Monday, November 29, 2004

OK, So I'm a TV Addict

Its official, I'm definitely a TV Addict. Now, I should clarify, I don't watch nearly as much TV as a lot of people, I like to say I watch "Better" TV. I'm one of those TiVo evangelists that can't imagine life before my DVR.

Kimberley and I both get so frustrated watching TV at someone else's house. Every time a commercial comes on, we both reach for the remote to try to fast forward past it... The other telltale sign of a TiVo user is that we don't usually know when anything is actually Aired on TV. Is Law & Order on Thursday nights? What time is Stargate on? Dunno, the TiVo takes care of it. So, we watch just the shows we like, and we never channel surf, or watch commercials.

But I'm defninitely an addict. And here's how I know:

I spent the better part of my Thanksgiving weekend (chunk of Saturday and all of Sunday) running conduit around the outside of my house to bring two new Satellite feeds and a phoneline into the "Media Niche" in the livingroom.

For those who don't know, Satellite requires an individual cable from each decoder box to the multiswitch, you can't split the signal like you can with cable. My house, like most, is pre-wired for Cable, which means a single line of Coax runs from each room back to the distribution point at the side of the house. Our DirecTiVo (a.k.a. "The Direct TV with TiVo Brand DVR") has two tuners built in, meaning that it can record two things at once IF you can feed it with two lines from the Satellite.

In a rare peek into TV programming schedules, I read on the TiVo Community Forum that "Alias" is moving to Wednesday nights, opposite "The West Wing". Well, now that's actually something we care about, since these are two of only a select few shows we watch that are actually in primetime on one of the big networks, which means no re-airings to allow a single-tuner TiVo to sort out the conflicts. (Wherever possible, TiVo will normally sort out conflicting airings of shows by selecting alternate airings. For most cable channels, this is a no-brainer since most shows air 3-4 times in a week, but that's not the case for "Network" stuff.)

So obviously we need to get the 2nd tuner up and running before Alias resumes in January! So that was the motivation. So I spent a day, with 4 trips to Home Depot, running conduit from the SE Corner of the house (Distribution point and Satellite dish) around to the North wall, plumbing it through into the interior wall, and wiring everything up.

The other motivation was that my Media Niche doesn't have a phone line. Currently the standalone TiVo there uses HomePlug bridges to connect to the rest of the LAN, and I'll continue to use those when we swap that TiVo upstairs. For reasons passing understanding, DirecTV hasn't enabled the networking capability of the DirecTiVo, therefore I need an actual phoneline. The current use of the HomePlug bridges prevent using the usual PhoneJack-over-powerline adaptors. But since I was already running two RG6 lines, adding a length of Cat3 phone cable only cost me another $5.94 in cable and a few more minutes of effort to hook it up.

As a career Electrical Engineer, I probably shouldn't be surprised when a newly wired phone jack or cable actually works, but there's always a little sense of elation when it does.

Since I had to pull all the equipment out of the niche to cut the drywall holes, etc., it was also an excellent opportunity to re-wire the rear surround speakers (absent since we installed hardwood floors last year) and rebuilt the wiring harnesses somewhat. (A few changes since the original wiring looms were made 4+ years ago.) I also finally got around to installing the UPS for the TiVo (now I can record right through a power outage, although the real reason is to protect the drive from power spikes and brownouts).

All in all, a VERY satisfying weekend spent on our home media architecture. All so we can watch better TV!

Still to come: The pre-existing (now unneeded) cable run in the media niche will be retasked to distribute signal back upstairs (so we can watch and control the downstairs TiVo output from the bedroom!) and also run an HCNA network! (HPNA over Coax, using some trick adaptors I scored a few months ago.)

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