Heathen Central has, very nearly, the best DVR and TV option available today.
Strong words? Yes, yes they are. Even stronger when you realize I’m talking about a standard-definition DirecTV setup with a Series 1 Tivo, but there it is. The briefly available DirecTV HD with Tivo is probably better, but that’s about it (except for our upgrade; see below).
What we have is a Sony SAT-T60, which is a combo box containing both a Tivo and a DirecTV receiver. It preserves the digital soundtracks on HBO programming even on recording, since it just saves the stream as it comes in from the satellite and has to do no compression/uncompression for the save-to-disk task (i.e., like normal Tivos do). As a combo box, there’s no wrangling to make the DVR work with the TV receiver. And, since it’s a real Tivo and not some retarded cousin stuffed into the market by creepy TV providers and acceptable only to be people that have never seen a real Tivo, it Just Plain Works.
And I’ve had it since, oh, 2001. We thought a time or two about upgrading the drive for more space (it’s a 35 hour unit), but never did anything about it.
Well, as of yesterday, it looks like the digital audio output stage has gone the way of all flesh. I can still get stereo via a conventional pair of RCA cables, but the optical output is dead. (The cable and receiver input check out fine; it’s definitely the Tivo.) This makes me sad, since DirecTV got into a pissing match with Tivo some time ago and no longer sells real Tivos (see above about brain-dead boxes made by creepy TV providers; DirecTV is better than a cable company, but only just).
On the tech support call to finalize the diagnosis, they made a valiant effort to sell me a DirecTV DVR — I say sell; it’d be free, since I pay a maintenance fee — but I’m having none of it. I’ve seen the bullshit they think of as a DVR, and it has no place in my house. Nobody has new DirecTV-Tivos, really, and the Tivo standalone units work best with cable companies (FUCK that). (The only alternative for me is a MythTV box — if my DVR can’t be a nice, easy to use Tivo, then it may as well actually work for ME and not the cable company.)
Fortunately, there’s WeaKnees.com, who sell factory refurbished units, both conventional and HD. For a few hundred bucks, we can upgrade to a newer Tivo (series 2 instead of series 1) with a bigger HD (70 or 140 hours instead of 35); the device will be essentially a drop-in replacement, which is nice.
Maybe I should buy two. Just in case.