DVR Fun

As we all knew, we may have 200 channels, but nothing is ever on. Actually, there ARE things on, but they are all broadcast at the same time. So our trusty ReplayTV 4080 wasn't cutting it for recording everything we needed.



We decided to sign up for Comcast's new DVR service. Its not so much a service as a new cable box with a hard drive and DVR software running on it. Comcast provided use with a Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000 box. The advantage of this over our Replay is that it has 2 built in digital cable tuners. We can record two programs at once, or watch one while recording the other.



Unfortunately the advantages over the replay stop there. The interface is rather clunky; the DVR functions are pretty much thrown on top of the standard digital cable interface. Recording a program is easy enough, but finding your recordings is a bit tough as all programs are listed in time order with no categorization or organization by show title. The box allows you record all shows with the same title, but you can't seem to restrict it to only record the Simpsons at 8PM on Sunday on Fox. You can only record every show found with the title "The Simpsons". Also, while I wasn't expecting a feature like Commercial Advance to skip commercials, there is no "quick skip" button either - you have to fast forward, VCR style, through commercials. There is no way to schedule recordings via the web, and you cannot share programs with other DVRs or computers.



About a day or two after connecting the Comcast DVR, my ReplayTV decided to teach me a lesson and died. Turns out the hard drive died. Naturally, it is out of warranty, so I decided to try and repair it myself.



The process was actually pretty simple. The HD inside is a standard Maxtor IDE hard disk. I removed it and hooked it up to a computer to run the Maxtor PowerDisk diagnostics. It failed the test and could not read the drive. I low-level formatted a new 120gb drive and booted into Windows. I used RTV_Patch to copy a ReplayTV drive image onto the new disk, reconnected the disk back into the ReplayTV, and my former 80 hour model was now a 120 hour model.