I HAVE BEEN TOLD I DESERVE
“A FULL LIFE THAT ISN’T JUST ABOUT FIGHTING FOR THINGS”

I have one of the first legit TiVos in the country, delivered the Sunday before its official release last Monday. It’s fantastic, and a million times better than the PVR that Rogers begrudgingly allowed me to test a few years ago. I see why Americans love it, though I’m not at all sure why so many subscribers are abandoning ship.

But:

  • The wifi does not work. You must use only a certain kind of wifi adapter. Your network must use no password or a WEP password. (Now, what kind of password? Alphabetic or hexadecimal? What length of characters?) And it still won’t work, perpetually giving error N06. I have done extensive searching on the topic (I am reasonably proficient with searching). I’ve tried everything. I know for a fact that nobody has a fix for this problem. Fortunately, I was not charged for the wifi adapter. Oops: I typed in the MAC address incorrectly. It works now, but I have not tried and will not again try to get password protection to work, as that is clearly a lost cause.

  • It is beyond excruciating to enter any text at all into this device. No menus, including text-entry menus, allow you to roll from the end of one dimension back to the start. To go from the bottom of a menu to the top, you must arrow-key back through every intervening step (or, in some cases, move by screenfuls at a time).

  • There desperately needs to be an Exit key. There are many occasions when you’re somewhere arse-deep in menus and you just want to go back to the show you were watching. You could press the Live TV button if you had been watching live TV, but if you were watching a recording, there is no simple way to get back to it apart from laboriously locating the exact episode (many menu layers deep) and selecting Resume.

    I find this in rather stark contrast to many setup screens, which have a reassuring option along the lines of “Don’t do anything” that is auto-selected if you simply go back a screen. I want a simple one-key method not to do anything. (Isn’t it obvious that pressing the Tivo button while you’re on the main menu screen should turn the menus off? Shouldn’t it be a toggle?)

  • You can record TV shows with audio description (never mentioned by name or synonym in the manual), but you cannot selectively do that. You’re recording main audio all the time or SAP all the time. You do not want the latter case, because it gives you an unpredictable mix of description, scratchy monaural main audio, French, Spanish, a radio reading service, a radio station, static, or silence. It goes without saying that the TiVo is knowingly inaccessible to a blind person. (Version 1.0 was not knowingly inaccessible. Series 2 DT TiVos knowingly are.)

  • The ITC Franklin Gothic onscreen typography is set too close and is so hard to read that I unintentionally skip over important error messages. Type on the onscreen program guide is almost completely unreadable in either of the two available designs. (The Times/Helvetica Condensed typography of the user manual is second-rate, too. But the out-of-box experience is as good as anything non-Apple will get.)

    The extended info display on any live TV program is hard to read, and the current time is almost completely hidden. But the corporate TV Guide logo glows red in your face like a star about to go nova.

  • When TiVo phones home (literally so, since the wifi doesn’t work), it’s actually spending most of its time loading advertisements and other bullshit, not the EPG for upcoming shows, which takes maybe two minutes to load in compressed XML.

  • You can include certain genres in a wishlist search but not exclude them. There is no way to record every program featuring pint-sized ginger Jewboy Seth Green that isn’t Family Guy.

  • It’s ambiguous whether or not a wishlist search for a keyword containing punctuation will really work. The manual instructs using a space for such punctuation, leading to untrustworthy keywords like SIMMONS, J K.

  • You can season-pass first showings and also optionally repeats, but the system is too stupid to realize that the Saturday-night airing of Dirt is a repeat of the same first-run episode it had recorded on Friday night. There are different kinds of reruns; in TV licensing, rebroadcasting is typically allowed without limitation within a week of initial broadcast. So that could be a parameter right there.

  • Whenever this pops up and bites you, you think you should know it by now, but here it is one more time: A TiVo has two tuners, not three, meaning if it’s recording two shows simultaneously you have to watch one of them if you want to watch “live” TV at all.

  • Key layout on the remote is tricky.

    • The number keys require full visual attention to operate.

    • Volume and channel are decoupled from the (absurdly overlarge and central) pause and (tiny) play buttons. Easily half the time I do something wrong with pausing, playback, or fast-forwarding.

    • Rather impressively, in two of the three available speeds, the system takes human reaction time into account and backs you up a bit from the frame you saw that prompted you to cancel the fast speed in the first place. I’ve found it easy to forget about this feature or to overthink it even when I know it’s there. Apple-style, you should simply trust the fast-forward and rewind functions to work.

  • You can’t tell which side is up on the TiVo remote without looking. This has led to many seconds of rewinding a program I meant to fast-forward. (Scientific Atlanta remotes have this down cold.)

  • I really want to be able to remove unwanted items from the main menu, but it won’t let me.

  • You can enter a postal code so the system will find programming for your actual location, but, incredibly, to sign up for TiVo service on the Web site, you have to put your entire Canadian address into one line of the address field and enter a bogus address in Wyoming with a certain ZIP code in the other fields. How can you launch a service in a new country yet be unable to accept addresses from that country?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.12.16 17:17. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2007/12/16/tivo-irk/

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