Just When You Thought It Was Safe ...
Earlier I expressed some concern about these recorders continuing to work after the digital transition due to issues with obtaining correct clock data. I was temporarily relieved when Reldnips indicated that one of two OTA machines using a digital host channel was receiving clock data from a digital channel. However, I have new concerns for those of us who are strictly OTA (this may also apply to cable as well), again related to what will happen if any of us concurrently experience the loss of both the host channel and the time. Recently, I started the procedure to reacquire a digital host channel on a recorder that reverted to an analog host channel and realized that there is a "deadly embrace" situation involved.
M8B assurances not withstanding, the problem is as follows. These recorders currently receive clock data over an analog channel, which may or may not be the same as the host channel (on one of my recorders they are the same and on the other recorder they are different). While there is a means to force a recorder to a digital host channel, I am not aware of a way to force the clock channel to a digital channel. It has been demonstrated that a recorder using a digital host channel can obtain clock data from a digital channel. However, I am not aware of anyone who has successfully demonstrated that one of these recorders can acquire a digital clock channel on its own after a reset. In any instance where both the host channel and time data are lost (such as a TVGOS reset, a power failure?, or a full factory reset), the TVGOS software reverts to the default version (08.01.42 for most of us), which cannot acquire data from a digital source. Usually the next steps are to acquire the intermediate version of the software (8.05.40) that does allow reception of digital source information, which in turn allows the acquisition of the latest version of the software (08.06.44 currently) as well as the channel listings and guide information. Once this occurs, we know that the recorder can receive clock data from a digital source.
But, here's the rub. After one of the aforementioned resets, the clock data is initially incorrect. Without a clock channel, the clock cannot be set correctly. Even if the recorder can locate a digital clock channel on its own (which has yet to be demonstrated), the default software won't recognize data from the digital channel. Without the correct time, the downloads do not occur. Without the downloads, the software will not recognize digital source information and, therefore, cannot update the software, obtain the channel list, obtain the guide listings, or update the clock information.
While forcing my recorder to a digital host channel, I tuned it to the local digital CBS channel (which I have successfully used as a host in the past) and left it on overnight (with the time still wrong from the reset). The following day I still had not received the intermediate software update (despite several update cycles having passed). I then turned the recorder off and allowed it to get the time from an analog source. When I turned it back on, I received the intermediate software update within a couple of hours.
As I see it there are three solutions to this issue. The first and easiest (since we have direct control of this method) is a VCR backup tape of an analog broadcast containing VBI information, which someone (I don't remember who) suggested much earlier in this thread. The second (more difficult, but still under our control) is to time the reset so that the clock is very close to (if not exactly on) the correct time (remember, the recorders operate on an offset to GMT) (Also, I'm not sure this will work since the default date is in 1994). The third solution is to change the default guide software in the recorder's memory, which may require an update from Sony and/or Macrovision. There is a Sony firmware update that can be applied via the USB port on the back of the recorders (not related to this issue). It may be possible to get Sony to issue a Macrovision supplied default TVGOS software update that can be applied in the same manner. This would permanently correct the problem. I have not experimented with the hidden Reset, Commit, Save, and Restore Flash Memory commands or the Commit All Data command, but if they allow access to the TVGOS software, we may be able to do this ourselves. Has anyone been brave enough to fool around with these commands? If so, what have you found out about the data they can access?
I'm sure I have a blank VCR tape around here somewhere.