TiVo Changed my Life
Act I - learning about TiVo
My friend, David Messina, has been bothering my about how great TiVo is and how it changed his life. He seems to think that a gadget-freak like me would immediately grasp how revolutionary TiVo is. Yeah, yeah, I say. I actually do want to get the damn thing, but I don't watch that much TV and it's $300 dollars and I have to configure it, and I can't find my car keys....
Act II - buying a TiVo
I knew I wanted one, even before David started pestering me. But I hadn't seen one actually working in someone's home and so it took awhile for my techno-curiousity to cause me to buy one. And I had to convice my wife Monique that this wasn't some bizarre technology that was going to frustrate her. After all it's one thing when I mess around with my own computers, but it's quite another when I decide to put a computer-like device between a functioning cable signal and our nice big TV.
Well we bought one and I dragged it home to our cave and set it up. Set up is easy because a cute little TiVo character appears on the TV screen and tells you what to do at every step of the way. The initial set up takes fifteen minutes to a half hour, and then it's a couple of hours where you just have to leave it alone (because it has to get all the programming information for all of the cable channels in one fell swoop). After all of that I thought Aha, I'm done! Well I was, but... I was tired. I fiddled around but not for too long, and I thought well nothing special here. Basically, I have a new remote control and a new way of changing channels. Great. $300 bucks for a new remote control.
Act III - being born again into a new world
After a couple of days I start to notice a small change, but after a month my life has been transformed completely. What sort of change? First, I am watching the evening news with Tom Brokaw every night when I get home from work. But it doesn't matter when I get home from work. I flick on the TV and pick the news and watch it. Oh, and I skip over the commercials. So it takes less time to watch the news.
Setting it to record shows is so easy that your seven year old can do it, and probably will if you let her. You'll find yourself quickly setting TiVo to record not only the upcoming episode of Survivor 17 - Mission to Mars, but every episode of the season (you just select the Season Pass option).
Or, you can turn on the TV and see a program that you hadn't set to record but are interested in watching. Oh gee, you wish you could have caught the first fifteen minutes. Well, you can. Because TiVo is always recording and keeps a 30 minute buffer of recorded material, you just have to scroll back to the beginning of the show and watch it. And, of course, skip through the commercials.
After a few weeks TiVo knows that you like to watch shows about computers and golf so it starts to record shows with those topics even if you haven't told it to. You watch some and delete some. Oh, but what if TiVo uses up your hard drive space by recording something it thinks you want to watch and, as a result, misses something that you have specifically told it to record? Well, that doesn't happen. TiVo only suggests things when there is extra space available.
And what about regular old live TV watching? Yeah, you still do some of that with a TiVO. But even there it shines. Let's say you get a call while watching the pivotal last episode of some season long epic made-for-TV drama. JR is about to get shot, or whatever, and the phone rings. It's your Mother and she wants to tell you that your father has decided to join a cult. Tough choice. Two dramas unfolding at the same time. Well, with TiVo you can pause the TV and listen to your mom's story, and offer some platitudes and then return to the more coherent drama unfolding on your TV set. How cool is that?
Almost everyone has a TV. But the thing that no one really notices about television is that the schedule is the most limiting factor. What if you want to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Saturday at 10:00 am? Well you can't. Unless you have a TiVo. Then you can watch whatever you want whenever you want, without commercial interruption.
But you don't have to buy a TiVo to get this same level of Nirvana. You can buy a ReplayTV and it does the same thing. To learn more about these two great, but competing products, visit some sites that aren't specifically affiliated to either. Do a Google search and find weblog reviews or posts. People tend to think what they have is the best. I haven't seen ReplayTV, but I have heard enough to make me think that for some people it would be a better choice.
PVRCompare has a comparison guide to the various digital recorder options, and is worth checking out.
Other TiVo Disciples
RawBrick, a librarian, reports that TiVo has changed his life too. Robert Scoble claims it transformed his life. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleisher says it makes his job easier. And Michael Powell, the Chairman of the FCC, has called TiVo "God's Machine" because he is so enthusiastic about it. Kevin Werbach, a major techie, has said that when it comes to TiVo "there are two classes of people in the world --those who love TiVo and those who do not have a TiVo." That pretty much sums it up.
If you want to upgrade your TiVo (by, say, adding more hard drive storage) you should check out a site called Weaknees.com (I know, strange name, but great service). Whatever you do, don't use DigitalRecorder.tv for reasons that I explain here.
The Home Media Option
I recently (May 1, 2003) installed the new Home Media Option, which allows a variety things if you have a home network. I have a wireless network and so now I can have the TiVo use the high-speed wireless connection to get program information, instead of the pokey phone line. The HMO also lets you do three cool things: (1) you can program your TiVo from the Internet, which is handy if you are away from home and realize that you wanted to set it to record a certain program; (2) it can be used to display photos that are on any computer that is on your home network, and (3) it can be used to play MP3s that are on any computer that is on your home network. Finally, if you have 2 TiVos (and they both have to be Series 2 models) you can access programs that were recorded by one of the TiVos from the other.
Okay, most people don't have two TiVos. All of the aforementioned cool things require that you have a Series 2 model TiVo. I have tried all of the features and I have to say it is pretty amazing to be able to wirelessly access music from my main PC from the TiVo, and same with the pictures. The HMO costs $99 for the first TiVo, and if you are lucky enough to have two then having the HMO on the second one (which you would need to share video programs) would cost an extra $49.
It's too early for me to say how useful HMO is, but I have to say that the wireless sharing of music is probably going to be a big thing for more homes as they start to put in wireless networks. Sadly, the current version doesn't allow for many music formats other than MP3 (it doesn't recognize the new Apple format that is being used on their online music store for example). So, perhaps this is something that will have to develop a bit before the mainstream public clamors for it.
The big thing with Home Media Option is the ability to program your TIVO from the web, which I have used on several occasions. The idea is if you are out of town and someone tells you about a great program that you want to watch when you get home you can go to the TIVO Internet site and login to your account (via secure passwords etc.) and tell the TIVO what show to record. It is easy to do and works reliably.
© Copyright 2003 Ernest Svenson.
Last update: 7/30/2003; 3:09:58 PM.