Sunday, May 9, 2010

Changes In Latitudes

A tip of the hat to Jimmy Buffet there...

My Sunday should go like this:

Alarm 4:30AM

Formula One's Spanish Grand Prix LIVE

I'll do French Roast and Huevos Rancheros while watching the race, then watch a little "Trainwreck News" on Sacramento's channel 31. While the TV kids are prattling on, I'll finish breaking down the Home Theater so the DVR can go with me to the Ancestral Digs.

Hit the SuperSlab by noon, and enjoy the ride downhill before stopping at the Asian Market to pick up some shitake mushrooms and pea pods for Mother's Day Stir Fry.

Years of Graveyard Shifts have made me TV-Recorder Dependent. It's awesome to watch only what I want, when I want.

All this began in the early 80's when SONY's Betamax finally reached the masses price-wise. At the time, I was renting an "apartment" in a converted motel, so space was at a premium! The first Video Store were just opened in Truckee, though I'd never even considered renting a movie back then. I used the machine to time-shift my viewing, though I didn't watch much save for the 49ers games and Saturday Night Live. The trick then as now, is to avoid hearing the score of the game until you get time to watch it.

What I really want going forward is a HD-DVR that doesn't come from the cable company, and doesn't have a monthly subscription fee like TiVo does! Make that one box with a 1500GB hard drive (1.5TB) and a Blu-ray burner! I'm sure these things exist in the Non-USA market!

When I got my first DVR/DVD Recorder, there were several on the market. Almost a year later, I was shocked to find my machine the subject of an article on Cnet titled "Old DVD Recorders Selling for $1900"! Magically, my machine took a dump a week later (fortunately, with a couple of months of warranty left). The DVD drive's control board died and I got it fixed under warranty in Reno.

I believe that I'd burned in the neighborhood of 300 DVDs by average of one a day. I'm laying in a library of HistoryChannel's "Modern Marvels", PBS' "California's Gold" and various and sundry "Gee Whiz Shows"...Nature, Ken Burns' PBS Miniseries, Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations", and some documentary shows for viewing in my Alaskan Camper, and in the DaveCave when Winter Storms knock out the cableTV.

While I was there dropping my machine at the shop, I stopped at Wal*Mart and picked up the last Philips DVR/DVD Recorder on their shelves. What a revelation having two DVRs is to a Gearhead Racing Fan! There's often two or three races overlapping on busy summer weekends...throw in the baseball, football, and bicycle racing and there's a serious logjam brewing!

Fast forward two years, and the original machine dumps the DVD drive card again...this time I'm not under warranty, however I found out that Panasonic does Flat Fee repairs for $ it went via UPS. This time I went to Wal*Mart .com and ordered the new Magnavox model that's really the updated, re-branded version of my now two year old Philips. They've addressed most of the clunky software issues and polished the on-screen display, and made a much better remote. These two machines work well can finalize a disc burned on one machine with the other and visa versa. These have 160GB HDDs, twice the Panasonic's storage, but they don't have the elegant interface that is so intuitive, and so fast that makes the Panasonic so handy.

Panasonic fixed my machine and updated the firmware without screwing up anything on the HDD! Here in Truckee, the cable is still analog, but the cable company hides the TV Guide Onscreen Guide signal defeating the ease of TiVo-style recording. It works great on COMCAST down at the Ancestral Digs, but since COMCAST went digital, I need a Converter Box.

I'm primarily a radio guy, though I usually have the TV going with the sound muted...24/7 Cable News runs that damn "crawl" across the bottom of the screen, that annoys me to no end until I turn the sound off.

So, I've got video pretty well covered on my end...if only the provider end were so customizable! Truth be told, I do the majority of actual watching TV on about a dozen channels: Sacramento's NBC affiliate, CBS affiliate, FOX affiliate, History Channel, SPEED, PBS, Travel Channel, Food Channel FoxNews, Versus, HBO, and Showtime. It costs a small fortune to get all these...even without the Pay-TV Premiums this runs about $50/month on satellite or cable!

When are we going to get Ala Carte Cable? In the Eighties is was "I want my MTV"...30 years hence everyone gets MTV...but there's barely any M on MTV anymore! Network viewership is in freefall...which network will be the first to stream to the net for a fee?

A modest monthly subscription fee could work for the Networks (and the Cable Stations)...once they can get Nielson to measure it. The networks already offer many of their shows online once they've aired. This would force the entrenched CableCos into actually competing for customers again...witness On Demand, Cable's response to SatTV. I don't have any knowledge of the Phone Company online TV Services like AT&T™ U-verse® or Verizon's FIOS, but I don't think they're doing ala carte.


  1. Hey Dave- Don't forget about your lil'niece and her husband when burning all those good shows. I will trade homebrew for tv show. Win Win