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Television Media

The Next Generation of PVR has no Hard Drive 189

William Kucharski sent us a story about the next generation of PVR (Tivo) device. This time there will be no hard drives. Instead the content will be stored at your cable company and streamed in real time to the reader. The upside is that this effectively removes many of the limitations of existing PVRs and could make all media available on demand all the time... eliminating the concept of "Channels" entirely. The main downside is that control is moved out of your home, returning PVR users to the dark ages where they had to watch commercials.
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The Next Generation of PVR has no Hard Drive

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    A friend of mine and I were discussing this sort of thing this weekend. Why is it as technology progresses and things become easier, we must sacrifice or privacy more and more? VCR+ allowed people to quickly and easily tape shows, that progressed into TiVo which took that a step further, only downside is, MS or whomever now knows every show you watch/tape. We talk about having microwaves hooked to the web, our TVs, pretty much any appliance, but once you start doing this, what's stopping people from tracking and selling this information.
    We have articles discussing CDR recording and companies attempting to keep track of who's songs you are burning.
    We already have our little supermarket coupon devices which track every piece of food you buy. So basically in the near future, someone will know every phone call I make, every show I watch, every song I listen to, every game I play, every piece of food I buy, and the list goes on.
    1984 is scarier then ever since it's happening ever so quickly and ever so subtle and its become beyond the governments control and the people are too lazy or comfortable to stand up for their rights.
    The future looks bleek and I'm actually becoming frighten for what appears to becoming our way...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Cheap and simple... Order your program, have it delivered through a buffer box that will store it on a 3 gig hard disk (1 hour's worth at hi quality) then after the amount of time of commercials, come in and watch it off the buffer box, and FF through the commercials. Such a box should be cheap with only a 3 gig HD. They even have sub $50 SOC that have TV out capability. Duh!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And you have the time to watch 30 hours of backlogged tivo recordings? Geez. Get a life.
  • I suspects this limits you to the ~300x200 res supported by the BTTV capture driver. I don't think this resolution is sufficent.

    I have a Hauppauge card with built in mpeg2 compression, but the linux driver for it is still deep within development, and with no help from hauppauge.

    I pretty much expected this, so I'm not bitter ;)
  • It is cringeworthy. Luckily you can run it with the window borders turned off.

    BSD drivers are unlikely, yes. Is there any bt8x8 support under the BSDs?
  • There's a company here the UK, recently launched, called Homechoice [] that does VoD, based on BT's ADSL network. According to their FAQ, "[y]ou can pause, rewind, or fast forward it and even watch it as many times as you want over your 24-hour rental period."

    A friend of mine has it - apparently one month they got their on-demand charges to over £100 because of the sheer convenience of clicking a button to get a movie they (more or less) wanted to watched streamed to them instantly.

    The biggest problem with HomeChoice, from what I hear, is their range of content. And this comes down to business issues, rather than technical. I believe a lot of the TV channels they have show older re-runs than you would expect to get on a normal cable/satellite/digital terrestrial service.

    No idea what HomeChoice's back-end looks like. I pressume the infrastructure costs have come down significantly since the Time-Warner (?) trials in Florida in the early '90s - the trials that get quoted so often as to how VoD will never catch on (and I guess that's the what Wired was talking about in the above comment).

    Homechoice also does a bearable always-on 'net connection, although with some pretty significant limitations (128k, NAT, etc) - but I imagine it's quite attractive to your ma-and-pa style home users. ADSL Guide [] probably talks about their net services. You'll probably have to dig around their message forums to find some users of the service.

    As far as Blockbuster goes, I thought I read something recently about them doing a JV in the UK to provide VoD-style services. Can't find a link to that story, but here's something about them doing a JV with DirecTV [] in the States. Blockbuster thinks, probably correctly, that their brand is worth something in the PPV/VoD market.
  • This is at the same time desirable and undesirable for various reasons.
    • Cutting commercials: Sure, I'd love to do this on the face of it, but give it five seconds of thought and you see that a) the content providers will give you this feature when hell freezes over b) the alternatives to commercial breaks are even worse. The article suggests that commercials could be replaced with either split-screen (wtf! that's already bad enough when they run promos over the credits of the previous show), logos (Not sure exactly what they mean... if it's anything bigger than the station emblem in the corner it will get annoying) or product placement (read as: give significant control of content to advertisers). None of those are preferable to commercial breaks.
    • Profiling: [blah blah blah corporation blah blah blah big brother blah blah blah paranoid ravings blah blah blah]
    • Not to mention the technological issues: At the worst case, every single person orders a different movie at once, so they lose all the advantages of distribution. Even with digital cable I can't see how they can stream more than a few movies at once, in which case the meaningful choice (any movie whenever) is gone and this is no different from current premium cable.

  • by Dicky ( 1327 ) <> on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:59AM (#155515) Homepage
    TiVo launched in the UK in October last year, and I've had one since December. They're not the same boxes as in the US, the UK ones being made by Thompson, but the service is substantially the same. The usual dollar-to-pound conversion applies, meaning that both the hardware (and there's only one box available, with 45Gb of storage) and the service cost 40% more than in the US.

    The biggest issue you'd have to overcome to provide your own service would be the hardware. You could probably use a UK TiVo without to much problem (has the right voltage and TV standard), but you've have to get the guide data from somewhere. I spoke to people at LinuxWorld in New York back in January who were using TiVo boxes in Australia, and had hacked up the box enough that they could get the guide data from a local web site with local TV listings. I'm not sure if they've released that software, or if it crosses the line regarding the community support of TiVo, meaning that the hacking community will not try to undermine the TiVo service, which would cause financial damage to TiVo - the company. If the software to get guide data in Australia existed, it wouldn't be hard to write similiar software for the US and UK, meaning that people could get full functionality without paying

  • Is for M$ / AOL / @Home / Sony to get together and decide what *they* want you to watch. All they ads they see fit.
    Secret windows code
  • And six years ago I paid $200 for a 1GB drive.

    I hate being in the computer industry.
  • In truth, it needs two things - first, the script to munge data from various guides (hopefully not _just_ tvguide) and secondly some kind of detection script that can see if it's failing for some reason and poke around for a replacement script automatically to help foil attempts to impair the use of the things, and alert people when such attempts are being made.

    (Truly good would be the ability to read it out of the cable feed for digital cable systems, but the legality of that is unknown to me, though I wouldn't expect copyrights to protect it; it's factual data)

    I'd be very interested in a homemade box - I have no desire to line the pockets of big companies when I can do things myself in in open cooperation with others, and I LOATHE advertising.
  • Fortunately, this is a sector of the industry in which competition still exists. The consumer will ultimately choose whichever product delivers the most value. This will probably come in the form of a box that does not depend on a subscription service and can store data locally. Ideally, the "guide" data will come from a place where it is already being paid for, such as the program guide included with DirecTV service. All they have to do is figure out some way to export the program guide from the DirecTV receiver.

    On the other hand, this is a market that Microsoft is entering, so perhaps they'll simply tell consumers what to do (and buy, and view...) by eliminating competition.
  • I don't know what technology these folks plan to use for this system, but I do know what the right choice for a large media streaming deployment is; Ikadega's DirectPath(tm) technology. Check out for more information.

    (BTW, Yes, I do work there.)

  • i remember reading about this. it was a huge array of sgi boxes with a fiber ring connecting them. people would request a movie and one box in the cluster would stream it to them. in addition you could fast forward it, rewind, etc. it was available in orlando, florida. here's a link to a news letter that has a blurb on it [].

    the year? why it was 1994 (and i think i heard about it in 1993, but i'm not certain).

    granted what the /. story covers is more than movies, but the principle is the same.
  • Blockbuster is already partnering with some big pipe providers to have its own brand of VOD.
  • OTOH, it is easy to expand your capacity - 3 hour, fairly crappy tapes cost around 0.89 sterling where I live. That's six hours if you don't mind really crappy picture quality (which I don't) and sound quality (which annoys me more). You can keep buying more tapes without limit. But fitting a new disk to your TiVo is expensive, and for the non-geek, difficult.
  • I don't archive anything. But I often get 'behind' by up to a hundred hours (eg over Christmas when lots of stuff is on, or when a particular show is being repeated one episode every day). A huge stack of videotapes is no problem, I couldn't really do anything equivalent with TiVo.

    I am at home, I just may not have time to watch TV (or at least not to watch it at the same rate it is broadcast). But I can just accumulate stuff and watch it later when I have less to do. Your situation may differ.
  • I don't need TiVo's 'intelligence' - I wrote XMLTV [] to grab listings in advance and semi-automatically pick what to watch. I still have to program the VCR for tomorrow's programmes, but that takes only five minutes. I'd much rather have some Perl code and an open file format (whether or not I wrote it myself) than rely on a subscription to some black-box consumer electronics. </plug>

    (BTW - have a look at my TV preferences [] if you're curious - though this does include some shows I record for my younger brother. Honest...)

  • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <> on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:28AM (#155526) Homepage
    I'd just get this service and stick a hard-disk recorder, or plain VCR, on the other end.
  • Or in other words, it is just a glorified vcr, but that's a very good thing.

    Unlike this new POS, which says "you can have your neat new features, but you have to take this stick up the behind along with it."

  • I've never seen a VCR that...

    Right. Thus glorified. :)
  • They claim it will be back with 2.5 but they LIE ALOT. I hate the way my unsub'd machine works now.
    It is useless until 'they' decide to fix it which will be never.
  • A VCR is a useless piece of ancient junk compared to a Tivo, for time shifting.

    Try subscribing to a show for the season, no matter when it's on, and having the device manage recording, aging, automatically deleting, and other features. 30+ hours of these shows with perfect fast forward/reverse, pause, bookmarking, etc. You can't do any of that automatically with a VCR.

    Unfortunately, people can't seem to get over the price tag, even though it's fairly cheap now ($300 + listing subscription).

    Go buy a Tivo and buy the lifetime subscription (just went up?). Best video entertainment purchase you'll ever make.

    I bought one of the original units directly from Tivo when the first /. story on them appeared, long ago.


  • I assume that ABC is different in Australia? Here, it's one of the big commercial networks.
  • Anybody have figures on the total cost of advertising per viewer per half-hour of programming in the US or UK?

    a few years ago, an article in wired claimed it was in the ballpark of 25 cents per viewer per half-hour program. With inflation, 50 cents per viewer per half-hour would not be all that far off.

    hmmm, at that rate I'm wasting about $15 per week. Time to go back to books.
  • by c ( 8461 )
    Use the new Tivo unit to pull whichever programs you want into your GPL PVR, then watch it across your LAN without commercials. Less local storage needed, but more programs available.

    At least until they build content-control into the display.

  • Well, I don't like to break this to you, but... $200 is not cheap. That's more than an average VCR costs.

    For a Tivo-like device to become useful and cool to the home user (i.e. be able to filter out ads, etc...) the manufacturer has to be able to make a profit on the hardware *alone*. Oh, and it really ought to cost $150 or less for most people to buy it. So, manufacturing cost would have to be about half that at most - $75. You've got to remember all the compression and decompression hardware on there as well, so I'd guess you'd need a hard drive that costs about $30.
  • Well, first of all, this isn't a PVR - and the article doesn't say that it is. This is basically a Media-on-demand player. It's equivalent to watching BMWfilms through your cable modem now - except with some finer interface enhancements for the TV. Unlike PVR, it doesn't arrange the TV shows that you want to see in order.

    The benefits of MOD/VOD players:
    - no HD - (no HD crash), and cheaper,
    - supposed "unlimited" library of movies to choose from,
    - no need to upgrade the unit as often as... say, TiVo. HD prices are always going down. Early TiVo adopters probably get the shaft here.
    - probably have some webtv type of features - surf the web, email - benefit?

    On a side note, the TV industry must be crazy now, with the different digital standards going - MPEG 2, 4, 7, HDTV, NTSC, Analog, Digital, Broadband DSL, Cable, Satellite... There's a lot happening right now that can leave consumers in confusion.

  • So add to your cable bill the fee for this kind of service, probably billed like your long distance, right?

    July Statement:

    All episodes of Gilligan's Island: 7.00
    Last episode of Seinfeld: 0.15
    Max Headroom: 0.25
    3 M*A*S*H episodes: 0.45

    And 30 pages in your credit card bill: priceless

    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"
  • I am convinced that video-on-demand will fail in the market regardless of convenience, privacy, technology, or any of the other reasons that I've seen thrown around. I honestly believe that, as great as it sounds in theory, people don't want it in practice.

    Why? It goes back to scarcity. If everything is available at all times, there's no incentive to either decide that something is specifically worth watching or taking the time to actually watch it.

    For example, a few years back, I taped Monty Python. All of it. I have every episode on tape and I've never watched them - half the time I forget that they're even there. But when I see that Python is on TV, what do I do? Tune it in. Same thing with Babylon 5. And just about everything else I have on tape or DVD. It rarely gets watched unless either I have friends over or something external (such as it being on a current broadcast schedule) reminds me that it's there.

    There's also the "I can just watch it later" aspect. I've got the anime series Bastard!! on tape and I've been meaning to watch it again for probably two months now, but whenever I have some time, I face the choice of doing something else now and watching Bastard!! later, or watching it now and skipping the other thing.

    VOD will fail for the simple reason that we are more driven by scarcity than most of us realize.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @07:03AM (#155538)
    Last time I looked at the local computer rag
    some 70-80 GB disks had fallen below $200.
    One gig holds a 30-60 minutes of compressed video.
    The early PVR systems were pricey at $15 / GB,
    but there are hack web sites that tell you how to
    add your own disk cheap.

    I would not be surprised in the near future you
    could get a hundred hours of video storage for
    a hundred bucks. Then why rent the remote disk?

  • And in Europe, we get Digital Terrestrial TV, so we don't need to encode the signal.

    Aren't Nokia doing a Digital Terrestrial box with Linux on it?

    TiVO is expensive, even before you put the subscription stuff on (and I would refuse to pay for that)

  • Well, the patents I've heard of so far, were for very specific optimizations that competing PVRs wouldn't necessarily need to infringe. For example, I think Tivo's patents have to do with features peculiar to their filesystem, and using closed-caption info to more accurately determine when a program is starting. That closed-caption idea actually does sound very clever, but a competing PVR could live without it.

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @07:48AM (#155541) Homepage Journal

    I suspect this will be a commercial failure.

    I think the days of money-making PVRs are seriously numbered, because this is one of the few areas where either a Free Software or Open Source alternative will eventually kick all the commercial products asses from a usability standpoint. Instead of just being an abstract political thing, it will be a concrete user interface and feature issue.

    With certain types of applications, such as word processors, closed software isn't really at any significant disadvantage to Free Software, because there isn't any commercial pressure to make the product suck. In fact, a commercial developer wants (and is encouraged to) make the product as good as possible.

    But as soon as you get to media-reading-related products, the developers start to be pressured by outside influences to compromise the quality of the product. We have already seen this with web browsers, with the recent story about MSIE's "Smart Tags" being a good (but not the only) example of that sort of thing.

    You can also see the problem with DVD players. The hardware appliance DVD players don't have Firewire ports, the software players can't capture still frames, etc. Some users expect these features because they are natural things that someone would want to do. Eventually, unlicensed players (which, due to bad legislation, will tend to be developed by decentralized teams, and that encourages open source) will be so more feature-rich than DVDCCA-licensed players, that users will have a significant incentive to use them.

    And you can see the problem with the most popular existing PVR, Tivo. Tivo is a fine product IMHO, but it also has some flaws that aren't caused by bad programmers or lack of vision, but rather, they are caused by Tivo's desire to have a good relationship with its partners. For example, there's no "30 Second Skip" and there never will be, and the fast forward intentionally over-corrects to encourage the user to watch the end of a commercial. There are also rumors that future Tivo releases are going to have new disadvantages that the existing software doesn't have. (Something is going to eat up some additional disk space, but we don't know what that is yet. But you can bet your ass that it's going to be something that users aren't asking for, and that it's related to Tivo's partners.)

    A PVR that is developed free of commercial interests, will have none of these disadvantages. Right now, the components for building one on Linux are (allegedly) very primitive (I haven't even gotten it all working yet, but that's my fault), but they'll get better. Eventually they'll cross a quality threshold that the commercial PVRs are not allowed to cross, and will be so much easier to use and more capable, that users will prefer the open/free ones.

    So if you're going to bet the farm on a commercial PVR and you don't have any good means to suppress open development (DMCA combined with Hague is your best bet right now), then you're not going to be a farmboy for very long.

  • TiVo comes with a small IR controller on a wire which you place in front of the set top box or it can 'blast' the signal from the front of the TiVo and it'll bounce back to the set top box (if your room is not too big, etc.) Pop along to here [] if you're interested in discussing TiVo in the UK.
  • by Smitty ( 15702 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:42AM (#155543)
    "The upside is that this effectively removes many of the limitations of existing PVRs"

    By reintroducing all of the limitations and annoyances of existing cable TV (commercials, network outages, etc.).
  • I won a 14-hour model in a wacky 200-word essay contest they were having. (mine was something like "I want a Tivo. Please send me one.") I never would have purchased one on my own, but after having used it, I can safely say that I would certainly buy one now.

    The biggest difference between it and a VCR, is that I can't tell my VCR things like:

    -"Record every episode of the Simpsons, regardless of when the network schedules or re-schedules the episodes"
    -"Record every show with Actor X in it"
    -"Fill your remaining space with shows you recommend based on my viewing habits"
    -"Let me watch a recorded show while another is being recorded"
    -"Record at a sensible resolution, not that lousy VHS stuff"

    Even without everything but the first item, the Tivo is much easier to use. Just select from the menu or type in the name of a show, and record every episode ever with just another click. Sit down at the TV later and pick the show you want to watch from a menu of 20 or so shows that you are much more likely to enjoy than just channel surfing.
  • by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @07:01AM (#155545) Homepage
    Is right here: []

    All you need is a cheapo $50 winTV card and the patience to get it all set up.

    Other alternatives include using bttv-grab and mpeg2encode, rather than vcr and avifle+divx as outlined in the howto. I have yet to get it all working quite the way I want it to, but I expect it will be done in a week or two.
  • I agree; I've been a NetFlix customer for about two months and so far it's great. About 1 in 10 DVDs is scratched and is unplayable (so far) but they handle that well. I haven't had the unavailability problems that the other poster has. It's very convenient, particularly because I'm in SF and NetFlix is in San Jose, so the snail mail delivery time is pretty quick.

    Here's to hoping that paying for a service will keep it in business.
  • This is pretty fatalistic. Ad-funded analog free TV will never die (sorry, digital TV hornswagglers), but lots of people spend lots of money on cable and satellite TV. Nobody wants to watch commercials, and it's a lot easier to run a business when you're focused on giving customers what they want rather than walking the fine line of providing desirable content without pissing off sponsors. Cable has proven that there is a pay model for TV that makes it profitable to deliver more narrowly targetted content to people who have a bit of money to spend.

    The only reason there isn't even more targetted content offered for more money without ads to an even narrower audience is that content publishers are paranoid about piracy. As they were with the VCR, and as the music folks were about the cassette tape. What they fail to realize is that movie trading is tedious, very time consuming, and the resulting quality is pretty bad (compared to a DVD or laserdisc). Convenient delivery of extremely high quality digital content is something that people would pay for, but greed on the part of content owners drives them to refuse to try it until they have a total control, through a 100% foolproof means of defeating piracy. Of course this is impossible.

    What will change is the attitudes of content owners. They are still living in a fantasy world, and regardless of what they annouce as their intentions or wish for how things will work, they will be forced to accede to customers' wishes. Content won't be totally free (that's a fantasy world too), but it will be cheap, because nothing else will succeed when pitted against the consumer's other option: piracy.
  • My guess is that's it's the Australian version of the BBC.

  • And no actual recorded content...

    At least with a standard PVR or digital VCR you've got your shows even if you cancel the service at some point.

    (Well, unless you've got a TiVo, where they fraudulently disable the device when you cancel their listings service.)
  • If someone writes software that is in violation of someone else's inane 1-Click-esque patent - and then that software gets put out there - a la DeCSS, SDMI crack whitepaper, etc - what the hell are they going to do? Sue every website with the software?

    Sure, they'll go after's copy of it.. but there'll be freenet copies... copies on . etc.etc.etc....

    software patents are totaly useless against the internet... at least ones that really don't warrant such a thing.

    the only problem is going to be the server necessary to have the programming listed...

    that is, i have no idea how Tivo, DirecTV or TV Guide, for that matter, know what's going to be on.. and how can the free TV listing database get the programming. Can anyone elaborate?
  • The main downside is that control is moved out of your home, returning PVR users to the dark ages where they had to watch commercials. Unless, of course, you still have your PVR at home, and use IT to record the video that comes from the upstream PVR. Then, you've got all the features you want. Chances are, that an upstream PVR will be PPV like. If that is the case, I'd still use the downstream PVR in my home for the majority of recording, but only use the upstream PVR for recording conflicts, or niche programming. In any case, the PVR at the home isn't going away.
  • by schmack ( 32384 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @07:05AM (#155559)
    What are you people crazy? Ads are here to stay. Fact: Television exists because of advertising. There is no way Tivo will be allowed to attain a significant market share without some safe-guards in place to make sure viewers are force-fed their daily dose of advertisements.

    VCRs are tolerated by the Television industry because their impact on ad-aversion is thought to be minimal. Face it, most people don't know how to use the timer-record features of their VCRs - the vast majority of television people watch is live-broadcast. Thus, ad-watching remains a huge part of television viewing.

    Tivo and similar PVRs can change this - through integrated electronic programme guides, they make it easy for people to record shows regardless of their air-time. Large built-in storage make them even more attractive. Your average Joe Remote can now actually negotiate the smorgasboard of TV in their own time, and therefore easily skip ads. Once these devices become as ubiquitous as the VCR free-to-air networks are in real trouble.

    Unless... well, you work it out.

  • by hawkestein ( 41151 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:46AM (#155560)
    Could this sort of thing wipe out the video rental business?

    I never watch pay-per-view movies (and I don't know anybody who does), because I like being able to watch a movie at a time that's convinient for me, pause it to go to the bathroom, etc. These outweighs the disadvantages of actually having to go to the rental store.

    But, with video on demand, these disadvantages are gone. Bye bye, Blockbuster?
  • > And a Tivo is a useless piece of junk compared to a VCR, for archiving. Six of one, half-a-dozen of the other.

    Eh? A Tivo will let you get a good-quality MPEG2 stream of whatever video you want, and with recent hacks, the files can be backed up as required.

    30 hours of MPEG2 stream = $200 worth of hard drive. Equivalent to 20 DVDs' worth of movies. With DVDs costing ~$15-20, it's price-competitive to just buy a new hard drive every time the old one fills up.

    2 years from now, $200 worth of hard drive will archive 60 hours of video. Or more. DVDs, of course, will still cost $15-20 apiece.

    10 years from now, $50 will buy a magic cube that'll hold your last 8 years' worth of MPEG video. Another $50 will buy you an identical cube that you can stick in a safety deposit box in case your house burns down and destroys the first one.

    15 years from now, you'll be watching copies of those MPEGs from your "Tivo emulated on your headband 23-GHz megaputer and projected directly onto your retina", while the NTSC-quality images on your VHS tapes have silently gone the way of magnetic flux loss, oxide-flaking-off, and all the other afflictions that magnetic tapes suffer from. (Or you'll be watching fourth-generation analog copies of your VHS tapes, which will be just as bad.)

    I don't own a Tivo, hell, I barely watch TV anymore. But if I were interested in archiving video, I'd take a Tivo over a VCR any day.

  • > I imagine if anyone provided this service, they would have it chock to the gills with next generation Macrovision style copy protection.

    True. Your old PVR probably won't record the video-on-demand your cable company offers.

    So you hack the ever-lovin' hell out of it until it will. (Or more likely, you wait until someone else does, preferably in a non-DMCA country, and you download the hack yourself ;-)

  • a) it's not 'personal', in that no content is held by the user. The cable company has total control over what you do and don't watch with this device.

    b) it's not a 'recorder', since it doesn't record anything. The servers at the other end of the cable do the actual 'recording'.

    i suppose the word 'video' has some relevance in this context.

    This is nothing like a TiVO, this is just flexible programming taken to a new level. The bandwidth requirements for this will be astronomical, not to mention the I/O requirements for the video servers themselves.

    But why only do this with a set-top box? Why not give cable modem users this capability - i.e. stream MPEG-2 to a window on your Windows/ MacOS/ X desktop? I've often wondered, since i subscribe to both cable TV and cable internet from the same provider, why they can't offer me something like this.

  • Video on demand was tried and failed in the mid nineties. Rebranding it as some cool Tivo mutation doesn't change what it is, and the reasons it will fail.

    What's interesting is that it shows how successful Tivo has become.
  • Who's ready to propose some Linux-based SAN sales to the cable companies?
  • What amazes me in all this is the completely separate approaches from TV (video/movie) broadcasters and audio (radio/internet/mp3/whatever) broadcasters. While Cable companies are trying to get real stream-on-demand technology in place, the dubious RIAA are trying to stop the exact same technology for music; even for companies that pay broadcasting fees and aren't being accused of copyright infringement... there was a slashdot article that I have in mind, I just can't find it right now...
  • I'm assuming you're referring to the hack that allowed you to add this capability in pre-2.0 versions of the TiVo software since this capability never officially existed on a TiVo. The newest software version (2.0.1) effectively disabled this hack, and so far no other hacks have been found to reintroduce this capability. I know that there are ways to change the speed of the 3 steps of Fast-Forward, but don't know the particulars.
  • I don't know why you'd be stocking up on Win2k, unless you're planning on some sort of mass infestation ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H instalation program to get back at the companies.
  • Actually, the Sluggy Freelance [] online comic is going this route- donate ten bucks, and you get the daily comic page without any banner ads, for one year.
  • How horrible is the MS-windows interface to the Hauppage software?

    I'm disappointed that there is only ONE consumer tuner+MPEG encoder card on the market, and none with any hope of BSD drivers.

  • by bobwoodard ( 92257 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:41AM (#155589)
    Sure, it records like a VCR, but the thing that snagged me was the ability to schedule season passes and not using VCR tapes. I did the HD upgrade and I now have 30 hours of "best quality" recording, which would be a mess to work with, if I still had a VCR & 15-30 tapes laying around. So, for me it's been the combination of ease-of-use/convenience and the ability to go in and add capabilities to the base product.
  • by Tiroth ( 95112 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @01:04PM (#155591) Homepage
    Even the networks will likely accept this fact. However, they'll fight it tooth and nail, even if they might make more money with the switch. Why? Because despite the 200+ channels out there, the networks still dominate TV. If you change the model, you give other companies an opportunity to get a piece of the action.

    Historically we've seen many examples of the dominant players in the marketplace holding back technology in order to maintain their stranglehold on the market. (most recently in the U.S. the cellphone and bankcard industries) I doubt this will be any different.
  • Everybody I know with a TiVo no longer surfs realtime TV. At all.

    When you sit down to watch TV, you look at the current list of what's recorded, and select from the list.

    You get to see the shows you want, when you want; it's very convienient.

    I know a few folks who are very disiplined with there VCR library. They're good at setting the schedules, shuffling the tapes in and out, and labeling them for their library. They don't need a TiVo. I'm not that disciplined. I've got hundreds of tapes, and haven't a clue what's on any of them, and I never watch them.

    The TiVo makes it easy for the undisciplined viewer.

  • The problem is that companies like Tivo have PATENTS on this kind of technology, and Open Source companies (or individuals) can't usually afford to pay for an unrestricted license that would allow them to distribute such a work. While someone such as myself, who lives in Canada, a country that doesn't recognise software patents, a large number of people who live in countries like the United States will not have this option. Such a patent would make even an end user that uses such a program a criminal, regardless of if they knew they were breaking the law by using the program or not.
  • So, how difficult would it actually be to make your own Tivo? Way I see it, get a basic PC (something like a PII 500 should do fine), stick in a TV card, graphics card that can do MPEG compression (don't ATI make combined TV/graphics cards) and a big HD. Then hack at it a bit and bingo - you've got your own Tivo to use as you see fit. Maybe I'm grossly simplifying things (especially saying "hack at it a bit"), but if people are prepared to try and do that in-car MP3 player that was up here a couple of days ago, then surely this wouldn't be too tough.

    Though frankly I don't expect to see them laying the sort of bandwidth to support something like this any time soon here in the UK (hell, BT's still dragging it's heels over DSL while not exactly making it easy for others to compete).

    And what's to stop someone downloading a show on demand, then re-broadcasting (time-delayed and advert-less) it themselves for say 5% (per subscriber) of the price it cost them? I know I'd pay for a pirate TV network with no ads that came cheaper that the regular one.

    OK, I'm kinda all over the place cos it's past quitting time at work and not thinking too straight, but I'm just trying to provoke some discussion : )

  • The bandwidth of the last mile of cable is shared amoungst many other users. 212 compressed digital channels are probably not sufficient to support the video needs of all users that share the same cable in the 'cable cell'.

    If you have the hardware to do 'video/TV on demand' it is hard to avoid not getting hit by lawyers. This kind of infrastructure costs more than users are willing to pay for every month. Internet access would be a better way to use the bandwidth.


  • by pouwelse ( 118316 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:39AM (#155600) Homepage

    The bandwidth of current cable infrastructures is often limited to the broadcast of about 25 - 40 video channels at the last mile. In the near future I seriously doubt if this sort of infrastructure is capable of competing on cost and service with a $299 Tivo box. Besides Tivo, if you provide users with a 1 Mbps Internet connection it is possible to stream video in real-time, in my opinion users would go for this option.

    Who want's inserted adds or other stuff inserted in their video stream? If a company offers hassle free Internet capable of video streaming, a subsription based video server could be more cost effective.

    What do users want?

    Just my 5 Eurocents Johan.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @09:27AM (#155603) Homepage
    nCube has been around for a long time. They started as a "supercomputer" manufacturer. The original mid-1980s nCube had 64 cpus per board, 1024 per box, with 128KB (not MB) per CPU, 1 MIPS each. It's a message-passing hardware network hypercube architecture, with each of 2^N CPU connected only to neighboring CPUs in N dimensions. Thus, inter-CPU communication involves passing messages through intermediate CPUs. There's no shared memory. Later machines went faster, but kept the architecture.

    It's not clear what problem this architecture solves. It's one of those wierd architectural ideas that got run over by faster conventional machines.

    Oracle owned nCube for a while, but, I think, sold it off. Larry Ellison was making big streaming media noises about 10 years ago, and nCube was involved in that. In fact, nCube demonstrated something like this about 10 years ago.

    The problem with streaming media isn't the servers. It's the "last mile", as usual. This is one of those technologies stuck waiting for high-data-rate consumer broadband. You need about 3 to 5 Mb/s to the home to deliver decent video. It's tough to do that unless you're wiring something new, like a hotel or a condo complex. Juniper Networks was working on faster DSL over existing copper, but they just had a big layoff.

    So this isn't going to be deployed in volume for a while.

  • "Just my 5 Eurocents Johan."

    Cable systems may be better here in the US then.

    I get about 60 channels, and digital cable offers up to 212.

    The rest of your post I cannot understand.
  • And a Tivo is a useless piece of junk compared to a VCR, for archiving. Six of one, half-a-dozen of the other.

    Until they add a tape drive. 20 gig tapes cost about $30. Sure, it's not random access, but if you're able to plan ahead a little you could preload the show. You could probably even preload it on the fly.

    Not only is this good for archival, but also for transportation. I could record something at home, but view it at my friends house. Of course, to be truly universal you'd want to make sure it was an open standard, similar to the way VHS works. Yeah, it's probably a pipe dream in today's monopolistic patent crazy world.

    That's my biggest problem with Tivo. Sure, you can hack it to add extra devices, but it would be a lot nicer if the company supported it.

  • If I were ever to get back into watching TV, I would want one of the old school Tivos. The replay and recording facility is wonderful. I'm not interested in having them stream it down to me - I like the recording feature.

    Anyone at Tivo listening? You just lost a potential customer.

  • I disagree about it taking 10 years. I live in Austin, TX and I have video-on-demand now, so each cable subscriber in my neighborhood could be watching something different. I don't know or care how much it cost Time Warner to make that work, but it works.

    However, I think the article still sucks, because VOD and PVR are not the same thing, no matter how much nCube tries.
  • While this may not be a good idea for the non-technical, most of those on this site could make their own [].


  • An executive scratches his chin and ponders, "... Now that control of this content has moved out of the home, I wonder if we could embed SmartTags somehow...". A thin smile cracks on the executive's face as he massages the backside of his hairless kitty.
  • by Boone^ ( 151057 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @07:20AM (#155622)
    Well, anytime my cable provider (Charter Communications) changes my schedule, my fee goes up. A few months ago they removed TNT and replaced it with another 'local access' station... and the fee went up!

    So, what happens when the TV-on-demand thing hits? Fees will easily double if it's unlimited viewing. If the entire country went to this model, "Must See TV" could occur at 2am so as to not trip over anything else. Moving new programs to Friday night wouldn't mark their death. Moving NYPD Blue to Wednesdays directly opposite Law & Order for fall 2001 wouldn't cause people like me to hate ABC, because they could put Blue after Letterman instead and I'd watch it the next day... you get my point. Suddenly the words "Prime time" lose their luster.

    They'd be smarter with having a few dedicated pay-per-view channels, and charging someone to watch a tape-delayed show. Watching it in real time incurs no extra charge, but there's a $1 dollar charge to watch the newest Friends on Friday night... or something like that.

    But you know what? I still like my TiVo. Now if they could just enable that second tuner so I could record Blue as well as L&O on Wednesdays this fall...

  • What this is is just an enhanced cable box. IMHO it's going to be the Divx to Tivo/ReplayTV/UltimateTV's DVD...

  • I've had this idea floating around for a while, but the level of functionality it provided didn't really measure up to the cost.

    First take your basic Linux PC with an S-video capable video card and a DVD-ROM drive. With the right software you have a region-free DVD player, even if it's not quite legal. Slap on audio codecs for Ogg Vorbis (and MP3 and WMA playback if you want) and a CD burner and you also have a very nice digital music station (completely free and clear on top of it). Now all that would probably be worth somewhere in the vicinity of $400 as is, and I couldn't picture a mom-and-pop operator (realistically the only outfits who would be able to get away with selling these things) making enough of a profit off of these boxes to justify it. But... you put in a good-sized hard drive or something of the sort, you've got a PVR. To me, that does justify the likely cost (probably $600-$800US)...

  • by Rackemup ( 160230 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:42AM (#155626) Homepage
    Step 1. Introduce recorders to home users so they can start taking control of what they watch, when they watch it, and what parts they want to skip (ie annoying commercials for feminine products during dinner time).

    Step 2. Hope the broadcasters dont try to sue us out of existance because people suddenly dont HAVE TO watch said commercials.

    Step 3. Start working with the cable companies to find a way to take control away from the users again. After all, we the cable broadcasters know what is best for our viewers. Now we can say "hey, if you want to watch teletubbies at 4:17am all you have to do is ask. Oh and we're going to keep track of everything you watch so we can pump in the commercials most likely to suck the money right out of your wallet."

    I have to admit, I like the idea of "on-demand" television, the ability to select and view whatever show I want at any time is very appealing (especially since it means I wont miss a show because I forgot to set my VCR before I went out for the night), but the fact that they think they're "helping" by keeping track of what each user watches so they can insert the "right" commercials is REALLY annoying.

    Now all I need is a TV that will show me pro-M$ advertising while in the background it can fight with the AOL commercial trying to install "the all-new AOL 27". Why spam your mailbox when we can take over your TV and send it directly into your eyeballs?

  • For everything I've read about Tivo, there's nothing yet that has convinced me I want one.

    I'm not going to repeat the feature list everyone else is posting. But if you are curious about what has people going so crazy, go see a Tivo or ReplayTV somewhere. Find a friend, or a friend's friend. Any PVR owner will be happy to show it off. They really are THAT cool.
  • Man, you said it.

    Recently I have decided I need to create a backup image of my RTV 3030 hard drive. If the drive ever craps out (and that seems the most likely point of failure) I can replace it myself and keep on' truckin. No Panasonic Macrovision hassles, no switching to Tivo and losing 30-second skip...

    I think that if PVRs take off the next generations will be saddled with all kinds of restrictions. I can very easily imagine a netowrk paying Tivo/RTV to disallow FF control inputs during their shows, for example... so long as the economics make sense, anyway. For that to be possible a LOT of people would have to be didging ads with PVRs, but things may get to that point. When they do I want to be still using my friendly old technology.

  • Sadly Blockbuster will stick around. At least until VOD can offer as many choices. On my satellite, there are only 25 PPV channels, but many movies are shown on 2-3 channels so there's a selection of start times.

    naturally most of the movies are current ones, too. Though once or twice I noticed Shaft was available.

  • NetFlix RULES. When I had time to watch movies, I dumped Blockbuster for NetFlix and never looked back! Anyone with a rental habit owes it to themselves to try them out. It's just a better way of doing things.

  • If you had the option of paying per view to get an ad-free version or just getting the version with ads for "free" that might be quite good.

    I can't see why this would either be difficult to arrange or be something the provider would not want to do.

    Anybody have figures on the total cost of advertising per viewer per half-hour of programming in the US or UK? That's the figure the provider would have to charge us (per half-hour) to watch without the ads. Obviously the current rate varies but it would be interesing to get a feel for what it would cost.


  • I am sure there will be a market for a video recording software that will fake this service out, and allow you to record it all to your hard drive. Especially since the size of hardrives are pushing past the 100 gig range, etc. let's face it, for most of what I want to do, analog output is fine.

    Art level stuff I would probably go out and buy the DVD or something.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:40AM (#155640) Journal
    this is some other service, not TiVo. There will still be room for both in the marketplace .. and home-built PVR type devices as well!
  • Some experts have suggested that advertisers will focus increasingly on "imbedding" advertising in the programs, via a split screen, an unobtrusive logo, or product placement as a "prop" in the show.

    This sounds morally repugnant. Imagine a TV show [] where there was little plot and just a whole lot of product placement. I for one hope this never takes off.


  • They have been talking about a new version of their InDemand broadcasting (pay-per-view) that will allow people using time warner digital cable to fast-forward/rewind/pause movies that they've ordered via their digital cable boxes from TW. I remember reading about this coming feature about 9 months ago... (this is in Orlando, FL)
  • I hope this dies an early death in the marketplace.

    Actually, it did. The software that drives the nCube PVR is ... Oracle Video Server. Which Oracle tried (and failed) to push for a number of years, before quietly smoking the whole division last fall and pushing it over to nCube and another company whose name escapes me for the moment.

    We talked about 2 years ago about using OVS to drive a video jukebox (30 hours? pfui - we were looking at a couple hundred, on hi-capacity IDE-RAID). Part of the idea was that you'd have a thin STB on each TV, and you could stream to each one individually. Never quite got off the ground, though.

  • They most certainly did, it was just undocumented. You enabled backdoors and used a remote code to reassign one button to be 30 second skip. It only worked with the 1.3 software, it was removed in 2.0 (at least, no one has figured out how to reenable it).
  • I hope this dies an early death in the marketplace.

    What's wrong with video on demand? That's exactly what I want. That's exactly what PVR provides, in a sort of backwards, silly way. Instead of just broadcasting shows, why can't networks also make them available for download/streaming?

    This already exists in radio somewhat. Let me give you a specific example: I like to Listen to Car Talk on NPR. It comes on once a week, but I don't worry about being near my radio to hear it. If I miss it, I can just go to The Car Talk website [] and listen to the RealAudio version of the show whenever I want. It's great. There aren't even commercials in the web version (not that there are many commercials on NPR anyway).

  • The advertising implications are significant, but they're not all negative.
    Translation: We'll make alot of scratch.

    But advertisers might actually grow to like nCube's PVR, he said, because the central control over distribution of the product will allow a cable operator to inject "targeted" advertising.
    Translation: Viewers will hate it but we'll have money coming out of our hoo-hoos.

    Some experts have suggested that advertisers will focus increasingly on "imbedding" advertising in the programs, via a split screen, an unobtrusive logo, or product placement as a "prop" in the show.
    Translation: This will be annoying as hell but we'll be rolling in dough.

    Executives at networks that rely more heavily on advertising for revenue are far less enthusiastic about the concept of putting the viewer in control.
    Translation: They think it sucks the way it is now.

    Murphy's Law of Copiers

  • It's really unbelievable. There seem to be two distinct service categories out there. First there are P2P services which strive to drive resources to the network edge, at cost to the consumers. Second, there are ASP type services such as Microsoft HailStorm and this second generation PVR concept, as well as the early 90's implementations of Video On Demand.

    That's right. Screw the onsumer by having him/her store data he doesn't want/need as in P2P services and then, don't let joe consumer store the information he/she DOES want. While we're at it, lets do away with video storage completely and make everything pay-per-view...

    This stuff is outragous!!!


  • Obviously: Free/cheap TV means commercials. Tivo subverts this. Combo PVR/recordable-DVD devices are coming. So the future holds some combination of: (a) higher cable rates, more pay per view (b) centralized control and monitoring of viewing (c) more and harder to avoid adverts (d) cheaper programming (re-runs, reality TV, game shows) I suspect it may settle out as: - Free broadcast TV with cheap content and whatever commercials they want to stuff in any way they can. - Better content you either pay for or get free by interacting with targetted commercials. Captured or downloaded - and once paid for you can capture or download again for a nominal fee.
  • But don't think that the entertainment industry doesn't get anything in return for allowing you to cut out ads. They, in turn, get to know EXACTLY who watches what, when. They get to store it all in a giant database, and with some decent data mining, they could probably even create a pretty decent psychological profile of each person. This stuff already makes Doubleclick's privacy intrusions look like a joke. Use stuff like TIVO and cable, and you might as well just walk around in the streets handing out your detailed viewing and spending habits to complete strangers, because in essence, that's what you're doing. Me? I'll keep my antenna and I'll sit through the ads (or switch to a PS game while they're on), and maintain my anonimity, thank you.

  • Well it would seem that the two are intertwined, television and advertisements, so logically some force in the universe would be trying to keep them together depsite our attempts to never see another OBEY YOUR THIRST Sprite commercial. If TiVo is to survive what surely will be a heavy blitz from content producers and distributors (ie. network television), they had to do something to make their product more palatable and I think this is a step in the right direction for them. As much as I like HBO, I don't want to have to pay for each channel individually, at least not under the current system.

    1. is this for REAL? []
  • SVHS sucks, too. Just somewhat less. While there are 400+ lines of luminance resolution, the chrominance resolution is a fraction of that (like a kid that can't keep within the lines of a coloring book).

    The tape transport is more failure-prone. Skipping forward/backward takes longer. There is no intelligence. With Tivo, I can tell it to record every new and/or rerun episode of a show and it finds and records them. If I am on vacation, I can come back to find 30 hours of stuff recorded. Ever try to record 30 hours on a single SVHS tape?

  • How often do you need to record 30 hours on a TiVO.

    When I go on business trips or vacations.

    That's a SPECIALTY task.

    I don't know what your employer has been telling you, but vacations are something most people expect to take at least once a year. Business trips are common for many people.

    It's already slightly fuzzy coming from the cable company.

    Degrading it further is not a good idea and I use DirecTV, which has a stellar picture compared to cable TV.

  • Do you truly have a cable network that can deliver VOD to everyone at once, or do you have VOD that works as long as just a few people use it? If you really have a network capable of 1 channel per user, you are mighty lucky to be served by one of the few forward-looking companies. Probably you won't know until the system does overload -- unless you can get a few hundred neighbors to cooperate in a test and bring it down NOW. I've heard too many stories of cable executives enthusiastically pushing cable modems while being utterly clueless about the network segmentation ("Huh?") that is needed to make those work for more than a few people. Chances are the same thing will happen with VOD.

    VOD and PVR are not the same thing, no matter how much nCube tries. Yep. Well, you could deliver PVR from a server over a VOD-capable network, but you can also crack nuts by setting off a hand grenade near them. That doesn't make the hand grenade a nutcracker... 8-)
  • by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @08:02AM (#155677)
    "Worst non-technical article about a technical subject", or maybe "Most errors in one page".

    The worst error of all: for this to work at all like Tivo, the cable company would have to dedicate one channel to each subscriber. That means cable loops with less than 100 subscribers on each, which will usually require running fiber further into neighborhoods and installing more fiber-to-cable units. Also the fiber-to-cable units have to be upgraded to select the channels instead of just dumping everything they get to the cable, the fiber bandwidth has to be increased to carry thousands of subscriber channels, and the central office needs lots of high-powered servers.

    I do expect all those hardware upgrades to happen in about 10 years, but it's not going to happen just for timeshifting -- it will happen because the hardware is necessary for (1) good high-speed internet service to homes, and (2) to enable the cable companies to sell video rentals. It's going to take a long time to work out the details (mainly how the servers and the content providers split up the money), but on-line video rentals are going to be _big_ someday.

    As far as scheduled programming goes, everything the article claimed as a reason for consumers to buy the service looks to me like a reason to avoid it: give me targeted advertisements embedded in the program or with fast-forward locked-out, and I'll spend a lot more time reading books!

    Finally, "I can scale it, depending on how popular the service is. It's all under my roof. And I don't have to send a truck out to every customer who wants it. It presents great efficiencies for cable operators." WTF? No one had to send out a truck to put in my VCR or my DVD player. No one has to send out a truck to install Tivo boxes with the hard drive. But if they do implement the proposed scheme, they'll have to send out lots of trucks to do the network upgrades.
  • AOLTW cable does this here in Austin, TX. It's called icontrol []. I rented? paid for? one of them the other day, and it was pretty cool.. fast forward, rewind, pause.. and they have a catalouge of about 200-300 movies (and yes, billy, they do have pr0n).
  • A VCR is a useless piece of ancient junk compared to a Tivo, for time shifting
    And a Tivo is a useless piece of junk compared to a VCR, for archiving. Six of one, half-a-dozen of the other.

    For everything I've read about Tivo, there's nothing yet that has convinced me I want one. Can it get to the 100+ digital channels I have now? (not that my VCR can, but if the Tivo can't, then it's no better.) Just curious.

    Want I rally want is a random access digital recorder with removeable media, mayabe a Sony miniDisk?

    "What are we going to do tonight, Bill?"

  • Video on demand was market-tested years ago (there was a write-up in Wired about it at the time.) It bombed. The conclusion was that people liked going to the video store to browse the aisles, and maybe rent something they hadn't planned on renting.
    As for pay-per-view, my cable company offers an 'all-day ticket', you pay $3.99 and it unlocks the channel for a day. That's relatively convenient. PPV must be making some money since it's still available.

    "What are we going to do tonight, Bill?"
  • by jasonk3 ( 313457 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:41AM (#155687)
    If there's no way to fast-forward through the ads, no one will buy it. They'll have to pry my Replay from my cold, dead fingers.
  • by BIGJIMSLATE ( 314762 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @07:07AM (#155688)
    I can see it now...

    One of three scenarios:

    [1] The network sucks
    "Honey, let's watch that episode of the Sopranos we taped last night"

    "Ok! Wait a sure you taped the Sopranos?"

    "Yeah, why?"

    "Nothing, its just been saying 'buffering' for the past twenty minutes!"

    [2]All your rights are belong to us

    "Honey, let's watch that movie we taped last night off HBO."

    "Ok! Wait a sure you taped that movie?"

    "Yeah, why?"

    "Nothing, its just saying that we're violating section 1201(a) of the DMCA, and the authorities are on their way..."


    "Honey? Why does Regis look like a bunch of pixels?"

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