Tivo vs. Cable PVR

As many of you know I have both a Tivo and a cable company provided Personal Video Recorder (PVR). The PVR that I had was a first generation unit and I completely hated it. The thing had no concept of a show/program and could only record based on time slots. Given that networks like to shift their schedules a fair bit (especially Fox on Sunday nights!) I often found out that what I was expecting to watch wasn’t what was recorded! The only reason I kept the PVR was because it was the only device available to me that could record High Definition (HD) content.

About two weeks ago the PVR died. RCN dispatched a technician who replaced the PVR box with a new second generation unit. While I agree that its not a Tivo I do find myself using the new PVR alot more than the old unit. After 10 days with it I decided to think about the pros and cons of the new PVR vs. Tivo.

Tivo (Series 2 Pioneer with DVD Recorder)

  • Great User Interface – it just makes sense!
  • Understands shows/programs and not just timeslots (Season Pass feature is great.)
  • Records things I might like to see – and it often gets it right
  • Lets me define keywords and records shows relevant to these
  • Networkable with other Tivos in the house
  • Web interface for scheduling recordings (useful when I travel)
  • Shows can be burned to DVD media for saving or watching on the road
  • Shows can be downloaded to a computer for portable viewing


  • Can’t record high definition content
  • Can’t record one program and watch another live show at the same time
  • Seperate charge for Tivo service billed to credit card (lifetime subscription available too)

Cable Company PVR

  • Dual tuners means I can record one show and watch something else live
  • Records high definition content
  • Understands the concept of a show/program not just time slots
  • Billed to my existing cable bill


  • Doesn’t try to record things I might like to watch
  • Standard definition recordings appear grainy and have lots of artifacts
  • Program guide not as nice as the Tivo one
  • Doesn’t seem to understand the concept of First Runs vs. Repeats properly. I set up the Simpson’s to record first run shows but I seem to be getting old episodes that appear nightly as well. This is probably a program guide issue – but its still annoying.

So for now I’m keeping both – the PVR will be used primarily for HD content, and the Tivo will continue to be my preferred tool for recording standard definition content and for recording shows it thinks I might enjoy (and often do!). If Tivo ever comes out with a unit that does HD well (or my cable company ever provides a PVR box that uses Tivo software) I would probably switch to a single device.

The ROKR Phone

OK. I admit it. Im a tool. I had to have the new Motorola ROKR phone the day it was available in stores. So Scott picked up a couple of them and I started to play with it while finishing up some work. After configuring the phone (it was easy – the phone portion is standard Motorola GSM phone functionality) I tried to load some Podcasts on it using the new iTunes 5.0 on my OS X iMac G5. iTunes wouldn’t recognize the phone…. So, I figured – let’s try iTunes on the PC. The PC version of iTunes saw the phone right away. This is great – iTunes is an Apple product but the thing wont work on my Mac?!?!?!? After checking Software Update on the Mac I see there are no new updates. A quick check of the support forums on Apple’s site shows that alot of other people are experiencing the same problem on their Macs. So at least Im not alone. About 1/2 hour later I decide to check Software Update again – and voila – Apple has released a driver for the ROKR phone for Mac OS X. Install the driver, reboot, and iTunes 5.0 now sees the phone and I get to play with it. Some initial impressions:

  • The audio quality is pretty decent!
  • The phone makes use of it’s vibrate capability to mimic a sub-woofer. Cool!
  • The “iTunes” software on the phone is limited but acceptable
  • Why no EDGE for data? GPRS Only? This is 2005!
  • Camera is OK – but why .3MP and not 1MP or more? Again, Its 2005!
  • Battery life is amazing. I talked for a couple of hours on Friday and the indicator didn’t move.
  • RF seems excellent. I talked using my bluetooth headset while driving 20 miles in the car – no issues.
  • Tri-band (850/1800/1900)? Why not Quad-band these days?

A few more days of testing is in order. But my initial thought – if you want a decent (not state-of-the-art feature wise) Motorola GSM phone that happens to play iTunes and has good audio – this is a good phone. If you’re looking for the Apple “ambience” and iPod experience – you will be disappointed.

VOIP – Making the Plunge

OK, so I have been testing VOIP for the past few weeks with a free VOIP line from Galaxy Voice in Newton, MA. I think Im going to make the plunge and use it in place of my existing residential line. I have started the process of preparing my residential number for porting to Galaxy. This is actually a bit of work because porting a wireline phone number requires that:

  • The line is clear of any DSL service (I used to have DSL on this line)
  • There are no additional distinctive ring numbers on the line (I have two “Ringmate” numbers)
  • There are no outstanding service orders/requests

If any of the above are true – the port will fail. So im starting down the path now of making sure DSL is officialy removed, the Ringmate numbers are disconnected and the service orders for both are closed. Once that is done Galaxy can start the port process and the real fun begins.

Galaxy uses RNK for their VOIP service. RNK provides E911 services and so far seems pretty reliable. The VOIP Adapater that Im using is from Sipura and its plugged into the server and network UPS so I should continue to have phone service if the power fails. In any event I still have business lines here with Verizon so the loss of the residential line would never be more than a minor convenience.

Ill keep you posted!