Archive for April, 2005


Posted by Arlo on Apr 27, 2005 under Life of Arlo

My Incredible MEGA 865Last June, I bought Oksana a cute little digital camera that fits into an Altoids tin. That bit of information isn’t actually required for the enjoyment of this weblog entry, but it gives me a frame of reference on where to begin. Bear with me.

The camera was a Pentax Optio s40 and for a gift, it was more expensive than Oksana was comfortable asking. Of course, that mattered little to me; she wanted it, I was going to buy it for her. That I would be able to ask for a $300 reciprocal gift for my own birthday was a barely even considered.

As September approached, I gave careful consideration to what I wanted to receive in appreciation for my birth: A TiVo. Or, at least, a TiVo-like device.

I don’t actually know anyone that owns a TiVo, but, from my internet readings, I had read a lot about how they were going to revolutionize my TV watching. Epitomizing the counter-stereotype husband of a habitual channel changer, I was searching desperately for something revolutionary or, at the very least, alternative.

A TiVo is definitely that. You can think of it as a digital VCR, but actually it’s more of a PVR, or Personal Video Recorder, as that name is reserved for something that records TV programs directly to a hard disk. With a sprinkling of specialized hardware and software, a PVR can even allow you to do such vaunted actions as pause live TV, skip commercials, and automatically record your favorite shows without, gasp!, setting the time.

Sounds like silicon perfection, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the reality isn’t all puppies and rainbows. While TiVo hypes their $99 specials, they don’t like to advertise the fact that their low-end units have small hard drives which will encourage you to use only the lowest quality recording settings. If the lack of expansion doesn’t scare you off, the monthly service fees will. TiVo charges $12 a month for their scheduling service, without which you’re left with an oversize paperweight. Sure, you can pay $249 for a lifetime subscription to the service, but what if they go out of business? Even assuming they’re around until the Second Coming, that’s another 250 clams added to the attention-grabbing introductory price. To the uninformed, that could seem dangerously close to a bait and switch.

So, I wanted a TiVo, but $300 would only pay for about half of the model I really wanted. Moreover, the lack of an upgrade path galled. What to do?

Why, build my own, of course. Too bad it took me six more months to do it.
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