Scientific Atlantic Should Be Ashamed

This one is going to be a rant. If you don’t care to listen, just wait until my next post 🙂

The folks at Scientific Atlanta (and Comcast, and Cablevision, and others) should be absolutely ashamed. Their “DVR” solution, the Scientific Atlantic 8300HD is absolutely retarded – and saying that is doing doing an injustice to the mentally handicapped folk of the world – at least they can often have a useful place in society. The 8300HD is a piece of junk. How can the software engineers who work on this thing go home at night and feel like they had a productive day? Do they know tons people think they must be absolute morons? Have they ever tried >>any<< other DVR? Have they ever even looked at a TiVo box, even a Series 1? Did they even glance at screen shots of ReplayTV? Have they ever even seen the case of a PC running Windows MCE or MythTV? I have my doubts.

Don’t get me wrong… the 8300HD records HDTV with decent quality and does have two tuners. You can watch live TV on it. You can watch recorded shows. You can even record shows and watch shows at the same time. It has a (mediocre) program guide (like 1 week or less?). It has a few recording options (but not never many). But…

How about… not having frequent audio (and some video) dropouts?

How about… Remember the playback position of a TV show you were watching? If you are watching a recorded show and leave the show for any reason you will have to start back form the beginning. If you start a show, pause it, and walk away for a little bit, it just un-pauses. When it finishes playing the show and you don’t delete it (or whatever) fast enough it just replays it over (and over…). Sure, I understand they want to prevent burn-in but this is not the solution.

How about… the guide could provide more than just a few days of data. Every other DVR out there holds about 2 weeks of information.

How about… not using those stupid A/B/C buttons. What the heck? I am constantly having to move my fingers from the direction/selection to A (or B or C) buttons to do anything. Stupid design.

How about… let me filter the guide. Every channel, regardless if you get it or not, like it or not, always show up in the guide. Always. There is no way to filter the guide to the channels you like. What do I care for CMT and BET and QVC? I called Cablevision and they said “just lock those channels”. Sure and then they have a nice “lock” icon next to them but they still appear in the guide, I just get an error if I try to select it. Their response: “well, that’s how it works.” Stupid. Double stupid.

How about… telling me when the disc is getting full? Wow how difficult would that be? It just stops recording your shows. It did have an un-obvious message on some buried screen but it took me like 2 days to figure out why it wasn’t recording anything.

How about… actually make the guide show when it is going to record something? Often it does, but I have seen it not highlight something it is going to record then record it anyway. I just don’t get it. Their guide just sucks. Once, it didn’t seem like it was going to record something so I placed a manual record on the show. It recorded it twice from the same channel. Stupid.

How about… put a reasonably sized disc in there. You know I am going to be recording HDTV but it will only record like 24 hours or something. I guess I might not do better on TiVo Series 3 (I know, I can add an external hard drive to either), but 24 hours? That just isn’t enough. Oh well. I was really spoiled with MythTV and its ability to transcode shows into MPEG4.

How about… you don’t need monster fonts and tons of wasted screenspace – I am sure with decent designers you could fit more on the screen and make things look nice. The UI just looks like garbage. They should really look at any of the other DVRs (even the ugly ReplayTV looks tons nicer).

I am sure I could come up with a dozen more things, but… So what are my alternatives? Right now, I think the most serious alternative is a TiVo Series 3 with Cable Cards or QAM. I know, I could go with MythTV or Windows MCE and HD Tuners such as the HDHomeRun and record the QAM signal, but this poses two potential problems. The first problem is that it doesn’t provide any pay-for channels (such as HBO). The second problem is that cable companies are encrypting more and more (especially HD) programming so QAM doesn’t work for those channels, only CableCard.

My biggest worry with a TiVo Series 3 (or MythTV or …) is  more and more cable companies are moving some portion of their new (and maybe existing) video to Switched Video. Switched video isn’t supported on QAM nor on CableCard, it is only supported on their own set-top boxs. I doubt this will ultimately really happen to any degree, but who knows.

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