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TiVo Series2 Digital Video Recorder

2/23/2005 by

Certainly by now you have heard of the TiVo Digital Video Recorder or DVR. Let me explain how it can permanently alter how you watch TV and also allow you to do things you probably never even thought about. The device itself is very basic, but coupled with the TiVo service, the solution is quite powerful.

Think of the DVR as a VCR without tapes. That in itself has many benefits. No finding or buying blank tapes, forgetting to label them, rewinding, ensuring there is enough room, etc.

Without any programming or interaction, the TiVo is constantly recording what you are watching. Imagine pausing live television. Get an interrupting phone call? Need a drink in the kitchen? Pause the show, or even rewind to parts you missed or just want to see/hear again. Then when a commercial comes on you can fast forward past it and catch up to the actual broadcast.

Unlike programming a VCR to record an upcoming show by setting date, time, and channel, you use the onscreen menus to search by show title to find upcoming episodes and indicate which ones you want to record. If it's a program you never want to miss, you can activate a "season pass" which simply sets your TiVo to record every episode even if the date and time change. It accomplishes this by understanding your cable provider's channel offerings and periodically updating its internal database via a telephone line or broadband connection. You can even program your TiVo when away from home by accessing your TiVo account online. Search for upcoming programs via your comptuer and set them to record. The next time your TiVo "phones home" it will get its new instructions.

The DVRs come in different capacities such as 40, 80, and 120 hour models to retain more of your recorded programs. You can archive your most favorite recordings to VHS, your computer, or DVD; or just keep them on the TiVo for as long as you like.

The TiVo also starts to understand your viewing preferences, and you can rate programming by pressing the thumbs-up or thumbs-down button on your remote. It can then use your surplus space to record shows or movies you might like.

Watching any of your recorded shows is as simple as pressing a button on the remote and scrolling through your "now playing" list. All of the recordings are labeled with full program descriptions. Watch your show, pausing, rewinding, fast forwarding as your would any VCR recording, but unlike a VCR, the TiVo can be recording another show at the same time.

If you have even the most basic broadband computer network at home, you can connect the TiVo using a USB / Ethernet adapter (wired or wireless - sold separately) which eliminates the need for a phone connection to the device. It "phones home" a bit more frequently allowing you to program online closer to a show's start time. It also allows you to view pictures and listen to music stored on your PC or some free samples provided. Load the TiVo Desktop software on your PC and select your picture and music folders, then use your TiVo remote control to access them on your TV - great for family slide shows or bringing music into a room that might not normally have it. It doesn't copy these files to the TiVo, so it doesn't consume any space, but your computer will need to be on.

Another new and fantastic feature using the TiVo Desktop is called "TiVo To Go". If you have a long commute on train, bus, or airplane, you can transfer your TiVoed (now a verb) shows or movies to your laptop and watch them away from home. And with recommended DVD burning hardware/software, save them permanently.

The cost of a TiVo box starts at around $100. Larger capacity units cost more and there are frequently rebates available. The service is available monthly for about $13, or a pay-once, lifetime membership for about $300. This includes automatic software updates and include all of the features mentioned above.

After you experience TiVo, it will be hard to think of how we watched television in the past. Instead of flipping the hundreds of available channels to find something suitable to watch, take control of your viewing time by watching what you want when you want it. Daytime talk shows, late night movies, children's programming - there is something for everyone. The hardest part is thinking "outside of the box."

When activating your TiVo service, be sure to tell them sent you.