Sunday, July 31, 2011

TIVO Set Top Box, Recorder, and Online Player - Evaluation

Many of us are looking forward to big improvements and changes in TV and internet: Medford Leas Lumberton campus with fiberoptics, and Willow Valley with SeniorTV, and elsewhere as more and more programming media moves online.

So, with new choices and TV changes coming everywhere, it is time to evaluate the TIVO set-top box.   The reason is that more and more TV, even recorded network TV, is coming to us online.

The TIVO box has been around for 10 years as a TV recorder.  The latest box is far more than a recorder.    With the latest TIVO box, it does not matter where your TV is, cable, satellite, or online.     The TIVO accesses it.    The TIVO merges cable and internet.    Really, to many, it does not matter where the program is coming from---you just need to be able to access it.

What sets TIVO apart from other recorders is ease of use and a search capability,   A slide remote (optional) includes a keyboard, but if you have an iPad, TIVO is controllable from the iPad’s screen keyboard, also from iPhone, Touch..    

It is over the recent year, especially, that much more video programming media has become available online, far more than on TV.   You could ask whether this is really appropriate.    Isn’t the TV a better access device for many?      Well, the TIVO box simply brings online media to TV, and that makes a lot of sense, especially for those not so computer-literate yet.

The basic TIVO costs $100 plus $20 a month.   As always, the device records TV so that you can play it back at any time.   Installation is a snap---just plug it in.

Used with Comcast cable, and other such coax cable services, you probably will need a so-called cable card which lets you plug your TV into the service without any other set-top box, just like an antenna..    Service providers are required by law to provide the card to you.   It looks like an old PC card.

Now, to the major benefits...

TIVO accesses services like Netflix, Amazon, and others.     It access the internet “cloud” newly for your music and photos.   It accesses iTunes libraries on your computer, using your computer as a holding tank, though Apple is now starting to shift activity to the “cloud” with its huge billion dollar cloud data center in North Carolina.

For this access you need a router, and probably a  wireless adapter such as used for computers.   TIVO offers its own adapter at about $80.   I found an old adapter worked well, but was challenging to set up (it was listed as incompatible, though it was compatible once configured).

All this brings far greater choices.    HULU newly brings network recorded TV to your television, even in HD up to 720p: NOVA, Nightly News, etc.   With NOVA, 50 past shows are accessible.  Typically, you must watch a short commercial at the start, and pay about $7.99 a month.

Amazon and Netflix offer similar network programs, usually free or at $.99 per episode.    NBC Nightly News is free.

To activate some of these services, you may need to login with your TIVO account information or login name, or simply access a code from TIVO and use a computer to activate that code.

TIVO makes it easy to access podcasts (pre-recorded broadcasts and telecasts, or recorded audio and TV).    Anyone can create a podcast, so that there are a huge number out there as compared with bTV programming.    TIVO accesses the massive classical music videos of YouTube.

To access the cloud and your computer takes a little effort.    To pick out standard “channels” with HULU you will want to go to a computer for that and choose them---that’s all.

There are more capabilities for computer users.

To access your computer’s iTunes (iPod) library, TIVO gets them currently directly from your computer.   There is a simple TIVO option to create a network connection automatically.

Once this network connection is set up, (automatic) all items set up for iTunes can appear on TIVO, both video and audio broadcasts.     Also, of course, yout MP3 music converted from CDs

I wanted to record radio broadcasts.   (Why not have ALL media available on TV?)    Newly, then,  The DAR.FM service (Google it) is newly recording radio broadcasts for you online to access later.    They will also stream the those broadcasts to your computer via iTunes, so that they, too, are also available on TIVO.

DAR.FM is downloaded and installed and offers a check-box to send broadcasts to your computer and thus to TIVO.

TIVO also has capabilities to transfer from TIVO to computer and the reverse.   TIVO has a straightforward downloadable TIVO desktop for the purpose.   Thus, TV recordings can be sent to devices such as the iPad.    Hulu is also directly accessible on iPad.  

iPad is, of course, starting to cut into laptop sales, and even, unexpectedly, TV sales.        The iPad will even send selecte videos to your TV!!

One more thing.     Your internet “pipeline” needs to be wide (fastflowing) enough to handle TIVO if you use TIVO for more than just recording.   This capability is measured in mbps (just remember the mbps number (---forget what mbps is--just a speed measurement).   For HD 1080i you will probably need more than 3 of these “mbpses”.       Older non-HD TV requires .6 to 1 mpbs.    Internet 720p 2 mbps.      For safety it is better to have 6 mbps.     Telephone-based DSL services have fairly constant speeds; Windstream 3 mbps, cable variable and are rated “up to” but with no guarantees!!   HULU lets you adjust to your needs.

Google TIVO for the full story.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Internet "Pipeline"

Today it came out that Comcast was starting live online TV of cable offerings via Internet, (CNN first).   The Philadelphia Inquirer then announced introduction of cheap Android devices to read the paper as opposed to the paper editions which cost them more.   Borders announced its closing altogether.

The trend is thus uniformly towards Internet, and away from paper and older technology.

Now, there are those who say they don’t use Internet and are not affected, but they said that about HD TV, too.  This time more is at stake.  Vastly more is available on internet than on books, TV, and newspapers!

That is why the choice of internet service, and the size of your “pipeline”  is important.  That pipeline is measured in mbps.     For any TV you need up to 3 mbps or more.    That is a hundred times that of not long ago.

Then, the choice is set top box is critical.    Such a box, which addresses both TV and Internet almost transparently together, is desirable, even without a computer.    The TIVO box is that device, and I will have an evaluation of it shortly.    

Meanwhile, consider that the choice of internet service can be even more important than your TV service in the future.

As all this progresses, I have, of course, been evaluating TIVO and of services in the WV community.    So far, CNN comes in well to iPad from Clear’s hotbox and Windstream DSL, also quite well in the public areas such as the dining room areas via iPod Touch.

HD, however, both 720p and 1080i have had the hiccups on Windstream.   Comcast promises far faster internet of 12 mpbs, as compared with 3 and 5, but Comcast is variable and last week fell to 1.5 for one resident, though quickly corrected.  

Of course, channel choices and costs are important in selecting TV service, but internet service will become increasingly important even to those who never though they would want HD a few years ago, and don’t know yet what Internet offers today.

Footnote: This morning CNN was fine via Clear but halting via Windstream compared to steady last night.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

TV Changes

With more and more TV on internet, and big TV service changes coming, I am evaluating all the options. So far, use of the TIVO set-top box to access internet TV, as well as cable, with one remote is cheap and really impressive. I will have more about it as time goes on. The bottom line is that the TIVO vastly increases what is available on TV. I will have a detailed posting on how to set the TIVO up, covering any hassles. Pretty straighforward, though. For now, I only needed to boost the power on my wireless router, (simple, with the help of DSL provider Windstream). So far, using the cheapest internet service at a mere 3mbps (7-7-2011: but with hiccups on full HDTV, which suggests that more speed is needed).