Wednesday, February 04, 2009

More stupid things heard on 20 on 20

XM's 20 on 20, after the merger with Sirius, now has a "morning show". I blogged the other day about the parenting issues of Brendan Fraser. The next stupid statements from the DJs had to do with TiVo: a pet peeve topic for John and me. I'll recount the conversation:

"Did you catch [American] Idol last night?"
"No, my TiVo screwed it up, so I didn't catch it."
"Do you have TiVo or DVR?"
"Well, they're pretty much the same thing." (Stupid statement #1)
"No, they're not. My TiVo doesn't seem to work right anymore." (Stupid statement #2)

Having seen examples of cable company DVRs vs TiVo, I can attest that they are NOT the same thing. The principle behind the unit may be the same, but their functionalities, and especially the user interface, is quite different. The cable version I have seen is ugly, confusing, and not as user-friendly as TiVo.

This is not the first complaint I have heard regarding TiVo "not working right anymore". My MIL recently has made similar statements to the point where she decided to cancel her TiVo and go with Time Warner's DVR and cable service. Her complaints focused around not getting the shows she had requested, and when she did get the correct show, it may have been missing the beginning or end. Being on the other side of the continent from her, I can't just stop by and try to help figure out her situation.

If I was there, the first thing I would investigate was whether she was getting timely schedule updates. TiVo can only record a show if it's on the schedule, and the schedule is provided by a third party which, in turn, gets its info from the local cable company's service. Think about this for a second. If you're the cable company, and you offer your own DVR, plus you provide schedule information to a 3rd party that passes it along to TiVo, is there a lot of incentive to provide the competition with correct information? I am very dubious about this and suspect that it was part of the problem my MIL was experiencing. Since I'm in Canada, maybe my cable company is playing more fair with their schedule information than some US companies. [I laugh at the thought of Rogers being more ethical, but it is likely true. I chuckle nonetheless.]

I have never had the type of major scheduling issues that my MIL has experienced. John has had TiVo even longer and has had fewer errors or issues with scheduling, especially since changing to a broadband connection. Sure, I get the occasional screw-up; for instance, when President Bush's final address took place, there was not enough time to update the schedule. I ended up with the President instead of Ugly Betty. There have been a few occasions where we have recorded a show only to discover another show was on, but when we checked the TiVo guide, as far as TiVo was concerned, the correct show was supposed to be on at that time. If there is not enough time to notify the third party and then reload the schedule change to TiVo, then of course you won't get the correct show. However, this is not TiVo's fault, and I think TiVo gets unfairly blamed for a lot of these instances.

Another problem may be the use of a phone line connection instead of broadband in order to download the schedule. Per John's first-hand experience and the TiVo manual, the phone connection is slower than broadband, only makes a connection once per day, and is slower when the TiVo is being used at the same time as the download. Using broadband, the TiVo usually connects on average every 12h, is a faster download, and overall doesn't have as much effect when using the TiVo during the download. Logic would dictate that the person with the broadband connection would have a more accurate schedule. In addition, the broadband connection can be used to force an update at any time if TiVo deems it necessary. A phone line can only get updates when it calls in (typically around 2-3am).

A possibility, though a long shot, is also that the time on the TiVo device isn't correct. TiVo is supposed to sync its clock on the download, but if your phone connection isn't necessarily reliable or if there is some kind of sync problem, then that may be another cause for the shows to get cut off. I have never experienced this issue using my broadband connection, but I could see how it may be a possibility using a phone connection.

Another cause may be due to the fact that many networks are purposely making shows slightly longer or start at 59 minutes past the hour in an effort to hold on to an audience. CSI, ER, and House are all shows that have had slightly over an hour lengths, that, if TiVo's guide is not made aware of, means you only get the first hour and may miss the last couple of minutes. This is another area where TiVo gets unfairly blamed for something that isn't its fault.

Saying TiVo doesn't "work right" requires more investigation than simply placing blame on the box sitting on the shelf. There are many things that could be wrong, and most of them have to do with the non-TiVo players involved. Had I been able to, I would have liked to investigate my MIL's issues and perhaps saved her some frustrations. She has since moved on, switched cable and DVR providers, and seems happy with her new equipment. This was her choice, and though I don't agree with it, I hope she's happy with her decision and has a better TV recording experience. As to the DJs, I hope they will stop dissing TiVo to the nation and instead try to find a resolution to their problems.

I'm annoyed at...

  • the City, for seemingly never plowing Gaelic Drive. I guess everyone on Gaelic works from home and doesn't need to be elsewhere by 8:30am? I know it's not an important street, being in a subdivision, but can you at least give it a scrape so a car can attempt to drive on it?
  • our mayor, for telling people to "please shut up" in a public forum. News flash: you're not better than anyone else, and you should apologize. You should be treating people with respect, not rudeness.
  • people who complain about winter weather AND complain about it being too hot in the summer. SHUT UP ALREADY (I'm not the mayor, so I can say that). You're only allowed to complain about one or the other, not both. If you're complaining about both, then you're obviously very unhappy here and should move.
  • doctors' offices which expect you to call them back, but have very limited hours during which you can reach them.
  • the girl currently visiting my office who is complaining that today is "the worst day of [her] life because [she's] a quarter of a century old." Old isn't bad. Seriously. I wouldn't want to go back to being 20-25, no thanks.
  • people who walk on the street even when the sidewalk is plowed and clear of ice/debris. If I hit you, it's your fault for walking where you're not supposed to be.