Back in Love with Tivo

We’ve finally stabilized our home entertainment situation after a month or so of unfortunate mishaps and incidents. Without going into too much boring detail, our DirectTV/Tivo combo box died and we were left with a perplexing choice: another combo box? Or go with the new and reportedly second-rate DirectTV DVRs? Or do we go with separate DirectTV and Tivo boxes?

Switching to Comcast digital cable was out of the question for reasons that I don’t go into (let us just say that our feelings toward Comcast are brought to you by the letter G and the numeral 4). Plus, we’ve already got that bigass satellite dish connected to the back of our house since we took advantage of DirectTV’s free deal they give you when you move houses.

We wound up getting a standalone Tivo with an upgraded hard drive from and a basic DirectTV box from a local Circuit City retailer. The instructions on how to make these bad boys play nice with each other are nonexistent (presumably since DirectTV and Tivo are no longer dating), and I’m finding that I have less and less patience performing household system administration tasks as I approach middle age. So we wound up retaining a ninja A/V guy who came over and made it all work right for us.

Having a standalone Tivo box pretty much owns. Being able to stream photos and MP3s from your PC to your Tivo is fun, and I suspect we’ll do that every so often, but being able to take programs from the Tivo, blast them down to your PC, and burn them to DVD, is the absolute shit. It takes a while to move 800MB of video from your TV to your PC, but the Tivo Desktop software lets you mark a a whole bunch of programs at once, so you can just figure out what you want to download and let it run all night if you want.

Tivo recommends that you use Sonic MyDVD to make DVDs, but I’d read some terrible reviews of that. I’d just upgraded to the latest version of the Nero suite, which includes Nero Vision 4, their consumer audio editing and DVD authoring package. It wasn’t perfect (in particular, it slowed to a crawl when I tried to view videos in full-screen mode in the authoring environment), but it got me where I wanted to go — after about two hours of learning and fiddling I was able to make a DVD of Dora the Explorer’s greatest hits for my daughter, who was very appreciative. I suspect we’ll be appreciative as well next time we take a long plane trip and we have a whole slew of children’s TV on DVD to choose from.