James O'Neill's Blog

June 26, 2007

I’m beginning to dream of analog days…

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 5:11 pm

… could it be that life was oh so simple then ? 

I remember when Channel 4 arrived – a time before cable and satellite TV, when there were programmes we wanted to watch. And the newly affordable VCR meant we didn’t have to watch it when it was scheduled. And when home computers plugged into the TV and let us play games like “Jet Pac”.

Spool forward a couple of dozen years. I’ve just acquired my X-Box 360 – and I’m loving the games in X-Box Live arcade , it may be just as well I was sitting on the floor when I found that we have JetPac Refueled and “included in the package is the original Jetpac from 1983. See what’s changed, or just wallow in nostalgia if you’re part of the Spectrum generation.” 

In this world off multi-channel TV I came to realize that there was no more that I wanted to watch, it was just spread more thinly. I abandoned Cable TV in favour of “Freeview” Britain’s DVB-T system.  This doesn’t fit with my VCR which only handles the 5 analog channels and isn’t Widescreen. I’d get one of the freeview Playback Digital TV Recorders (like Sky’s Sky+ box) except I don’t want another box under my TV, and as I’ve already blogged, thanks to Vista Ultimate and a dongle from Hauppauge I’m getting broadcast quality playback of recorded TV on my laptop. Sooner or later I’ll update my home PC and that will take care of recording, and the X-box will stream play back through the TV. But already I’m seeing a problem …

When your TV programmes are FILES there’s a different psychological relationship to them compared with TAPE. VHS cassettes were something you recorded over and over. You taped a programme watched it, taped over it. Every now and then there would be something you would want to keep – these days it’s easy to buy the DVD of the show. An hour of something would tie up a 3 hour tape but you’d just buy more. But with files we’re conditioned to Save them, why call them files if you don’t, well, file them ? All my instincts also say Keep the Original, and I apply that to still photos so why not video ? Memory cards for photos have got so cheap, I’m seriously considering using memory cards only once (with back-up copies). I can fit all my photos on a 200GB drive, but I can see I’m going to need the same again for the video files which I’m reluctant to delete…

Coping media center’s dvr-ms format files to DVD is just not efficient. A disk which would hold 150 minutes of DVD movie might take 2 programmes of 45 minutes and not have room for a third. I could convert to WMV format which makes better use of the space but is time consuming – besides shouldn’t video on a DVD disk play on any player ? I’ve also found what seems to be a bug: if I tidy up the recordings in Movie Maker and burn the results with DVD Maker something strange happens to the aspect ratio, as if the picture has been squeezed from top and bottom. But it takes so long to do the tidying up why not just use the forward button ? So why bother burning DVDs routinely ? It takes time, resources and shelf space, and give the recordings a permanence they weren’t supposed to have.

Which brings me back to keeping the files on hard disk, and the method I’ve been using for the last few years.

  1. Buy a large hard disk.
  2. Spend the next few months filling it
  3. Note how disk sizes have increased since you bought the last one
  4. Repeat from step 1.

I can’t help feeling there has to be a better way.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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