Tivo the Digital / Personal Video Recorder (DVR) (PVR)

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Welcome to the world of the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) aka the PVR (Personal Video Recorder).

The Tivo system is one of the only systems on the market compatible with Satellite, Cable and Terrestrial TV Mediums (e.g. Sky, Freeview, Telewest, NTL & the regular analog channels 1 to 5)

Introduction:

Tivo revolutionised the way we watch TV today by releasing the first full DVR in the UK. Tivo is huge in the USA but marketing in the UK has been poor and despite being available years before the Sky+ box, many adopters of this technology were/are un-aware there has been a full featured Tivo device available!

Sky recognised the power of Tivo at its first inception and for years were recommending Tivo as an enhancement to their satellite system. As with all great ideas, it was only a matter of time before the concept was duplicated and Sky decided to release their own system in the form of the Sky+ box.

Whilst the core features like Pausing, Rewind, Fast Forwarding, Slow Motion and Basic Recording (without tapes) exist in many Tivo copies today, many of the DVR's on the market still lack the power of the advanced features like Season Pass, Wish Lists, EPG and the On-screen usability experience of the Tivo (GUI) is still un-surpassed.

Hardware:

Most AV equipment like DVD's, VCR's, Satellite Set-Top-Boxes etc. are manufactured with a 'closed design' in that they have a main logic board and their capabilities are pretty much hard coded with the exception of minor modifications to the operation through update of the systems firmware. The Firmware is a re-writeable memory storage device that is responsible for the control and operation of the appliance but is generally rather limited in its ability to be expanded significantly.

The Tivo system actually has what can be considered as a cut-down PC inside running an incredibly robust Linux operating system. The net result is from an expandability point of view, the following examples can be achived:

  • Networking - Tivo is capable of being networked to your home LAN (local area network), allowing 3rd party hacks / utilities to be installed incresing the functionality (see Enhancing Functionality below). You can even monitor and instigate recordings from work or anywhere in the world if your home network has permenant internet access Broadband!
     
  • Capacity - The capacity of a Tivo can be expanded significantly (e.g. you can install One or Two standard 3.5" IDE drives). Common single drive capacites used  at the moment are 160Gb , 200Gb and 300Gb but this is not limited to any compatible standard PC hard disk like 250Gb and 400Gb drives for example. 3.5" PC IDE drives are always readily and cheaply available and you can enjoy capacities on Tivo from 185 Hours (Basic Quality) using a single 160Gb drive to 990 Hours (Basic Quality) using Two 400Gb drives!
     
  • Expanding Functionality - Examples of additonal utilities that can be installed are EndPad, a utility that intelligently pads the start and end times of a recording to ensure nothing is lost through TV scheduling drifts etc. TivoWeb, is a utility that allows control and access of your Tivo from PC's on your network or anywhere in the world through your permenant (Broadband) internet connection .

Tivo's Core functionality: {Information Curtosy of tivoland.com}

Electronic Program Guide (EPG) - Tivo keeps a rolling 14 days worth of Program Guide Data. This data is used to provide the user with informative program descriptions and by the enhanced functions like Season Pass and Wish List etc. 14 days worth of guide data is crucial for times like vacations (2 weeks being the common holiday duration) allowing you to ensure all shows are easily captured prior to departure.

Season Pass - Never miss your favourite show again. Tivo's Season Pass feature allows you to specify that you want a particular series/show recorded whenever its on, automatically. Whether your into Lost, CSI, Eastenders etc, Tivo will automatically change channel and record your favourite shows. You can choose "First Run" to only capture the latest episodes or "Repeats & Re-Runs" to record all occurrences. There is no need to worry when a show temporarily finishes airing, because of Tivo's extensive EPG database capabilities, Tivo  will simply start recording again once a show resumes.

Wish Lists - In addition to the Season Pass feature, with Tivo, you can automatically record programs with your favourite actor or director for example by creating a Wish List. Again because of Tivo's extensive database facilities, Tivo will simply examine the EPG and record shows that match your criteria. These features are not only powerful and exceed the capabilities of most other PVR's on the market, but are really simple to setup! Using the remote control, you simple enter for example "Spielberg" into the Wish List menu and Tivo will find and record (if you tell it to) any shows that match this criteria!

Intuitive Recording - Another fairly unique feature is the intuitive recording feature controlled by the Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down buttons on the remote. When you watching a program or browsing through the electronic guide, you can press the Thumbs Up or the Thumbs Down buttons to signify your likes and dislikes of certain genres of programs. You can then view Tivo's suggestions and/or automatically get Tivo to record programs that suit your viewing criteria. This pattern is built up over time and if you choose to use this feature, Tivo will learn you likes and dislikes.

Multi-Tasking - Tivo is capable of doing more than one thing at a time. For example, whilst you are recording a program, Fast ForwardRewinding and Pausing can be done without affecting the recording. You can also use the Tivo Central menus and even start playing a previously recorded program whilst Tivo continues to record the existing show.

Quick Start Recording - Tivo has extensive recording capabilities via the Season Pass and Wish List functions. In addition to these, you can also search by Title to find programs to record as well as simply browsing the EPG. For Quick Start Recording, you can simply press the Record Button to start recording instantly. Tivo just asks for confirmation before it starts. Even if you decide to start recording a program when its say 15 or 25 mins into it, Tivo will capture the whole program from the beginning as long as you have been on the same channel as it relies on the continuous Buffering.This is great if you just walked in and missed part of a program, you can choose Record to get the whole program saved & watch it at a later date.

Buffering - Tivo continuously buffers the current channel for a rolling 30 minutes (by default), even when in stand-by mode.If you just walked in and missed part of a program, you can simply Rewind and start watching it from the beginning. Alternatively hit Record to get the whole program saved & watch it at a later date.The buffering resets each time you make a channel change.

Pause Live TV - Never miss what your watching because the phone or door bell rings. No need to wait for the adverts before you get refreshments. Once you have Tivo, simply press the Pause Button and Tivo will freeze the action so you can pick up where you left off!

Fast Forward / Rewind - With Tivo, if you missed something you can simply rewind or fast forward the action. Great for settling arguments about what just happened or simply checking to see what was said if you missed the dialogue!

Slow Motion - No need to rely on the program produces showing you that goal in slow motion or any other footage for that matter. Tivo will slow down the action as and when requested.

 
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