VerizonDvr

December 14, 2007
[Update - 12/13/07 - seems we got an upgrade last night with some fixes]

Bah!

I had a TiVo for a while. It was cool.

Then Verizon put FIOS in the neighborhood, and with it being cheaper internet and TV than what I had, it was a no brainer.

But ... TiVo became awkward. Previously, I had analog cable stuffs, and I could run the coax straight into the TiVo box. With FIOS TV, came a FIOS tuner, and the only option was to try the awkward IR dealies to keep the TiVo in sync with the FIOS tuner. I chunked the lovely TiVo and switched to the FIOS DVR.

While the user experience wasn't as great, since I could pay slightly more and watch DVR shows on my regular set box in the bedroom, something I couldn't do with the TiVo, it was worth the trade.

Recently, Verizon rolled out an upgrade to the DVR software. Some of the stuff I'd seen in advance looked interesting, possibly better searching of VOD movies, new UI.

It's pretty crummy.

It really feels like they spent all their time ‘fixing’ a lot of UI things that weren't broken to make them more shiny, and forgot (or weren't allowed time) to make sure all the prior functionality still works. Here's my gripe list:

- You can't remove channels from the guide. Previously, the main guide could be trimmed, removing all the “I'll never watch that channel” channels, and then you also had a list of favorites. I guess they presumed that a list of favorites was plenty and decided to can the main guide trimming. This is especially great when channels 30-46 all say “Local Programming” and have nothing on them.
12/13/07 update: you still can't remove channel from the guide (as far as I can see), but you can now set the DVR to use your favorites when browsing (flipping through) channels.

- The favorites guide always starts at the top of the list, instead of coming up on (or nearest) the channel you're currently watching. The main guide still works fine, but the favorites are broken. Annoying.
12/13/07 update: fixed.

- I've currently got two recorded shows I've ‘deleted’ that are now an easy way to test crashing the DVR by trying to delete them again. Old software rarely crashed. [I called tech support and they bounced my box remotely about 10 times. It finally allowed me to delete the two shows. The next day, I noticed the process had cleared out all my favorites channels - awesome!]

- Volume now goes from 0 to 100 ... in about 100 seconds (really, no exaggeration). Way too slow to just hold the button down, so I need to mash it over and over again. To get a noticeable change in volume, I need to mash it about 20 times, because the volume change between values is so slight. Stupid. This drives me the most crazy.
12/13/07 update: fixed. Volume is now 0 to 30. Much better. Though holding the volume button down is not very responsive and changes the volume too slowly.

- The remote has arrow keys right in the middle of the remote around a center OK button. My thumb fits there naturally, and the old software used these keys during live viewing as rew/ff (right and left), up would pause/play, and down would jump to the live signal. It was great - nice and convenient -- because the real rew/ff keys are small and way up high on the remote. I guess some analyst decided the duplication was wrong. Now the up/down arrows open a different half-screen version of the guide for changing channels (vertical split, full picture shrunk down on the left) - even though the Guide and channel changing buttons are already handy near the center of the remote. Left and right now don't do anything during live viewing.

- Turning off the DVR always adds one minute to the clock on the display. The time will re-sync itself later, so this isn't much of a bug as far as I can tell, but it's weird and not a good sign.
12/13/07 update: fixed.

- Playing back a show on the non-DVR box while the DVR box is still recording totally gets the playback time display out of whack. It doesn't affect the playback of the video itself, just the progress UI. Previously, it would continuously update the ending time as more show was recorded, now it just sticks at whatever the end time was when viewing started.

- The replay button used to jump back a few seconds, now it jumps back 10 seconds ... usually. Sometimes, when I hit the replay button, it jumps back 30 seconds. Once, I hit the replay button and it started rewinding.
12/13/07 update: appears to be fixed.

- They added an option to configure the number of seconds the replay action will consume, but inexplicably 10 seconds is the smallest option available. Wha...?

- The Series Manager now lists my series in priority order to begin with. That's fine, I guess, but there's no UI indication that that's what's going on. The prior software had the initial list in alpha order, and then a separate UI for sorting the priority which was obviously in priority order. Also, I can no longer set the (what is now called) Protect setting for a series.
12/13/07 update: series options have been enhanced a lot. Not just the protect setting, but air time and how many to keep - much like the prior software rev.

- Yesterday, I'd started recording the Cowboys game, then started watching it on the non-DVR set box. I then turned off that box, knowing I wouldn't get back to the game for a half hour. Got back on the main DVR set, started playback, and it hadn't remembered where I left off on the non-DVR set. (Prior software handled this fine).

- I set the Cowboys game to record an extra 90 minutes after the scheduled end, and then during playback (while it was still recording), the DVR showed the end time to be the original scheduled end-time, so when playback passed the originally scheduled ending, the UI just continued to show progress as if the show was over. Fortunately, it didn't interrupt playback -- well, until recording time stopped, and inexplicably prompted me to enter the parental code (I guess, because the live signal of the show underneath was of a rating that required it, even though I wasn't actually watching that show).

- Two nights ago, the kiddos and I were watching a movie we recorded - got halfway through - bedtime. Tonight we try to pick it up from the non-DVR set -- it hadn't remembered our previous progress. And the fastest it can fast-forward is not quite minute of playback time in a second. So, we have to wait over 2 and a half minutes to get back where we were (one of these long 3 hr TV movies with tons of commercials). There's a “4 triangle” fast fwd available on the DVR box, which has a weird exponential acceleration (old software had this as well - and if you let it accelerate too long, eventually it just gets going so fast, it finishes the show and shuts it down) -- but the non-DVR couldn't go that fast. THEN - once we got where we wanted, I'd gone slightly too far, hit rewind and it jumped back to 12 minutes 17 seconds in the show. ... sigh ... we fast-forward again - waiting another few minutes, hit play and immediately, it goes back to 12 min 17 seconds. ARGH. My lovely wife agreed to switch rooms with us, so we could have the less broken set. [TiVo has always had better functionality here - allowing you to instantly jump fwd 15 minutes at a time - makes this whole problem go away].

- This next problem happens all the time and is especially noticeable with sitcoms. We get to the last set of commercials, there's one last splash of show at about 40 seconds remaining, but fast-forwarding (at the slowest ffwd speed, only skipping 10 seconds or so at a shot), once you get to anywhere between 1:30-2:30 left of the show, the DVR gives up and says, “Hey, really, it's pretty much over - we're done” and returns to the menu. Like - what the crap - I've got to simply watch the remaining 3 minutes of commercials because somehow the DVR can't fast-forward through that - makes no sense to me. [The prior software did have this tendancy as well - dunno if it's really any worse now or if it's all the more annoyning amongst the company of all these new bugs]

- Tonight I had one show recording (channel A), watching channel B. Top of the hour, the next show on channel B was set to start recording, while channel A's show is still recording. Instead, the box decides to reboot. Awesome.



Generally, the new UI look is better - there's more information in more places. The new menu UI is pretty unique - I can't decide if it's really better or not - there are some places where it seems a little dumb. You'll have to see it to understand what I'm saying - but there are times where there's only 4 options in a list, but then decide to only give the middle third of the screen to the list of 4 options, so I have to scroll to see all options - when I wouldn't if they'd just use the full vertical space in the screen, like they do for most lists.

Both times I've called tech support to complain, they've confirmed there are numerous problems and are working on fixes, though there's no set release date at this time.

I wish they'd let me rollback to the previous version. It wasn't TiVo, but was much better than this.

12/13/07 update: some annoying things have been fixed which is nice. In general, the DVR is more responsive as well, with the menus and the like. Some of the problems above I'll have to wait and see if they occur.

tags: ComputersAndTechnology
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