Wednesday, July 09, 2003

The bleeding edge

This is a blog of anxiousness and fear.

I fear that when I get home tonight I'm going to have to reformat my DishPVR (DishNetwork's TiVo thingy) and lose all of the TV shows I have saved on it. I know this from experience based on the box's behavior. If I do lose everything on the disk, it'll be the fourth time it's happened in the past eight months.

It's not called the "bleeding edge" for nothing.

I have the new DishPVR 721, which has two tuners in it and can store 90 hours of TV. The 721 is more juiced than any TiVo you can buy. I bought it off the Internet from some dealer in Indiana for $550.

But the thing is buggy. In fact, the 721 sitting in my bedroom is the second one I've had. Dish sent me a replacement unit about two months ago, after my harddrive reformatted itself for the second time. Two weeks ago the new 721 freaked out - as the wife and I call its behavior - and we lost all of our saved programs once again.

And now I'm facing yet another loss of the Ashley Judd Style Star (the last time I lost that very, very, very good program, I swore I'd burn it out to DVD the instant I had it recorded again -- I didn't).

Apart from the major crashes and data loss, the 721 freaks out probably every other day. It typically only takes a reboot to fix things, but it does become annoying.

Thus, the "bleeding edge".

When I get pissed off at the 721, I try to remember that what I have sitting on my TV is actually a Linux PC hastily developed by the fine folks at DishNetwork to give themselves a competitive advantage over DirecTV, which offers a version of TiVo for its subscribers.

And they've done a pretty good job. It delivers picture-in-picture, allows you to watch TV while you search for programs (not offered on the 501) and has a sharp-looking program guide. It's just buggy. They'll fix that.

My prediction for my evening -- get home, 721 is still freaking out. I give it the reboot, and get the error message: "Receiver is in stand-by ... booting". Screen goes blank, it reboots itself and starts the cycle over again. Call customer service, remind them that last time I called they said they're send me another replacement at no charge if the disk failed again. Give them my information, turn off the 721, hook the 501 back up and try to find Style Star again.

I'll let y'all know if it plays out like that.

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