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Looking for a replacement for an ailing Tivo.

Discussion in 'Digital TV & Video Players & Recorders' started by Typical Janner, Jul 4, 2005.

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  1. Typical Janner

    Typical Janner
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    We've just returned from holiday to find that the recent storms have fried the modem in our much loved Tivo (from reading the forums over at tivocommunity.com, it seems we were not the only ones).

    It looks like we could get the modem fixed for £100+ or network Tivo to the PC to access schedule updates via the Net (also likely to cost in the region of £100).

    Although we absolutely love the Tivo, I am reluctant to spend that kind of money on something which is already several years old, and would probably only go and develop another fault just after I had spent the money on it.

    But, is there anything currently available that offers the same functionality and features that we have come to love in the Tivo? Are there any PVRs that will record from Sky (apart from the obvious Sky+!)? Other features we like are the ability to create Season Passes to automatically record certain shows (regardless of when or where they are on). Tivo's ability to learn from your viewing habits and automatically record shows that it thinks you might like is another feature we would miss. Freeview and dual tuners would be a nuce bonus.

    So, does anthing come close?
     
  2. obrother

    obrother
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    I still have my Tivo but it's switched off since I bought a Topfield 5800.

    It has twin freeview tuners and will only record from them, so you can't record sky or any external source.

    You can run things called TAPs which are just programs written by users using the Topfield API. One of these is called Jag's EPG, which is pretty much the equivalent of wish lists on the Tivo, i.e will record every instance of a name, but will also record duplicates (I don't find this a problem). I exported my season pass list from Tivo and just use the same names as if they were wish lists (limited to 128 in Jag's EPG).

    There are no genres with Freeview so it can't really learn your viewing habits as Tivo can, but I rarely found this useful anyway and turned it off.

    Recordings are same quality as the original, which is an improvement over Tivo if you have a large screen.

    No subscription for guide data.

    It has a few quirks, but nothing serious.

    Checkout www.toppy.org.uk for a very active forum with loads of info.
     
  3. marmite0

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    Interesting,

    My Tivo is alive and kicking, but am motivated to look at new PVR because I have large HD plasma and can really see detremental effect Sky->Tivo->plasma has on PQ - and am keen to record DVB mpeg direct. Also I'd really like the twin-tuner capability.
    However, I know and love my Tivo and it works exceptionally well - everything is intuitive/reliable and functional. I have a feeling the best of the bunch (probably toppy) would seem klunky in comparison..

    OBrother, please pursuade me otherwise!

    I am being lazy here (As I suspect covered somewhere in threads), but

    1) Toppy do constant recording in same fashion as Tivo - thereby providing 30min live buffer(s) of active channel(s)?
    2) Dependent on 1) ---- can u record program that has already commenced from the start of program? E.g. on BBC2 and 10minutes through Horizon, hmm I think I want to keep this program; Press record, record entire prog. (for non-tivo owners - tivo does this)
    3) Handle conflicts nicely. What I'm thinking of here is; We have a season pass for a soap, where each episode is repeated the following day. If you record something else that conflicts with first showing or for other reasons it cannot record 1st showing, Tivo will auto-record next showing following day. Very nice/useful.
    4) Remembers play position for all recordings. I think I read that it does or can be made to somewhere..?
    5) Manage auto-deletion / prioritization of recordings. e.g. keep for a least n days.

    For me losing Sky/External record capability is a sacrifice worth paying (I just don't watch enough of it).

    There are probably many more points - but I'd be interested in anyone's feedback on comparison.
     
  4. Typical Janner

    Typical Janner
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    marmite0, you have just reminded me of more things I love about Tivo ... and probably highlighted how hard it will be to find something that comes close (I thought that these kind of things were supposed to get better over time, so why has nothing still come close to Tivo?).

    Like yourself, I also have a plasma that would benefit from a better source. I could also be persuaded into losing the ability to record from Sky.
     
  5. marmite0

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    Well I am largely ignorant about Toppy and would love to be enlighted as to how well it compares to Tivo - but pessimism rules they day at the moment in absence of 1st hand exeperience, hoping OBother will be able to fill in some of the blanks.

    I'm torn at the moment between flicking between obviously superior DVB signal and obviously superioir Tivo functionality with poor signal - I find myself switching Tivo over to channel and then flicky back to DVB!

    The real answer would be for Tivo to re-enter the UK market with their latest boxes - I think they have everything one could desire in Tivo style in the US market.
     
  6. marmite0

    marmite0
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    BTW, T.Jammer, there's another way you could get updates without modem and without network card on to your Tivo.

    You can setup Tivo to have an internet connection via the serial port, "PPP over serial" - You have to have it connected to an always on PC though with an internet connection. JAT.
     
  7. Typical Janner

    Typical Janner
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    Thanks. I wasn't aware of that option.
     
  8. obrother

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    marmite0 and Typical Janner, there may be other pvrs that would suit you, so to show that I'm not biased see here for a good comparison table:

    http://www.emsee.co.uk/pvr/

    I can't say what Toppy looks like with a plasma because I haven't got one, but the picture will be as good as the original Freeview because it's not re-encoded as it is with Tivo. On my 32in WS Panny I could always tell I was watching a Tivo recording even after changing it to use high res, high bitrate and tweaking the colour/brightness of the output, so I expect a large screen would be much worse.

    In terms of clunkiness compared to Tivo, well I have to admit that it is, Tivo was a model of simplicity to use and I can't say that Toppy is, but it IS still useable so don't let that put you off.

    1) yes it can do constant buffering, or you can turn it off and save power (I have, so I can't tell you what the buffer time is). There's only one buffer though, not two. I never watch live TV so I don't need it.

    2) yes, it will add whatever's in the buffer to the recorded program (as far as I know).

    3) there's no concept of a series, so assuming that you use Jag's EPG it will record every instance of a named program (note that you have to have a PC with USB enabled in order to load TAPs onto the Toppy).

    4) it doesn't automatically remember where you've watched a program up to (but I often found that Tivo would forget as well). However, you can add bookmarks or load a TAP that will automatically set a bookmark for you.

    5) there's no auto deletion feature, when the disk is full it stops recording. There may be TAPs to do this, I don't know, but you could easily write one if you're proficient with 'C'. JAG's EPG has an implicit prioritization the same as Tivo, but clashes occur a lot less when you have twin tuners.

    Other points:

    Bit noisier than Tivo, I can hear the disk clicking occasionally, but if you upgrade the disk with a quiet one that goes away (I think it's just a case of dropping the disk in, none of that faffing around required with a Tivo). Later Toppys than mine may even have quieter disks anyway, but as it is I can't say that it bothers me.

    If you're recording two things at once you can still watch any other channel that's on either of the two muxes that are recording.

    Easy to download to PC and convert to DVD, and vice versa.

    Can put mp3s on it and play them.

    Can put images on it and view them (need's a TAP).

    If you get halfway through watching a long program, e.g 6 hours of golf, you can cut out the section that you've already watched to save disk space.

    Much more powerful and hence quicker to operate than Tivo. I've got 128 wishlists and it will scan a week's worth of EPG data and set the timers in seconds. Menu traversal happens in real time rather than Tivo time.

    Bit pricey compared to others, (maybe not if you can afford a plasma :) ) but it does have a big disk and the ability to run third party programs is a huge bonus if you can make use of it.

    I waited for a couple of years for a twin-tuner freeview pvr to come out that could potentially replace my Tivo and this is it. I haven't regretted buying it at all, and if you're prepared to tolerate some clunkiness and can connect it to a PC occasionally then I don't expect that you will either. It's got that same "wow, this is great" sort of feeling that you had when you first started using your Tivo.
     
  9. marmite0

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    Toppy is definetely best of bunch from what I can tell. And some has advanced features that Tivo does not.

    Do you know of the list of problems (e.g. dumps you to end of program when recording ends in chase play) - are the working on those ? Are there regular firmware updates?

    Yes, it's bound to be better PQ as no re-encoding, I have no doubt in that.


    It does make me hesitate quite a lot, everyone who sees Tivo (and let's not forget just how hold it's technology is) is so impressed (even Sky+ owners) - and can practically instantaneously get to grips with the UI and are asking, where can I buy one from?! As impressive as the Toppy technology is, if it's painful/annoying to use (in comparison) - then it will loose some of it's appeal.

    Ooh, I couldn't live without time-slip/chase play on live TV - I use it a lot.

    Cool, I think if didn't do that - then PVR would be a no-no.

    No concept of series, can't Jag's EPG or something in theory at least, tie the episodes together i.e. by name.
    I suspect what it comes down to , is that Toppy's scheduler is a simple beast, whereas Tivo's is fairly smart.

    That is another WOW factor for family. Even if episode missed, Tivo is smart enough to know that and pick up next showing.

    I've never found Tivo to forget, but I this is one nice feature, that I wouldn't mind losing or substituting for another nice feature.

    Yuk, if no add-on to do this - that's horrid.
    Do you get a warning or something when approaching full?
    Either way, it will mean it will fail to record using JAG's EPG wishlist etc. eventually unless you keep an eye on it - manage.

    I suppose although I wouldn't like that over Tivo management - I _could_ live with it.

    Yes that sounds very nice - is it a fiddle 'knowing' which channels are on which muxes and knowing your options?

    Definitive big ++ Is there lots of processing involved, or is in already in convenient mpeg video+audio streams?

    Tivo a bit slow, but I'd rather slow than clumsy UI.

    To be honest, I'd pay more if it was as good as the ads. it has, but without the niggles (it has all the right technical ability - I'd pay more for polish)

    I may still wait, maybe there's a final solution around the corner.
    If only you could try before you buy OR a really good online simulator of functionality.
     
  10. obrother

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    I have no knowledge of what they're working on (NWhitfield may do, on the toppy forum). It's only been out since april, I think, and there have been 2 updates to firmware, we're probably due for another. You can't say that about Tivo.

    In theory, yes, you'd just have to persuade Jag to do it. I forgot to mention that it supports folders, so you could put all of your episodes in one folder. It can only work with the guide data that it's got OTA.

    Yes, but you have to be there to react to it. Think of it like Tivo where you've set everything to be saved forever.

    In the channel list, the ones that are unavailable are greyed out, so you don't have to remember anything. If you have two recordings going simultaeneously and they're on the same mux then I believe that it's possible to use the same tuner, leaving the other one free to watch/record anything.

    Recording is in .rec files (which I think may be mpegs with different headers). They are converted quickly and easily to mpeg (they're transcoded rather than reencoded, which is much faster and loses no quality).

    If money were no object then you could pay someone to write you a new interface, the API is pretty comprehensive. Although I like polish myself, I'll take functionality over form any day.

    Maybe there will, maybe there won't. Most retailers will take returns after deducting a restocking fee. I'd suggest that you download the manual and have a look at how it works.
     
  11. marmite0

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    No, no Tivo upgrades in a very long time. Although it is _almost_ faultless in what it does<g>

    Well there's hope, I'd never get enough time to delv. into API.


    Oh well, bit primitive, maybe a TAP could be written though.. Sky+ I think is same.
    Is UI using TAP customizable? E.g. if a TAP were written with auto-deletion priorities Tivo style could UI be made to show priorities etc. I'm guessing answer is yes given there's an API and I presume JAG's EPG uses.. just checking.

    That sounds very nice.

    Great.

    Well, it would come down to the detail - would never know until I tried.


    Thanks for all the advice.
     
  12. kbfern

    kbfern
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    My Tivo also stopped working last Tuesday ( night of the storms) only get the grey screen now which says "loading please wait" and goes no further.

    I wen't out and bought an 80gb Humax 8000 and while it has only 1 tuner (same as Tivo) works just fine £169 (comet) also are available for £137 off the net.

    This will do me untill a reliable twin tuner pvr comes to market and to boot I am saving £10 per month on epg guide.

    Humax can only do freeview and not sky but I only used sky for the free channels anyway.And of course I can still use sky to view programmes when recording with the Humax.
     
  13. pr1uk

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    TiVo,
    I used to have two but for some reason (why why why) i sold them but looking at the heading "replacement for TiVo" There is no such thing TiVo was the best thing every made. I sold mine because i thought the company would stop giving program details etc once they stopped making TiVo for the UK market they never did unlike pace who seem to be wiping their feet of the twin.
     
  14. marmite0

    marmite0
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    It's very strange, I think Tivo would make a killing if they re-entered the UK market - unfortunately Mr. Murdoch :spit: has a stranglehold on sky distribution and no Tivo's US style likely to be seen here for foreseeable future. I hate Sky!
     
  15. Typical Janner

    Typical Janner
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    I must admit, having spent the last few days looking at just about every alternative there is (PVRs and DVD recorders), I shall probably end up having my Tivo repaired (or, at least, installing a network card so that I can still obtain daily schedules).

    Yes, it doesn't have a Freeview tuner and the PQ is perhaps not as good as some new models. But, in nearly every other area, it still seems way ahead of what is on the market now.
     
  16. DaveC

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    As a recent new owner of a Topfield 5800, I thought I'd just let the TiVO owners here know how great I think it is. I haven't used a TiVO before, so it's difficult for me to compare the two....to be honest I'm too tight to pay 10pound per month just for EPG data so I was chuffed when I first learned of Freeview PVRs.

    Just to clarify obrothers comments on "series link": although the EPG transmitted over freeview does not contain series link information, Jag's EPG does emulate this function with the keyword record/search feature. If you ask the EPG to look for a series title, it will just record every program aired with that name. The keyword search can be narrowed....you can specify a particular time slot, a particular channel or group of channels and ask the search to be carried out on just the program title or search the descriptions too.

    For example, if you wanted to record all the currently airing Simpsons episodes you could set up the keyword search as:

    keyword: "Simpsons"
    from channel: 4
    to channel: 4
    time slot : 5pm - 10 pm
    search type: title only

    if you just wanted to record all the new simpsons episodes on C4 (I think they're at 9pm on a friday) you could set the search as:

    keyword "Simpsons"
    from channel: 4
    to channel: 4
    timeslot: 8:45pm to 9:25pm
    search type: title only

    It's a bit clumsier than the series link, but it does work. I don't know if there is any plans to ever upgrade the freeview EPG with series link....it wouldn't be that difficult for the TV stations to add this info.

    TAPs to make it more like TiVO:

    There is an auto-delete TAP available in the download section of the Toppy forums (www.toppy.org.uk) ... it says that you can set it to automatically delete old stuff....I've not used it though, 160GB will take me a while to fill up!

    The bookmark TAP available on the Toppy forum page automatically bookmarks the position where you stop playing back a recording (pressing stop twice cancels the bookmark).

    As far as the reported bugs are concerned, I haven't suffered any at all (well I haven't had the thing that long). I did replace the supplied loop through cable though.

    Despite what people have said about the UI being difficult/clunky, I honestly can't agree. I was a little concerned before I bought it ... after reading comments in the forums about the bad (supplied) EPG and complicated menus. The truth is, it's a pieceOfpiss to use. Even mrs. DaveC was a complete convert after about 10mins use. The supplied EPG doesn't have the same flexibility as JAG's but it's easy to use and very fast too.

    All very intuitive, the functionality is almost getting to the "invisible technology" stage ... you don't really need to understand what it's doing (which tuners/muxes are being used, which channel is being buffered, how big the buffer is etc. etc), just use it...it works. I've found the live-pause and rewind features excellent for watching stuff like the F1 and live8.

    I was originally getting Freeview via a Panasonic iDTV. The toppy totally outclasses it at every turn...picture quality, UI, tuner sensitivity, immunity to switching transients in the house and most of all UI reaction time. On my TV the digi-text took 30 seconds to load after pressing the button. On the Topfield it's takes less than 2s. Using the Toppy has been a revalation.

    It is a shame that the above mentioned TAPs aren't standard features....I guess loading software onto your STB isn't suitable for everyone, but it is very easy (takes about 2 minutes to setup with a PC and uses drag and drop style interface).

    I guess I would have to actually use a TiVO to give you a proper comparative opininon, but nontheless I think the Topfield is a great piece of kit and the PQ is great.

    By the way, you can get the toppy for £275 inc. p&p from Hughes Online.
     
  17. marmite0

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    A full fledged endorsement then <g>

    Well, I have not had my hands on a Toppy so it is difficult to compare.
    Toppy clearly has much more potential than the Tivo (unless you must record from external source); since it can record mpeg stream direct off DVB x 2 etc. etc.

    TAP's sound like they start to approach Tivo's EPG/management - but from what I can judge they'd get a 'nice try' award IMO.

    I think Tivo their design so right from day 1. Program database / conflict resolution / intelligent series link, wish list, auto records programs you _may_ be interested in, etc..

    I realize (in particular last item) this cannot be implemented without meta data.

    I remember being amazed when I had a series link for Cold Feet set, and following the last episode it switched to ITV2 (which I had never watched at that time before) and recorded the making of cold feet for me, because it thought I might be interest - which my wife inparticular was gobsmacked by and chuffed.


    I think I'll probably cave in and got for Toppy soon <g>

    I do find it amazing that in some ways it will be a backward step - considering my Tivo is ~4 years old.

    But, just maybe it can all be extended by TAP's and/or firmware upgrade by Toppy. I'd like to think so.

    Can someone answer me another lazy question, is time-slip on both tuners and/or muxes or just one?
     
  18. DJW

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    Haven't time to find thread, but it is possible to hack TIVO to produce perfect copy of original PQ. Have a search on here & Tivo COmmunity forum.
     
  19. supermart

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    I'd never heard of Toppy until I started reading this thread but my Panasonic DMREH50 DVD/HDD recorder seems to do most of what you want assuming you have Sky. You set the Sky EPG to Autoview and using the Ext Link on the HDD the HDD will automatically start recording. Autoview has the Series Link option as well.
     
  20. MPK

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    Do you live in a Telewest area? Some time in Q3 (which means in reality Q4) they will ship the Scientific Atlanta Explorer HD8300DVB. It will be the mother of all PVRs with 160Gb hard drive, 3 tuners, 2 video decoders (so you can watch one channel and archive a recording via digital output to your DVD Recorder), HDMI connection, Digital Audio Output, HDTV ready, etc.

    Seeing is believing with Telewest, but if only half of the above is true I will definitely wait for that one...
     
  21. MarkE19

    MarkE19
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    And all us 'wishful thinking' TiVo owners that have been following the thread on the TiVo Community forum are just starting to think that 'Perhaps' there is a chance that a new UK TiVo is not too far off.

    I'm not holding my breath, but you never know :lease:

    Mark.
     
  22. MarkE19

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    Well it is not a 'perfect copy' as it is still an analogue signal being recorded, but do a search for 'Mode 0' on the TiVo Community if interested.

    Mark.
     
  23. jakesmith

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    I'll second that - I have read about mode 0 - it will get you best possible PQ from tivo, main purpose from what I can remember is for later transfer to DVD.
    But, there's no way you can avoid the fact that Tivo must encode composite input, or *reencode* the digital mpeg stream that sky is receiving - sad but true - and it leads to ugly visible artifacts. Unlike freeview pvr's which are able to record the mpeg stream they receive in the DVB signal and play it back with exactly the same PQ.
     
  24. marmite0

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    Toppy others;

    I'd be interested to hear how toppy manages recording of 2 overlapping?
    Is the UI such that (with or without JAG's EPG) you merely need to select 2nd program from EPG in same way as 1st (i.e. software resolves free tuner to use) ? And/or _when_ does it decide which tuner to use, e.g. at time of selection, or at time of recording? Or is it a more manul fare??

    Also, what happens when a recording kicks in and you are watching livetv on one of the tuners etc.. ?

    Thanks for feedback guys... (and girls)
     
  25. DaveC

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    The Toppy's tuner management is near invisible to the user (both standard and Jags EPG)....it records on whatever tuner is free without missing a beat. If a recording starts when you're watching something else, the only way you know about it is because the front panel of the Toppy says it's recording. If you ask it to record 3 chnanels at once, it'll tell you ther's a conflict and ask how you want to resovle it (which one to canel). I'm not sure what happens if you're recording a channel, watching a channel and a second recording starts....I guess it would depend on what mux you are recording from.

    The time shift feature only buffers the channel that you're watching (like sky+)...If you want to flick around the channels and still retain the use of the pause/rewind etc. you would have to record that station and utilise the chase-mode. You can wind back though the buffer to retrosectively start the recording though.
     
  26. marmite0

    marmite0
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    sounds good.

    If someone is willing to resolve my curiosity and be watching live tv, whilst 1st and then 2nd recording kicks in (on different channels to live tv and different muxes) - i.e. how does it resolve?
    As long as it doesn't just kick you of live tv - that will be ok.



    That's practicle? I would to be able to, I am ofter time-shifted on a live tv program, and would like to effectively pause-further and look onto different channel.. - so could / would I have to / use EPG to select other channel and hit record AND THEN switch to view that recording? Therby preserving the live tv still ??


    BTW, can u record 2 progs and watch a saved program? I'm sure I've read you can.
     
  27. DaveC

    DaveC
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    You can record 2 progs and watch a recording.

    Umm, I'll have to check on the other things. I'm not sure what the Toppy does if the channel being viewed is paused/timeshifted, then the channel is changed. I know that if you are watching a channel without pausing/rewinding then change to another channel, the time-shift buffer is lost.

    I'll have a play later and let you know....will check out the 2 recordings + live on seperate mux thing too. It might be worth asking someone on the uk Toppy foums or the digital spy forum...both have lots of Toppy owners that have used the kit for longer than me.

    www.toppy.org.uk
    www.forum.digitalspy.co.uk
     
  28. marmite0

    marmite0
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    Thanks Dave
     
  29. Maff et1

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    If you are only using 2 muxes (either both recordings are on the same mux or one of them is the same as your current mux) then it just starts recording, you get a OSG in the corner to tell you (disappears after a couple of seconds).

    If both recordings are on different muxes (from each other and the current live tv) then it does change channel. You get a warning for couple of seconds first. You may just be able to press stop at this warning but I've never got hold of the remote fast enough to try.

    The toppy has to work like this as it doesn't have a concept of only recording, it is always playing one channel. Even if it was coming out of standby to start these recordings you'd still get the warning.
     
  30. MarkE19

    MarkE19
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    Well TiVo will actually record RGBcvS rather than just a terrible composite signal, as long as your STB outputs it.

    Mark.
     

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