Dish out, Tivo (and cable) in

About a year ago, Kari and I looked at getting some sort of DVR. Digital cable/satellite is pretty cool, and it was fairly economical, so we moved to Dish Network (DirecTV requires a phone line) and got one of their DVRs. After a year of occasionally bad reception and dealing with a poorly designed DVR interface, our satellite stopped working a couple weeks ago. The service call was going to cost us $50 (which was 50% off the usual rate).

The biggest reason we decided against Tivo a year ago was that I was going to have to borrow someone’s phone line, then I was going to have to run CAT5 to the living room. After looking at Tivo’s latest specs and prices, I called Dish Network back and cancelled. New Tivos, even without the most recent version of the software, can do all of their setup over a wired internet connection. If you’re lucky enough to buy one with the latest software (7.2 I think), you can complete Guided Setup with a wireless network. (If you don’t have 7.2, you need to use a wired network at first, which requires a supported USB-network adapter and the use of the ,#401 backdoor — Google it.)

And once Guided Setup was completed, this thing works great. I know people are eagerly awaiting the new Series3 Tivo with its multiple tuners and various other upgrades, but I like the Series2 we have. It plays MP3s from the computer, plays podcasts and transfers shows wirelessly to and from the office computer (automatically, if desired). I can then convert and watch those shows from my PocketPC. Recordings can be scheduled from work or vacation or whatever over the internet, as long as you do so at least an hour before the start time.

If you have a Tivo, let me recommend the following programs:
Galleon – better media interface than the Tivo Desktop, allows podcasts, local weather forcast, etc., and automatically transfers recordings to your PC for storage
Direct Show Dump – for personal use with other video players, such as on your PDA, run this poorly documented but effective utility on your .tivo files
Pocket DivX Encoder – After using DSD, run this on your video files to convert them to an appropriate resolution and reasonable storage size for playback from your PDA

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