Archives For DVR

There goes the Hopper: Dish agrees to limit ad skipping in Disney deal

Bringing tech to the corn fields of the Midwest, gadgeteer and cat lover Adam Miarka contributes to Zatz Not Funny when the overlord allows. When not on ZNF, Adam posts pictures to and harasses the public from @adammiarka on Twitter.


Being a Kickstarter for the first generation Simple TV, I’ve always been interested in technologies that could disrupt traditional TV viewing. When the original Simple TV was announced back in 2012, it looked like something that could actually let me break from my current (TiVo) setup while lowering our monthly expenditures.The original Simple TV had one fatal flaw, a single tuner for recording.

Despite this limitation, I decided to back the project to get a feeling for how this new setup might work in our household. The idea of having a device that could basically capture any OTA or ClearQAM signals and then have it playback on a myriad of devices (web browser, iOS devices, Android devices, Roku) was very enticing. You only need to bring a hard drive to get the Simple TV party started! Continue Reading…


There was a time when we celebrated Verizon FiOS guide updates. But the IMG 1.9.5 release gives us little cause for joy. The updated guide has been rolling out since last year, but it just arrived here at Chez Silbey, and comments on the DSLReports forums show that the version release has been making its way across parts of New York State in the last few weeks as well.

Although there are some minor feature updates in the new interface, the one really noticeable difference is a new ad bar at the bottom of the guide screen. In my market, I see only a Verizon logo splashed across the page, but in other regions there are actual ads appearing, like the Disney banner shown above. The injection of ads was inevitable, but it’s still disappointing as it clutters up the display. More importantly, it’s irritating when the additional ads don’t come with any major feature improvements. Personally I’m not that excited about being able to turn off parental controls for a four-hour period of time. And while it’s nice that people with multiple DVRs can now schedule recordings on a different set-top in the house, that particular feature doesn’t apply to my one-TV home.

Verizon invested significant resources in UI development in the early years of FiOS TV. The company brought us cover art for on-demand titles, IP-based widgets (apps ahead of their time), and a “What’s Hot” recommendation list showing what other viewers in the region are watching. Since at least 2011, however, Verizon has fallen steadily behind many of its competitors, and the FiOS program guide is starting to look seriously outdated.

Fortunately, there’s cause for hope. Continue Reading…


The cord cutting options are heating up, with Tablo poised to ship in February. I spent some quality time at the Digital Experience with CEO Grant Hall going over their offering… that consists of both two- and four-tuner configurations to pull in luscious broadcast video via antenna, without going through a cable company. Like Simple TV, the headless Tablo box sits on your home network to stream live and DVR-ed content to various local and remote endpoints. However, unlike Simple, Tablo integrates dual band 802.11n wireless capabilities for more flexible placement – your network cable location may not always be the best position for an antenna.

Tablo will ship with 1GB of local storage, which is used for caching guide and meta data, including box art and the like. By keeping this content local, Tablo’s iOS, Android, and Mac HTML5 apps are far more sprightly than you’d imagine. Also, in terms of DVR storage, Tablo is another BYO solution. There are pros and cons to this approach. While it’s far more flexible in terms of choosing your own capacity (at a variety of price points), it also results in more clutter and perhaps requires a more educated consumer to get going. However, the tech savvy folks I imagine will gravitate to Tablo won’t be faced with the same conceptual challenges Channel Master might with the DVR+ audience.


Tablo’s two-tuner model is now available for pre-order at $220, with a four-tuner model expected at $270. Like Simple TV and TiVo, but unlike DVR+, Tablo requires a service fee for guide data (14 days of Tribune). While you could operate Tablo as a very basic time-based recording device, most will prefer the richer and more full featured capabilities one gets for $50/yr. We’re quite looking forward to checking this one out in the coming weeks.


While DISH’s CES press conference remains 24 hours away, the missing pieces have somewhat clarified since we first began tracking a refreshed DISH Hopper and “Super Joey” — which passed through the FCC in November. Of course, the DISH Hopper (with Sling) is the award winning satellite TV DVR, that acts as a hub to Joey extenders. And DISH’s 2014 show message is all about expanding those whole-home Joey capabilities. From recent press outreach:

DISH will be showing new ways for viewers to enjoy their favorite channels with the award-winning Hopper HD DVR, to address family channel conflict, cabling issues, and to control clutter. Continue Reading…


Right on schedule, second generation Simple.TV network tuner pre-orders have begun shipping.

To improve upon the first gen, Simple.TV partnered with Silicon Dust to produce a smaller, yet more more powerful dual tuning unit to better leverage those high definition over-the-air broadcasts. For maximum flexibity, but a possibly higher geek quotient, SimpleTV remains hard driveless and headless – bring your own external storage and display technology. And speaking of those endpoints, live or recorded content can be viewed via refreshed web, iOS, and Android experiences. Further, at CES next month, we expect to see SimpleTV’s incoming Roku channel updates and a new Ouya client. While you can run the new SimpleTV ($250) without “Premiere” service, we expect most would pull the trigger to enable its full capabilities, including season pass recording and remote access. And the plot thickens in 2014 as we anticipate a new tier of service to include cloud storage, à la Boxee.

We’ve been cranking away on a SimpleTV review the last couple months and expect to share our (positive) experiences soon, once we’ve had some quality time with the new Android app… as the software updates equally improve the first gen hardware experience. And if Aereo ever launches in DC, we’ll run a comparison.

Update: It appears there’s been some last minute delay. While the Simple.TV site began accepting orders December 26th, product won’t actually ship until January and NewEgg pre-orders have been pushed from December to January 17th (but units are $50 off). Simple TV’s PR firm hasn’t yet responded to our inquiry.

We’ve been tracking Channel Master‘s moves since new digital video recorder hardware first surfaced in FCC documents last summer. They’ve clearly used the intervening months wisely to fine tune both the product experience and marketing strategy as the originally documented pair of K77 set-tops has been whittled down to the single and more memorable DVR+ ($250). And, as you probably guessed from the video above, I do indeed have product on hand… and my initial impressions are quite positive.

The first thing you notice about the dual-tuner, over-the-air DVR+, developed by EchoStar to Channel Master’s specifications, is its amazingly slim form factor. Weeks in, I’m still in awe of the hardware that has similar dimensions to a legal pad or slim notebook. It’s both physically solid and quite handsome… as is the matching remote.


Of course, to hit such slim proportions, compromises had to be made. And we assume the absence of analog inputs is the result. Related, the Channel Master DVR+ ships with a mere 16GB of flash storage, good for 2 hours of HD recording and the ability to pause live television for up to 15 minutes. Having said that, I appreciate Channel Master’s modular approach with DVR+ — buy what you need, when you need it (or as funds permit). For example, without an Internet connection, the DVR+ is capable of receiving a modest amount of guide data over the air and software updates can be performed manually via USB. But add Internet, via integrated Ethernet jack or $40 WiFi adapter, and more comprehensive guide data (powered by Rovi) extends to 14 days with software updates coming over the ‘net. Add USB storage to increase your recording capacity, and also receive a larger 1 hour buffer to pause and rewind live television. As a dual tuner DVR, the hardware is capable of recording up to two high definition, over-the-air broadcasts via antenna with the ability to simultaneously watch previously recorded programming. And all of that sips a miserly 9.7 watts. In fact, Channel Master intends to apply for Energy Star 3 or 4 certification.

On the software front, Channel Master has seemed to strike the right balance between form and function – the guide looks sharp, with well implemented transparency. And, functionaly, novices can get up and running with minimal fuss while there are more advanced features (like padding) for those willing to dig deeper. If I had to ding any aspect of the presentation, I’d say the networking settings and configuration could be tightened up. The plus sign in DVR+ refers to its online capabilities and those who run it connected to the Internet will have access to over-the-top app content. At launch, we’re looking solely at Vudu video on demand. But Channel Master tells me they have additional deals in place and development work will commence shortly… and I sure hope YouTube and Netflix are on the 2014 roadmap. Interestingly, Channel Master has decided to implement online content within the guide versus a dedicated app area. For example, Vudu resides at “channel” 200 and others will come in above it, with plans to map a remote button to the 200s for efficient access.

While we frequently discuss “cord cutters”, the fact is that there are something around 15 million antenna-only households… many of whom are price sensitive and still fumble around with VCRs. This is the market Channel Master is prioritizing with DVR+ and the company’s first goal is a rock solid over-the-air digital recorder, with additional online content to follow – to expand its utility and potential audience. Further, unlike a TiVo, the DVR+ does not require a service fee (or Internet connection) and that aforementioned modular approach makes for a flexible solution. Pre-orders begin today, for January shipment, and I’ll be taking questions below.


Originally scoped out last summer via FCC docs, it seems safe to assume that the Echostar-produced Channel Master OTA DVR nears release given web store references uncovered by AVS Forum members.

While the July government filing referred to a pair of units, at this point we only see reference to a single fee-free $250 dual-tuning model – alternately referred to as the CM-7500 and DVR+… that may require external storage for DVR capabilities given the 500GB ($70), 1TB ($95) & 3TB ($125) Seagate hard drive accessories (in addition to a $40 wireless option). Sadly, the product page (which has been pulled), didn’t include glamour shots or detail on which over-the-top Internet services might be included. Continue Reading…