Yes, I still have a real TV with a cable company. Look, I just don’t enjoy watching TV on my laptop, and I like to be able to use my laptop while watching TV. For me, having a TV works, I like it, and I especially like the random TV shows I run into. You can judge me all you want, but it works for me.
That said, I’ve been having trouble with my TV. Or rather, the TV service. See I have certain requirements that for TV. Like I need closed captioning to work. Yes, I watch TV with it on. This is not negotiable. Secondly, I need CBS (at least until CSI goes off the air) and while I had no worries that TWC and CBS would kiss and make up, the bullshit was annoying. Third, I need the picture to not break up. Fourth, and this actually is the key here, I need my over-the-air content not to be double encrypted.
What’s that? Oh, Time Warner encrypts everything so you can’t download it from your DVR. Let me explain. Your DVR is a harddrive, right? You can download crap from a hard drive right? Not exactly. Back in 2006, I stumbled across some information about how to record shows from the DVR onto my computer. In the post comes the warning “The cable company can add copy protection to the signal” which means you can download it, but you can’t play it back. It’s basically a ‘copy once’ encryption, and they consider their recording to be the once. After all, the courts determined that personal copying for the sake of time-shifted viewing is acceptable (i.e. no they can’t sue you for video taping your favorite show and watching again later).
Here’s where it gets weird. It was easier to record things on a VCR than it is today on a DVR. Well… not on a TiVo. There’s legal software called iTivo which lets you download. Oh, and TiVo even has directions on how to connect to your TiVo to the internet and download. Except that even with a TiVo, the encryption is handled by the cable company, and Time Warner locks your downloads. Even the over-the-air stuff like CBS, NBC, and ABC.
These aren’t that hard, and any reasonable company could have some sort of a solution for, at least, the CC issue. I understand the CBS mishegas is what it is, and yet since I’m in a deadzone for over-the-air (no antenna will get CBS for some reason), my choice was to switch.
I made a bunch of calls to other companies, chatted with people, got price quotes, asked my TV buddies for advice, speculated on Twitter, and eventually ended up with DirecTV. And I’m happy.
So here’s my experience with DirecTV.
I called them on a Tuesday to get a price quote, and she was nice. I’m always polite to the people on the phone, they have a shitty job, and there’s no effort required for me to just be polite. We chatted, I explained what I wanted out of my service, she came up with a decent setup, and we got all the way down to making a note of my wishes when the poor woman’s computer crashed. Look, I work in IT. I always forgive you when networks or computers misbehave. I used to work on that kind of software, it’s janky, and when you have hundreds of people entering stuff in a system, sometimes it barfs.
The problem was that this happened twice. At this point, I had to go, so I said I’d call back the next day, took down her name, and proceeded to do exactly that! I know, shocking. That day, the fellow saw my record, apologized, gave me a discount, and then got everything scheduled for that very Sunday between 8am and noon.
I don’t know if you’ve ever worked with a company coming out to do work on your place, but in my experience, those timeframes are wildly inaccurate. Boy, I’m glad I got up at 8am! The phone rang at 8:15, it was the guys, they were 15 minutes away. They showed me badges, went over what they were going to do, checked my condo bylaws (which I had done), determined where to install, and then hit a roadblock. The bylaws were out of date. Thankfully, the condo VP is my neighbor and likes me, and got it sorted. By 9am, they’d run cables, secured them, and were drilling into my wall in a non-obtrusive location. They even puttied the hole with waterproof sealant and asked if they could vacuum it up for me (I said no thank you, and did it later, since I was going to mop).
They set up everything, showed me how to use it (including installing and configuring my iPad!) and then went over everything, one more time, to make sure we were good.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had service like that from a TV company.
What I love:
- Polite service that treats me like a human
- Watching TV on my iPad
- Controlling the TV via the iPad
- Picture quality
- Readable closed captioning (good font)
- Storage capacity (1 TB)
- Records more than 2 shows at once (5)
- Being able to download shows I missed to watch later
What I like
- Being told how to download to my computer
- The remote
- Everything defaults to HD if you use HDMI
- Speed – not many delays when clicking through menus
What annoys me a little
- Having to buy an extra device to download stuff
- All the emails and calls to ‘welcome’ me
- Searching for shows on the TV via the remote
- Paying extra for MLBTV (then again, I get BBC America in HD)
- The name: DirecTV … you think you’re so clever
Was it worth it?
For me, yes. I like the TV. I’m a news junkie when I’m working from home, and having the iPad be a portable TV is great. The quality is leaps ahead of what I got with Time Warner or AT&T, and the only thing comparable was when I had RCN in Chicago. Yes, I will forever recommend RCN in Chicago, they were wonderful. Miss them.
What about the downloading? Well, that’s a story for another day. Suffice to say, yes, you can.