I Could Never Watch a Commercial Again


OK, OK, it’s a bad analogy. So what. Jimmy Doolittle titled his biography “I Could Never be so Lucky Again”, but if he got TiVo he’d have recanted. This thing rocks.

I started thinking about one of these TiVo thingys a few months ago, quite accidentaly. I saw some info about people building their own digital video recorders with various open source projects, and became intrigued by the possibilities. Straight away, the idea of fast forwarding through the interminable spots for the Bose Wave Radio and various hair & penis growth producs that seem to—understandably so—dominate the commercial space of the Discovery Wings Channel, I looked into this mysterious little box with the cute cartoon TV logo.

The thought of sticking it to the man and building my own TiVo occured to me, maybe “repurposing” my PC for the better good of recording television, by setting up either a MythTV or freevo box. But I realized three things. First, the box would have to be perched near my TV set, running all the time, and it’s noisy. Second, setting these systems up involves a lot of UNIXing around, and I’m a bit pathetic in that regard. Third, and perhaps most important, if I sacrificed my PC at the TV altar, I’d no longer have the hardware to use/play Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Lately, TiVo has really dropped their prices and you can now get an entry-level TiVo box for two hundred bucks. So, a couple of months ago I started up the TiVo PR campaign at my house, and on the day many celebrate the birth of Jesus I frantically tore off the paper on my new TiVo! WooHoo!

Setup was a bitch. I bought $40 worth of cables it turns out I don’t need, from Best Buy, on December 26. Folks, it’s not the $40 that pisses me off. It’s the fact that I spent even three seconds in a Best Buy on the Day After Christmas, surrounded by hundreds of frantic zit-faced teens engaged in a frantic consumerism orgasm brought about by a bunch of fifty dollar gift cards that their Aunts Winnie bought them all.

After spending a day trying to hook up all the stuff, I went to sleep. The next day, sober, I was able to iron out the bugs that had stymied me the night before. Brenda & I started to get comfy with the TiVo menus, making wish lists, and basically making the TiVo box into our own little media bitch.

Tonight, we arrived home to find that TiVo was busy at work, finding and recording the shows we asked for, and even taking the liberty of recording other stuff it thought we might like, based on the things we had selected to record.

We watched most of it, in about 30% of the time it should have taken, because we skipped all commercials and blew through the boring stuff. We rated the stuff we watched, and tomorrow TiVo will only be smarter about its choices. Folks, this is cool.

My biggest beef at this point is that the money grubbing, copyright protecting peons at TiVo have started encrypting the digital video streams that the box records. Time was, with the Series 1 TiVos, that you could easily hack into your TiVo and download the raw MPEG to your computer, and burn a DVD or whatever. The Series 2 boxes encrypt the video before saving it, so it’s useless on any machine but TiVo. But apparently the hacker community is hard at work figuring out ways to work around that one too. Maybe after the warranty expires I’ll have me a look. Meanwhile, I can still save stuff to VHS, but that’s so analog and boring.

In the meantime, we’re enjoying the newfound efficiency of wasting time watching a mindless sitcom in 20 minutes instead of thirty. This affords us the free time to watch shows we never would have known existed, and fine tune our TiVo to do list and Season Pass Manager for more of the same.

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Rob Guglielmetti

lighting simulationist, crossfitter, former drinker.


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