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Television Media

ReplayTV DVR to Remove Features 418

KarlTheGhoul writes "D&M Holdings Inc. on Tuesday said its new ReplayTV digital television recorder will not include controversial features such as automatically skipping commercials and sharing shows via the Internet." This is a confirmation of our earlier story. Their new ad slogan will be "Costs More, Less Useful".
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ReplayTV DVR to Remove Features

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  • by svenjob ( 671129 ) <vtsvenjob@gmai l . com> on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:00PM (#6162840)
    Now it has even less fearues with which to compete with TiVo. Way to go!
  • Just wait (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Bungi ( 221687 ) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:01PM (#6162845) Homepage
    I think that eventually the average consumer will be clued in to things like these and the manufacturers will start feeling the pain. So we'll either have to go with an "illegal" solution, or the folks who make this products will give Big Media the finger. It's all downhill from there...
    • Re:Just wait (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KrispyKringle ( 672903 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:10PM (#6162969)
      I don't know. People have been predicting the downfall of the mainstream media for a while for the same reasons. My feeling is that people never notice what is bad unless their is an alternative. People don't say "wow, our society could be so much better if...", they say "wow, our society isn't nearly as good as..." or, in this case, "wow, my TiVo doesn't do nearly as much as so-and-so's..."

      The reason that peope have largely lashed back at Big Music is because there is a clear alternative which applies not just to consumers' sense of moral wrongitude, but their pocketbooks: Kazaa, Gnutella, or what-have-you. Until people see the alternative that they aren't supposed to know about, just the abstracted idea of not being able to do something that the technology does allow isn't going to catch the public's attention much.

      Look at how people seem to feel about Big Music. Reading that ABC News article about the RIT student who settled with the RIAA by paying them $12,000, I was truly surprised at how openly critical of the RIAA the article seemed to be, at least, for another member of Big Media, so to speak. It's not that there's a whole open political movement, but rather that so many people, including, most likely, the ABC News correspondent, simply share music files and the RIAA has made anyone who shares files their enemy, quite publicly. They made the consumers the enemy, not the other way around.

      So why will there be no immediate lash back at Big Media for restricting things like the TiVo? Because whats the illegal alternative? What free software are people going to download onto their box-top sets out of self-interest which will essentially make them unwitting enemies of Big Media? There is none; short of complicated and risky hardware-hacking, people won't be exposed to what they are missing.

      If one TiVo-type product is available in the store with ad-skipping, and the other without, sure, there'll be a preference. But if people are never presented with the option? Then there will be no complaints. Just don't let them see what they're missing and no one is the wiser.

      • Re:Just wait (Score:3, Insightful)

        by eison ( 56778 )
        If one TiVo-type product is available in the store with ad-skipping, and the other without, sure, there'll be a preference.

        Nope.
        There was, it was called ReplayTV. And, people still preferred TiVo. I can't explain it, but there you have it.
      • Re:Just wait (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonym0us Cow Herd ( 231084 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @03:30PM (#6163862)
        [...good argument about lack of clear alternatives....]

        Look what happened with mp3's. When the technology was to the point where everyone could use it, then everyone did.

        Video is bigger and more difficult to do.

        Still, I would suppose it is just a matter of time before anyone can get a fairly standard PC with fairly standard hardware, download a "live" bootable Linux CD with the necessary beautiful user interface, and have an instant PVR. This would save video to their existing FAT32 or NTFS partition. Then you remove the CD, reboot, and joe consumer is back in his precious Windows environment.

        This scenerio seems most likely to me. It must be simple before joe average can do it. Just because super computer geek can do it doesn't mean much except that it makes a good conversation piece for joe consumer who is a friend of super computer geek. To get joe consumer to do this, it must be as easy as downloading a CD, and not messing with their sacred Windows installation.

        This also has nice side effects....
        • Raises awareness of Linux. (Hey, this Linux stuff is pretty cool! It lets me record my TV programs using standard hardware. Nice friendly interface too.)
        • Gives consumers the PVR tool that they want, which ReplyTV and SonicBlue can't sell, and Tivo won't sell.
        • Might compete on some level with Windows media pc's.
        If it were this easy, average consumers would do it. It would be just like the whole mp3 vs. RIAA thing all over again.
  • by pir8garth ( 674943 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:03PM (#6162873)
    This only effect's their new product line, but the article says that it's older models will be produced with those features still in tact. It sounds like they are just trying to please the networks, and not the customers. If you ask me, they are setting themselves up for a big let-down in the number of sales, but by the same token, Tivo doesn't have these features to start with, and is doing extremely well...
    • by mh_tang ( 307188 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:16PM (#6163029)
      Go read their service agreement [sonicblue.com]. It says that anyone who buys the service agrees that features may be added or removed at any time. And of course, buying the box without service gets you nothing more than a doorstop.

      If Replay drops these features in the 5500 series, it will just create a very hot secondary/used market for the older 5000 models that still have Commercial Advance & Send Show features.

      So in my opinion, there's the possibility that they not only remove these features from new units, but also retroactively from the older 4000 and 5000 series also. Potentially very bad news for people who have shelled out $250 for a lifetime subscription recently...

      • If Replay drops these features in the 5500 series, it will just create a very hot secondary/used market for the older 5000 models that still have Commercial Advance & Send Show features.

        This is shown by the used Series 1 TiVos that are still being sold at incredible prices, because they have much more capabilities to hack the software than the Series 2 boxes.
    • by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:16PM (#6163035) Homepage
      Tivo doesn't have these features to start with, and is doing extremely well...

      I'm a TiVo advocate, but honestly, I wouldn't say they're doing "extremely well". They're yet to turn a profit, although the quarterly losses are dropping at a nice rate and their subscriber base continues to increase.

      That said, TiVo does have these features... kind of. There's a secret code to turn 30-second skip on (Stop Play Stop 3 0 on the main TiVo menu IIRC). It's not quite as extensive as the newer automatic commercial Skip Replay gave you, but it's the same as their skip button on the remote.

      As for show sharing, with HMO (yes, an additional cost) you can share between any TiVos that are on the same TiVo account and subnet. It's considerably more restrictive than Replay's offering, but it's also going to keep TiVo from being sued into bankruptcy. Twice. And it works quite well for what it is -- my wife and I use it all the time between our TiVos and it's great. Most of the TiVo users in the know are still hoping for collaborative scheduling between TiVos, but that's a ways off.

      The issue for D&M is, what are they going to offer instead? Their pricing isn't cheaper (you can now get a brand new 80 hour TiVo for $299, or a refurb for $249), they don't have as many features (especially if you get HMO for an additional $99 or $49), and their software is buggier. I guess we'll see.
      • As for show sharing, with HMO (yes, an additional cost) you can share between any TiVos that are on the same TiVo account and subnet. It's considerably more restrictive than Replay's offering, but it's also going to keep TiVo from being sued into bankruptcy. Twice.

        Better yet, with older (Series 1) TiVos, you can rip the video and do whatever you want with it...send it to someone over the Internet (as the original MPEG-2 or as something more space-efficient like XviD), burn it to SVCD [alfter.us] or DVD, etc. The s [sourceforge.net]

      • There's a secret code to turn 30-second skip on (Stop Play Stop 3 0 on the main TiVo menu IIRC).

        Actually it's Select-Play-Select-3-0-Select. I've only ever tried it while something is playing, I doubt it works from the Main Menu.

      • That said, TiVo does have these features... kind of. There's a secret code to turn 30-second skip on

        No it doesn't. Commercial Advance is a feature where commercials are skipped automatically without you even pressing a button on the remote. Nothing like that on a Tivo. ReplayTV also has a 30-second skip button on the remote (you don't have to remember some arcane code each time you reset/unplug your ReplayTV, and you don't lose the functionality of one button on your remote to reprogram it to be a 30-sec
  • by icemax ( 565022 ) <matthew_d_stoneNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:03PM (#6162875) Homepage
    I just bought a ReplayTV 5040 from SonicBlue.com with lifetime subscription w/ those features as selling points. When those features are removed, can I sue for false advertising?
    • No, because they're not being removed from your old unit, only from the new units that D&M will release.
    • by The Only Druid ( 587299 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:15PM (#6163020)
      Its my understanding that its the future hardware that wont have the features. If your unit, that you already have at your house, has that feature, i'm not sure they're planning on removing it.

      That said, I'm not at all positive. ReplayTV has in the past removed features via firmware updates (which are forced on the user without their notice), so they could do a firmware-update that removes these features. Of course, at that point, it sounds like there'll be hacks out rather quickly.

      As for suing, you'd have to be careful: the advertising materials likely make no claim that these features will exist through the lifetime of the product. If the features were there when you bought it, and you ran the hardware (including the end user agreement, which includes the statement that ReplayTV can update your hardware on their own), its not contradictory.
    • No, because your user agreement says:

      " At its discretion, ReplayTV may automatically add, modify, or disable any feature or functionality of the ReplayTV Service or on the ReplayTV unit (when your unit connects to our server or at other times with or without notice)."
      • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:44PM (#6163340)
        And THAT is why I will never own a Tivo or other device like it, I can never be sure that a week after I buy it all the things that made me buy the device will not be removed. With a normal consumer device it has a set featureset, I guess if I want a PVR it will have to be a home rolled one based on open data. Yes I realize how great things like season pass are but I have no assurance that they will be there after I purchase it.
  • In related news: (Score:5, Informative)

    by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:03PM (#6162878)

    MythTV v.0.9 was released yesterday [mythtv.org]

    Works great on the 500mhz system I found in the trash a couple of months ago.

    Freevo [sourceforge.net] also works quite nicely.

    Ryan Fenton
    • I just built a new system, and I'm looking for something to do with my old p3-500 w/384MB RAM. Which would you recomend if I'm using an ATI TV-Wonder VE as the video input?
    • Perhaps I'm missing something, but it appears to me that both of the projects cannot handle a fairly basic function - changing the channels of my cable box to record something. Seems like that feature is a wee bit more important than some of the other wonderful things like grabbing weather maps :)

      If the can do this, it sure is hidden from the documentation.
  • Slogan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:03PM (#6162879) Homepage
    Or maybe their new slogan should be "Trying Not To Go Bankrupt a Third Time!".

    Those features got them sued into oblivion. They'll get anyone sued into oblivion frankly, because the media companies won't abide it, and you're going to have a hard time convincing a judge that it's not a copyright violation to share shows.

    Removing the commercial skip bit is lame, since there are VCRs that do this already and they've never been attacked. But D&M is obviously hoping to get friendlier with the media companies, and this is another thing they hate.

    That said, as best I can tell they just removed the two features that made Replay preferable to TiVo... and the rest of their software is inferior. So I don't quite get where they hope to position the brand at.
    • Re:Slogan (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aborchers ( 471342 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:16PM (#6163028) Homepage Journal

      and you're going to have a hard time convincing a judge that it's not a copyright violation to share shows


      Because in most cases it is, perhaps?

      I am an avowed enemy of the copyright cartel because of their heavy-handed tactics and their meddling with public policy and the tech industry. Nonetheless, if it weren't for people infringing their coprights, they wouldn't be wasting their time and money in these pursuits.

      Every time I think about the fact that I don't have a legal DVD player for Linux or can't play my last (as in "most recent" as well as "final") major label CD purchase on my notebook computer, I want to pitch an entertainment industry copyright lawyer in the east river weighed down with the corpse of a "sharer"...
      • Re:Slogan (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:21PM (#6163085) Homepage
        Wow... someone who gets it!

        Heck, I have an 8000+ MP3 collection. And every single one of them is ripped and encoded off of a CD I own. Admittedly, I'm soon going to be adding some stuff downloaded from the Internet. From the band's site, for free, with their permission.

        Replay's show sharing feature was allegedly for sharing between Replay boxes only. Except that they didn't protect it at all and made the protocol trivial to spoof. It's called due diligence, and both of Replay's former owners failed at it. D&M looks like they're going to try harder (or, rather, avoid the issue entirely).
    • But D&M is obviously hoping to get friendlier with the media companies

      Under what motivation though? The media companies are not the ones buying the product, consumers are. Unless they are looking to catch a distribution deal with a cable company this does not make sense. The only other thing I can think of is they were offered some type of cross promotion deal or advertising space, in that case I do not think they would get as much a benefit for the required sacrifice as any DVR awareness campaign
      • The motivation is two-fold. Firstly, to try and convince the media companies to not sue them into oblivion (again!). Secondly, advertising on the PVR, merchandising, reselling of anonymous user data (*), and all the other methods that TiVo is already using in an effort to become profitable.

        As for "required sacrifice" -- uh... it's not getting them much right now. The number of Replay accounts is really very, very low. They've been a failure in the marketplace. If you ask most people what a DVR/PVR is, they
    • Removing the commercial skip bit is lame, since there are VCRs that do this already and they've never been attacked.

      While it's true that there are VCRs with the features, the fact is that the VCRs do it by doing a scan fast-forward through the commercials. It's been demonstrated in studies that people seeing commercials as they're fast-forwarding are affected by them just as much as if they saw them at normal speed. With the ReplayTV version, the advance happens all but instantaneously, so people aren't

  • Hacking potential? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SailFly ( 560133 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:04PM (#6162882) Homepage
    I hope there is still as much hacking potential as the original ReplayTV. There are some impressive projects going on out there!

    http://rtvpatch.sourceforge.net/

    • One should give Linux DVR [sourceforge.net] a try. It runs on computers equipped with one or more video capture cards. It can record and compress audio and video in real time, using recent codecs like DivX or Indeo 5 for example.
  • by illumin8 ( 148082 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:04PM (#6162884) Journal
    In other news... Ebay prices of the older 4000 series Replay units skyrocketd...
  • MythTV, anyone? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vengeance ( 46019 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:04PM (#6162885)
    I've been assembling a set of PVR boxes which I'm planning to use for distributed recording/playback around the house. I never *did* get a Tivo or ReplayTV, though I came close, and now the stars are aligning in another direction. Combine the slow withdrawal of features from the commercial boxes, with the new features becoming available in a package like MythTV, and for a true geek, the answer is obvious.

    In a year or two, possibly sooner, one could expect a CDROM-based distribution of Linux that makes a dedicated MythTV box out of any PC with capture and video-out.
    • MythTV has one big drawback for digital sat users there is a whole recompression stage with lassy compression. DirectTivo allows a completely lossless experience. Now granted they have a lot of issues about not supporting new features in the series 2 but when it all comes down to it for me at least quality is the number one concern.
  • by Brento ( 26177 ) * <brento@Nospam.brentozar.com> on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:04PM (#6162891) Homepage
    They couldn't beat Tivo in the DVR game with more features and a lower price.

    Now, Tivo's got the awesome Home Media Option out that lets you play MP3's on your Tivo, which Replay never had.

    So now, best case scenario, they offer less features as Tivo at the same price? Or maybe a little lower?

    What's the business model here again?
  • No Distinction (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BlueWaldo ( 651162 )
    I don't think ReplayTV is going to be able to take over TiVo's spot in the market unless they are able to offer somthing TiVo doesn't. I guess they are in a tight spot not wanting to get sued, but I think this is a move in the wring direction unless they like being second best.
  • by Andorion ( 526481 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:04PM (#6162896)
    However much I'd love to skip commercials, I can definitely see why advertisers and more importantly the networks are concerned (and you should be able to, too.) If fewer people watch the ads, the ads are worth less money - money which goes to producing shows. I'd be the first in line to sign a "Ray Romano gets paid too much" petition, but that's besides the point - without income from advertising (or with reduced income) I predict we'll either see show quality decline or cable costs go up. All it'll take is a few more years, when DVR comes built in every TV (or nearly everyone has a box.)

    ~Berj
    • This is one of the reasons that shows get canned. Farscape for example got canned off SciFi because the shows were costing more to produce than advertising revenue was coming in (at least according to the Nielson ratings for those time slots) and they couldn't come to an agreement. Which sucks. But since Farscape and 24 are the only shows I've watched this past season, that means I can get by with no tv, which is good :)
    • by KrispyKringle ( 672903 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:34PM (#6163226)
      The concern most people have here, though, is not that they have a right not to view the ads; such a right is quite basic, as it goes hand-in-hand with your right not to view TV. This is quite different from a right, however, to view TV without the ads; when you accept an essentially free gift from the networks (however crappy the programming may be) you accept it on their terms; they would be well within their rights to say, "Don't like ads? Don't watch TV." As the ads become more pervasive, this is essentially what they are saying.

      Rather, critics are bothered by the impact that a totally seperate industry can have on what sort of consumer electronics are even available to us with what capabilities. Were the TV networks to dislike this, they could force contractual agreements with consumers banning the use of these devices (purely hypothetically, of course). But instead they choose a less direct means of asserting their power, which translates to a means of, from a really sinister viewpoint, pacifying the natives.

      Rather than openly tell us who's decision it was, the networks use threats and bribes to induce the hardware manufacturers into denying consumers an otherwise profitable and desirable product. This echos far too similarly to the practice of the RIAA of suing the pants off anyone who manufactures software or hardware that appears to threaten them ("Hey, baby, you don't need to sue me to get my pants off...") regardless of significant legitimate use.

      This direction-through-indirection is merely annoying at best, but really a terrifying over-stepping of commercial bounds at worst. The government, who supposedly represents us all, is entrusted with the rights to deny us harmful or dangerous products. We trust that such an action is in our best interest, and that the reasons for such an action are the reasons stated up front--no underhanded manipulation is ever acceptible in a democracy--but we have given no such trust to any corporation. When a corporation who's business is televised entertainment, no less, makes for us a decision on what hardware is good and what is bad, it oversteps its commercial bounds.

    • by Otisserie ( 618411 ) <`risaac' `at' `deadletter.com'> on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:39PM (#6163290) Homepage
      Bullshit. TV and advertisers will adjust. One, advertisers may start making better commercials that people want to watch. Two, networks can reduce the costs of shows by, for example, paying stars less. The cast of Friends makes $1 million each per episode because NBC is willing to pay it. If no network was willing to pay that price, then you can bet your ass that Matt LeBlanc would take what they offered rather than go back to waiting tables.

      The networks are just trying to preserve the status quo at all costs. They are welcome to try, but they shouldn't have any help from Congress or the courts.
    • VCR? (Score:5, Funny)

      by siskbc ( 598067 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:44PM (#6163341) Homepage
      They said that when the VCR came out, that TV would be dead within two years. So in 1986, I stopped watching TV, since the two years had elapsed by then, and figured why wait until the screen faded to black since that would be really sad.

      So for the last 17 years, I didn't watch TV until someone told me this year, hey, TV never died, it was there all along. I was really happy, and I watched some really great shows like Jackass, but now you fuckers are telling me this TiVo shit is going to kill TV again! Fuck!

      Well, I'm not waiting around for the end. I'm giving up TV. I just think it's shitty that people are always talking about some box killing broadcast TV. I'm gonna break all those fucking boxes.

    • If fewer people watch the ads, the ads are worth less money - money which goes to producing shows.

      Well, let's see. Back when TV started, there was about 1 commercial per show. Now, 3/4 of the show is just dozens of commercials. Gee, sounds like ads have been becomming worth less and less money for a long time now.

      If you want someone to blame it on, look at the networks, and the makers of the commercials themselves. I'm not about to watch commercials for 10 minutes straight, I'm not going to watch for

    • by Onan The Librarian ( 126666 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @03:28PM (#6163847)
      I'm still astonished at the number of people who believe that television exists in order to provide programs. Television exists solely for the purpose of providing another advertising medium, for everything from footwear to politicians. The quality of programming is quite secondary to the networks first consideration: advertising dollars. They don't utilize those dollars to create "better TV programs", there's no such thing. The shows exist only to sucker viewers into watching the advertisements, and although you can say, "Oh, I always mute the commercials", the visuals are still effective at capturing attention (often far more so than the programs). It's also worth noting that television advertising works on the same basis as email spam: sure, YOU don't respond to those Nike and Coke ads, but someone sure as hell does, and the take from even a tiny percentage of viewers is significant enough to warrant the continued domination of television by its advertisers. Btw, in his book "Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television" Jerry Mander notes that the more heavily a product is advertised the less there is an actual need for it. So while you never see an advertisement for whole wheat or organic farming you'll see plenty for soft drinks, antiperspirants, and yes, even automobiles and beer. You might like that stuff but you don't really NEED it. That is known up front in the advertising industry, so they must continue to blare their wares, else in a very short time you will forget about their product and discover that you simply don't need it.
      As an aside, I was told by a former jingles writer for the J. Walter Thompson Agency that he once conferred with representatives for a major brewing company here in the US. The reps told him they were targeting what they termed the "reparative drinker", i.e., the 30% of American drinkers who consume 60% of their product. These are the people who don't have a babe girlfriend, a fast cool car, or any talent for sports. But the advertisers know that their job is to convince those people that if they just drink their beer then at least they'll FEEL like they got the babe, the car, and the talent. In short, drinking their beer "repaired" those deficincies, and it's the advertiser's work to convince those people to keep drinking, as opposed to actually doing something to improve their real lives.
      As a last comment, I've lost track of the number of friends who tell me about their attention-deficit out-of-control kids, and then tell me that "All those kids want to do is watch TV". What those kids will really remember is the ads. Makes me wonder what Hitler might have accomplished with television...
  • I should think that after putting themselves in a potentially bad marketing position in the first place, the last thing they should do is go with a slogan like "Costs more, less useful." It is respectable however that they should be so honest about their product.

    But all seriousness aside, I vaguely remember an article posted on slashdot about a company named Enron that boasted of product features which a product didn't have. This could be construed as a tactic to drive up D&M holding's stock prices, as

  • I guess I bought mine at the right time ...

    Just before they raised the fees and before they wrecked the product ....

    Hmmm ... cant wait to see what I can fetch on ebay for mine ....
  • earlier, companies used to make devices which will enable users to do things they wanted. now they are providing "upgrade" which will take away those features. does anyone know why the economy is so bad?
  • And how do they think they're going to have any market share?

    This reminds me of Sony's inability to select feature sets for consumer electronics that make sense. One normally ADDs features as one goes up the line, not (seemingly) randomly have some and not others.

    Litigation vs No Market Share -- sure seems like an unpleasant set of choices to me.

    Keep those free PVR reviews coming! Do we need an 'open' source of TV listings?

    -- Multics

  • by stanmann ( 602645 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:07PM (#6162929) Journal
    Doesn't automagically skip comercials doesn't mean you can't do a 15/30 second skip or jump forward. Just means that the box won't have the current feature which autodetects and skips commercials. Obviously, a compromise solution, but not earthshattering or skybreaking.
    • 40 second commercials.

      Actually PVRs make a lot of stuff possible with commercials that wasn't possible before, if only someone creative enough would come along and exploit the opportunities. It could be as much a boon to advertisers as it is a bane. The fact that no one actually has done anything indicates just how creativity-starved the media companies really are.

  • ...from gaining useful technology. There is something seriously wrong with the interactions of corporations between themselves and then that impact refected onto society...
    Perhaps a lack of a personality, ethics, independent goals, etc. Perhaps a rethink of the legal fictions would be in order.
  • by ites ( 600337 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:08PM (#6162947) Journal
    Companies with content simply can't bring themselves to create decent media tools. Look at Sony, handicapping themselves because they own Columbia records, while Apple do the right thing by the consumer, digitizing every media format they can.

    It just goes to show how the "synergy" arguments of the 1990's are actually complete bullshit.

  • by joel8x ( 324102 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:10PM (#6162975) Homepage
    The internet sharing feature was crappy because it was slow and there was too much work involved to get something that you can get from Bit Torrent faster. The automatic commercial skip was flaky (I turned it off right away anyway) because you always ended up with snippets of show missing. As long as I have my 30 second skip button on my remote than I'm happy.
  • ReplayTV DVR to Remove Users

    In other news, TiVo marketshare way, way up! :)

    As Bugs Bunny would say, "What a buncha maroons."
  • I remove their access to my credit card.

    And I tell my friends...

    And they tell their friends....

    And so on and so on... ...oh wait... We don't live in the states... ...damn... I got to stop reading ./ it's bad for my blood pressure
  • TV listings. (Score:3, Informative)

    by jhill ( 446614 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:13PM (#6163000) Homepage
    Someone mentioned something about an "open source" TV listings. For these free PVRs that are coming out, how/where do you get your TV listings from? Or do you just use the old school VCR method of plugging in a time/channel and get just that showing. As compared to a Tivo where you can say grab all these shows/season pass manager, etc.
    • Re:TV listings. (Score:2, Informative)

      by andrewdm ( 168107 )
      xmltv for open source listings. Read about it here [sourceforge.net].

      Works with the front end of your choice (a few suggestions)

      Linux:
      MythTV [mythtv.org].
      Freevo [sourceforge.net].

      Windows:
      SageTV [freytechnologies.com].
      MyHTPC [myhtpc.net].

      Also, LOTS of good reading at the Home Theater Forums [avsforum.com] (the Linux forum is embedded under that link).

      All of the above systems allow you to use on-screen listings, search for programs by schedule, name, category, etc. They learn favorites and do everything tivo does, best I've been able to tell.

      I've been a Tivo user for a year and a half now. Could
  • by kavau ( 554682 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:16PM (#6163033) Homepage
    How did the older Replay units manage to automatically skip commercials? Off the top of my head, I can think only of two solutions: 1) the broadcaster identifies the beginning and end of commercials with a hidden signal; or 2) the unit is preprogrammed with start and end times of commercial breaks.

    Regarding case 1, why would the broadcaster do that? Since they are interested in everyone watching the commercials, they would hurt themselves by broadcasting such a signal.

    In case 2, the broadcaster could simply circumvent the automatic skipping mechanism by semi-randomly shifting the commercial times, or by varying the length of commercial breaks.

    Probably it's case 3, namely the one I didn't think of. Is anyone in the know?

    • If pay close attention to the TV, you'll notice that there is brief black screen between the cut out from the show and the commercial. Most systems pick those up.

      Your other option is too look at the code in MythTV and see how that does it. Now if only there was an option to cut out the useless banter in Jeopardy I would be in heaven.
    • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @03:48PM (#6164048)
      In case 2, the broadcaster could simply circumvent the automatic skipping mechanism by semi-randomly shifting the commercial times, or by varying the length of commercial breaks.

      No, they couldn't. At least not with today's current ad model.

      The commercials are not simply put in randomly. There is a very strict heiarchy of what commercials go where in the sequence. Picture a 30 min TV show. Usually, 3 commercial blocks. Just before the show, midway through, and end. The order of the commercials is actually quite important as regards audience retention. i.e. you're more likely to remember a product in a commercial in slot A than slot C. And yes...advertisers DO track that stuff, and are charged accordingly. Better placement = more $$ to air that commercial.

      Also, a TV show is built around commercial breaks at specified minutes. Random insertion or different length breaks would destroy the flow of the show.

      Finally, not all the commercials come from the same source. During a network show, some come from network HQ (See the new Fords!) and some come from the local broadcaster (Lo lo prices at Fred's Friendly Ford Farm out on Route 8!). No way to sync those two if commercial breaks are not preplanned.
  • by chia_monkey ( 593501 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:17PM (#6163043) Journal
    An interesting point to consider with this whole ordeal. For us Slashdotters, we're rambling on about features and cracks. By the time this thing gets out to Circuit City with the stripped features, the common masses will have no idea they've been "robbed". They'll just go with the marketing that they are fed. "As good as TiVo" or "better than your VCR". For us geeks, this is news. For the average consumer (who STILL doesn't get the joys of TiVo), they won't even notice.
  • Customer pressure? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by st0rmshad0w ( 412661 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:17PM (#6163048)
    Popular opinion (here at least) is that customer pressure will force features back into crippled devices. Can anyone actually find a case where this has happened?

    And whatever happened with the commercial skipping features that briefly appeared on VHS units a few years back?
    • Popular opinion (here at least) is that customer pressure will force features back into crippled devices. Can anyone actually find a case where this has happened?

      There was the DVD vs. DivX battle a couple years ago - DivX was crippled, compared to DVD, because the silly box had to "phone home" whenever you viewed a movie. Most people believe that, when they buy a movie, they have the right to watch it whenever they want without paying beyond the original purchase; so of course DivX flopped.

      Also, look

  • by btempleton ( 149110 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:27PM (#6163157) Homepage
    Many people have proposed doing DVRs with old standard PCs using ideally, open source software. Sounds great, more flexible, everything wonderful.

    Until you look at the power. Check how much more power that always-on PC takes than a standalone box. Here in California, for example, every watt of 24/7 power costs $1.13 per year or more. So a 200 watt PC costs over $200 per year to run, $150 more than say, a 50 watt standalone device. Not to mention the damage to the environment.

    In other words, you can pay for the standalone device pretty quickly, even if you had a "free" PC just stting around.

    Now you could fix this problem if you could arrange for the PC to go into a sleep mode when it doesn't have anything to do, at the cost of waiting a little longer to come up when you turn it on to watch something with the remote. This requires the PC have in it a sleep mode with a clock which allows you to say, "Wake up in 3 hours". How many have this? How many have coded for it.

    The standalone device can also do this easily.

    And you lose the "always recording something to spare disk space" feature that people love about the Tivo.

  • by DigitalSorceress ( 156609 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:28PM (#6163164)
    I own two ReplayTVs - older model 3000 units. These are dinosaurs in the PVR world - they use a 56K modem to dial up for their program listings and only have a 30 second skip button. No auto-skip, and they can't even share with each other.

    As far as I can tell, the older units like mine are pretty much at the end of their software cycle -the only updates will be program guide info and new phone numbers at this point.

    A friend of mine owns some of the new units (4000's I think) and they're pretty cool - the commercial skip and the sharing/playing from room-to-room are features that I've drooled over more than once. I would have gone out and replaced my current units with some like hers, but she mentioned about how they keep updating the software with "improvements" that only seem to get buggier and buggier as they go. She worries that the next round of "improvements" will turn the commercial skip and sharing off, or might change the way guaranteed vs non-guaranteed recording will be handled.

    After (vicariously) going through the ups and downs of buggy updates and worries about what they will break this week, I decided that as nice as all those new features might be, the ReplayTV people are too likely to mess stuff up.

    I've decided that I'll do whatever I can to keep my two "dinosaurs" running as long as possible. I love the possibilities the new technology could bring, but the skittishness of the ReplayTV people (this isn't the first time there's been talk about commercial skip being removed) makes me uncomfortable about slapping a large sum of cash down on the counter at my local A/V store.

    If I were to upgrade, it would be to get the very features the new management wants to delete. No thanks.
  • by Babbster ( 107076 ) <aaronbabbNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:29PM (#6163181) Homepage
    WITH Commercial Advance. For the next three days, apparently they are closing out factory-renewed 40-hour ReplayTV 5040 units WITH Commercial Advance. Not only that, but the site also says that these units are coming with lifetime service. The total cost is $330(!!). You can get them at SONICblue [sonicblue.com]. I'm not in the market since I'm still happy with my "ancient" ReplayTV and just can't justify buying a new one, but it's the best PVR deal I've seen for a factory renewed unit (as opposed to a used unit bought privately).
  • by R-2-RO ( 766 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:36PM (#6163264) Homepage Journal
    So if I get up to go to the bathroom, or when I start flipping channels during commercials, I'm stealing?

    Or is it the automagic skipping that has folks upset? When I see a commercial, I automatically skip it anyway.. so boom there. Sux for me. I'm a crook!
  • Thoughts (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stinky wizzleteats ( 552063 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @03:02PM (#6163542) Homepage Journal

    I've had a TiVo for some time now, and, like other PVR owners, I've really become a fanatic.

    I love fast forwarding during commercials, but I've noticed that I am generally inconsistent in doing so. If the commercial is entertaining enough, I'll forget to fast forward. Inevitably, however, I hit a used car ad or something like that which will remind me that I don't have to watch that tripe. To me, this window of opportunity on the part of advertisers is fair game. If they can make an ad so that it will not annoy me, then they'll get a viewer. (Hell, I've even rewinded particularly cool ads to deliberately look at them) I can see the fairness, therefore, in requiring human decision to fast forward or skip the ad.

    Advertisers will have to worry about the quality of their content (hear that, you scum sucking telephone company bastards!?), and they will need to worry about the quality of other ads played nearby in their time slot. If your funny beer ad comes after Crazy Joe's backyard 0% financing pickup truck extravanganza, then you are going to be a high speed blur on my TV set. Repetition will also become meaningless, as I will just zap through the five hundred thousanth iteration of your Windows training CD ad.

    If you are an advertiser and this annoys you, remember this. Before TiVo I simply didn't watch TV. I am watching reruns of old shows now because I couldn't deal with ads in realtime. Persuading me not to push the fast-foward button is your only chance of selling me something. It's either that or the power switch.

  • TIVO Software (Score:3, Informative)

    by slewfo0t ( 679988 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @03:16PM (#6163711) Homepage
    Why would you want to pay for a monthly subscription to TIVO anyway when there a many FREE services that only require you to make a one time purchase... or no purchase at all...

    Windows Based
    Snapstream PVR [snapstream.com]
    ShowShifter [showshifter.com]

    Linux Based
    Myth TV [mythtv.org]
    Linux PVR Depot" [forceconstant.com]

    I have built my own PVR from scratch and the cost was comparable with a TIVO. Those packages offer many of the same features found in TIVO and ReplayTV... Plus, you can integrate them very easily into a home automation system or home network.

    - Slew -
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @03:45PM (#6164006)
    One feature I think would be cool would be a "Capture Commercial" feature, where the box would monitor a channel and capture all commercials over a 24 hour period... so you could collect commercials you really liked. or, you could have it capture commercials with certain words in them (which it would recognize from the CC signal).

    I'm actually interested in seeing commercials, just not during a show I'm watching. Let me watch them at my leisure. Perhaps a box could have commercial splitting that would let you skip all commercials for a recording, but then save them separately for the end so you could skip through ones you did not like like chapters on a DVD?

    If you don't think there's a market for that, just look at how adcritic.com had to become a pay service.
    • by Torqued ( 91619 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @04:20PM (#6164429) Journal
      It's not my fault that the delivery model for television advertising is lagging behind the technology. Why should I waste my time watching commercials that do not apply to me or that I have no interest in seeing? Now.. there are a few commercials that I will watch - even on the Tivo -- Commercials for TV shows that I am interested in, funny commercials, commercials for other sci-fi shows, commercials for motorcycle stuff, some commercials for home remodeling/etc.

      I watch *more* television shows/programs in *less* time than I watched before.

      By skipping commercials, I can watch 2 "1-hour" shows in 1.5 hours. Watching 10 "hours" of TV programming can be done in 7.5 hours with Tivo. I do a lot of things that interest me with an "extra" 2.5 hours of time! To me, my time is more valuable than whatever some advertiser is paying for their 30-second slot. People that waste my time piss me off!

      If I want to go out to dinner, go to a movie, or go out of town, I don't have to worry about taping and/or missing any of the shows I *really* want to watch - this is especially handy on weekend nights.

      Yes.. I skip commercials.. BUT, I would say that I have absolutely no interest in > 90% of the commercials being shown:

      -I'm not looking to buy a new car
      -I'm not looking to buy a new PC - "Dude! I'm NOT getting a Dell!
      -I don't eat fast food
      -I'm a guy and don't need make-up, feminine hygiene products, nor do I want to have an "organic experience" when washing my hair
      -I am not looking to refinance a house
      -I don't watch Oprah, Dr. Phil, or any of those other mindless talk shows.
      -I don't care about commercials for other shows tha I have absolutely no interest in - I don't care what time they come on nor do I want to see whatever stupid teaser you're going to put in the commercial
      -I'm 33 years old - I don't need senior citizen "supplemental insurance" and/or home delivery of drugs, etc. ...

      Have I left anything out?

      What I would like to see is more targeted advertising that gives me information that I really want to see. Have the commercials downloaded to the Tivo and insert them dynamically into the program at the commercial breaks. Set aside an "hour" worth of disk space and fill it with 120 30-second commercials that can be inserted dynamically into my shows. Maybe embed a signal in the broadcast that would indicate the start of the commercial break and how long it is to run.. Let me "rate" the commercials like I can "rate" programs on the Tivo - 1,2, or 3 thumbs-up or thumbs-down and give me 80% of the commercials that I have said I want to receive and 20% of commercials that you think I would want to receive based on the ratings of my tv programs and commericals.

      Just like with the TV shows, give me something that I want to watch and I will watch it.
  • by Archfeld ( 6757 ) * <treboreel@live.com> on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @04:05PM (#6164257) Journal
    when they pry my gun from my cold dead hands...

    If they come for me, you ALL will here about it :)
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) * on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @04:08PM (#6164286) Homepage Journal
    I think PVRs are a type of application that will outshine even Operating Systems, in showing just how superior Free Software can be, relative to proprietary software.

    I still use my Tivo, but even before the day I bought it, I knew that Tivo's time was running out. Tivo tries to be a good product, but even from the beginning, it was explicitly clear that being the best it could be, was not quite the goal. They had "partners." They were at risk from incurring the wrath of advertisers and TV networks. So a balance had to be struck. I am glad that the balance was so far in my favor, and I have enjoyed my Tivo very much. But reminders of the compromise have always been present (don't get me started). And now it is clear that the situation with ReplayTV is no different.

    Free Software is accountable to only one party: whoever uses it. Except for the finite supply of developer labor, there is no limit to how good it can be for the user. There is no party who will influence it toward being less good or force it to be less functional than what people want. There is no compromise, and there is no attempt to serve two masters.

    If MythTV and Freevo don't already kick Tivo's and ReplayTV's asses yet, they inevitably will in the future. I don't know if the Tivos and Replays and Microsofts will still be around in this market a few years from now, but I do know that if they survive, it will be as crippled embarrassing parodies of the state of the art.

  • Luckily.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @04:36PM (#6164600) Homepage
    My homebuilt PVR continues to work great! I can skip commericals, view content on every computer in the house, and I don't have to pay a monthy fee.
  • Convergence, people, convergence. (Closes TV show that he has running in another window.)

    All of these boxes are just crippled computers. With the prices on a real computer nosediving - and all signs indicating they will keep doing so - the only thing these devices have going for them is "mindshare" married to consumer apathy or ignorance.

    Now, as I close my TV show, I notice that I'm running windows, which goes to show you can go a long way with an overpriced, underpowered product and some mindshare (though I got windows free from school). However, I don't think either of these devices is going to be able to successfully compete with the TV enabled home PC, ten or even five years in the future.
  • by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @05:37PM (#6165201)
    Honestly, what's out there that's really worth all this fuss? Or, extended to the rest of mass media, what's really out there that's worth all this hullabaloo? The number of movies worth watching that came out in the last 5 years can be counted on one hand. The number of new bands worth listening to come out in the same time is zero. The only TV worth watching was Babylon 5, and that's on DVD. Just put the remote down and walk away. Go code. Go build. Go play. Go vote. Go live your life instead of letting someone else do it vicariously for you. Sheez!
  • by UserChrisCanter4 ( 464072 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @06:01PM (#6165432)
    I've had my 5040 for about 6 months now. I positively love the thing, and we purchased over TiVO because of Network compatability (at the time, without purchasing add-on parts).

    It seems that my commercial skip function has become less and less effective over time. Replay's fine print says that it's 90% effective, and I presume it's looking for a particular time sequence in blank space or something to that effect. I'm not sure if the networks have caught on to what the Replay is doing, but it seems that lately my commercial skipping is about 30% effective. Certain shows will always be able to skip commercials, while others (those that air on Cartoon Network, for example), are almost guaranteed to be unskippable. It doesn't bother me; a few clicks of the 30-second skip button work just as well, and I occasionally catch glimpses of commercials I want to see (and go back to them).

    Also, check out DVArchive on sourceforge. Great multi-platform program that masquerades as another ReplayTV on the network. Grab one of those $300 w/ service included 5040s from Sonicblue, throw some extra drives (I've seen stuff going for $0.75/GB or lower) in a computer, and go to town with your several hundred hour Replay without even voiding a warranty.

I am here by the will of the people and I won't leave until I get my raincoat back. - a slogan of the anarchists in Richard Kadrey's "Metrophage"

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