March 16, 2006

This Post is Microsoft Enhanced (TM).

Ok, look, I know this is a family blog (What exactly does that mean, really? That Dad reads the blog aloud to his 2.5 kids as he smokes a pipe in his easy chair with his hair all full of brillcreme?), so I don't want to get too ribald, but when I was a kid there were only two kinds of condoms, regular and with bumps, "enhanced for her pleasure."

This apparently meant embedding grains of sand in the latex. I remember that, growing up, I had seen condoms and had read Where Did I Come From? (hippie parents), but had no idea how these grains of sand were meant to enhance sex, even the sort of smooshy-gooshy idea I had of sex back then.

Honestly, I'm 36 now and still have no idea what the hell they were thinking. I don't know if they sell those condoms any more. If they do, I'd like to caution my younger viewers: I've never met a female whose response wasn't: "OUCH! SON OF CHRIST! WHAT THE FRAK! WHY WOULD SOMEONE PUT GRAINS OF SAND IN THAT FRAKKING THING?" (Only, without all the BSG talk.)


I think of the phrase "enhanced for her pleasure" every time I boot up my stupid digital video recorder (DVR), because somehow Microsoft managed to talk my cable monopoly into selling me a box that constantly, on every screen, in the upper-right corner, says, "Microsoft Enhanced."

And, much like tiny grains of sand in your genitals, this recorder has so many idiotic annoyances and glitches that I wonder, "What do you guys think enhanced means?" and "WHY would you WANT your name associated with this?" (To both Comcast _and_ Microsoft, I think that.)

I mean, ok, it can, mostly, record TV programs. I mean, sometimes it does. Other times, it just decides not to. I mean, it'll SAY it's going to record all episodes of LOST at 9PM on Wednesdays on Channel 102, and there will BE Lost at 9PM this Wednesday on Channel 102, but it'll say, "Nothing more scheduled to record," even though it's the one that made up the criteria, and it did manage to record the first half of the season, and I can see the other shows in the schedule. Maybe the second half of the season stinks? I'll never know, because, hey, it decided not to record it. (Only 78% full! I checked!)

Microsoft Enhanced! For her pleasure!

But, hey, I'm fine with having to come home before my favorite shows and unschedule them and then reschedule them so my DVR will suddenly decide it's OK to record them again. I like to think of it as sort of rotating the tires; I keep the show schedule fresh. It's amazing how much less TV you'll watch when you have to reschedule everything every week, too. Besides, it's not like the POINT of having a DVR is you DON'T have to be there to start each recording manually. And this is first-generation technology, right? Right? I mean, there's NEVER been any other brands of DVRs, right? Microsoft invented this shit, no? And enhanced it?

But my actual least-favorite "enhancement" is that this DVR decides, whenever I turn it on, that it should default to showing me some stupid channel, full volume. Because, god, what would I do alone in a room with only silence to comfort me? Mayhap I would die. Now, silly "user interface experts" would argue that the idea behind a DVR is that you're a discriminating TV viewer; that you, in fact, hate the vast wasteland that is TV, and that every moment you are exposed to programs that aren't among the 4 or 5 tolerable ones you have selected is actually quite painful. (Think I'm exaggerating? Watch all of "Elimidate." Just once. Then let's talk about pain.)

So, I turn on this stupid DVR (whisper it with me as you press the power button... "microsoft enhanced"... like the wind at your windows) and it starts BLARING whatever is playing on whatever channel it last recorded, because that's probably the best default option, right?

It wouldn't be reasonable to present me, silently, with a menu of shows I've recorded, right? No. Because the most likely answer to "Why did Wil turn on the TV at 2:15AM?" is not "to watch one of the five shows he recorded this week, as he does every week, which is all he ever does with this stupid device," it's "TO WATCH THE LAST 15 MINUTES OF ELIMIDATE! BONK-BONK-WONK-WONK WONK-WONK WONK-WONK, BEOMP BEOMP BEOMP!""

But even that's not enough. As I work through the menu systems, it continues to give me a feed of some random channel in the upper-left hand corner. I'd like to point out that there are something like 900 channels on this system. It doesn't care which one it's showing me. It's just knows that I need to be seeing TV, dammit. I don't care if it's infomercials for electric knives on the Discovery channel at 4AM, that shit is BETTER THAN SILENCE. SILENCE IS THE SOUL-KILLER.


If I watch a show, like the season finale of Battlestar Galactica this year, which left me shaking with anger and pleasure at the same time, and then, after the screen fades silently to black, I go back to the main menu, my little Microsoft Enhanced friend is right there for me. "Show's over! Let me pick a channel and show you crap! Full volume! Right up here in the upper left! Having trouble picking a show because I'm yelling at you? About crap? Crap you don't care about? Just ignore me! Go on, pick a show! C'mon, what's wrong, you freezing up? Just pick one! Hell, I'll do it! I'm Microsoft Enhanced! For her pleasure!"

There's other annoyances. For example, if you fast-forward through commercials, and then press "play" when you're actually, you know, back into the program, an incredibly sophisticated set of things happens inside the DVR, none of which are "pleasing." The first is, the machine is so poorly-designed that ANY keypress takes a second or so to register, so it'll appear that you did NOT press play for a second, and the PVR will blithely zip ahead for a while longer. Then, to make up for this fact, they will REWIND the recording some bizarre and ever-changing amount based on their assumption of how slow they think you might react to the show having starting up again.

I'm guessing they tested this DVR on people with Parkinson's disease, because they typically rewind a full THIRTY seconds to before the spot where I pressed play. Try imagine the kind of calculation you have to do on the fly: "Ok, I saw the show begin, so I need to press play sometime soon so that I can start the pause to when the auto-rewind will take me back to before some amount based on the current fast-forward mode I'm in..." I usually spend thirty or forty seconds oscillating around the beginning of the show. It's like Microsoft doesn't WANT me to skip ads! Whaaa? What about her pleasure? Please tell me you didn't forget about her?

And then let's talk about the pause button. If I press the pause button during live TV, which I do a lot, the machine actually waits a second to pause, then stutters, then replays the last two seconds and adds a bonus second I haven't seen before, then really pauses. It's like a kid who wants to test your limits when you tell him to shut up. "Hey, give me a candy bar! Give me a candy bar! Give.." "SHUT UP!" ".. Give me a candy...?" When I first started pressing pause I'd get fooled by the stutter every time and think it hadn't REALLY paused, so I'd press it again, so in another second it'd resume, which made me think maybe the pause button really was the mislabeled "two-second-respite" button.

The stuttering pause is annoying all the more because the pause button is my only savior, because when I first turn the DVR and TV on, 'pause' is the ONLY button that will stop the noise. Let's think about this. You turn this device on and there is NOTHING you can do, short of finding the one button out of 800 that's labeled 'pause' (by definition, a temporary block) to stop it from blaring crap at you. Crap that you don't want, and never wanted. Now, I'd like to point out, the "stop" button doesn't work in Live TV mode. You can't say, "No, I don't want a channel going, I'd just like silence." Sure, you can pick WHICH channel of crap you to view, and you can ask for a brief break from crap, but you can't pick "No Crap." Because, you know... the enhancements... the ones made by Microsoft.

And if you pause the live feed for that glorious, brief release, and choose and then play a program you like, and then stop that program... the PVR will go back to live. Yes, it unpaused itself while you were watching what you actually wanted to watch. "Hey, uh, we noticed you left us all paused, there, for like an hour, and, uh, we figured, 'that can't be right', so we just restarted the channel of crap there for you in the upper-left. No charge this time, buddy. Just thank Microsoft Enhanced."

The impression you get from this device (admittedly, sold to me by Comcast, my cable company BY LAW MOTHERFUCKER) is that TV is not just like a faucet, it is more like a stream. If you block the flow of TV for more than a few minutes you will JAM UP THE CABLE FLOW AND CAUSE SERIOUS HARM TO SOMETHING. THE PRESSURE WILL BUILD. THE ENHANCEMENTS WILL SUFFER. THOSE BASS FISH AREN'T GOING TO CATCH THEMSELVES. THE WINDBAGS ON CNN HAVE IMPORTANT STORIES ABOUT MURDERS AND KITTENS TO TELL. I feel like I'm in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes in the Future, where all TV sets were permanently stuck "on" by law.

Here's the kicker: pausing the live feed actually starts a timer, because the PVR is still recording its randomly-selected channel in the hopes that you'll later give it a reprieve and watch whatever random crap was on. I mean, maybe you just need to go to the bathroom, and didn't want to miss the part where the electric knife can cut through a frozen pizza AND a slice of bread -- LENGTHWISE! But, here's the best part: after a couple hours of recording, the PVR will run out of disk space from recording this live TV feed. (Which, remember, you cannot turn off.) What would be a reasonable thing to do here. Let's look at this as dispassionate UI designers, OK?

You're making a PVR. Someone pressed pause six hours ago. You've been recording live video with the assumption the person might come back, but now you've run out of disk space. The screen has been frozen for six hours. Might you, the putative UI designer, assume at this point that the person has left? That their TV is now off and they're done with the system? And, thus, when you run out of disk space, you'd say, "Heck, I'll hold onto this live feed stuff until the user comes back, or until some other program comes on that the user actually asks me to record, but until then I'll just go into sleep mode."

NO! IDIOT! The TV must flow! The person probably fell into a stupor. The logical thing to do is RESUME LIVE PLAY. That'll wake 'em up!

And indeed it has. No joking, in the days before I learned this cute little UI decision, I paused my DVR (instead of turning it off), turned off my TV (but not my 500 watt stereo), went to bed, and been woken up THREE TIMES in the last year at 4AM to some ads blaring at the top of their lungs in the next room, because the DVR ran out of air and just HAD TO GET IT ALL OUT! I CANNOT WASTE THE PRECIOUS STREAM OF CRAP! Let me tell you, waking up to this will make a grown man wet his bed. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.

Microsoft Enhanced. For their pleasure.



Anonymous Lou said...

I'm just hoping that Tivo arrives for Comcast before too long. I don't have the Microsoft Enhanced for her pleasure DVR, just Comcast's "We're too dumb to copy Tivo properly so here's a broken implementation that won't do what you want, but looks like it will".

Please Tivo, save us all.

March 16, 2006 6:28 AM

Blogger Paul Davidson said...

I hear Vista also has enhancements™. I can't wait for the hilarity to ensue. :)

March 16, 2006 6:30 AM

Anonymous matt said...

i think vista will probably either have the warming sensation or the numbing "extended pleasure"...which will cause the DVR to turn the volume down right when you really wanted to hear the tv. Which is why I'd suggest look for the DVR with the reservoir tip. You can install linux in it.

March 16, 2006 7:21 AM

Blogger Colin Barrett said...

I've had similar DVR problems in the past. Granted, they weren't MICROSOFT ENHANCED, MAFUCKAAA, but they were extremely annoying. Simply calling our cable company and saying "It's broken, we can't use it, send us a different model," over and over again finally got us a different DVR. It took a couple tries to get one that worked, but what we have now works pretty well.

March 16, 2006 7:33 AM

Anonymous Adam Lindsay said...

Thanks, Wil. That gave me a giggle that cut thru my back pain.

March 16, 2006 7:47 AM

Blogger Kyle Killion said...

Bad news, TiVo does some of the same things...

• When it turns on (well wake from standby, it doesn't have a on off button) it will be playing the last channel recorded.

• Pausing doesn't have the stutter, but it will begin playing from the beginning of the buffer after it runs out of disk quota.

• It does jump back after hitting play while fast forwarding. But thankfully this works pretty well, and the delay is user-definable.

The good news is that it doesn't show a PIP window when browing the Now Playing list.

The bad news is that they are saddled with the slowest embedded processors available. You will spend much of your life "Please wait a minute"ing.

March 16, 2006 7:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I usually hit the Tivo button on my Tivo remote before turning the TV on, so I am greeted by silence. It's two button pushes, but it works.

I think Tivo's jump back following a fast forward is calibrated very well - it just works, which works for me.

You can get a Tivo cheap these days, Wil - splurge.

March 16, 2006 8:50 AM

Anonymous mj1531 said...


I'd like to get your take on Comcast's cable boxes. Remember when cable was just that, a cable? I hate that you have to purchase a box (nevermind the fact that you're already paying enough for the service) for each TV that you want the full Comcast "splendor" on.

I don't know if Comcast has done this everywhere yet, but in Philly (Comcast's HQ) they used to let you watch HBO without the digital cable box and as of 3/7/2006, you have to have a box to watch HBO. I think they did that on purpose to force people to buy more boxes so they can watch the new season of the Sopranos.

Instead of having one box for each TV, why not have one box that that decodes the entire cable signal and connects to Comcast's installation inside your home and allows you to connect a splitter on the other end so more than one TV can get the full cable? The box comes as part of the subscription, and you don't have to use their special remotes and leave the cable box on so you can record with the TV off. You'd also be able to choose which DVR you liked best and not be forced into a 3-way with Comcast and Microsoft.

March 16, 2006 8:51 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That! was one of the funniest rants I've read in a while. Nice work.

March 16, 2006 9:54 AM

Anonymous ben said...

I returned my comcast box, dropped down to basic cable, and just hooked up a tivo and a computer.

You can get the analog channels (2-99) into the tivo, and tivo is the apple computer of dvrs-- they get it.

I picked up a $99 dollar PCI card (fusionhdtv 5) and put it in my pc-- it displays and records the network HDTV channels (by FCC law they must be carried unencrypted on cable). But the UI is absolutely worthless and buggy. Still, it will tide me over until HD tivo boxes for comcast come out. I hook the pc up to a cheap little 4yr old projector and point it at my wall. Beautiful picture, and no big ugly TV taking up space (just big ugly pc -- ugh).

I would use an Elgato EyeTV if I could afford it and a new Mini to go with it-- the Elgato software surely has a nicer UI.

I was really hoping Apple would extend Front Row to do DVR-- maybe they still will, and either partner with tivo or do it right themselves.

March 16, 2006 10:11 AM

Blogger Amy said...

That was a very impressive rant. You make me so very happy that I decided to go with a third-party DVD-burner DVR instead of Comcast's DVR. I suppose I could rant a bit about it, but it wouldn't be nearly so amusing to read. The combination of a Panasonic EH50 and a well-configured Harmony remote works pretty well for me. It does do the, "No, I know you really wanted to watch THIS CHANNEL!" thing in certain circumstances, but not often enough to rant about, and luckily it doesn't seem to know a thing about volume.

March 16, 2006 10:38 AM

Anonymous Brendan said...

Now the pause for live tv is annoying, but there is some reason for the behavior. Not a well-designed behavior, but there is pressure to do SOMETHING as the disk fills up.

What really gripes my ass is when you pause a RECORDED program, and then something like 3 minutes later with no activity it kicks you out to live TV, blaring a random channel at you. Once you run back to see what the hell just exploded in your living room you need to renavigate all the way back to the particular program you paused to resume play, it doesn't even have the shame to offer up the saved program on some sort of "Hey I seem to remember you were watching this when you had paused me and walked away 4 mintues ago... want to pick it up again? buddy ol' pal?"

Just the default menu, guess at which episode you were in the middle of. And there's no reason that it takes you out of pause for a recorded show, ever.


March 16, 2006 10:41 AM

Anonymous charles said...

Did you file a bug report?

March 16, 2006 11:08 AM

Anonymous mattb said...

I feel your pain. I had a TiVo for a couple of years and the modem took a lightning hit (which makes it pretty useless). So I think, "Why not try Time-Warner's new DVR, HOW BAD CAN IT BE (tm)?" It took about a week before the family was in revolt. Pretty much the most annoying user interface ever. I ended up going out and getting a DirecTV with TiVo (which has the nice feature of being able to record two channels at once) and never looked back. I still use TW for cable modem, but not for TV. If you can record two channels at once and skip the commercials I figure you can actually watch 30 hours of TV per day!
I recently upgraded to the HD TiVo receiver (get em while they last) and it is the bomb! I get the local channels in HD along with a few tidbits from the sat and everything else looks pretty decent on the plasma too.
Aren't you made of money? Spend some...

March 16, 2006 11:23 AM

Blogger hopkapi said...

Have you thought about replacing the box of soul killing UI and design with an EyeTV box and a mac mini?

March 16, 2006 12:01 PM

Anonymous Lon Varscsak said...

lol, I love the BSG references.

FYI, Tivo Series 3 will come out later this year...2 HD tuners, cable card driven (so no cable box), and no Enhanced for Her Pleasure.

March 16, 2006 12:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, best rant so far!

March 16, 2006 12:32 PM

Anonymous Matt said...


That's awful. ReplayTV got that behavior right. When you leave a recording paused for "too long" it goes into this silly screen saver block game, where it shuffles the image around.

March 16, 2006 1:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't see anyone else mention it and haven't finished reading yet, but:

The episode layout on this season's Lost has been more spotty than a teenage boy's first acne outbreak. If it's failing to record Lost episodes, that's perhaps because it knows there are no new episodes to grab?
Afaik, there isn't another new one until next Wednesday and that will be 3 weeks after the last new one. (Sucks, doesn't it.)

March 16, 2006 1:37 PM

Blogger random milk said...

wow. I have 5 free-to-air channels.
I think I can understand yr pain, but somehow I feel disconnected from it; it has little actual relevance to my world.
Cook risotto and read a book with a glass of red wine?

March 16, 2006 2:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahaha and you've just paid to have all intel macs "Microsoft Enhanced" too...

March 16, 2006 2:35 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Charles: I have no idea with whom I might file a bug report. This kind of bad design is endemic to their entire structure.

anonymous: Actually, I paid $1,400 (now) so I could throw away my Windows gaming machine, which cost a lot more than $1,400 when I bought it new. And dual-booting is just the first step -- next we'll have VMing, so we run Windows and Mac OS simultaneously, and then we'll have emulation (in a window), and then we'll finally have the ability to just run Windows applications natively.

I'm funding the whole process of weaning people off Windows.

March 16, 2006 2:54 PM

Anonymous Mark Stultz said...

Does your PVR do HDTV? I'd buy a Tivo JUST to record Lost season 2, but I was told it does not do HDTV. Argh.

I don't LIKE downloading torrent files, but I need my Lost. I need it.

Your post was all the more better because it was posted at 4:50AM, leaving me little room to suspect WHY you were indeed posting at 4 in the morning :)

March 16, 2006 3:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to break it to everyone who is waiting with baited breath for the "TiVo Enhanced" version of the Comcast DVR, but it will be plagued with the same issues as the "Microsoft Enhanced" version. Why? Because they are both locked into the hardware platforms that Comcast mandates. The "TiVo Enhanced" DVR for Comcast will be using the same huge, loud, buggy Motorola box that the Microsoft DVR does. Comcast and Motorola control the game here, not Microsoft or TiVo.

Just wait and see. If TiVo ever gets the Series 3 box out the door (not holding my breath as they promised it would be out last year, too), then I would happily move to one of those. In the meantime, however, if you want DVR and you want HDTV, but you're not in an area where you can pick it up over-the-air and record it with Windows Media Center, the Comcast DVR is pretty much the only solution. Sure, you could go with satellite. But from what I've heard, the DVRs capable of doing HD available from DirecTV and Dish are just as bad as the Comcast DVR. And that HD DirecTiVo you love so much? When DirecTV migrates to MPEG-4 in the very near future, it will become a quite expensive doorstop.

And don't expect Apple to move into the DVR game so soon. Dealing with the monolith that is the TV world is hard. Very hard. Computer and consumer electronics companies are shut out of this world, for the most part. When they ARE let in, they certainly don't get much of a say in how things will go down if they want to maintain their relationships with the cable companies.

I want a great DVR solution that does HD, has unlimited space for recordings and never bothers me just as much as you do. Unfortunately, the cable and satellite companies just don't see it that way... yet.

March 16, 2006 5:39 PM

Anonymous Mark Whybird said...

Hm - once upon a time, I used to think about the "intel inside" warning stickers in a similar way to how you think about "windows enhanced".

March 16, 2006 7:22 PM

Blogger Alberto said...


You need TIVO. It does what you want.


March 16, 2006 7:26 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

My problem is I don't have enough time to research all the options. The Comcast box is $10 a month, which is nice. It has dual HD tuners, so it can record two programs at full quality at once. That's nice.

Aaaaaaand that's about all that's nice about it. But, still, I bought it just to watch Battlestar in high(er)-def than my old analog box, and sometimes it succeeds at that. Recently it threw away a bunch of episodes for reasons I'm not clear about (I had it top priority, etc), so I watched the ones off iTunes, which are better in some ways but annoyingly low-rez.

The day iTunes has Scrubs and ups its resolution to 640x480 (or so) is the day I dump Comcast for good. So long, suckah crew! I've already hooked my Intel iMac up to my TV, so I'm ready to rumble.

March 16, 2006 7:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, you deal with a piece of shit company you get a piece of shit I guess.

Honestly, these people dont give a *crap* what people want, it's all about getting something out there regardless. They are just arrogant fuckers and so far their approach has been justified with $$$. Until more people wake up, it will keep working

March 16, 2006 11:45 PM

Blogger Ryos said...

If you're willing to run Linux, you can set up a MythTV DVR. It seems to take a lot of research (and money, if you consider ~$700 for an HD DVR to be a lot of money as I do).

March 17, 2006 12:03 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Wil, lose the More-Four word. Using it once is good for effect, but -- more than once? It makes you sound as stupid as the people who wrote the DVR software.

After all, some of that DVR is hardware, and some of it's software, and all of it can have bugs. Not everybody's as good (or as obsessive) about finding and fixing bugs, or about writing bug-free code in the first place, and the companies that make DVRs have to rub along with the best software engineers they can get.

And anyway -- you're a successful software engineer, what do you think you are you doing operating your own DVR? At this stage of your career you should have hired an illegal immigrant to do it for you.

March 17, 2006 1:44 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

MOTHERFUCKER is old hat. I beleive MILFFUCKER is the new term for it..

March 17, 2006 4:22 AM

Anonymous mj1531 said...


Scrubs is an excellent show. Pretty much the only show I regularly watch on network TV. What Comcast needs is some actual competition that treats customers right and doesn't force restrictions on them to squeeze every penny they can out of us.

Truthfully, I wouldn't mind a nationwide boycott of Comcast or at least the things that require that stupid box. I know too well how strong that TV addiction can be, but that's what it takes to get Comcast's attention.

March 17, 2006 7:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the original TiVo. Was probably the third person to buy one. With a tear in my eye, I unplugged my little buddy to make way for the sure-to-be-awesome HD DVR from Comcast.

God, I miss my TiVo! This Comcast box SUCKS you-know-what.

I love how it keeps throwing up dialog boxes out of the blue saying "unable to process request". What request? Why not?

I love how it warns me that I'm approaching capcity. So what? It's your job to roll off the old stuff.

How about how it goes into these little blotchy, glitchy modes where everything's all haywire? How about the fact that the UI takes back seat to everything else? I hit sixty-three remote buttons only to watch in frustration and horror as it refuses to process my commands for a good thiry seconds, at which point an orgy of commands explodes in front of me.

Why would I want to search for a program by name? Who needs that, right?

God, I can't wait to get rid of this POS.

I hear rumor that the comcast box will be download-convertable to a TiVo. I am highly dubious, but I would weep joyfully if that day comes.

March 17, 2006 10:45 AM

Anonymous keith said...

Tivo is nice. From what I've seen, much better than most cable (comcast) DVRs.

However ReplayTV is (was?) the best DVR. Why? Because their main goal is to reduce the amount of TV you see (ie. turn down teh suck.) It will only turn on in the middle of a show if that's how you turned it off, and it'll even be the same show! Press Pause, immediate silence. Press stop, silence and a calm blue screen. No annoying PIP on the Channel Guide. I can see eight channels at a time, but the real kicker? I only see the channels I want to see! I can delete (or add) channels just like a regular TV! I only see whats really on, not every freakin piece of crap on all 900 channels (that you have to go through 4 at a time. ouch!)

I'm still using an old ShowStopper 2020 (upgraded with a 60GB HD.) I can only record one show at a time, and no HDTV, and no ethernet, but I also don't have to pay $10 a month, so I'm happy.

I've seen some promise in the Satalite DVRs, but as long as your DVR is from your provider, then they'll be in control. And since the point of a true DVR is to give you control, the provider will always have to cripple it to some degree.

March 17, 2006 2:13 PM

Anonymous Jon said...

Greatest rant ever!

March 17, 2006 2:37 PM

Anonymous Will Parker said...


1) Buy yourself a Sony TV. The Comcast "Chock Full O' Buttons™" remote is easily trained to control Sony TVs, and then your New Best Friend will be the wonderful, wonderful blessed MUTE button.

2) Be happy. The Seattle Comcast DVRs are the Microsoft *Enhanced* version. Down in Cupertino, the Comcast DVRs come equipped with a UI that clearly had its roots in Microsoft Bob.

They have the same wonderful Slip 'n' Slide accuracy in response to commands, coupled with the need to click through a minimum of seventeen savagely-lobotomized-wizard screens confirming that you really, truly, nevernever had any intention of choosing to record 'Pimp My Ride' at 7:30 PM on March 17th, 2006 on Channel 183.

When and if Apple ever ships a DVR box, it will be because someone convinced SJ that he should spend a week using the Cupertino flavor of the Comcast DVR.

March 17, 2006 4:11 PM

Blogger groovinkim said...

this is kim the hopeful intern (going to email you about that soon ;)

i'm confused about all these comments about tivo 'arriving' for comcast. i bought my non-technically-inclined & comcast-using parents tivo for christmas this year. if there was any difficulty getting it to work with comcast i'm sure they would've been on the phone to the free tech support line (also known as me) within minutes.

i don't own a tv so i just use azureus & torrents to download all my lost episodes. scrubs seems to be pretty easily accessible ( ) so if you truly want to axe that piece of dvr dung, you might try that route. it doesn't sound like it would take up significantly more of your time than the amount you already spend fighting with that hideous beast.

p.s. textured penile sacks are still readily available. i've never known anyone who considered them painful (or even found a particularly noticeable difference). so it's possible that the design has significantly improved over time. or perhaps the lady in question was allergic to latex? that's pretty common (i think it's ~10% of the population) and from what i'm told, pretty uncomfortable...

March 17, 2006 6:27 PM

Anonymous Mike Paquette said...

Ow! I need to take more care about what I'm doing when I bring up this blog.

Wil, ya made me blow red wine right out my nose, and all over the desk. Ouch.


March 17, 2006 6:31 PM

Blogger jay said...

So when can we expect a Delicious PVR? ;-)

I have Verizon Fios broadband right now. I'd love to get their TV service when they roll it out, but I think they've partnered with Microsoft. :(

So I may just stick with my DirecTivo until the HD Tivo with cablecard comes out.

March 17, 2006 7:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm with jay.. A Delicious PVR would rock. There's just the little problem that Comcast and Microsoft would put out a fatwa on you, but who cares?


March 18, 2006 6:39 AM

Anonymous James said...

Wow, you sir need to discover the beauties of MythTV and functional software (ie linux). Seriously, check it out. It's a bit more expensive to set up correctly, but Biostar is selling a sweet little unit called the iDeq 210V. Slap a cheap sempron in it, some cheap ddr and perhaps a cdrom, then put in a tv card that has linux drivers, set up Ubuntu or whatever your favorite simple distro is, instal MythTV, and, well, something to do with oysters.

And the beauty of it all is: MythTV is open source, so if your so inclined, you can hack it to display a "Enhanced for your pleasure" icon in the corner of the screen ;)

March 18, 2006 11:53 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Honestly, setting up a LINUX box, configuring the software, getting it on the net, installing some other software, getting it configured... this isn't an "easier" solution for someone who watches about two hours of TV a week.

I certainly understand and respect that some people like to roll-their-own, and in some circumstances I'll do that myself (eg, when I'm cooking I like to make almost everything from scratch; no pre-chopped spices for me!), but when it comes to TV I'm not that guy.

I owned and administered generic unix boxes when I was 14, I just feel like I've done that, and I'm done with it. Give me a machine I can just plug in.

March 18, 2006 4:45 PM

Anonymous Chad said...

Or you can just hate TV altogether and not bother watching it in the first place.

Except for Family Guy, but you only need to be able to pick up Fox, so just a TV and an antenna or basic cable will be good.

March 18, 2006 6:47 PM

Anonymous Mark Boszko said...

Absolutely right, Wil, those Comcast boxes suck donkey kong. TiVo Series 3 seems to be our only true salvation on the horizon, but I wonder just how much finagling it will take to get Comcast to actually give me the CableCards that the FCC says they must.

Anyway, hilarious post. Exactly why my HD Comcast box records just House, Lost, Deadwood and HD movies, and the old SD cable box is staying around to feed my TiVo for everything else.

Of course, if the increasingly misnamed iTunes Music Store ever comes up with HD downloads for the same buck-ninety-nine a pop, I'd be inclined to chuck the whole cable thing altogether. At that rate, and the small number of shows I watch, it would be cheaper to buy 'em than to pay for the never ending stream of crap from which I cull the prized salmon of entertainment.

March 19, 2006 11:43 PM

Anonymous macwhiz said...

True, Series 1 and Series 2 standalone TiVos don't support HDTV.

Depending on your cable box, the software your cable company uses, and your TV, that might not be as bad a thing as you think.

My local Time Warner franchise uses Pioneer cable boxes with Pioneer's Passport software. The Pioneer HD cable box has one very nice feature: When you watch a HD channel, it outputs not only the HD version, but also a downsampled anamorphic 480i version to the S-Video port.

So, if I'm not there to watch a show live in HD, my TiVo will record it in anamorphic 480i -- widescreen DVD quality.

The only thing is, TiVo doesn't know about anamorphic video, so I have to manually set my TV to adjust the aspect ratio. It's not automatic as it is with HD and DVD.

It's not as sharp as true HD, but it's better than letterboxed SD.

I've had my TiVo Series 1 forever. I can't imagine life without TiVo. With a 120GB drive in it, it will record weeks of stuff. I'm getting a Series 3 as soon as they come out...

March 22, 2006 1:35 PM

Anonymous Terry Oliver said...


The word "opportunity" keeps leaping into my mind; doesn't it yours?

March 24, 2006 2:00 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Terry: I've got my hands full taking down the software monopoly of Microsoft, so I'm not going to also try to take down the monopolies of the cable companies.

I'm certainly not going to try to make a hardware/software set-top box and compete with the ones that the state-enforced monopoly provides. I hope someone else does, but it won't be me.

March 24, 2006 2:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time for the obligatory "I love my ReplayTV" post:

Almost everything you complained about, Replay does fine. Bring it out of standby? Were you watching live or recorded stuff? Recorded stuff? Cool, here you go. Volume? That's your business. Oh, you fell asleep with live on pause? You've run out of room. Recording has been halted. Press play to resume where you left off, sweetie.

The only thing you can't do is press pause, pick a recorded show to watch, then go back to your paused stream later. When you end the show, you have to tell it whether to play another show, or play live. Oh, and do you want to delete what you just saw?

Also, if you leave it in pause long enough, it'll pop a screensaver, with pix you uploaded to the box. Oh, did I say upload? There's downloads, too. It's not official, but 3rd party programs will copy the mpegs straight over to your computer. Oh, and some models will send copies of your shows to other units across the country if you play nice. Or just stream to the box in the bedroom when you get tired of watching the box in the living room. Actually, with the same program you used to copy the mpeg to the computer, you can stream properly formatted mpegs back to your unit, too. Do you have to pay some extra home media fee? No, why should you?

Replay. So good the industry sued it out of business. :)

March 25, 2006 10:05 PM

Anonymous Amorya said...

I built a Mythbox for my dad. It took a long weekend to set up (I went for a more complicated setup with a hardware MPEG2 decoder, for a better picture) but now it's running it appears to be idiot proof. Things rarely go wrong that a reboot will not fix.

I wouldn't recommend building one if you just want a DVR, but I quite liked the challenge. The feature set it has (after pickign and choosing which bits to enable) is decent... the only thing my dad misses is PDC (Programme Delivery Control - if a show starts late it delays the recording too), which is probably because AFAIK that feature is not available in America, where the capture cards seem to be designed.

Regarding your issues... there is no picture-in-picture on the main menu, only on the show browser (and then it displays a short clip from the show you've selected, with no sound). Pause works instantly. Turning it on is a non-issue, as it never gets turned off as such... the processor needs to be alive in order to have it record things. We just let it sit at the main menu, which has low processor usage and shuts down the capture card.

Currently, pausing a live feed displays a progress bar showing how long you have before it runs out of disk space. I don't know what happens when you do, since we don't use pause live TV much, and the disk is pretty large (160GB).

To conclude - if you get some 15 year old computer whiz to do the setup, you'll probably be very happy with MythTV once it's running. Ease of installation is a concept that doesn't seem to exist though!


March 26, 2006 5:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I just saw a commercial... they are rolling out the Microsoft enhanced Comcast to all markets.

March 30, 2006 11:59 PM

Anonymous derek said...

iTunes has scrubs though, unless they started distributing it recently

April 03, 2006 6:13 PM

Anonymous Travis Walls said...

I used a TiVo for two and a half years and I had to get used to it "releasing the flow" every half-hour when I would pause it. When I got a Media Center PC, I was actually happy to see the feature where you could continue to watch live TV while you chose something else to watch from the guide, as opposed to watching the fucking TiVo man smiling at you while he danced and the magical gears and balls were hard at work distracting your eyes in the background. As far as always being on some crappy channel whenever I turn on the TV, yup - you guessed it - TiVo does that too. Speaking of other things that TiVo does for her pleasure... Automatic rewind to compensate for the delay of your brain not pushing play fast enough while fast-forwarding? Check, though I suspect that TiVo got this feature right. At least I didn't have to use hack codes on my Media Center PC to get it to skip 30 seconds forward while commercials played.

April 05, 2006 7:01 AM

Anonymous Sarah said...


I'm in love with you. Your bloggyness is incredibly funny, sweet, and soooooo sexy.

Of course you are completly out of my non-virtual range, me being about 15 million years older than you and living in another timezone known as Maui.

But of course there's my rich internet life...and let's not forget Scrubs-a-thons (TWO new episodes IN A ROW!!), PrisonBreak (yes Im in love with that guy too), but best of all, Gray's Anatomy.

Nevertheless, I'm happy to have your company in the wee hours..rant on.

April 15, 2006 4:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Microsoft is the apidimy of this Earth we live on.

April 21, 2006 11:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey Wil, ur the dumbest shit alive. get that.

July 14, 2006 8:45 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better idea. Drop television altogether. There's nothing worth watching on it anyway. You'll be amazed how much more free time you have.

May 15, 2007 1:33 PM

Anonymous Jim Ownby said...

I wonder if they used unit testing?

Also, was this the HD DVR, or does it matter? Comcast is due to drop one of those beauties off at my house next week. I'm just bracing myself.

June 01, 2007 1:03 PM


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