Monday, April 18, 2011

Discovering DVR allows more time for nature

THE BIG BANG THEORY -- One of the shows Sherry Boas likes to DVR -- Brainy best friends Leonard (Johnny Galecki, right) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons, left), can tell you anything you want to know about quantum physics, but when it comes to dealing with everyday life here on earth, they're lost in the cosmos. Neither fully understands that scientific principles don't always apply in matters of the heart - until they meet their sexy new neighbor, Penny (Kaley Cuoco, center), a friendly screenwriter/waitress from the Midwest who also happens to be newly single.

Simply Living

(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel April 18, 2011)
The television industry calls digital-video recorders "time-shifting" devices but to me, a DVR is a stress-busting time-management tool that makes modern life just a little bit easier.

A few months ago, our home became one of the 46 million TV-watching households in the United States that use some sort of digital–video-recording device. Many have a standalone DVR like TiVo added to their cable television package. A few others record television shows directly onto their computer hard drive. Because Ralph and I live outside of any cable provider's territory and since the technology to marry television to computer is still in the courtship stage, we joined group three: consumers who use a set-top box with a built-in DVR purchased through their satellite provider.

Our new unit looks very much like the satellite receiver it replaced. My capable, thrift-conscious husband installed the unit himself with help from the satellite company's telephone support staff. When he finished, we sat down in the living room and picked up the remote.

I am not the most tech-savvy person. I can't count how many times I've struggled to find the desired button on various devices. I expected the usual confusing configuration when we picked up the new DVR remote but was pleased to find it surprisingly straightforward. Even I, a reluctant learner when it comes to any new gadget, figured out how to use the remote in a matter of minutes. Button arrangement is sensible and intuitively designed. Moreover, the unit's capabilities are impressive. We can select in advance which programs we want to watch and the DVR will record them even when the television is turned off. We can choose to record individual programs or weekly shows and can even program the unit to record only new episodes instead of repeats of any previous recordings.

I had heard many good things about DVRs before we got ours but I had no idea this new technology would have such a positive impact on our lives. I realize now that prior to having a DVR, one of the things I unconsciously structured my day around was television viewing. If a show I wanted to see was scheduled for a specific time, I made a point to be home then even if doing so was inconvenient. I often stayed up too late to watch something interesting and I missed many programs altogether because they ran the same time as another show or when I was unavailable to watch. Thanks to the digital-video recorder, those situations no longer occur.

Our little set-top box has made convenience paramount. I watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it. I no longer have to be home at a certain hour or swap sleep time for entertainment time. An additional benefit is the ability to shorten my TV time by fast-forwarding through commercials. Advertisers may not like this feature but I love it. The DVR has enabled me to reclaim control over television viewing.

However, as good as a digital-video recorder is, it is not perfect. The system is unable to correctly record programs that have delayed start times due to breaking news or sporting-event overtime. Also, for some inexplicable reason, one of the buttons on the living-room remote control doesn't work. The bedroom unit works fine but the mute button on the living room remote is dysfunctional. Tech support's explanation was a verbal shrug. "The remote doesn't work the same way on all televisions," the technician explained. "There's nothing we can do."

These are small glitches in an otherwise well-designed system.

Raving about a DVR may seem out of character for someone focused on appreciating the simple things in life but the reality is our set top-box has helped me enjoy my surroundings with a less-stressed attitude. It has allowed me to have a more regular sleep pattern and to spend more time outside enjoying nature.

Set the timer. Let the recording begin!

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