SA8000: It ain't no ReplayTV - Questions and Observations - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 08-22-2003, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello all,

I also have a ReplayTV and have just installed the new Explorer 8000 box.

Hoping some of you can share your experiences, as I have a few questions and observations.

First, where the heck is the manual?! I spoke with with the TWNYC "digital" rep, who basically was clueless regarding the box. She advised that the manuals haven't been "printed" yet!! Beyond that she had basically NO knowledge regarding the box.

Anyone is about to do an install, here's a tip. After hooking everything up, plugging in the power, and doing as instructed, waiting until the correct "time" is displayed BEFORE "turning on" the unit, I found that the channels weren't right and the Guide did not come up.

Solution: REBOOT; do a reboot inorder for the box to load "Passport". The instructions did not advise of this step, and I experienced several minutes of frustrated perplextion as a result, even though my inner mind kept telling to reboot. :)

Shortly after installing the 8000, I discovered that "Video On Demand" was not functiong. Selecting any of my channels put me to the "subscription" screen. Slightly pieved, I called "Digital" Customer Support after first calling the normal number which was constantly busy.

The rep as I stated above was not knowledgeable, though she was nice enough. She suggested a reboot, I knew this wouldn't work, but appeased her. Afterwhich, she consulted her "supervisor" who conjured up some "magic" and whalla, VOD works.

I had several questions and with the rep's "scripted" encouragement asked her one, the question itself is unimportant, because the only solution provided was....Reboot! At one point, the rep asked me to consult the "manual )(:()

Obviously, I quickly realized that this conversation had no future and kindly extracted myself.

---

Now, if you all would be so kind, I'd appreciate your advice:

1) Is it possible to untilize both the ReplayTV and the Explorer 8000? I think I'd prefer to use Replay as my primary recorder with the Explorer as a secondary option for "dual recording"

I'd hope that the Explorer would provide "two" channels, one of which the Replay could tap into. Ideally, I'd love to shoot the "second" signal out to a second TV and hook up one of the boxes to it.

Thoughts?

2) Presuming the above isn't possible, anyone uses "two" Explorers? Do you have to pay charges for both a second connection AND the box charge of $6.95?

---

Am I the only one to which it appears that TW/SA haven't quite got their act together, as some functions don't seem to be...ahhh...functioning!

After scrutnizing the "foldouts" provided with the Explorer I discovered the Explorer Club. I haven't yet fully perused everything on the site, but after quick once over of the User Guides I noticed that some things don't correspond. In addition, to some things I discovered prior to looking over the Guides:

a) The "Menu" button has no "Applications" menu, but rather pulls up the Guide duplicating the "Guide" buttons function. Is it the same for you all?

b) The "Quick Reference Guide (pdf) under "Access and Playback Recorded Programs From the Program Guide", instructs to press "Guide" and navigate to the "DVR" channel. Ahhhh...what DVR channel!!!!

Do any of "you" have a DVR channel? If so, would you please provide *me* with the "coordinates, because I can't find it. Guess I must be dense!

Got lots of other questions and observations, like...ahhh...why doesn't this thing advise me ReplayTV style that its about to start a Recording and allowing me the option of choosing for it to continue or NOT! Also, just noticed that when it finishing playing a recording it pops the screen right into the "middle" of what's presently Recording, rather than to a "non-viewing" screen ala ReplayTV; and yes I love my ReplayTV!!

This post is long enough so I'll shut up now, Thanks!

Oh, one thing, just curious, would you all say the Explorer is more like Tivo than ReplayTV?

P.S., another gripe, why doesn't the Explorer Club have a Support "Forum"? I emailed them on this.

P.S.S., gotta LOVE the dual recording and superior picture and sound quality compared to ReplayTV.
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post #2 of 14 Old 08-22-2003, 03:10 PM
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A few responses:

1. There are two different software interfaces on these boxes. One from SA ... one from Pioneer (Passport). Some functionality is the same, some is very different. Sounds like you have the Passport software so keep that in mind when reading any SA documentation (I haven't seen any Passport documentation). Note, I've got the SA software so any comments below may not apply to you.

2. I have a Tivo ... and other then the fact that they are both PVRs ... I would say they are nothing alike.

3. There seem to be several different remotes coming with these units ... dependent on cable company ... so keep that in mind when reading any documentation.

4. My 'DVR Channel' is 750 ... although I never go to 750 to play something. I hit the 'List' button on my remote ... that shows me a list of recorded shows ... I select one ... and hit play. When a show is playing, and I hit info ... it tells me '750: DVR Channel'. Channel up/down buttons act just like I'm on ... 750. If I go to channel 750 when I'm not playing something back, it tells me 'DVR Channel, select List to choose a program to play back'.

5. Setup instructions that came with my unit said to make sure to wait until the time came up on the display before turning the unit on. Also, there was a step where you had to call an automated system and 'activate' the box to get VOD, premium channels you subscribed to, etc.

6. I haven't figured out a way for the SAE8k to output two different channels at the same time. I ended up hooking coax straight into my Tivo. Downside to this, of couse, is that the Tivo can't get any digital channels. My cable company wanted $7.95 /mo for an additional digital cable box ... wasn't worth it to me. Problem with trying to hook a Tivo (or Replay) up to the SAE8k is that ... while the ir blaster can be used to change the SAE8k channel for recording ... if you then change the channel (to watch something live), watch a recorded show from the SAE8k, etc. ... that's what's going to be sent to the other PVR so that's what you're going to record. Seems like the 'VCR output' would be a good use for this ... but those outputs aren't functional on my box.

7. My box tells me any time it is going to record something. If two shows are to be recorded, and I am watching something live, it gives me an option to cancel a recording. Probably does this for the same reason Replay does ... because it's only in the above case that the box is going to have to change channels from what you're currently watching to a different channel. If you are only going to record one thing ... well then there's no reason to change channels so no reason to give you a 'cancel' option. I also get this cancel option if I am recording two things, watching one of them, and I try to change channels. Something to the effect of ... 'Recording two things, do you want to switch to the other recorded program, stop recording the current program, or cancel'.

8. My box ... when finished playing something ... plops me on ... channel 750, the 'DVR Playback channel'.
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post #3 of 14 Old 08-23-2003, 01:54 PM
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Well, I just recently got my SA8000 too. I was a heavy Replay user and had a Tivo for a little while (I had the Tivo first, but had to keep having it replaced because the digital phone lines in my apartment kept blowing out the modem). While the SA8000 is very different in its own right, I'd say the features more closely resemble a Tivo than a Replay. The caveat is that I'm using TW cable of NYC, which uses the Pioneer Echo software in the SA8000. If you have SA software, I have no idea which one it more resembles. The Pioneer (pioneerbroadband.com) hasn't been updated yet with a manual for the Echo software and as far as I can tell, there simply isn't a manual (which is, of course, very lame). As for VOD, I used it a lot before and it was working fine after I received the SA8000. The one exception was for the week following the blackout. Cable took a while to come back on and VOD took even longer. I believe that you can hook up a channel to a Replay, but the only way to do it is to have the PiP turned on. I unhooked the Replay altogether because I prefer the better picture quality, the dual tuners and the digital audio of the SA8000 than the Replay. Like you, the biggest gripes that I have are that there is no manual for advance features and settings and that the only thing TW support can suggest is to reboot. In case you've only tried a soft reboot, you should consider unplugging the unit for 30 sec and then plugging it back in. That fixed one problem for me that soft reboots wasn't fixing. I can't seem to remember what the problem was though. Anyway, I hope that helps.

Ed

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post #4 of 14 Old 08-26-2003, 09:26 AM
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I have a few questions also about this box if anyone could help me.

1.) Is everyone's 8000 noisey? I've never had a PVR in my home theater before and all I hear is the hard disc constantly recording. Could I replace the HD myself to a quieter model?

2.) Is there a way to have the box stop recording to the HD unless I tell it to record a show? I'd much rather just use it to record shows.
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post #5 of 14 Old 08-26-2003, 11:18 AM
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Re:
Quote:
Originally posted by zelig2
I have a few questions also about this box if anyone could help me.
As always ... lots of variables depending on exact software, your cable company, phase of the moon, etc. Anyway, I'm running the March SARA release on Cox in Northern VA. My observations ...

Usually, my SAE8k is not noisy enough to be heard over the TV when it's on. It seems a touch quieter than my (Series 1) Tivo. Every once in a while it seems to get a bit louder ... starts doing this click click .... click click ... click click thing. Dunno what that's about but it usually doesn't last very long. Unfortunately I haven't seen any info on replacing the hard drive (for space or noise). I'd be very interested in a little more capacity ...

My hard drive spins down after about 5 minutes of turning the unit off (unless there's a scheduled recording). It doesn't buffer anything when the unit is off. When I turn the unit on ... there's nothing in the buffer. Some units seem to keep buffer going even when the unit is off ... so the hard drive never spins down and there's always something in the buffer when you turn the unit on. I could see how this would get annoying (especially if you were watching a DVD or something else). No clue how to change behavior ... again, it's probably dependant on software, cable company, etc. Also, no clue how you could tell the unit how to not buffer anything (even when the unit is on).

You could try keeping the unit tuned to a channel it can't / doesn't buffer when not in use. This may reduce noise. For example, I have a channel 750, the 'DVR Playback Channel' which, when tuned to it, doesn't buffer (seems to reduce hard drive noise a little).
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post #6 of 14 Old 08-26-2003, 11:42 AM
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From what I've read online I guess my unit just records even when it's turned off. I'll be walking around my house at night hearing the chunk-chunk noise it makes. But it's DVD viewing that really annoys me since there's always quite parts of movies. I've left the unit on one of the iControl channels before where it just displays a static logo and the thing is still recording something even though it doesn't show a buffer being recorded.

I guess I'm just frustrated that I have to wait a while before the 8000HD comes out since I have two SA boxes on my rack of stuff and I hardly use the PVR since I mostly watch HD material.
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post #7 of 14 Old 08-27-2003, 06:37 AM
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Zelig, I haven't tried this, but if you want to quiet the SA8k, try tuning in to a free VOD channel if you have them. The SA8k doesn't record VOD, or PPV movies, so there is a chance that the hard drive would stop during those times. Just a theory. I live in the city so there is always some background noise so I haven't heard the HD chunking away yet...

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post #8 of 14 Old 09-04-2003, 08:31 AM
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Well, I think I've been sitting on the fence long enough....so I think I'll call and order digital cable and I think I'll get the SA8000 DVR.

My preference would be to go with ReplayTV....but I'm not in the position right now to run out and get another ReplayTV or two.....having just gotten one last month (among other expenditures...like a DVD burner...now my old computer isn't fast enough :( And, replacing my 20" TV keeps getting pushed :o)

I toyed with the idea of hooking the DVR through one of my current ReplayTVs....except that it would be hard to choose one that would be idle enough to do that.....even though I have 4 of them. (though right now some are idle a whole day here and there...but the fall season hasn't started yet) And, I don't think I could cope with the lag and needing to play in advance so that I don't hit live while using QS. Plus I tried moving one cable in my birds nest...and decided I didn't want that hassle....but I needed to do it, because I wanted to free another S-Video input for the (future) DVR.....

I suppose what I might just do is create some macros on my Pronto remote, anybody know where I can find a CCF for the SA8000?

Meanwhile, I need to replace the noisy aircleaner in the living room....replaced it with one of those ionic air cleaners....and it doesn't make enough noise to mask the fan/drive noise from my ReplayTVs :p

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post #9 of 14 Old 09-04-2003, 02:54 PM
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While I like the two built-in tuners, I still miss my Replay. Especially the stability of the Replay. The SA8000 has strange issues. Sometimes shows skip intermittently (however, I think that may just be the digital cable because I had that problem occasionally with my Replay too). Sometimes the live buffer doesn't work. My unit really froze up once because it tried to record the same show on two different channels simultaneously (I guess it gets confused when Showtime or HBO programming has a first run show on one analog channel and two digital channels all at the same time). So, there are clearly things that could be better, but it's still a nice DVR. Just about every problem I've had with it was solved with a hard reboot. Not particularly convenient, but at least it's effective 100% of the time.

As for your air filter, I did a lot of research into those following 9/11 and found out that the ionic ones are pretty crappy. You're better off getting a quiet HEPA. While I didn't end up getting one, the one I would have gotten was the Whirlpool Whispure. It is very highly rated and I found one pretty cheap at **************.com (dunno if they still have it for cheap tho...it was almost two years ago when I was looking at them).

Ed

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post #10 of 14 Old 09-04-2003, 04:55 PM
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Well, the countdown has begun. I ordered the DVR + service just moments ago...and as luck had it, they were able to schedule me for 5-7pm tomorrow....so I won't have to wait until next week :D

Of course, I'm dreading having the installer coming into my apartment....and having him look at (and touch) my home entertainment setup. Though I'm told what I should be dreading is having him see the pile of magazines everywhere....but I don't see that problem ;)

As for the air filter....I'm not sure what I'm going to do....I'm not convinced the ionic air cleaner is doing anything. My HEPA in the livingroom was at a n acceptable noise level....in that it didn't prevent my listening enjoyment. But, it is cold and drafty in the living room in the winter time...and having it blowing all the time wasn't helping....perhaps a directional unit would work better.

But, I discovered that not having the noise of the HEPA unit in my bedroom was causing lots of problems....in that it didn't mask all the other noises in my apartment (like my computer here at the other end of the apartment). And, buying a white noise machine to replace the HEPA seemed kind of odd....especially now that I'm thinking of switching back....

Though I've been told that I should've gotten the fan driven ones....my mother had one, and swears by it.

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post #11 of 14 Old 09-05-2003, 01:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by TheDreamer
Of course, I'm dreading having the installer coming into my apartment....
Did you ask about a 'self-install' option? I was able to pick the unit up at my local cable office ... plug it in ... make a phone call to 'enable' the unit ... and all was good. No scheduling an appointment, no cable guy, etc.
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post #12 of 14 Old 09-05-2003, 03:14 PM
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The current promotion is free installation....which seems to preclude why anybody would want self-install.... Plus they do have to send somebody to switch the cable outside....

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post #13 of 14 Old 09-05-2003, 04:09 PM
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Well, the install was pretty boring....apparently they had showed up sometime well before 4:10pm and were waiting for me to be at home for the DVR setup.

Of course, what they didn't know was that I work behind my apartment...so I came in through the back. So Time Warner called to me at home to ask if I was at home before resending the tech out.....the call was at 5:11pm (my service appointment was scheduled for between 5 and 7pm).

Then all the did was plug in the DVR and move the cable connection from my TV down to it...and made up a length of cable to run from the DVR to the TV and change it to channel 3. They (there were two people doing the install) said it'll activate itself in about 20 minutes and left.

So, I'm going to get familiar with it...and then move it to where I want it in my setup. I'm also probably going to move it onto my UPS with my ReplayTVs. And, then hook into my receiver (S-Video/RCA audio)...need a digital audio converter if I should choose to do that.

Interesting...that the duplicated analog channels are in a slightly different sequence than the actual analog channels....but they are all the same.

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post #14 of 14 Old 09-06-2003, 10:39 AM
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Well, I've had enough hours to play around with the DVR to realize that I miss a lot of the nice things about the ReplayTV.

Even things I took for granted. Like knowing at all times how much space I had.

Scheduling is a real pain. I want to record a series in a specific timeslot and day...but it is either the show or everything (and then edit later from LIST)....but some shows run in back to back slots or some such....then I have to series record one show....edit its options and then go back to the guide to series record the other show.

Plus guide navigation and finding shows is a lot harder.....

And, if you think a ReplayTV 5000 is noisy...you haven't heard the SA8000 yet. Especially the harddrive. Though maybe its just 80 G harddrives in general. The drives in my 5040's and 5160 aren't noticeable over the fan...but I can hear the drive in my 5060 (80G). The drive in the SA8000 is probably more noticable because it seems to be going more and I have it located under my TV...instead of in my equipment rack off to the side (don't have any room left on the rack with the 4 RTVs, 1 VCR, 1 DVD, CD changer, receiver, Line conditioner, Network gear, 3 A/V switchers....on it).

Haven't decided if I'll go with building a rack or a stand for the TV and stuff....

FWIW, my DVR channel is 800, couldn't find it at first, but then I saw it while scrolling through the guide....I guess I was surprised it was listed....
Haven't looked at the diagno screens yet, but I want to. So far the machine has locked up and rebooted twice....seems it really doesn't like channel surfing.

I have now moved the DVR over to my UPS. One of the problems of self install versus not. They plugged it in during the install...into a bare wall outlet....ignored my big Panamax line conditioner (on top of my equipment rack) or the 700VA UPS on the floor next to the equipment rack. Of course, I don't own it...but still...

Also it seems that when it is off, the video output is still active (it is just outputing a black screen)...because my auto A/V switcher jumps to the DVR input all the time and it doesn't auto shut off anymore.

Doesn't seem to be anyway to add a ReplayTV in the middle.....so maybe getting a regular box is what I would need to use, except I would have to buy additional ReplayTV boxes....already run into conflicts on the DVR....

I suppose I could move the DVR onto my JVC A/V switcher... which has two monitor outputs, so I could route one to a ReplayTV for recording....but the JVC isn't an auto switcher (it uses an IR remote, but no code in the SA8000's remote to control it....and I don't have the SA8000 in my universal remote.....and neither the JVC or the SA8000 in my OneForAll)....guess I'll have sit down and program something up....but I'm too busy watching all the new content available to me :D

Need to order Showtime Ondemand so I can get the back episodes....didn't know that it was a separate order/charge item....the wording of "iControl Premium - Subscriptions are available with purchase of the corresponding premium channel." isn't quite obvious that it is still extra from subscribing to the premium channel itself.

I don't know if I want to clog up my Internet connection to have people send me all the back episodes of "Dead Like Me"....but I wasn't one of those people that requested the show even though they didn't subscribe to the channel.... Plus I don't have anyway to reciprocate should the need ever arrise.

Probably easier on the need for instant gratification...to just subscribe to ondemand.... maybe I need to take some time off from work ;)

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