Sound Advice: No simple, affordable DVR alternatives

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Question: I quit most Comcast services a few years ago when they went mostly digital because I couldn't use my VCRs, which worked just fine. Now I'm slowly watching my old tapes before I dispose of them.

Now the whole shebang is going 100 percent digital. I thought this would be a great time to ditch Comcast altogether, but I find it's not all that simple. I'm told I need a mountain of equipment to keep my TVs going with or without Comcast, and recording seems to be impossible. I'm so resentful of this.

Why has television become so difficult, compared to what it used to be?


Answer: Any technological change can have some growing pains, but in the case of television, certain parts of the industry used the change as an opportunity to put tighter reins on their content and the ease of accessing, viewing and recording it. They also have used these changes to position themselves to profit as a result.

Many consumers are finding the only convenient way to record programming is to have a DVR, which typically involves a monthly fee. The usefulness and convenience of a DVR cannot be questioned, but for some consumers it is not worth it. They would prefer to manage their own recordings using recordable media just as they did with their VCRs, even if it involves a bit more work. Unfortunately, there are no easy-to-use and affordable high-def home video recorders available in the United States.

It did not have to be this way. Most Blu-ray players in Japan are also Blu-ray recorders, and home viewers there can record high-def content on discs.

The original North American specification for HDTV provided for an easy way to record via FireWire connections, but the studios would not go along and pushed DVI and HDMI, which cannot be recorded digital to digital. FireWire connections are pretty much a thing of the past on HDTVs and components. I am fortunate enough to have a D-VHS VCR and an HDTV that has FireWire, so I can record over-the-air HDTV broadcasts at will. I still can't record satellite content that way and use my DVR.

I will have more on this subject in upcoming columns.

Consumer Electronics Show recap, continued

There were a lot of safety and security devices on display at CES this year. My favorites are the ones that do not require a monthly subscription or any monitoring fees. Judging from my many emails from readers fuming over cable bills with lots of add-on charges, you do not like paying those recurring fees either. There were some devices at the show that you can buy, own and use without fees, and one of those was The Doorbot.

The Doorbot is a battery-powered Wi-Fi video doorbell. It is easily installed outside your door and links to your Wi-Fi network to stream live audio and video to your smartphone or tablet, no matter where you are. Whether home or away, you can see who is at the door and choose whether you want to answer. It supports two-way audio so you can talk to the person at the door as well.

The Doorbot will be available in July 2013 for $189. Visit to learn more or place an order.


Read product reviews by Don Lindich at


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