Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I notice that the DVR that I bought last fall from Geeks.com, the easy-to-remember Lite-On LVW-5115GHC+, is on sale again for ten or fifteen bucks less than I paid for it. Oh, well...I've had all these months of utility, and it wasn't that expensive to start with (I think I paid $75 or so).

Utility...and oddities.

Well, maybe not. This is my first experience with a DVR, so maybe they're not oddities at all; maybe they're common to the species. I keep reminding myself that this is a low-end, entry-level machine, and that if I had spent more I probably could expect more. And I remind myself that more expensive units record to a hard drive and thence, if desired, to disc, whilst this machine records directly to discs, which may make a difference, too.

Still, at the very least, I have to ask myself why the computer that is the guts of the thing wasn't made smart enough to understand that if there is an empty block of, say, 2:30:00 over here, and an empty block of, say, 00:05:00 over there, and the timer is set to record a program that is of an hour's duration, then the thing to do is record the program into the first block and not the second block, which will only result in a "disc full" error at the end of five minutes. When, clearly, the disc is not full. But nooooo. I have to go in manually and tell the silly thing, via an "overwrite" command, that it's okay to write to that empty block of space. Very primitive. And, of course, the number of hiccups resulting from my foolishly glancing at the disc menu and seeing that there's "plenty of time" to record, and not checking to make sure that the LVW-5115GHC+ knows that there's plenty of time, has resulted in several missed opportunities these past six or eight months.

The question is, why isn't it smarter?

I am a bit disappointed in the picture quality of the LVW-5115GHC+, but I'm not sure where the blame should rest. Previously I had a little Cyberhome DVD player attached to that TV set (the bedroom set), and the picture was fine--but of course that was playback-only, and almost always professionally recorded DVDs, so I am to an extent talking apples and cabbages here, I know. But it seems to me that the picture on even professional DVDs viewed through the LVW-5115GHC+ is a little washed out, the colors less vibrant. In both cases--the Cyberhome and the Lite-On--I have to play through a VCR, since the TV set in question is an older model that doesn't have the proper input ports...indeed, it has no input at all except for an RF post and the old dipole antenna connection. And that may degrade the picture somewhat, although, as stated, I did the same thing for the Cyberhome and the picture was good.

It's also possible that the cable-TV connection in the bedroom isn't that good--the picture back there has never been as crisp as the one in the living room, although of course theyr'e different sets and so on. But ever since we moved into that house we've noticed that you get interference on cordless phones if you wander into the bedroom with them, so I suspect there's some kind of an electromagnetic issue there, too, and thay may affect the TV reception.

Or it could be a combination of things, including (as I've concluded) that the Lite-On just doesn't have that good a TV tuner, based on my attempts to "fine tune" it via the remote control.

I haven't yet gotten into my eventual plan to transfer all those miles of tape to disc, although I have tried dubbing from disc-to-disc, with so-so results. This seems to be the result of quirks in the discs recorded with the Lite-On and how they play back on other DVD players. Specifically, I had recorded a couple of local newscasts in which figured groups that my kids are involved in, and wanted to save just those little segments for posterity. So I plugged the Cyberhome DVD player into the Lite-On recorder, and went to town. Well, not really. The recorded discs didn't quite behave properly in the DVD player--jumping around rather than smoothly forwarding, and sometimes not reversing at all. I had to unplug and restart the Cyberhome a couple of times to get it to "snap out" of a catatonic state. Eventually I gave up and just suffered through the entire newscasts, hitting the record button on the DVR when it finally got to my part. Again, primitive, but it worked.

Well, it worked on ONE disc--I tried with a second disc, a recording of my daughter playing her saxophone at her church, and so far I have yet to find any DVD player that will even recognize the disc as a disc, let alone play it. And, yes, I went through the "Finalize (Make Compatible)" steps under Disc Tools. Worked on one disc, not on the other. (Neither disc will mount on my Blue and White G3 Macintosh, but I have in the past observed that it, or its CD burner/DVD player, is very fussy about things, up to an including failing to recognize certain brands of CD-ROMs.)

On the whole, I guess the LVW-5115GHC+ is adequate for my current purposes--mostly recording, watching, and then wiping TV shows. The DVDs are certainly much easier to deal with than VHS tapes, and I have yet to encounter a DVD player or recorder that eats discs as VCRs and cassette players were wont to do with tapes. But the main thing the LVW-5115GHC+ has done is point out what features will be mandatory on my next DVR, specifically a hard-drive and a decent tuner.

As for Geeks.com, I would definitely order from them again...though of course I have one small quibble: The packing sheet for the LVW-5115GHC+ says it's supposed to come with a DVD-RW disc. It didn't. So I e-mailed Geeks.com and told them as much, hoping that they could simply pop one in the mail to be. Got back a nice reply saying they weren't set up to do that, but if I wanted I could send back the whole package and they'd send out another one. Way more work than it was worth, so I declined...all the while wondering how hard it could possibly be to grab a DVD-RW off the shelf (they sell media, too, so it's not like someone would have to make a Circuit City run) and stick it in a padded envelope. Oh,w ell--obviously not a big deal as far as customer service is concerned, since I would, as indicated, buy from them again.

But here's a lingering problem: These past 25 years or so, I have gotten into the habit of "taping" TV programs. But now I use discs. Am I now "discing" programs? "Recording" sounds stilted and clumsy. As this technology replaces VCRs, will we find that we are still "taping" things, even as we still "dial" our telephones that haven't sported a dial in 30 years or more?

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