Recordable TV, Take 64

As you may know, TiVo has sort of come to Canada. While this may excite a number of Canadians I know, it does little for me. I don’t watch much TV, and the thought of paying a monthly subscription fee for channel data (on top of whatever the box costs) is distasteful. I’ve been contacted by a couple of people who assemble MythTV boxes, but they’re going to run me about CAN $1000. That’s too much for my meagre recording requirements.

In fact, if my VCR weren’t on its last legs, I wouldn’t be thinking about this issue at all. It is, however, so I found myself in FutureShop looking at DVD recorders. You can get one for about $300. Throw in five rerecordable DVDs (I’ve never been one to permanently save recorded stuff), and Bob’s your uncle.

The only permutation to this plan is a DVD recorder plus hard drive like this one. They’re pretty much double the price of the straight DVD recorder, and provide TiVo-like functionlity without the scheduling data. You can, for example, start watching a two-hour movie that you’re recording 20 minutes after it started. $650 seems like a lot of money, though, for a VCR with delusions of grandeur. Plus, all I’m really doing is paying an extra $350 for a little firmware and a 250 GB hard drive.

Unless I suddently lose the use of both arms (and therefore watch a lot more TV), the only things I’m going to want to tape (heh, ‘tape’) are hockey games and “The West Wing”, and only when I’m not around to watch them live. I’m thinking that $300 for a 21st-century VCR should suffice.

UPDATE: Travis is dumbfounded by my lack of TiVo love.


  1. Hey Darren,

    We bought a DVD recorder for home – replacing the VCR a few months ago. Love it. We bought a few DVD-RWs so we can record things and then erase things we don’t want to keep. Also bought 100 DVD-R’s to record things we wanted to keep – we have the movie channel, so, each .40 DVD is way cheaper than a $20 DVD purchase – so, we don’t have the features. Don’t really care that much.

    Compression settings very from 1 hr, best, to 8, worst, but ours also has the function to pick the best quality based upon the time of the show.

    All in all, well worth it.


  2. David: Thanks for that–sounds promising. And how is the compression? How does the picture quality degrade at lower compression settings?

  3. According to the Tivo site, you can get a box for $50 and can sign up to the service for a “one-time product lifetime fee of $299”.

    It’s an odd pricing set-up, but $350 US isn’t too bad.

  4. Jason: Indeed, that does seem quite reasonable, though we need to add in the cost of importing it up from the US. And it’s after mail-in rebate, and we all know how reliable those are. And the term ‘product lifetime’ does give me slight pause. What exactly does that mean? Until the box breaks, or until they declare the box no longer supported? Regardless, quite affordable.

  5. I like my MythTV box, but I added that function to an existing file server box, rather than building to suit. I’ve seen a number of “mistakes” that Tivo has made in regards to the copyright settings and such that make be question the sanity of that choice….

    I know that Bell Expressvu and Shaw both have PVR options, though I have no idea on the tech they’re using.

    Speaking of which, I need to add a secondary tuner to my box… another $100 and I can record two channels.

  6. there must be a lot of people who enjoy all the new recording technology that’s making its way into other people’s homes, because it increases the number and the quality of the files one can download from bit torrent sites.

    last season, commercial-free episodes of trailer park boys, for example, were online less than an hour after having been aired.

    not counting lost sleep because of guilt, the coat-tails method is free.

  7. Or you could spend $60 and get a TV tuner card – hook up your computer to your TV and make what we call a “poor man’s Tivo”.

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