A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Friday, May 20, 2005

Personal Video Recorder (PVR).....

I like to think I am good at upgrading my home pc having done it twice in ten years I consider my self a professional. I won't bore you too long with what happened there but to be concise, I bought a new hard drive for my four year old pc in the attempt to just have more space to have all my "legally obtained" music in one place on a big shuffleometer. So anyway, the hard drive didn't work because I never read what I had bought and my BIOS was out of date, I can't read Korean, so I couldn't flash the BIOS into shape no matter how many times I used babelfish to decipher the voodoo. So from a £40 hard drive I went on to spend £300 more and had a completely new pc, that I built from bits, in the vain hope that slowly faded that it was still an upgrade. It sits next to the old one now and they both work. That's no upgrade by any means.

Anyway the old PC is effectively useless now. OR IS IT? Ok basically I need a reason to keep it, couldn't think of one and then I started looking at upgrading my satellite tv at home to include a PVR device, when tada, I thought I could go get a card put it in the old pc, slap the old pc behind the tv and away I go....PVR heaven, so now I can tape Trisha, the UK Dr Phil, and watch it twice nightly.

To my surprise although I shouldn't have been surprised there are thousands of ways to do this. I read a bit and did my usual thing of finding a cheap one a found this compro one which at around £50 is way cheaper than a £300 sky+ box. Even more surprising it has a remote so I won't have to remote desktop to it to tape something. I have a spare scart socket so I imagine I will be able to turn the whole pc on and off using the remote. I want to have a standard channel on the tv which will show the pc screen and autoload the software on boot (shell=explorer.exe e.t.c) so it basically functions like a pvr that costs real money.

With the card and remote sat on my desk right now I have a vision of pausing football and getting another can from the fridge before Steve Bull makes a triumphant return to score the winner in the cup final. The reality is that Steve Bull making a comeback to score the winner in any cup is about as likely as me getting the thing hooked up, working and taping tv. We will see.

The ultimate aim is for my girlfriend to be able to tape something, although that may be the kiss of death, there is only so much Will & Grace one can handle. In reality she has trouble turning on the heating which is a single button that has three positions, so this may be a longshot.

Perhaps something else will need trading in to achieve that goal!
Forget all of that Stew, in a couple of months I will be selling my Tivo. Tivo is the easiest to use PVR platform around and it has a lot of features that Sky+ or Windows Media Center don't have.

I've upgraded it from 40Gb to 135Gb and now it can store up to 115 hours of TV. Enough for Will & Grace *AND* the entire contents of Sky Sports.
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