Two Microsoft Media Center features I really miss on TiVo


I’ve been back in the TiVo fold for a bit over 8 months. Observationally, the top-two things most TiVo owners have on their wish list are:

1. ability to stream to Android devices
2. an improved Amazon app that includes Amazon Prime streaming

At this point I don’t care about Android streaming and while I would love to see Amazon Prime streaming added, it’s not  a huge burden to switch over to the PS4.

My top-two list is made up of features that are available on Windows Media Center:

1. ability to watch programs at 1.3x speed and still hear the audio
2. automated recording decisions based on what’s already happened

Compress more with 1.3x!

Time shifting is great. Time compression via skipping past the commercials is also great. But I was able to increase time compression nearly 50% per televised hour by watching programs at 1.3x on Windows Media center. That’s a particularly handy feature for anyone who watches a lot of news/talk/sports talk kind of shows.

At minimum I watch an hour of sports talk a day. I can get that down to around 40 minutes with commercial skipping. But with the 1.3x ability I could get it down close to 30 minutes.

You may be thinking “big deal, 10 extra minutes, take a deep breath and get a life!” Back in the days when I was still on Media Center and heralding the capability to my business partner he joked “Do you need me to talk 1.3 times faster when I call?”

Criticize away, but meanwhile what I’d like to get back is that 10 minutes because, ten minutes a day x five days a week times fifty weeks a year = 60+ hours.

TiVo is dumber than it looks

Over the last 15 years TiVo has made numerous  improvements. But, sadly, some of the core DVR recording features of the TiVo Roamio work exactly as poorly as they did on my first generation TiVo in 1999.

The thumbs up/down to improve the suggested recordings is nice in theory. I’m not going to get judge-y about how it works in practice, I’m more judgmental about the fact that there were more practical things they might have focused on.

As an example, I decided I wanted to catch up on the 20+ seasons of Law & Order that I’d missed. I set Media Center to the task telling it to record originals & repeats.

Media Center does something that TiVo should be ashamed at itself for not doing. It creates a database of what it already recorded and unless you deliberately delete that database, it’s really useful. Here’s why: it only recorded any particular episode of Law & Order once. If I watched it/deleted it, Media Center effectively crossed that episode off the list and would not record it again. Very handy, particularly for series with more than 200 episodes.

TiVo doesn’t do that. Worse, TiVo suggestions will record movies and episodes that aired on different channels even if those movies/episodes are ALREADY ON YOUR TIVO.

Yes, I know these things aren’t exactly catastrophes. “First World Problems” and all that.

But TiVo is charging first world money to solve first world problems via software and hardware, and it still can’t do things that a piece of software (Microsoft’s) that hasn’t seen much in the way of updates in, oh, about a decade, can do.

Why Didn’t You Stick With Media Center Then!?

The spare PC I was using for Media Center died and whenever I configured a replacement that included an upgrade to a 6-tuner Ceton infinity, I was building boxes that cost twice as much as a TiVo Roamio Pro with a lifetime program guide.

Plus, though streaming to other Windows computers on the network worked great on Media Center, any of the solutions for streaming to iOS devices were not all that great. On that score TiVo is a vastly improved experience and I’m watching about as much on iOS devices as I am on my TV these days.

Also, I’d pretty much switched to the Apple’s OS X everywhere, and Media Center was my last link to Windows. But…

I’m still considering getting an additional CableCard and configuring a low-end Media Center with my existing Ceton card for all the programming I know I’d be fine watching at 1.3x speed.

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