Some of today's most innovative thinking goes into entertainment gadgetry.
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DVR caters to busy schedules
Tired of forgetting to tape your favorite shows? Let a TiVo digital-video recorder (DVR) save the day. From TiVo Inc., Alviso, Calif. (www.tivo.com), the system includes a Series2 DVR and service to make all your television dreams come true.
The DVR holds a hard drive that connects to the outside world via jacks on the back. The television signal comes into a built-in tuner on the DVR through an antenna, cable, or satellite. Signals from an antenna or cable go into an MPEG-2 encoder for conversion to digital and then to the hard drive for storage. An MPEG-2 decoder converts stored signals back to analog and sends them to the TV. TiVo runs on a highly modified Linux platform. The operating system sits on the hard disk, along with recording space and a buffer for live broadcasts. One drawback: Adding more recording time on a DVR involves buying a new unit.
And the benefits? With a VCR, a program must finish recording before you can view it. In contrast, a program can be viewed at any time and even while recording. But, the pausing-live-television feature is a bit misleading. The unit begins recording once the pause button on the remote is pressed. The freeze-framed image gives the appearance of paused videotape. Live TV can be paused for 30 min. Also, DVRs allocate a portion of the hard drive to a live TV buffer that constantly records and stores about an hour's worth in the buffer.
Service includes Wish Lists and Season Pass. Wish Lists let viewers type in names or keywords using an on-screen keypad of programs to record, for example, every Eddie Murphy movie that comes along. Punch up Season Pass and the DVR records a whole season of new programs but edits out reruns.
Since TiVo's start in 1997, competitors such as Metabyte Networks and Sonicblue's ReplayTV have cropped up. While the competitors offer somewhat comparable services, ReplayTV boxes come with Ethernet ports that access the Web, making it possible to share TV programs with other DVR owners.
Price for Series2 DVR: $299. Service: $12.95 monthly; $249 for the unit's lifetime.