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August 01, 2003

How To Be A Player

It's just two months shy of three years since I purchased my ReplayTV, so it's appropriate that I now feel free to open it up and tinker. The newer models come with more disk space, networking capabilities and enhanced display features, but mostly, the only thing I crave is more space. This is less to add more programming than it is to record at a higher quality setting, but since I'm now recording a couple of shows that Jean and I watch, as well as my usual fare, having extra space for those shows as well is likely to be a bonus.

I've gotten into the habit of recording all my shows in 'extended' mode, which is sub-vcr quality, and shows noticable digital artifacts, when the action is heavy. The benefit is that my 30GB disk can support around 30 hours of programs. Going up to 'medium' quality would cut that to 15 hours, and 'high' would bring it down to 10 hours.

So I was reading Matt Haughey's excellent PVRBlog (Personal Video Recorder weB-LOG) and followed his link to the ReplayTV FAQ. There I learned that it is possible to upgrade the disk drive of your ReplayTV, just like Tivo owners have always been able to do. The catch is that you have to have a Windows or Linux box with IDE cables to carry out the enhancement.

Now I have a few friends with Windows boxes, but only one of them also owns a ReplayTV unit. That's my work buddy Burr. So I floated the concept of the project to him, and he agreed. We did the first pass over lunch on Monday, me buying a 160GB Western Digital drive at Costco and taking it to his townhouse. It's a good thing his friend John was visiting, because he had some helpul tips that got us unstuck a couple of times.

Unfortunately, I got a little greedy, and tried to use the 'copy programming' option of the cloning program to preserve all the shows on my original disk. It didn't work, and we had to try again today. This time I skipped that step. It worked like a charm, and the whole process took less time, to boot! Granted, there was no programming on the drive when I booted it up, but the ReplayTV OS worked fine, and all my preprogrammed shows were in the 'to record' listing.

I set it up this evening, and sure enough, at 6:30 pm it began recording 'King of the Hill', a show Jean has gotten me hooked on, just like she got me hooked on Lucky.

So how much recording space do I have now? At 'medium', just shy of 68 hours. So I can more than double my capacity while raising the quality of the image. If I continued to use 'extended' I'd get nearly 137 hours, but I doubt it will come to that.

Posted by dpwakefield at August 1, 2003 08:36 PM