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The Freeviewer Diaries (1)

by Freeviewers 1

Over the next four weeks, three Public Address readers will be lounge-testing three different Freeview digital video recorders. How easy are these new boxes to set up and use? What features are there? What's on Freeview anyway? And how is life with a DVR?

First impressions from Joanna McLeod (Wellington) and Pauline Dawson (Dunedin) are below. The third Freeviewer, Aucklander Mark Dansey, will be along shortly after his box is delivered this week.

But onwards …

Joanna McLeod (Zinwell ZMT-640PVR)

I like watching television. Well, I like a lot of shows on TV. I don't like having to watch things at a particular time. Like, networks, you are not the boss of me! Plus, I am very popular and cool and I go out a lot. For a couple of years I've had a dvr, which I thought would be great but is actually pretty dreadful. The remote control died on me, it requires constant rebooting and it forces you to watch the channel you're recording. Oh how I hate it. I learnt how to programme it, but I've never mastered the art of getting my flatmates to stop quitting the programmes that I wanted it to record.

Naturally then, the first thing I looked for when I ripped open the courier package from Freeview was whether or not my new Zinwell had two tuners in it. It did! Hurrah! There were a lot of pretty coloured cords in the freeview box, and I was initially a bit freaked out before I realised that oh yes, they're for people with fancy TVs, not old CRTs. All I needed was the simple red, white and yellow ones. The only mildly tricky bit was the crossover cable out from one tuner into another, which made me worry about Ghostbusters crossing their streams. I plugged in the aerial cable, and wonder of wonders, it said it was scanning and installing the channels itself. I didn't even need to put the time in!

Once it was set up, a quick flick through the instructions had me hitting the EPG button for the electronic programme guide, and from there it was a matter of using coloured buttons to navigate through the next eight days. When I went to record a show, it asked me if I wanted to record the whole season. None of this scrambling to type in times and numbers and days of the old system, and being distraught by overlapping times. Within five minutes, I'd programmed it to record all the shows I want to watch.

Which, if you're interested in knowing just how much television I really do watch, here's the list:

Shortland Street, 3 News (but oh how angry it makes me!), The Office, The Simpsons, Home & Away (for my flatmate, honest), America's Next Top Model, Harper's Island (I think this is actually going to suck, based on one episode, but Jeffery Bell was involved in Angel, so I'm willing to give it a go), The Riches, Battlestar Galactica (I'm new to this. Spoil it and I'll cut you), The Daily Show, Grand Designs (the perfect hangover show).

Watch this space…


Pauline Dawson: Homecast HT9200DTR

There was quite a lot of excitement in our house this week with the arrival of our Freeview DVR.

Although many years ago I actually had a trade cert in radio engineering, I have let my techy skills lapse. These days I leave the setting up of such things to the man of the house, but I decided to give this ago – for review purposes. I have to say I’ve never set anything up so easily straight out of the box. I give bonus points for coming with all necessary cables (even an HDMI one!) – something I was concerned about as it would have been a bit of a drive to the city if I needed to buy some. Setting up channels was a breeze and incredibly quick. And presto we suddenly had awesome television reception on all our existing available channels plus much more. We had been struggling with awful VHF reception, which made TV1 unwatchable. Problem now solved (although I can’t recall what I used to watch on TV1)

One thing I did have to compromise over was combining this new technology with our existing audio/visual stuff. Our TV is getting on to 15 years old with limited inputs. We have a VHS because we seem to have inordinate amount of kids Disney films on video, a DVD player and also we like to play things from the laptop through the television from time to time. With some jigging around it all fits together, but my partner is now itching for a new HD TV to make full use of the Freeview HD features. (Hey if anyone wants me to review an LCD set….). I did wonder if it would be really useful to have a DVD player/burner as part of the DVR unit – maybe that is a future option?

Again I have to emphasise how easy this thing is to use. I have only had the briefest skim through the manual but the on screen menus are so easy to follow. I set the unit up on a Tuesday and immediately was doing one touch series recording for Outrageous Fortune through the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). I have now set up the news and various other programs that I often forget about because I am busy with the kids’ bedtimes etc. The twin tuner also let me record two programmes while watching a third on Wednesday night. So far, the only thing I am having difficulty with is the time slip functionality. Maybe I am doing something wrong but it resets when you change channel. Also only being able to put it on fast forward or jumping in 5 second units is a pain. However I’ve just this minute found out how to tweak it.

Apart from the unit itself, it’s great to have Freeview. Kidzone has been a godsend this week when I’ve had children home sick. I’m looking for to exploring some more.

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