Excuse the silence, please, for I just moved. We moved, quite literally, across the street (the driveways even line up). Unfortunately, our landlord decided to move back into the place we were renting. Equally as unfortunate, basically none of the fruit trees I had been taking care of have ripe fruit, though all are totally loaded with fruit (funny, that, the landlord tried to accuse me of not taking care of her garden. I indicated that the fact that all of the fruit trees are so heavily laden with fruit that they are on the ground was evidence to the contrary.) I'm starting with a blank slate in the new place.
Oh, and I flew to the east coast for Alex/Lori's wedding in Dorset, Vermont. Beautiful ceremony, awesome place.
To say I have been busy the last few weeks would be a gross understatement....
In any case, we decided to ditch ComCast cable as the picture quality sucked and they had a habit of screwing with the scheduling regularly. Though, to their credit, the customer service has always been good. In particular, when I asked them for a new cable box that integrated the A/B cable into one, they said "Oh, do you have a TiVo? You do! Here... this box is designed for integration with TiVo. No extra charge."!
Instead, we picked up a DirectTV receiver with integrated TiVo from Rapid Satellite. Grand total for the equipment and installation was $20 and that was only because I upgraded the antenna in hopes that I can someday justify & afford an HDTV capable receiver w/TiVo built in.
The picture quality is significantly better than cable. Both for realtime and for recorded content. This isn't surprising given that the TiVo basically grabs the MPEG-2 stream straight from the satellite and, therefore, does not have to do compression locally (while also taking advantage of the fact that the compression engines used by the satellite companies are a boatload better than anything available to consumers at a reasonable price that is capable of realtime compression).
All in all, a vast upgrade over cable.
There are a number of features with TiVo via DirecTV that you don't get with a stadalone unit. Beyond better picture quality, it can record two channels simultaneously and pay-per-view content is cached on the hard drive (and you can place PPV orders via the DTV web site) as a part of the purchase process. It is also really fast at navigating between channels since the "tuner(s)" are integrated.
The one downside is that the TiVo implementation integrated into the Hughes unit we received does not give quite as refined a user experience as a standalone TiVo box. Not that I can complain too much given that it was effectively free, but that has never stopped me before.
First, the bloody USB ports on the back are there for decorative purposes only. They are turned off. No idea why. So, no Home Media Option, no guide info over Broadband, and I had to figure out how to get a phone line to the unit. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Then again, the lack of USB may be because the unit is running what appears to be a modified version of the TiVO OS. I believe it is a whole revision number behind standalone units. In any case, it is missing some nice refinements that will take a bit to get used to.