Thursday, November 8, 2007

Meet the Magnavox H2080MW8, a new hard disk DVD recorder making a stealth viral apperance at Walmart

A new DVD recorder with an 80gb hard disk has quietly shown up on some Walmart stores around the country and costs $200 and it is the Magnavox H2080MW8. Where to get more details? At this very exciting thread at AVSforum discussing the Magnavox H2080MW8. The discussion is currently seven pages long and growing.

While this obviously has a single tuner, the fact that it has NTSC, ATSC and QAM tuners make it an interesting alternative for people who may not want to pay $10 to $13 per month to rent a DVR. This $200 model is roughly the price equivalent of 15 months of DVR rental fees. Of course you don't get the more "advanced" features of the DVR, and you still need a cable box if you are using digital cable and you would have to program both the Magnavox and the cable box for non-clear digital channels.

Of course you could always use them together, especially if you use the DVR box to record high definition programming. Since HD programming eats up space like crazy, it wouldn't be a bad idea to use the Magnavox to record all the standard definition programs.

This is a very intersting option in my opinion because of the $200 starting price. If it starts at $200, it will likely start dropping, just like most electronics do.

Stay tuned by following the Magnavox H2080MW8 discussion at the AVSforum.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The first crash!

It took a while since I got this DVR box to get a crash, I almost forgot that these boxes actually crash. (In stark contrast to the Pace Vegas box that crashed every day when in use). This DCT 3416 I box has been running non-stop crash-free since I got it on September 20, 2007, a total of 43 days.

So what was the crash? The progress bar remained stuck on the screen, the video and picture continued with playback, and neither the buttons on the front of the box nor on the remote were responsive. After letting it be for a few minutes (giving it a chance to recover on its own), I pulled the plug. I had a feeling there might be a crash coming up because there was some performance sluggishness since yesterday, so I guess a healthy crash/reboot was in order to clean the pipes :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

First recording interrupted by EBS!

And we had our first recording interrupted by an overnight EBS (emergency broadcast system). The Motorola software does not handle EBS signals very efficiently. They basically stop the recording, show the EBS, and start a 2nd program for the remaining piece.

Given that these are dual-tuner recorders, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you can show the Emergency Broadcast Signal on the foreground tuner, and continue recording on the background tuner. Because no one can see the EBS on the background tuner!.

Reality check, Moto-Comcast, they built computers so we can use them, not to be paperweights. A very simple algorithm can do what I described above. It would take your programmers less than one hour to design, implement and test this.

Some common sense please Moto and Comcast! Thank you very much :-)

Monday, October 1, 2007

How much space do programs take on the hard disk?

This post will track how much space on average each program/channel takes. This will be given as a percentage of hard disk space occupied and calculated after deleting the program. These are rounded numbers and are intended as a ballpark estimate. They are not a scientific precision calculation :-)

  • This post will get updated with new and improved measurements over time! The channels are listed alphabetically to make it easier for you to find your favorites.

    SD programming
  • 1 hour of BBC America: about 1%
  • 90 mins of Comedy Central: 1%
  • 1 hour of Fox: 1%
  • 1 hour of HBO: 1%
  • 1 hour of PBS: 1%
  • 1 hour of SciFi Channel: 1%
  • 1 hour of TBS shows (not live games): about 1%
  • 1 hour of TMC: about 1%
  • 2 hrs of VH1 Classic: 2% (1% per hour)

    HD programming
  • 30min London Live (MojoHD): 3%
  • 30 min concert on MTV-HD (MHD): 3%
  • 1 hour of Heroes (NBC-HD): 6%
  • 1 hour (tv series) on Universal HD: 3%

  • Tuesday, September 25, 2007

    First impressions on the Moto 3416 DCT I

    And by first impressions, let me specify, I mean first impressions using this particular device. I have used the Motorola 3412, 6412 and the Pace Vegas TDC-575D dual tuner DVRs on Comcast cable before. So I am painfully very familiar with the user interface and such.

    I switched to the Moto 3416 from the Pace Vegas which had a very nasty bug in that it randomly froze/crashed at the end of playback of previously recorded programs. Comcast/Pace denial aside, this looked like a sneaky file system bug. But what do I know? I'm just a dumb user :-)

    The Motorolas look and feel the same. The Pace Vegas is a different pizza box, but only slightly smaller. They have some differences in features and interface, hightlighted in the Pace Vegas blog.

    My experience so far has been as expected. The extra hard disk space (160gb) is a nice boost going from 80gb but also a nice boost going from 120gb (33% more). It was so exciting to be able to stop playback without having to cross my fingers hoping it wouldn't crash this time (with the Pace Vegas).

    At times it has the notorious remote delay, although so far it seems to have been better than the 3412/6412. But then again, I just got this one and the hard disk is barely 20% full. So I should give it some time before making any general comments on this.

    No issues with On-Demand so far. Each time I was able to quickly get to On-Demand, watch or browse around and exit gracefully. Be sure to check out On-Demand, a number of series premieres are available there such as the new reimagined Bionic Woman and Journeyman. Also for SciFi fans, there are two 15-minute features on BBC America's Torchwood, along with the already aired episodes.

    I noticed a couple of minor issues, twice the audio disappeared from the live tuner, but changing the channel brought it back. I believe this is a known Moto issue and it's not a big deal because I believe the recorded program has the audio intact.

    The other issue I noticed was last night when watching a recording of Heroes from NBC-HD, the signal got pixelized and some fractions of a second were lost. Not sure if this was my connections, the signal, the DVR, the local station, etc, etc. I'll check with other HD programs first.

    I am also going to be starting two posts that will be updated throughtout. One of them will be a daily update blog log of any issues or other observations or gossips :) The second post will be a list of how much disk space programs from different channels takeup. This will be a good reference so you can plan ahead your recordings.

    Sunday, September 23, 2007

    The DCT 3416 I in pictures

    Front view. This is what is facing you. There is the informational display and functional buttons on either side.

    On the left side of the front panel display we have the four way arrow keys which behave the same way the four outer arrow keys behave on your remote control. The Up arrow for example is PLAY/PAUSE, the Down arrow is STOP, and the left and right are fast forward and fast backward.

    This is the bottom left corner (sorry for the fuzzy picture)

    On the right of the front panel display, we have a number of buttons, all functional. Of course it's a lot easier to use the remote, but if you happen to be right in front of the device, you can use them. It takes a little bit of getting used to for the smaller buttons. The Channel Up and Down is fairly easy to figure out :)

    This is the top of the device, with the edges slightly cropped.

    This is part of the bottom of the device with what appears to be a fan. This is on the front and right of center in the underbelly of this beast.

    This is the center of the back of the device showing most of the inputs and outputs. You can see the S-Video out, orange SPDIF, optical SPDIF, yellow RCA video out, white and red audio out, component output, HDMI, Ethernet, USB and SATA.

    This is how the Motorola DCT 3416 I looks while it is activating for the first time with Comcast Cable. Notice the Zero (0) in the leftmost position of its front panel display.

    Thursday, September 20, 2007

    Installation and Activation of the Motorola DCT 3416

    I am using Comcast Cable and this is not my first DVR! The new season is upon us so I am upgrading from the Pace Vegas standard definition dual tuner DVR to this Motorola DCT 3416 I dual tuner HD DVR. Before the Pace Vegas, I had the Motorola 6412 and 3412 DVRs as well.

    Since the last time I got a new Comcast box, Comcast seems to have changed their activation procedure. You obviously still have to call their toll-free customer service and they send the activation signal, but now, during activation, the DVR turns off the picture, and shows a zero (0) on the front panel display while it activates and downloads all the essentials. Pictures of that and the DVR box coming later on!

    It pretty much looks like the other Motorola DVRs like the 3412 and 6412. This not to be confused with the newer DCH model, which unfortunately wasn't available in my area.

    The box has RF In and RF Out. You connect the cable from the wall to the RF In, and you can use RF Out to connect to an older TV, VCR, computer with TV card, etc. It also has a set of yellow, white and red outputs (video, and audio LR), S-Video output, compoment output, and HDMI. Also the orange audio output (SPDIF). There are USB and SATA ports as well on the device, but I do not know what functionality they have. The USB port is powered so you can for example connect a notebook cooler/chill pad if you want to keep your DVR cooler.

    Welcome to the Motorola DCT 3416 I DVR User Review!

    This is a user review of the Motorola DCT 3416 I DVR! This is not an expert review, but an enthusiastic user review :-) It will be updated blog style with new things posted as I discover them.

    The first post will be the installation and activation post, with some pictures of the unit as well as an intro and more details! Stay tuned as it will be posted later today!