Time Is on My Side

Explorer 8000 DVRMy dog has a habit of demanding to go outside during the eighth inning of just about every afternoon ballgame I watch on TV, but during today’s Yankees-Red Sox match I had a solution that suited both man and beast: digital video recording. I pressed ‘Pause’ on the remote control, walked Mister President out to the dog park and let him run around for about fifteen minutes. When we got back to the house I pressed &#8216Play’ and watched Jorge Posada hit a crucial home run to win it for the Yankees with a final score of 10-7.

This scenario was made possible by my brief trip to the Time Warner Cable NYC offices this morning, where I traded in our old cable box for a brand new Explorer 8000. This new device, manufactured by Scientific Atlanta, is essentially a hybrid of a digital cable converter and a TiVo unit, meaning it allows access to TWCNYC’s superior digital television interface while also allowing us to record, pause, rewind and fast forward live television — and more. (A less cursory explanation of the concepts behind digital television recording can be found here.)

Right: Time Warner Cable NYC’s premiere DVR offering, in the form of the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000. The future of television looks kind of like a Ford Taurus.
Explorer 8000

TiVo, We Hardly Knew Ye

I had always assumed that I would buy myself a TiVo sooner or later, but the Time Warner deal is too good to pass up: not only is the added monthly charge of US$7 cheaper than what TiVo would charge, but TWCNYC provides the box for free, saving us at least US$300 we would otherwise have had to spend on a TiVo-branded box. Granted, the Explorer 8000 is not as fully-featured as a TiVo, but it matches those units on the base features, at least.

All of which makes me feel a bit guilty for doing an end run around TiVo, a pioneer in this market that has never really gotten the success it deserves. To see it trumped by a mega-corporation like Time Warner seems damn unfair. There’s a chance that, after using the Explorer 8000 for a while, I may find its limitations too frustrating and decide to buy a TiVo after all, but I rather doubt it. The sad truth of it is that DVR’s future as a proprietary technology is very grim but its chances as a commodity value-add to television paraphernalia are very good — it’ll surely be available in just about every digital cable box within five years, and I’m sure that within a decade most of the consumer public will be practicing the art of ‘time shifting,’ as DVR usage is sometimes called, when they’re watching the Yankees beat the Red Sox.



  1. Khoi, have you been having any trouble with your DVR? I got one too, although I already have a TIVO in my living room. I wanted to try the DVR for my bedroom TV. (Technology over-kill? Probably.) This new TWC box has needed rebooting twice so far. It stops recording scheduled programming and the only way I’ve been able to make it act as it’s supposed to is to unplug it and allow it to reboot.

    What are your impressions of yours so far?

  2. We’ve recorded about five shows and one movie with our DVR unit, and no problems yet. But we’ve only had it four days now, so I don’t want to speak too positively and too soon… It seems that every new technological gadget I get malfunctions in some way, so the pessimist in me fully expects odd and inconvenient problems to arise eventually.

    That said, I’m pretty happy with its performance so far. Installation was, remarkably, hassle free (I should point out too that TWCNYC did a very good job of providing exceedingly simple installation instructions — and they worked). I do notice that there is a slight delay, probably attributable to the hard disk, when I switch channels. It’s not significant enough to be a problem, but it’s definitely a greater delay than what we had with the digital TV-only setup.

    If you have to reboot again and/or too often, I’d take it back. They’re passing these DVRs out at a fast clip, and it wouldn’t surprise me if many of them are lemons.

  3. I think I got one of those lemons. Just got the box today and the hard drive is “damaged”. The box restarts on its own after being on for 20-30 min. Also, when I hit LIST to see recorded programs (haven’t been able to record any) it says there is a hard drive error and asks to restart (or call TWC CS if the problem continues). Rebooting hasn’t solved the problem…..so back it goes for an exchange. First impressions: This DVR box switches channels slower than the regular DTV box…and there are other slight delays like when call the Guide up. I hope the replacement box works. TWC CS was very helpful (didn’t have me go thru all the rebooting step once I told her the drive was bad)…just said bring it back and they would credit my bill for the time the box was unusable. Guess cable has come a long way.

  4. it’s possible to put a hard drive 200 or 250 gig on the explorer 8000 (for replace 80 Gig)

    Important to put a 5400 rpm or it’s not a probleme to take a 7200rpm hard disk ?

    what is the program for a format ?

    excume for my poor english…
    Jean-Pierre Laforest

  5. Yes, it is possible.

    I just replaced my 80gig 5400 RPM HD that failed with a 250gig 7200RPM HD. Works great!

    I also added a small fan inside the unit to cool the hard drive off. The old drive was burning up when I took it out. I don’t understand why they did not put a fan in this unit. It needs it!

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