Neutral Axis

Life with TiVo

by on Jun.29, 2012, under Uncategorized

As posted earlier, I’ve used ReplayTV DVRs for the past 12+ years, but had to give them up when my cable company abandoned their analog signal entirely and went 100% digital.  I’d been dreading TV without them and had high hopes that TiVo would win me over.  It has. [11/29/12 Update below]

I had two ReplayTVs.  One in the family room and one in the master bedroom.  There were two features that they had that I especially hated to give up.

  • Automatic commercial skip
  • In-house streaming between units

TiVo doesn’t have automatic commercial skip and I suspect they never will, since that’s the feature that got ReplayTV sued out of existence.  But TiVo’s “Advance” button that gives a 30 second skip works quite well.  Press it 3 times quickly and it will skip 90 seconds.  The skips don’t happen instantaneously, rather they’re a fast forward, but they work pretty quickly.  You just have to keep the remote close by as you’re watching, which wasn’t needed with the ReplayTV.

The streaming between units feature has recently been added to the Tivo Premiere line.  At the moment, I’ve only bought a single unit for the bedroom, but find that I haven’t wanted to watch much TV from the family room, so I haven’t missed that feature yet.  And I find that how I mostly used the two ReplayTV’s was to record things that were on different channels at the same time.  The single TiVo with it’s dual tuners can do that by itself.  I suspect as we approach winter and spend less time outside of an evening, I may want to get another TiVo for the family room.  That’s when the streaming will be appreciated.

I’ve also found that the TiVo Suggestions feature, which I didn’t think I’d like, is fantastic!  I LOVE that it will just randomly record things during the day.  It’s almost always picked up some movie that we can put on before lights out.  With the ReplayTV, I used to browse it’s movie listings on Sunday morning and pick out a few things during the week that looked interesting.  TiVo is doing a pretty good job handling that for me automatically.  The only problem is that just because I have a recording set for Good Eats, it thinks I want tons of cooking shows.  With Good Eats, it’s not the cooking I enjoy, it’s the food science.  TiVo hasn’t figured that out or it would be picking up more sciency stuff.  And unfortunately, TiVo has made giving the thumbs up/down thing too difficult.  From the list of recordings, I can’t just highlight Paula Dean, Rachel Ray, etc. and quickly assign thumbs down.  You have to first click into each show to get to its “play” menu before you can do that.

What I don’t like:  TiVo has a way to browse movies too, but the movies it shows are a mixture of things on TV, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.  There’s no way that I’ve found to limit the movies it shows me to only those that are on TV and thus free.  I’m constantly seeing something that looks good, only to discover after clicking into it that it’s only available for a fee and not actually on TV.

Another peeve I have is that hitting the “off” button on the remote control only turns off the TV.  The TiVo has no “off” unless it’s unplugged.  So while watching a program, if you hit “off”, the TV turns off but the show continues to play.  When you come back to it later, it’s over and doesn’t give you the opportunity to pick up again from where you left off.  Hitting “pause” before “off” doesn’t help either.  What DOES work though, is hitting “pause”, and then “left arrow” to go back to the main menu before “off”.  If you do that, you can pick the show from the list later and it will give the choice to resume from where you left off.  When nearly asleep though, “pause, left arrow, off” is a pain to do.

Another peeve I had, but recently discovered features that I didn’t know were there that solve it, was that I couldn’t figure out how to quickly skip ahead in a program.  I’d have a 3 hour recording and was having to just do a not particularly fast forward through it to get to where I wanted to resume watching.  I’ve now discovered that the “advance” button works differently in different situations.  Press it once and it skips 30 seconds.  Press it twice quickly and it skips 60.  Press it three times quickly and it skips 90.  Press and hold and it skips to the end of the show.  From there you can rewind to where you want to be.  And finally, while fast forwarding  press “advance” and it will skip to the next 15 minute mark within the recording.  With those options you can get anywhere within a long recording in just a few seconds.  The same trick works in reverse using the instant replay button.

I’ve also previously put up a post about installing PyTiVo on a linux server for streaming my own library of videos and music to TiVo.  The music streaming part is working fine, but I don’t have my movies in a format yet that TiVo can play.  I’ve done a couple of experiments with different formats and haven’t got that issue solved yet.

[Update 11/29/12: One last peeve.  The TiVo Premiere line can stream video from Amazon.  But if you have an Amazon Prime account, it DOES NOT give access to Prime Instant Videos, the free videos that a Prime membership gives you.  You can still watch those videos but you’ll have to pay for them.]

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