I'm being interviewed today by Global TV about TiVo coming to Canada. Actually, for today it just means that the programming guide service is available: you still have to buy the TiVo's in the US or elsewhere, since you can't buy the units themselves in Canada yet.
For those that don't know, a TiVo is a brand of one of the most popular Personal Video Recorders, or PVRs (sometimes also seen as "Digital Video Recorders", or DVRs; yep, more jargon to learn). You connect it to your TV and cable service, and it will automatically record shows to its built in hard drive, including automatic scheduling of shows you want to watch. The magic of TiVo means that it will even record shows automatically that you might like to watch, depending on other shows and feedback you give (a thumbs up/thumbs down on recordings). And, since recordings are being made all the time, you can actually pause/rewind live TV, and fast forward through commercials.
I'm going to talk mainly about other solutions and the market in general, since Travis and Alex are also being interviewed (the picture I've included is Travis' TiVo on Flickr). There have been PVR options available in Canada before this from all the major players, but TiVo has long been acknowledged as the best user interface, as well as a large number of add on options for working with recorded shows on your computer or elsewhere on your home network. In fact, TiVo is so popular that the TivoCanada wiki and forums was created specifically for instructions on how to hack it to work before it was officially supported. Here are the links to current PVR offerings in Canada:
- Bell ExpressVu PVR options
- Rogers PVR
- Shaw PVR (Update Jan 3, 2007: link is 404 -- new Shaw PVR info page)
Aside from these boxes that you just plug in to your TV, there are a variety of build-your-own solutions that generally involve a computer and a TV tuner card. Microsoft has had its Windows Media Center Edition for several years now, and you can actually buy a complete system from most of the major computer vendors like Dell (that's a big Flash link). Apple just recently released its new iMac G5 with Front Row software, which although it doesn't do TV recording today, many believe will evolve to do that. Lastly there are Linux solutions, with MythTV software being the most popular/reliable.
I've been writing about Multimedia PCs for some time -- check out the Multimedia PC category for other posts. My description of existing options that might fit well with the Mac Mini is also related. I'll add an update if anything else comes up in the interview.
Update: something happened and I didn't get on TV. And me with my good shirt on, too! No worries, Alex and Travis got interviewed...