couple of tidbits this time...

OK, so pretty much everyone knows Shades and I have owned a Tivo for a while now and consider it one of the most valuable pieces of home electronics we own. So people sometimes say, why go to the hassle of buying/setting up a Tivo box that's seperate from my cable/satellite box, paying Tivo for the serice on top of my cable/satellite bill when the cable company will rent me one of their PVRs for a low monthly rate that does almost everything that Tivo does?

1. Well, for one thing, as far as I know nobody's PVR has Tivo beat for its user interface.

2. The standard Tivo box can be used with cable (analog or with a digital box), satellite, or even old fashioned over the air TV.

3. The Tivo box isn't controlled by your cable/satellite company. Why does this matter? When the content provider controls the whole widget, so to speak, they can restrict its use any way they want to. This is the whole idea behind the upcoming broadcast flag that will be, as of June 1, mandatory on all consumer video gear that does digital TV. [Update: it will apply to computers as well so get those capture cards while ye can!] For a good explanation on what this means, check out this article on it.

So back to the cable companies and their DVRs. In theory, Comcast can, at will restrict what shows you can save to the unit, how long a show can be kept, and even whether or not you can fast-forward through commercials. OK, you're thinking, "oh they'd never do that! People wouldn't stand for it." Would they? It looks like we may find out. According to reports like this, Comcast may already be testing something like this. A number of Comcast DVR users have reported not being able to fast-forward through ads on the shows American Idol and 24.

I've been very glad to be slowly ridding myself of the VHS tape format, but if this kind of crap becomes common, I'll go back to tape so fast it'll make your head spin...or get away from TV all together.

And now something else:

Remember that DVD format called EZ-D? You know, the DVD that self-destructed after 48 hours once the seal was broken on the package? Well, Disney was test-marketing it and they ended the test without any announcement of further promotion/roll-out. Apparently it didn't do so well...gee, I'm shocked! Wired.com has a story on it here. It seems to me that if people want something like this, some kind of video on-demand (already in use on some cable systems and coming soon to satellite) system would be better, cheaper, and without the side-effect of all the used EZ-Ds piling up in landfills.

Finally, Shades and I went to the Lyle Lovett/John Hiatt/Joe Ely/Guy Clark concert last night and it was one of the best non-classical concerts I've been to in a long time, maybe ever. For some good details on the concert, check out her entry here.


Really, get stock in Tivo John! ;)

Get away from TV altogether? Why it could never be done? How would you be able to watch things like Buffy? Oh, wait. I guess it can work.... ;-)

And I thought the self-destructo dvds were in the divx format--i guess I never heard about the EZ-D business.

The issue with TV isn't shows like Buffy (or Gilmore Girls, or The West Wing) which will of course be on DVD eventually -- it's some of the other stuff we enjoy, like Good Eats, Iron Chef, and TLC's various home makeover shows. It's really not worth trying to either buy or rent those on DVD (even when they're on DVD), but we want to watch them somehow. Topical stuff like The Daily Show also really doesn't work if your viewing of it is delayed.

There's also an issue of instant gratification (or maybe it would be more apt to say, gratification within a reasonable time frame). I've watched Gilmore Girls all along, and season 5 (or 6? maybe?) is currently airing. But only the first two seasons are on DVD so far.

Sadly, Tivo stock is in the toilet these days...I wouldn't be surprised if the company goes away, now that DirecTv is ditching them. On the other hand, Apple's stock is really high right now!

Danielle, I think the Tivo is a big reason we do subscribe to satellite as I don't think it's worth it otherwise for us. So if our Tivo died and the only PVRs available were ones that had commercial skip disabled, I think we'd go "off the grid", TV-wise like you guys do.

Another example of something that DVD TV doesn't help us with is TV news. Stacie likes to watch the local news in the morning to at least catch the weather. We have the Tivo record it every morning starting at 6. Since we usually wake up after 6 (I know you already have had your mid-morning break by then!), we can turn on the set, start the newscast, skip through the 95% of it that's either ads, traffic reports we don't care about, or the general fluff stories that populate A.M. news and be done with it in short order. Sure, we don't *need* this kind of thing, but it sure is nice and something the networks would really like to take away.

Oh yeah, Divx DVDs (not to be confused with the Divx video codec currently in use) were sorta similar, but they required a special player and one variety of them only worked for 48 hours. The difference here is that that the EZ-D DVDs are like regular DVDs, but when you open the package, the chemical structure breaks down or something with exposure to air rendering the disc unplayable after 48 hours. The Divx DVDs were activated/re-activated using a modem in the player. I'm not surprised you hadn't heard of EZ-D. Unless you lived in the test market, you wouldn't have seen one.