ReplayTV, TiVo and the general state of DVR’s

I currently have 5 (yes 5) DVR’s for recording shows. This goes back some years, but I have 3 ReplayTV DVR’s (2 with 80 gb Drives, and one with a 200 gb drive that I hacked to get it to work after the original 40 gb drive died in it.). They were / still are great DVR’s. They were pioneers in many ways compared to TiVo. They have built in network connections long before TiVo did. They allowed streaming of shows between units, years before TiVo could. All around they are great little Standard Definition DVR units. Granted they could only record what was on the analog tuner, however they supported multiple inputs so you could hook a cable box to them or other device and record it.

Up until late last year, 2 of them were connected to a Comcast cable box so I could record any channel that I received on the cable box. The third unit was connected just to the cable, so it could only record the analog channels. Well as with the “rest of the world” Comcast decided to drop all analog channels from their cable line up, in favor of the “better” digital signals. (Which they compressed to hell and back….) Anyways, this would have made the one DVR a door stop. However, Comcast decided to give away 2 free “Digital Tuning Adapters”. So I thought this would be cool, I could just hook it up and put it in front of the DVR and be able to record the channels. Well, the DTA required me to “hack” the ReplayTV unit as it (the ReplayTV) did not have the IR codes to control the DTA. This took me a better part of a day one weekend to get working. So at least it is able to record the basic/extended cable line up.

So fast forward half a year, and I turned on the ReplayTV one night to watch a recorded episode of Top Gear [because Comcast doesn’t have BBC in HD 🙁 ] and I see a message stating that:

Important Announcement!

The ReplayTV Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) Service will be permanently discontinued on July 31, 2011. After this date, owners of ReplayTV DVR units will still be able to manually record analog TV programs, but will not have the benefit of access to the interactive program guide. Effective immediately, monthly billing for the ReplayTV service to remaining customers has been suspended.

The industry conversion to HDTV is complete and ReplayTV DVRs are unable to take advantage of the wealth of HDTV programming. Please contact your service provider for current offerings.

What pissed me off the most was the last line: “The industry conversion to HDTV is complete….” Wait just a minute, there are hundreds of SD channels on Comcast’s lineup, that aren’t available in HD. So now all of the sudden I go from having 5 DVR’s to 2. Granted ComCRAP just raised my bill by another $16 a month, so the saving in the lost of paying the ReplayTV monthly fee makes my cable cost go down a little, but this still makes me mad as the ReplayTV DVR’s are still useful and very much liked by their user’s.

Well it appears that some people are trying to get a fix to allow them to continue to work after the July 31, 2011 cut off. One of the workarounds is by using WiRNS and Schedules Direct. Since I had previously set up a WiRNS system to hack the one DVR to get the IR codes in it, I decided that it wouldn’t be too hard to set it up on the new VMware server I have at the house since it didn’t require much processor and disk space. Also the Schedules Direct method only charged $20 a year for guide data vs the $23+ a month I was paying now for the ReplayTV units. (So almost a $260 a year possible savings.)

This is all cool, however there is one thing that hasn’t been figured out yet. That is how to handle the encrypted clock connection on the ReplayTV unit. If this can’t be figured out, then the 3 ReplayTV’s, basically become the VCR’s of the 90’s.

So on now to TiVo. I have had one of my TiVo’s for a year now, the other for about 6 months. Over all it is pretty good, but there were items that the ReplayTV made so much easier that I can’t do yet with the TiVo. For example, there is a Java application called DVArchive that I run on one of my servers that “talks” to all the ReplayTV units and shows me a list of what all shows are recorded on them, what upcoming shows will be recorded, lets me transfer shows from the ReplayTV to the local server and lets me schedule recordings from one web interface to go to the ReplayTV’s instantly. This isn’t available on the TiVo. Yeah I can go to TiVo’s site, but it is some what of a kludge to see the entire ToDo list across both TiVo’s. Also the scheduling is based on the TiVo polling the Internet vs the push of the recording to the ReplayTV.

One of the big things that was missing on the TiVo side was the ability to “stream” between the two TiVo units. This was one of the reasons why I went the ReplayTV route instead of the “mainstream” TiVo route. Yeah you could “transfer” recordings between the TiVo’s, but this could only be done IF the cable company did not set the Copy Protection flag, which nearly every HD and SD digital channel has this set except for the local OTA channels. In the long run, this meant that if I recorded a program on one TiVo I had to watch it on that TiVo, instead of “where I wanted to” like with the ReplayTV’s. Well as of yesterday, this seems to have changed. It appears that TiVo with their latest software update has enabled “Streaming” between the TiVo’s (like the ReplayTV’s had probably a good 7+ years ago). Now you don’t have to “copy” the entire program to the other TiVo to watch it, in addition the Copy Protection flag does not apply to the “streaming” of the video between the 2 TiVo units.

This is excellent news as now I can record a movie on one and then watch it on the other and vice verse with my weekly shows that get recorded.

So you are probably thinking if you are even reading this far, what the hell does this have to do with the “General state of DVR’s”? Well it just shows how some DVR’s are pioneers, some are the “popular” ones and then some are ones that people are just “stuck with”. What I mean by “just stuck with” is those people who are unlucky enough not to realize how good ReplayTV was, or how much functionality the TiVo Premiere’s have VS a “Cable company” DVR. Seeing how I have had all three now for a while, (although I did get rid of the ComCRAP DVR) I would still rate the ReplayTV as the best DVR that I have had. Granted it doesn’t do HD picture, but then again not everything on Comcast’s lineup is in HD. I still use them to record all my SD content and use the TiVo’s only for HD content.

Comcast’s DVR is just plain the worse thing I have ever seen. They only have a 160 gig HD in their HD-DVR which means that after a week of shows, it is usually out of space. Not to mention, there was NO way to schedule anything on it except scrolling through the on screen guide. There was no “searching” for items to tape. No way to save programs. No way to stream it to other units.. Think of it as the VCR of the 90’s with the VCR+ module added in.

Overall I think that DNNA made a bad move by discontinuing the ReplayTV EPG, but I guess in this day and age every one has to way the good vs the bad at some point.

WiRNS (the Windows Replay Network Server) URL: http://wirns.com/
DVarchive URL: http://dvarchive.org/
Schedules Direct URL: http://www.schedulesdirect.org/
ReplayTV announcement: http://www.digitalnetworksna.com/replaytv/

Comcast, TiVO and Frontier Communications

I have been a Comcast customer for a while now, and have not really had problems with their service until recently. It has all started with the switch to the “full digital” cable system. I had problems with their dta’s (here and here). Now I am having problems with their Billing department and cable card “services”.  Back in June I decided to get a TiVO to be an “hd tuner” for the bedroom HDTV. This is when the fiasco with their cable card started. I was told by Comcast reps online that the Cable Card was free, since it would be the first one on the account. This was awesome, till I got the bill and found out they were charging me for it. I talked to them again, and they removed the charge.

Well in November when I got the 2 dta’s, something happened and they started charging me $6.99 a month for the cable card, that was supposed to be free. So I contacted Comcast, and they said “sorry” and took the charge off. Well December rolled around and the charge was back. Since then I have been having a fight with Comcast over false advertising and the failure to properly document their prices in public view. It has gone back and forth about 11 times. Just recently they sent me the Morgantown Price sheet, which is not available any where online that I could find, so here it is Rate Card Morgantown. What they fail to tell you is that if you have ANY of their cable boxes (hd, sd, hd/dvr) you can NOT get a cable card for free, contrary to what I was told in June which lead to the decision to buy the TiVO. So now I am stuck paying $3.00 a month for a cable card. Which means my cable bill is now even more expensive than it was before. I am going to file an FCC complaint over all of this as well, to say that the order of “devices” dictates the price of the service is pure bull shit.

Then while I am bitching to them about the prices, it appears that either something changed on the TiVO side or the Comcast side and I started having problems with about 24 digital channels. When I would tune to say  BBC America, it would be normal for a couple of seconds and then freeze for a couple seconds, then be normal, ad nauseam. So I spent a couple of hours on a friday night clicking through all 250+ channels that I get. Out of them I found out which ones had the problems. I then went and mapped every channel to the QAM / RF channel it was allotted. And guess what they were all around the same general area. What is weird, was BBC America was one that I was having problems with, then all of the sudden they turned off The Weather Channel on the analog side, BBC America started working and The Weather Channel started having problems. For those interested, here is the list that I and some other people are having problems with:

I ended up calling Comcast to come out and replace the cable card, because I thought that was the problem. Well the guy showed up, and was not exactly the friendliest person I have met from Comcast. He seemed like it was a “stupid call”. So he started looking around and I showed him what was happening with the TiVO. He then said he would be back. When he came back in the house, he had some new cable and some tools. He proceeded to cut every end off of every cable in my bedroom and pull out all the cable and replace it with his “new” cable. Well that did not work. So he asked where the cable came in to the house. I took him to where every cable home run’s back to. He got so confused that I had to explain what was going on. It then seemed like he was pissed for some reason. Once again pulled out the snips and cut every end off of every cable and the put new ones on. Still didn’t fix the problem. So I asked if he had brought a cable card to replace the one in the TiVO. He hadn’t brought one. He left and went back to the local office and picked up a card and came out and replaced it. Well the channels are still messed up. So he said it had to be  the TiVO’s problem because the Comcast boxes “were working fine” and took off.

So now I was like hmm, this freaking sucks as I know the finger pointing game is going to start, but I got on TiVO’s chat and started talking to them. They had me reboot the TiVO a couple of times, but that did not fix any of the problems. He suggested that I call their phone support as they would have some better things to have me try. I did and they had me read off some signal levels and look at the “RS Uncorrected” and “RS Corrected” counters. He did not like the numbers on there and basicly said that it was a Comcast problem and the signal was dirty coming in to the house. But he also said he was going to go talk to some one else and call me back in an hour. An hour went by and he did call me back. This time he said he talked to some supervisors and they would like to replace my TiVO because they thought one of the tuners may be bad in it. He told me he would ship me a new TiVO since mine was only a few months old and that they would leave my current one active until I made the swap so that I could get all the shows off of my current one and on to the new one. I thought that is good, at least they aren’t like Comcast and just replace it and you lose everything.

Well today, I got stuck at home because of 3/4 inch of ice all of the driveway, and UPS showed up with the “new” TiVO. To my surprise it wasn’t new, it was a refurb. Not only that there were no cables in the box, so I could not power it on and the current one on at the same time to copy any thing over. This made me extremely pissed. Not only had they lied to me (the tech guy stressed more than once that he was going to make sure I got a new TiVO and not a refurb) but now I couldn’t even test it.

Well here is where the power of Social networking comes to help. One little bitch, and with in a couple of minutes some one from TiVO is asking for details. Then about 3 hours later, I got a call from the Executive relations people. He said he was sorry for the confusion and would be sending me a cable pack to get the current refurb one running. He also said that if the refurb that was sent did not work, he would send me a brand new one.

Fast forward about 40 minutes, and I was talking to Justin and found out that he is having problems on his TiVO with the exact same channels that I am. So now it is definitely a Comcast or TiVO problem and not a problem with my box, unless his which is a different model also developed the same problems at the same time.  Needless to say, I called the TiVo guy back and left a message that I think there is a bigger problem than just my box.

So you are probably thinking by now, if you have read this far, what the hell does this post have to do with Frontier Communications? Well not really anything, other than something weird happened last night and they are a “service provider” in the area, not that I am a client. I have not had a land line phone in the house since about October 2007 when I canceled the Verizon line in favor of using Packet 8 VOIP, which I have been using since June of 2004. Well I had left the phone in the kitchen hooked up to the old “Verizon” line even though it was dead. Don’t know why, just did. Well while I was putting memory in my laptop last night, the kitchen phone started ringing. It took me a minute to figure out what it was, because I hadn’t heard that phone ring in probably 4 years. I went in and picked it up and there was some one on the other side asking for some one who obviously doesn’t live here. After saying “sorry wrong number”, I hung up and then picked the phone up again. Freaking weird to hear a dial tone on it. So I called my self and my other phones rang. Now I had the phone number of this new “phantom” line. This was pretty weird. So I disconnected the phone from the line, as I didn’t want to hear it ring again if I had some one elses phone mapped to my house.

Once again a little Social networking and with in a few minutes I had a contact at Frontier Communications who was asking for information. I gave her the details and told her that the dial tone is a “weird” dial tone type. Needless to say I have not heard back from her yet, but last time I checked, the dial tone still exists, so I bet they are trying to figure out where the “wires” got crossed.  Some friends suggested I make some overseas calls, and some 900 number calls, or act like I am the people they are calling. But the weird part is the phone has not ringed at all today. So maybe they just assigned a phone to my house and the number is not assigned to any one and the other night was just a fluke?

All in all, I hope TiVO and Comcast get their system/signals worked out as it sucks to be paying such a high price for a service and not be able to use it completely.

Comcast Morgantown Lineup

Today I set out to map out how the channels are assigned on the morgantown comcast system. I have been having problems getting MHD, Showtime HD and MLB network. Come to find out they are all on the same frequency (99.000 MHz). I had talked to Comcast last night and they sent a tech out today. He came, but we were unable to find out why those three channels would not come in. The receiver would show a 0 db signal strength. We replaced all the ends from the pole to the receiver. Even ran a temp cable across the road from the pole to the receiver, still did not work. So now they have to send some one else out to check the lines further up the street. One thing I did notice while outside, is that WCLG (100.1 FM) had a harmonic showing up as low as 98.5 and then there were more in the 99.x range, so I bet that is the cause of the problem, is that some how that station has entered in to the system some how..

Any ways for those who are bored beyond belief and would like to know the actual frequencies of each of the channels, here they are ( they are grouped by the EIA channel, So you can see how many digital channels are on one physical analog channel)

Cable Channel Name Freq EIA Channel
2 kdka 57 2
3 lmorg 63 3
4 wtae 69 4
5 wdtv 75 5
6 wpgh 85 6
8 wnpb 183 8
9 wpmy 189 9
10 qvc 195 10
11 wpxi 201 11
12 wboy 207 12
13 wqed 213 13
14 wvfx 123 14
15 gov 129 15
16 wpcb 135 16
17 hn 141 17
18 tbn 147 18
19 versu 153 19
21 inspa 165 21
22 cw 171 22
23 hsn 219 23
25 cspan 231 25
27 wgn 243 27
28 twc 249 28
29 life 255 29
30 speed 261 30
31 hist 267 31
32 cnn 273 32
33 foxn 279 33
34 tbs 285 34
35 espn 291 35
36 espn2 297 36
37 fosxp 303 37
38 golf 309 38
39 food 315 39
40 anp 321 40
41 disn 327 41
42 nick 333 42
43 a&e 339 43
44 pcnc 345 44
45 cnbc 351 45
46 cmt 357 46
47 fx 363 47
48 vh1 369 48
49 mtv 375 49
50 fam 381 50
51 comedy 387 51
52 tlc 393 52
53 disc 399 53
54 scifi 405 54
55 usa 411 55
56 tnt 417 56
57 bravo 423 57
58 hgtv 429 58
59 spike 435 59
60 tvland 441 60
61 cart 447 61
62 trav 453 62
63 amc 459 63
64 bet 465 64
710 wpcwh 471 65
70 style 501 70
471 btn1 507 71
472 btn2 507 71
473 btn3 507 71
474 btn4 507 71
267 btn 513 72
255 hallm 519 73
259 trutv 519 73
264 tvg 519 73
265 ewtn 519 73
266 msnbc 519 73
1 od 585 84
199 ondemand 585 84
298 free movies 585 84
299 hbood 585 84
339 aod 585 84
487 hdod 585 84
488 free hd od 585 84
490 hd pri 585 84
491 hd music od 585 84
499 movies od 585 84
501 espn1 585 84
502 espn2 585 84
503 espn3 585 84
504 espn4 585 84
505 espn5 585 84
506 espn6 585 84
510 fear 585 84
887 shop 585 84
888 searchlight 888 585 84
889 auto 585 84
891 585 84
892 iad24 585 84
893 iad25 585 84
900 on d 585 84
901 stzod 585 84
902 encod 585 84
903 shod 585 84
904 tmcod 585 84
906 hbod 585 84
907 maxod 585 84
909 hd od 585 84
912 playod 585 84
914 espanol od 585 84
115 bio 591 85
116 histi 591 85
126 snbcd 591 85
138 fuse 591 85
147 ifc 591 85
300 info 591 85
301 ind01 591 85
302 ind02 591 85
303 ind03 591 85
304 ind04 591 85
305 ind05 591 85
306 ind06 591 85
307 ind07 591 85
340 play 591 85
341 playb 591 85
342 jenna 591 85
343 fresh 591 85
344 xcess 591 85
345 hotch 591 85
426 mc26 591 85
117 toond 597 86
118 soap 597 86
120 nategeo 597 86
122 speed 597 86
125 fsc 597 86
131 espnc 597 86
146 foxm 597 86
165 real 597 86
185 cspan3 597 86
410 mc10 597 86
413 mc13 597 86
414 mc14 597 86
415 mc15 597 86
105 disch 603 87
109 bbc 603 87
132 esnw 603 87
134 diy 603 87
135 living 603 87
163 lmn 603 87
209 foxb 603 87
242 oxyg 603 87
101 disck 609 88
102 dics 609 88
103 green 609 88
104 disct 609 88
106 milt 609 88
128 bit 609 88
129 g4ttv 609 88
130 fit 609 88
140 we 609 88
233 sprou 609 88
405 mc05 609 88
406 mc06 609 88
418 mc18 609 88
435 mc35 609 88
137 mtv2 615 89
139 mtvjams 615 89
143 cmtpc 615 89
144 vh1cl 615 89
148 nogin 615 89
152 the n 615 89
153 nick2 615 89
154 nickt 615 89
155 vh1s 615 89
160 mtvh 615 89
161 logo 615 89
408 mc08 615 89
411 mc11 615 89
417 mc17 615 89
424 mc24 615 89
107 current 621 90
127 out 621 90
158 word 621 90
164 sund 621 90
167 gac 621 90
221 show 621 90
222 show2 621 90
223 show3 621 90
231 tmc 621 90
235 flix 621 90
401 mc01 621 90
404 mc04 621 90
409 mc09 621 90
419 mc19 621 90
156 gmc 627 91
176 sitv 627 91
186 spman 627 91
248 ence 627 91
250 love 627 91
252 west 627 91
254 myst 627 91
256 drama 627 91
258 actn 627 91
260 wam 627 91
273 tmaxe 627 91
420 mc20 627 91
423 mc23 627 91
431 mc31 627 91
201 hbo 633 92
202 hbo2e 633 92
203 hbo3 633 92
204 hbofe 633 92
205 hboce 633 92
206 hboze 633 92
241 starz 633 92
243 stzed 633 92
244 stzkf 633 92
245 starzc 633 92
247 stzib 633 92
402 mc02 633 92
403 mc03 633 92
421 mc21 633 92
422 mc22 633 92
433 mc33 633 92
224 showx 639 93
232 tmc2 639 93
270 max 639 93
271 max2e 639 93
272 amaxe 639 93
425 mc25 639 93
442 mc42 639 93
443 mc43 639 93
444 mc44 639 93
124 mlb 99 96
189 mhd 99 96
751 shohd 99 96
136 cnbcb 105 97
166 fuel 105 97
207 hbola 105 97
208 hbow 105 97
274 maxw 105 97
98 e! 111 98
767 verhd 117 99
769 btnhd 117 99
416 mc16 651 100
427 mc27 651 100
428 mc28 651 100
429 mc29 651 100
434 mc34 651 100
436 mc36 651 100
445 mc45 651 100
446 mc46 651 100
447 mc47 651 100
448 mc48 651 100
703 wscan 651 100
150 tvone 657 101
227 ionli 657 101
407 mc07 657 101
412 mc12 657 101
420 mc30 657 101
432 mc32 657 101
437 mc37 657 101
438 mc38 657 101
439 mc39 657 101
440 mc40 657 101
441 mc41 657 101
108 gcn 663 102
113 ilife 663 102
141 tcm 663 102
184 cspan2 663 102
228 ion 663 102
229 qubo 663 102
253 mplex 663 102
262 iplex 663 102
263 rplex 663 102
774 fsnhd 681 105
198 tbshd 687 106
775 tnthd 687 106
100 weather and traffic 4 693 107
700 wqedd 693 107
701 wqedn 693 107
704 abchd 693 107
713 pbshd 693 107
110 rtn 699 108
111 wxplus 699 108
702 cbshd 699 108
711 nbchd 699 108
706 foxhd 705 109
707 pmyhd 705 109
772 espnhd 711 110
773 espn2hd 711 110
192 aehd 717 111
193 hgtvhd 717 111
752 starzhd 717 111
191 foodh 723 112
194 uhd 723 112
780 scihd 723 112
190 hatgeohd 729 113
195 usahd 729 113
779 hddsc 729 113
196 histh 735 114
776 dschd 735 114
782 anphd 735 114
750 hbohd 741 115
753 maxhd 741 115
783 tlchd 741 115
197 cnnhd 747 116
754 amchd 747 116
770 golfhd 747 116
715 dishd 753 117
716 famhd 753 117
718 hdsci 753 117
740 eod 753 117
768 spdhd 759 118
784 fxhd 759 118
785 foxnhd 759 118
800 dvr 759 118
886 ent 759 118

Silly Elgato

It seems that Elgato has 2 different EyeTV Hybird USB Tuners for the Mac.. The one you can find in the stores is NOT the one advertised here. The one in the stores does NOT do Clear QAM. They decided to add Clear QAM support to the “2008” version but kept the name and model the same. So to those who want one that does QAM you need to buy it directly from Elgato and not from a local retailer. Only get it from a local retailer if it has on the box “Clear QAM” in green listed some place. The others will not do QAM at all, which means if you bought it to watch HDTV via Cable it won’t work. This information the last time I looked was not clearly visible and was buried deep in their support forums.

So to sum up, if you want a TV Tuner for your Mac and you want to watch the Digital Stations on Cable that are in the clear, you need the Tuner that does Clear QAM. The 2007 version will only do over the air HDTV, which in my area means 1 PBS station.