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Comcast Disables VCR Scheduling In New Guide

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the our-way-or-the-no-just-our-way dept.

Media 554

An anonymous reader writes "Comcast has quietly launched a new on-screen guide for its cable boxes. What they're not advertising is that they've removed the ability to schedule VCR-compatible channel flipping any time more than a few hours in advance for people who don't buy the $20/month DVR service. What this means is that VCR owners are now forced to pay for Comcast's $20/month DVR service or else start their recordings manually. For us techies there might be a way around this, but ordinary VCR enthusiasts and owners of other recorders are left in the dust. Anyone know a good antitrust lawyer?" Raise your hand if you regularly use a VCR these days, too.

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554 comments

Lawyer? (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 4 years ago | (#31812006)

Anyone know a good antitrust lawyer?

Your wallet.

Re:Lawyer? (5, Insightful)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 4 years ago | (#31812136)

'cause the free market fixes everything. the invisible hand of the market will even stop invading tanks as long as you wish it hard enough

Re:Lawyer? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812210)

It's funny how you got modded "troll"

Libertardians obviously hate it when they're presented with evidence that the invisible market fairy doesn't fix everything [google.com] .

Or perhaps they honestly believe that a service company that is renowned for poor customer service and near-universally loathed will suddenly change its tune because a half-dozen owners of obsolete equipment will finally decide they've had enough.

Re:Lawyer? (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | about 4 years ago | (#31812374)

Libertardians obviously hate it when they're presented with evidence that the invisible market fairy doesn't fix everything [google.com].

I find it more interesting to consider why it doesn't generally work that way. I have only one answer: we care a HELL of a lot more about immediate convenience and instant gratification than we have ever cared about being consistent with our principles. So we'll buy from abusive companies that deliver poor service before we'll do without their products/services. We'll patronize a company that is known to engage in extremely dishonorable business practices so long as their products are 5% cheaper than the competitors'.

The market idea really could work, except that it requires a people who are both more noble and have a far stronger backbone than our general population. Such a people would individually and voluntarily refuse to ever support any business that takes actions which are not in their interests, at all costs. In turn, the corporations would understand this which would both raise the general standard and guarantee that actually proving this to them would be a relatively rare event.

But we want our shiny and we want it now and we don't care what sort of behavior we are rewarding by voting with our wallets. That's the only reason it doesn't work. There is none other. Corporations cannot act against our interests except that we provide the funding by which they do it.

Re:Lawyer? (4, Insightful)

OrangeCatholic (1495411) | about 4 years ago | (#31812558)

Indeed, the free market is designed to give people what they want. Unfortunately, a lot of times, people's desire runs counter to their long-term self interest.

I've had enough experience selling products to know that the majority of customers are not shopping optimally. There's one class of customers that just wants the cheapest crap available, and damn the consequences. There's another class that is smart enough to ask for "the best," but it's how they define it, and they will pay an exorbitant price.

Relatively few customers are buying the right products for the right prices. They are smart enough that they could probably open their own business...if they weren't already involved in something else.

In short, the market is a competition that creates far more losers than winners. It does educate everyone along the way (did that crap not work out? Try something better next time.)

But the losers are still among us. Let's say you're smart enough to avoid buying Chinese wallboard, but you go to a friend's house who does, and you get sick. You made the right choices, and you still lose.

Re:Lawyer? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812576)

what i find really is your argument for a truly 'free market' is really reminiscent of a lot of arguments for communism that i've heard, in the sense that "it would work great, if only human beings thought and acted differently than they actually do."

Re:Lawyer? (4, Insightful)

gtbritishskull (1435843) | about 4 years ago | (#31812606)

Oh, I understand Libertarians now. It is not their beliefs are wrong. The people are wrong for not living their lives "correctly". If you could make the people in the country act "right" then the country would be Libertarian and perfect.

So, they are just like communists. The communist system didn't fail because their system didn't work. It was because the people did not act "correctly". If only they could have acted "right" and sacrificed their own self-interest for the interest of the whole, then communism would have succeeded.

The truth is, that you have wonderful ideals, but they have no place in reality. The reason why the US constitution is such a good document (not perfect, but pretty good) is because it does not assume that people will be perfect. It is designed for imperfect people, and will survive their imperfection. Your system is designed for perfect people, and when it meets an imperfect person it will completely fail.

Re:Lawyer? (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | about 4 years ago | (#31812596)

I imagine someone probably said, Capitalism is the worst economic system there is, except for all the others.

Re:Lawyer? (1)

mh1997 (1065630) | about 4 years ago | (#31812600)

Unfortunately, Cable TV is not a market where the "market fairy" can fix anything because the government gave Comcast a monopoly. If there were competing cable companies, Comcast may have to clean up its act. Maybe the satellite tv market will fix the problem allowed by the government? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comcast#Cable_television [wikipedia.org] Comcast has 25 million television subscribers in 39 of the fifty U.S. states,[24] although the company is losing customers by the thousands. In the fourth quarter of 2009, Comcast lost 199,000 cable TV customers and in the fourth quarter of 2008, the company lost 233,000 cable TV customers.[25] As of December 31, 2009 Comcast has 23.559 million video customers.

Re:Lawyer? (5, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#31812246)

You've been unfairly marked troll. (Not that I agree with you, but everyone should have a right to express an opinion without having their karma stabbed.)

Anyway, a free market WOULD fix in this case, because when Comcast pulls this shit, you would then be able to switch to Cox cable or Time-Warner cable or AppleTV or Verizon TV or anybody else you desired. Comcast's poor decisions would drive it into bankruptcy as customers would flee in droves. (As happened to Circuit City not too long ago.) BUT because Comcast operates a virtual monopoly, they know they can force customers into upgrading to Comcast DVRs, simply by turning off standard features...... like a VCR Timer.

Also it's not just VCRs, but also DVRs this affects.

I have a Panasonic ReplayTV that can switch the old analog channels just fine, but ever since the analog-to-digital transition, it's lost that capability. I now rely on an external box with a "VCR/DVR Timer" to switch the digital stations. If Comcast removes that capability from their set-top box, than DVRs like mine will no longer be able to record anything but a single channel when I'm away from home.

IMHO.

Please don't mod me "troll" just cause you disagree (like you did to Lekh).

Re:Lawyer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812322)

Firstly: In a free market the big would get bigger until they have monopolies.

Secondly: Voting with your wallet is great, but it's not enough. Advertisement works. Why else would most of the big corporations budgets go into that. This means that the free market will not fix things right. It will fix things the way those with the advertisement dollars want.

Re:Lawyer? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 years ago | (#31812396)

It's worse than that, though. Not only does Comcast have a functional monopoly(or at least cozy duopoly) in a large number of its service areas, infrastructure construction is fundamentally subject to economic phenomena that encourage monopoly formation.

Building infrastructure has very high barriers to entry and substantially greater build-out costs than operating costs. This means that any prospective entrant needs deep pockets just to lay the wires, and also means that the incumbent, who has already had time to amortize build-out costs, can generally threaten to undercut possible entrants quite deeply for a period of time.

Once you add on the not-strictly-economic-but-hard-to-eradicate-in-the-real-world issues of easements and things(since building most kinds of infrastructure more or less necessarily requires trampling all over other people's property, building towers, putting up poles, or digging ditches, you either have the truly epic barrier to entry of having to negotiate individually with all propertyholders, or the local state-entity uses its power to take and bundle compulsory rights-of-way, which substantially lowers barriers to entry; but makes control over all rights of way a political football at the state or municipal level, which generally comes down to a further advantage to the incumbent).

Frankly, I suspect that we would have a much freer market if building out fiber were generally treated as a state function, as roads and water lines are. The municipality would run the fiber from you to a peering point. By default, the fiber would just sit there, possibly offer access to some municipal web sites. If you chose, you could contract with any private party operating at that peering point(which would make room available on a RAND basis) and a simple router config change would allow traffic between your fiber and one or more of the parties at the peering point. You want internet access? Talk to any of the ISPs at your peering point. TV? Any IPTV provider, whether at that peering point, or through an ISP, can sell you that. Phone? VOIP through your ISP, or a dedicated provider if you don't want to get your hands dirty.

All the municipality would have to do is keep the fiber lit, and pass traffic through it. Competition at the peering point could be nice and stiff(since laying fat pipes to a single location, properly chosen, is way cheaper than laying thin pipes to hundreds of locations, and because various service providers could lease bulk bandwidth from each other to offer services). As with rule of law and other flavors of infrastructure, the actual line-to-premises is arguably one of those places where state intervention is the foundation of a good free market, not the opposite of one.

Re:Lawyer? (1, Troll)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#31812520)

Question:

If Cox Cable wanted to enter my town to compete against Comcast, how much would it really cost for them to run a fiber through the already-existing underground metal conduits? I suspect very little.

IMHO.

Re:Lawyer? (1)

lisany (700361) | about 4 years ago | (#31812602)

The question is who owns the conduit and what they will charge to let a third party run material and if it will be sufficient volume to meet future demand. Then you're locked into whatever terms the conduit owners lay out or "Gee, wouldn't it be a shame if your fiber strands were accidentally cut?"

Re:Lawyer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812416)

I think what parent was trying to say was pretending that every market is a "free market fixes everything" so laissez faire is silly. Of course, there's also the point that even very good approximations of free markets have untoward properties: markets have always had booms and busts, even before large-scale regulation of them.

That said, if the cable market were a free market, things would be better. Unfortunately, removing any government regulation is definitely not going to make that happen.

Re:Lawyer? (0, Troll)

emkyooess (1551693) | about 4 years ago | (#31812438)

Yes, I'm replying to what's marked as a troll. BUT: "Corporation" goes in one hand. "Free Market" goes into the other hand. You cannot have both. They're mutually exclusive.

Re:Lawyer? (1)

harrytuttle777 (1720146) | about 4 years ago | (#31812478)

In a sense the free market could stop tanks from invading, if the country sponsoring those tanks say went bankrupt due to the spiraling cost of an unneeded and unfunded war half way around the world.

In the short term I agree with you. Sometimes government needs to intervene when there is no other way. Teddy Roosevelt did this effectively. In general, the largest corporations are the very opposite of free market. They do not want the markets to be free. They want monopoly, and control. This way the profit is maximized. I wish we had another Teddy Rosevelt, but since the major corporations pay for the elections, media, and arguably the wars, I do not feel this will happen, until....

Re:Lawyer? (4, Funny)

Valdrax (32670) | about 4 years ago | (#31812300)

I'm pretty sure that getting you to open your wallet was Comcast's goal in the first place.

VCR owners revolt! (4, Funny)

CyberSnyder (8122) | about 4 years ago | (#31812014)

Both of them.

Re:VCR owners revolt! (2, Funny)

nine-times (778537) | about 4 years ago | (#31812030)

Hey, I'll join in. I've been pissed that Comcast isn't supporting my attempts to record all my video to a wax cylinder.

Re:VCR owners revolt! (1)

correnos (1727834) | about 4 years ago | (#31812154)

You think Comcast's bad, look at MS! They've dropped all support for my paper tapes! How am I going to access all of my assembly coded programs now?

"VCR Enthusiasts" (4, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 4 years ago | (#31812054)

I'm a part-time VCR enthusiast and a card-carrying member of the Classic Video Equipment Club of America, you insensitive clod!

Re:"VCR Enthusiasts" (5, Funny)

Valdrax (32670) | about 4 years ago | (#31812344)

I'm a part-time VCR enthusiast and a card-carrying member of the Classic Video Equipment Club of America, you insensitive clod!

Agreed. Everyone [wikipedia.org] knows that analog produces a warmer, more beautiful picture free of the deleterious effects of the analog-to-digital conversion process. A properly configured analog video setup produces a superior experience to a digital setup. Anyone who disagrees just doesn't have sophisticated enough eyes.

Re:VCR owners revolt! (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#31812276)

I still use VCRs. For a couple reasons:

- It's Super VHS so it produces DVD quality recordings.
- If I want to keep a recording it's as easy as popping-out the tape and putting it on the shelf.
- (Main reason.) I have about $1000 worth of bought tapes and blanks, and it seems silly to just throw them away that much money.
- Also lots of my home movies are stored on VHS. I need some way to play them.

Re:VCR owners revolt! (1)

pcolaman (1208838) | about 4 years ago | (#31812516)

My thoughts exactly, Comcast is about a decade or two late to the party. Who the fuck seriously still has a VCR that is used regularly. And no, not the VCR you keep in the closet so that you can bust out some old home movies or old Disney Videos every once in a while, but a VCR that still gets regular everyday use?

That's interesting... (-1, Offtopic)

n00btastic (1489741) | about 4 years ago | (#31812026)

I don't even own a TV.

Re:That's interesting... (5, Funny)

MasterOfMagic (151058) | about 4 years ago | (#31812056)

Re:That's interesting... (1, Offtopic)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#31812130)

That article was published back in 2000, when not owning a TV was pretty unusual. My father was one of those people, and it was irritating. Now though? With iPlayer and similar services, along with DVD rentals through the post, owning a TV is a lot less common. It's still usual, but not owning a TV is no longer weird. I don't own one anymore, but I watch a lot more TV shows than I did back when I owned one.

dvd-r (3, Insightful)

tivoKlr (659818) | about 4 years ago | (#31812032)

OK, I know most don't use VCR's anymore, but there are those using DVD recorders, and being unable to set the settop box to switch to the right channel would interfere with setting up recordings when one is away.

Comcast sucks though, and this is definitely another example of such.

VCR? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812040)

What's that?

Re:VCR? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812074)

Yeah. I'm confused...

What's the alternative? (4, Insightful)

treeves (963993) | about 4 years ago | (#31812044)

I recorded some movies on HBO on my Verizon DVR then later cancelled the HBO and kept the DVR. Then when I went to watch the movies, I could not. I paid for the service but I can't watch the movies I already recorded because I don't *keep* paying? Well, at least I know it wouldn't do any good to switch to Comcast... I think I need to do some research...

Re:What's the alternative? (4, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 4 years ago | (#31812188)

I recorded some movies on HBO on my Verizon DVR then later cancelled the HBO and kept the DVR. Then when I went to watch the movies, I could not. I paid for the service but I can't watch the movies I already recorded because I don't *keep* paying? Well, at least I know it wouldn't do any good to switch to Comcast... I think I need to do some research...

Although I hate to admit it - tivo. Despite the absolutely craptastic nature of their interface (it was great like 10 years ago, but hasn't kept up at all) at least on verizon fiostv they are great because verizon never sets the "do not copy" bit, so you can pull all your recordings off your tivo - hbo, cinemax, hdnet, anything but pay-per-view (which tivo doesn't support recording in the first place). I have a perl script that just regularly polls my tivo and downloads anything new to my linux box. Apparently tivo doesn't count these downloads as viewing of the programs either, so my tivo isn't even snitching on my viewing habits either. As far as they know I never, ever watch tv.

It may also work to use the firewire port on the verizon set-top box, if it has one - I haven't tried it since I don't have a set-top box, but typically the firewire stuff is limited by the exact same "do not copy" bit as the tivo uses to decide if you can copy too.

Re:What's the alternative? (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 4 years ago | (#31812494)

I have a perl script that just regularly polls my tivo and downloads anything new to my linux box.

I have one word for you: Galleon [sourceforge.net]

Re:What's the alternative? (1)

radish (98371) | about 4 years ago | (#31812540)

[blockquote]so my tivo isn't even snitching on my viewing habits either[/blockquote]
Or you could, of course, opt out of the anonymous stats reporting.

Re:What's the alternative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812262)

Welcome to the future. All of today's shit DRM, as you have experienced, is where we're going. Thank shiny bling bling companies like Apple and their slimeball partners in crime. The future for these people is all devices locked down, functionality whatever they decide you can do, content will be rental only. In 20 years you'll look back to today and think of it with fond freedom memories.

Re:What's the alternative? (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#31812350)

I gave-up on cable.

Now I just use an antenna, which gives me about 40 non-duplicated channels. They show lots of movies on Saturdays/Sundays. "ThisTV" shows movies 24 hours a day. "RetroTV" shows classic 60s/70s/80s shows. PBS offers 3-4 channels of history/discovery type programs. Reruns of Deadliest Catch, Star Trek, Regenesis air daily and new episodes of Legend of the Seeker every week. And I have Qubo and Family Channel for the kids.

All free.

The DTVpal that I use includes a VCR/DVR Timer to auto-change channels on schedule, so you can record shows while you're not home.

Re:What's the alternative? (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 years ago | (#31812466)

And that is why some of us prefer to stick with independent devices that don't obey the commands of cable companies and other media ass-rapers.

Re:What's the alternative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812486)

Netflix?

OT (2, Informative)

waspleg (316038) | about 4 years ago | (#31812050)

Nothing happened to them when they imposed a 250 GB download per month cap totally violating the original contract agreements of millions. Want to bet it's in the fine print that they reserve the right to fuck you any time they want?

Re:OT (1)

maugle (1369813) | about 4 years ago | (#31812208)

Want to bet it's in the fine print that they reserve the right to fuck you any time they want?

Hell, I doubt they even bother to hide it in lawyerspeak. There's probably a line in the fine print that flat-out says "Comcast reserves the right to bend you over and rape you with a sandpaper condom whensoever they please, for any duration."

Re:OT (2, Insightful)

waspleg (316038) | about 4 years ago | (#31812474)

the worst part is that where i'm at there are no alternatives unless you want to pay to lay phone lines for even worse service. they have local monopolies all over and they know it.

Re:OT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812272)

In case you're wondering, the troll mod was for your sig:

--- Slashdot is full of hypocrites. Only here is censorship both reviled and accepted unconditionally.

You clearly have no idea what censorship is.

Television?!? (5, Insightful)

Krelnor (1189683) | about 4 years ago | (#31812058)

Who cares about the VCR's. People still watch television without downloading it?

Re:Television?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812224)

Yup about 95% of the world. Seems you're the minority.

Re:Television?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812324)

So were you born a prick or did it come naturally later on?

Give up a few lattes (1, Insightful)

Lije Baley (88936) | about 4 years ago | (#31812070)

DVRs are worth the money. End of story. DVRs and ultra-pasteurized milk are the two best things the 21st century has brought us. Just swallow your pride and get one.

Re:Give up a few lattes (1)

leon.gandalf (752828) | about 4 years ago | (#31812102)

Just not on a service that charges $20 a month for it. Damn and I was annoyed at paying $6 extra on DirecTV....

Re:Give up a few lattes (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | about 4 years ago | (#31812472)

I never said he had to pay Comcrap for one. I have happily paid DirecTV $5,6,7 extra for nearly 10 years. I hardly watch TV anymore, but I can watch what I want, when I want, without waiting for, or fussing with a tape. It's worth it to me

Re:Give up a few lattes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812554)

I never said he had to pay Comcrap for one.

He is if he wants the DVR to be able to change the channel, unless he wants to deal with cablecard hell and hook the DVR up as a tuner.

Re:Give up a few lattes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812488)

That's how it is in Canada. Look up how rogers rapes us for similar services...

Even worse, Rogers eliminated all their Clear QAM programming, which I used to get the HD from high end channels on my TV... so now I pay 25$ for the use of their SHITTY PVR... and extra for "HD" channels that are already being broadcast in the clear across the US and the world, in SD and HD simultaneously.

Now, add in the fact that in their utter greed, Rogers decided to COMPRESS their HD digital so as to get 3 channels into the bandwidth of 2, you now get the same (or worse) pixelation and drop outs at the smallest line noise, which of course, they advertise as only happening to BELL because of the "weather" and the "dish."

Cable companies need competition. Not sure how to do it, but damn... and when you consider they are also the Wireless Duopoly up here, it's just terrible.... costs are ridiculous.

Just goes to show that the only place there is any profit being made anymore, is in "IP."

Re:Give up a few lattes (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | about 4 years ago | (#31812434)

Sorry, but I'm being sincere as hell about the DVR, and the milk. Some people are so cheap about things like this but waste just as much money on other stuff that doesn't actually improve their life. The guy who modded me Troll was W-R-O-N-G.

Re:Give up a few lattes (1)

Donniedarkness (895066) | about 4 years ago | (#31812470)

So them upping the price by $20/month for you to be able to record things in advance is perfectly ok?

It may only be $20/month, but I know PLENTY of families that can't risk that extra $$ on television each month, so therefore will just have to go without.

WHO CARES? (4, Insightful)

terjeber (856226) | about 4 years ago | (#31812072)

This is a non-event for anyone who has moved past the stone age. News for nerds? This is News For Cave Men.

Re:WHO CARES? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812114)

Some nerds have to provide tech support for relatives that have VCRs and do not have DVRs. Try explaining that their VCRs are now useless and they now have to shell out $120-$240 a year.

Some nerds also own DVRs instead of renting from Comcast. The "VCR" programming feature is required to use with a non-Comcast DVR.

Firewire may possibly be a solution (4, Interesting)

synthesizerpatel (1210598) | about 4 years ago | (#31812078)

Digital cable boxes by law in the US (last time I checked) are required to have firewire ports to allow for unprotected content recording -- i.e. anything you can get over-the-air can be recorded via firewire stream. Incidentally, many basic cable channels are unprotected as well.

But, more importantly, you can change the channel through the firewire port.

I hacked together a really, really poor example of this for OSX using Apple's Firewire SDK -- http://www.remix.net/wiki/Clover [remix.net]

It's woefully out of date, but channel changing worked when I put it together. It would stand to reason that this feature would work for any firewire client unless they've disabled that as well.

Re:Firewire may possibly be a solution (1)

Mista2 (1093071) | about 4 years ago | (#31812222)

And another reason why I havn't paid to view their DRM content. And none of the DRM features seems to be stopping the TV shows making it to the torrent sites with a few hours after broadcast anyway.
Just as well, it doesn't look like our local channels are going to be picking up the second season of Dollhouse or the next season of True Blood, or the DR Who specials, etc.
If it's not available here, it's not stealing is it? 8)

 

Re:Firewire may possibly be a solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812278)

Digital cable boxes by law in the US (last time I checked) are required to have firewire ports to allow for unprotected content recording

Almost, they were required to add the 1394 port. However, most cable companies encrypt the output with 5C which effectively renders it useless as there's fsck all to capture the normal media to make it useable. Ironically, Comcast were one of the companies that forgot to lock the content, so theirs actually works.

VCR with IR emitter (4, Insightful)

lalena (1221394) | about 4 years ago | (#31812082)

Before DVR, VCRs used to have IR emitters that would change the channel on the cable box automatically at the right time. You just need to find one of these.
Granted this might be a bit high-tech for some, but if someone was already programming their cable box to change the channel for the VCR, then they should be able to figure out the IR emitter.

Re:VCR with IR emitter (1)

SplicerNYC (1782242) | about 4 years ago | (#31812426)

I remember the good old days when I was able to plug my cable box directly into my TiVo and have the latter control the former. Then RCN got wise and provided their own DVR and took the capability I loved away. IR emitters have never worked reliably for me no matter how many times I've tried to set it up. Somewhere there is a company that actually thinks about its customers -- I think.

HTPC! (1)

stalky14 (574130) | about 4 years ago | (#31812110)

Homebrew DVR with a non-DVR cable box. One should never have to pay for DVR "service" (or put up with the godawful UI on those Motorola boxes Comcast uses). It's not a service, it's a piece of hardware, dammit!

Re:HTPC! (1)

kenh (9056) | about 4 years ago | (#31812146)

The guide is the service you pay for. Comcast loans you the hardware so you'll subscribe to the guide. TiVo Sells you the hardware and requires you to subscribe to the guide. Your home-brewed DVR would rely on someone else providing you a free guide....

Re:HTPC! (1)

Cidolfas (1358603) | about 4 years ago | (#31812216)

You can either scrape microsoft's free guide or, preferably, pay $20 a year for Schedules Direct in the US. And if I recall, Comcast doesn't sell you the guide, they rent you the hardware that's capable of using their system. Even if you own your own hardware, they still make you pay to rent the cable card.

Numbers are off (3, Interesting)

kenh (9056) | about 4 years ago | (#31812122)

Here in Central NJ Comcast charges me $16.95/mo for a dual tuner HD cable box, able to record two HD programs at once.

If I had a TiVo I'd need what, two CableCards PLUS a monthly TiVo subscription?

Comcast's DVR service takes the place of a conventional digital cable box and adds about $7 month to give me dual-channel HD DVR service.

When I realized that, I turned in my conventional digital cable box and cancelled my TiVo subscription and saved over $20 month.

I miss TiVo's added features/interface, but saving $20/month is pretty good.

Re:Numbers are off (1)

jtdennis (77869) | about 4 years ago | (#31812444)

you'd need one multi-stream CableCard plus the monthly subscription unless you buy lifetime service for the TiVo. It's pricy, but spread out over the life of the TiVo works out to be the best deal. I wish I had done it with my Series 1 TiVo that I got in 2000. It's still kicking, but I still have to pay monthly.
The pricing for Comcast works out to be $2.00/month per CableCard, but I think the first one is free. TiVo's monthly fee is $12.95 for the first box and $6.95 for each additional box.

$20/month DVR service? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 4 years ago | (#31812138)

$20 dollars a month just for DVR service?
I have no knowledge of other services prices but that is far to much money.

It should be like 2 dollars/month.
A one time purchase of a DVR only costs a few hundred.

Re:$20/month DVR service? (2, Insightful)

theNetImp (190602) | about 4 years ago | (#31812364)

The DVR service is rental of their DVR equipment, not access to a service. They are renting you hardware that is a DVR. The DVR is also your cable tuner so you are only renting one device instead of 2. Digital cable boxes via comcast are $10/month, so in reality you are paying an additional $10/month for the more advanced box. Box breaks Comcast replaces it. You buy a DVR or build one something breaks and you may have to pay out more to replace/fix it than the $120/yr for the rental. When storage in Comcasts new boxes increases, you call Comcast and can get a newer box without doling out a couple hundred more dollars for a new box or upgraded computer system..

time warner stopped last year (1)

dltaylor (7510) | about 4 years ago | (#31812142)

In my area, they shut off all of the guide data early last year. In addition, they shut off the PBS-channel subcarrier that had the time-of-day, so I now have to manually reset the time on my recorder when the useless, murderous (but that's another subject) "Daylight Savings Time" changes occur. Of course, they've also shut off all of the clear QAM, so I have to have a set top box to record anything that isn't a broadcast channel.

But, since all of the alternatives are no better, if not worse, I have no real choice but to pay somescum for access to whatever current video (some motorsports, some anime/cartoons, some non-presium movies) I want to watch.

Re:time warner stopped last year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812288)

Modded thread already. Get rid of cable TV, keep high speed Internet, download any TV show you want to watch. And profit. You're paying for the privilege to be assraped by TWC. Fuck them, and if they go to limits, Earthlink stated they would still offer high speed with no limits through TWC pipes at the same cost. How long do you think limits will last when that starts happening?

One less reason to have cable tv (1)

portnux (630256) | about 4 years ago | (#31812158)

Wow, as if there wasn't enough reasons already to drop cable tv in favor of a Boxee Box!

LA- luddites anonymous (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812174)

a vee-cee-what?

A fairly common, and in some ways elegant, move... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 years ago | (#31812192)

Seen in a variety of places in the tech business, and businesses with a lot of underlying technology.

Here is how it works: Because technology is complex, most users are largely helpless, and incapable of realizing much of the theoretical promise of the technology available. A fairly small population of gearheads(and, if said gearheads happen to be motivated in setting up UIs, immediate friends and family of such) can realize the potential; but most cannot. At this point, you create a product that, by making things easy, gives Joe Sixpack 90% of what Jim Gearhead has always been able to do, available at the touch of a button. The last 10%, though, you take away from both Joe and Jim, in the form of DRM and/or fees. Because the population of gearheads is much smaller than the population at large, you get to look like you are "enabling new capabilities, for which you are charging a fair price/making a few reasonable concessions to content providers", even as you are, in fact, turning the screws a little tighter.

Historically, Apple has been perhaps the most talented player of this game, but there are certainly plenty of others. It's evil, certainly; but it works quite well.

It is the existence, and success, of this strategy that makes me think that user-friendliness may be a necessary survival trait for FOSS. If we can make Jim Gearhead's 100% solution easy to use, then the public at large will see the various crippled or fee-based(often both) almost-as-good-but-easier offerings as the steps down that they are, and protest loudly. If we can't, though, the companies that deliver them will, largely, receive acquiescence or even praise for doing so.

Anti-Trust? (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | about 4 years ago | (#31812196)

Anti-trust. . . really?

"Dear ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I come before you today with the intent to prove that Comcast, Inc. is the only company available in our area with the capability to provide this VCR-scheduling service, and moreover, is required by federal law to provide this service as a purchasable product to the public."

Silly DVR boxes (1)

raynet (51803) | about 4 years ago | (#31812198)

Are the DVRs in US so dumb that they don't allow the user to set the channel and recording time manually? It shouldn't be to difficult to check when the show is airing and setting the VCR to record that, though if the VCR doesn't have digital reciever, then one might have to set timer on both the VCR and the digibox. Atleast that is how it is done here.

Re:Silly DVR boxes (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 4 years ago | (#31812248)

Are the DVRs in US so dumb that they don't allow the user to set the channel and recording time manually? It shouldn't be to difficult to check when the show is airing and setting the VCR to record that, though if the VCR doesn't have digital reciever, then one might have to set timer on both the VCR and the digibox. Atleast that is how it is done here.

Why would a DVR owner be using a VCR in the first place? That's like using 8-track tapes to back up your AIFF files.

I believe most people are missing the real point.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812234)

...Which is that this feature was there to begin with and then Comcast removed it to give their customers less choice in a blatant attempt to drive more people to their DVR service. I don't get all the arguments arguing about the merits of the feature in today's high tech world. It was there. People used it. It wasn't hurting anyone. Then Comcast removed because they decided those customers that used the feature were less important than some market research figure that said they might be able to sign up X% more people to their DVR service.

/raises hand (4, Funny)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 4 years ago | (#31812236)

I still use a VCR, and I will until it starts eating tapes. (It's not that I'm some sort of zealot, it's just...well...it still works. Why fix what isn't broken?)

Course, it serves one, and only one, purpose: recording Jeopardy OTA from my DTV box. Which is, incidentally, the only reason I even need the DTV converter in the first place.

Funny story, my VCR is not year 2010 compliant, so I actually have to use a year with the same template as this year to get it working. (My VCR thinks that (as of this post) it's 11 Apr, 1999.) More useless trivia, it doesn't know about years preceeding 1990 either.

Re:/raises hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812592)

I still use a VCR, and I will until it starts eating tapes. (It's not that I'm some sort of zealot, it's just...well...it still works. Why fix what isn't broken?)

Course, it serves one, and only one, purpose: recording Jeopardy OTA from my DTV box. Which is, incidentally, the only reason I even need the DTV converter in the first place.

Funny story, my VCR is not year 2010 compliant, so I actually have to use a year with the same template as this year to get it working. (My VCR thinks that (as of this post) it's 11 Apr, 1999.) More useless trivia, it doesn't know about years preceeding 1990 either.

Same deal here. Still use a VCR and usually for one or two one-hour programs a week for part of the year. Basically just time shifting them. Very occasionally I'll use it to record something else say if a House marathon comes on or I want to tear myself away from the Food Network (mmmm food porn.)

I do kind of regret not buying a Tivo or other DVR years ago. A couple months ago I checked them out and was appalled at the monthly rate for the schedule information. Maybe once day I'll get motivated and put together a Myth TV box or something. Until then a VCR will suffice.

....Yeah. (1)

Redlazer (786403) | about 4 years ago | (#31812260)

Douchebag moves that's going to affect a very small percentage of people.

I agree it's shitty, but it detracts from the fact that you have to pay an extra 20$ a month to use a DVR.

MythTV and firewire ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812264)

Using MythTV, one firewire port, and two Motorola HD boxes daisy chained from Comcast for $10.00 a month, $3.00 for the first one and $7.00 for the second. Since the kernel switched to the new firewire stack the system has been rock solid recording everything I've scheduled. The only caveat is that you can't record the premium channels, which are 5C encrypted.

Don't pay for cable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812360)

Don't watch it either.

Bite the hand that feeds you, and eat it.

It's CrapTastic (1)

dwreid (966865) | about 4 years ago | (#31812362)

Seriously. This sort of crap is why I had my cable pulled out and told Comcast to jam it up their corporate asses sideways. Who needs them?

There Is a work-around (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 4 years ago | (#31812378)

but you're not going to like it much more than "set up recording a few hours in advance"

You can set a timer on the VCR itself, usually about one to two weeks in advance. Then you need to make sure the tuner is set to the proper channel. Since that bit may also be disabled, you might only be able to record consecutive shows on the same channel where you set the channel for the next recording after the last time you use the television.

But if you're a techie, then I guess you gotta get DVR, TiVo, or Myth. Otherwise you lose your cred.

Yeah, I still use a VCR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31812458)

A large portion of TV programming sucks, so there are few shows I care enough about to time-shift. Not enough to justify a DVR for me. Anything else, I watch on computer.

Comcast also sucks, but I was setting start/stop times manually anyway.

Not only that (2, Funny)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 4 years ago | (#31812500)

If you don't buy their time service, the clock will only flash 12:00 If you don't buy their "video out" service, you will only be able to use the RF modulator to your set.

I don't understand the scenario described (1)

jfruhlinger (470035) | about 4 years ago | (#31812522)

The last time I used a VCR to record things on a timer -- back in the '90s, maybe? -- you just set the time and channel information into the VCR itself. I can't imagine there have been great advances in VCR technology since then, so why can't you do that now?

better question: (4, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 4 years ago | (#31812546)

Raise your hand if you regularly use a VCR these days, too.

Raise your hand if you bother watching TV any more. I stopped years ago. If there is anything I want to see, I just DL it when I want to.

Here's ABC's line up:

20/20

AFV - America's Funniest Home Videos

The Bachelor

The Bachelor Jason and Molly's Wedding

The Bachelorette

Better Off Ted

Brothers & Sisters

Castle

Cougar Town

Dancing with the Stars

The Deep End

Desperate Housewives

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

FlashForward

The Forgotten

Grey's Anatomy

Happy Town

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Lost

The Middle

Modern Family

Nightline

Primetime

Private Practice

Romantically Challenged

Scrubs

Shaq vs Shark Tank

SuperNanny

This Week With George Stephanopoulos

Ugly Betty

V

Wife Swap

Wipeout

Now, how is anyone's life worse off for being denied exposure to the above noted programs? I'm fine. I'm happy, I'm living a rich and colourful life. And I don't watch any of that crap - not on NBC, CBS, or ABC or even PBS. And I'm certainly not going to pay some cable company the privilege to watch TV commercials.

Do yourself a favour. Get rid of your set. If you MUST see something, watch it online. Otherwise - go find something else to do with your time than waste it in front of the idiot box.

Ok, my question is (1)

pgmrdlm (1642279) | about 4 years ago | (#31812582)

What about cd/dvd recorders. Is the recording technology that much different between vcr's and dvd/cd recorders?

Can someone fact check this or provide a citation (4, Insightful)

PNutts (199112) | about 4 years ago | (#31812588)

I love that the discussion is all over the place in true /. fashion (because some of the most interesting points are sidebar discussions). However, if it isn't advertised and the summary is vauge how am I supposed to know how far to twist my knickers? I use a Tivo which uses an IR blaster to change the set-top box. No Comcast P/DVR. My assumption is that Tivo appears to the set-top box no differently than a third party remote control. So is the Anonymous submission saying I can't change my channels? I seriously don't even know enough to start a search other than "Comcast $ucks" which will return far to many hits...

Just what I needed (1)

hivebrain (846240) | about 4 years ago | (#31812608)

I already have a hard enough time finding a store that sells those tiny cassettes for my answering machine.
Next thing you know, they'll stop selling computers with floppy drives. The world's gone mad I tell ya! Mad!
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