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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a Pioneer DVR-531H-S that has worked mostly without problems for the last two years. The EPG would sometimes stop pulling in listings, so I've had to reset the EPG a handful of times with the 753159852 etc method. That always worked. Now all of a sudden, the TV Guide has mostly gone black with some random pixels. Despite not being able to hardly see anything, I managed to do another EPG reset, which didn't fix it. Then I tried a complete reset using the stop and on/standby method. Now the TV Guide won't come up at all. The display on the DVR changes, as if the TV Guide has come up, but nothing changes on screen. Pressing the Timer Rec button does the same thing. I tried a blind reset using Sean Nelson's method described here: avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=972246 . It never seemed to take, which I'm guessing because the DVR didn't turn itself off and back on like the other EPG resets I've done. Manually turning it off and on didn't help. Doing another complete reset didn't help. The only other option I haven't tried yet is to do an optimize of the hard drive. I don't want to do that until I get confirmation from someone that I'm not going to screw it up further and/or lose my recorded TV shows.


If a simple optimize won't fix it, is there anything else to try or is the EPG dead? I'm willing to pull the hard drive and hook it up to Windows, flash the firmware, or anything else I can do myself at home. I don't want to spend any money trying to fix it. If it's dead and I have to spend money, I'm just going to replace it with a TiVo from eBay with a lifetime subscription. Any ideas?


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The TVGOS software on the Pioneer 531-533-633 is a ***** and a half to repair, a complete total pain. If its well and truly corrupted, I recommend you *not* try to fix it yourself using advice from various web sources. It can be done, I have done it myself on almost a dozen units, but its an absolute nightmare and half the time a do-it-yourself TVGOS repair doesn't "stick" for very long. It is also not possible to save your recordings in the process: burn those to DVD before you proceed any further. Take the unit in to a Pioneer service center, or sell it and move to a TiVO unit as you've considered. Pioneer makes incredibly good recorders, unfortunately the TVGOS in the 531-533-633 is prone to corruption rendering those particular models a bad bet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So basically you're saying my EPG is hosed and anything else I could do would be a huge pain and only fix the problem temporarily. Is it even possible to set up manual recordings without the EPG? Will I still be able to record off a VCR, or record off TV channels by just hitting the REC button?


So that pretty much seals the deal on a TiVo. Which leads me to a big question. I understand some Tivos needs a phone line to download the TV listings and for the initial setup. Other Tivos apparently need a phone line only for the initial setup. I have Vonage, not traditional phone service. Should I be looking for a particular series of Tivo? Also, if the Pioneer will still record from a line in, can I record from Tivo to the Pioneer in order to transfer stuff to DVD? I'm envisioning keeping the Pioneer as a DVD player and occasionally using it in conjunction with a TiVo for recording TV shows to DVD.


Thanks for your help.


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Yeah, its probably hosed. You say you've had to reboot and reset the TVGOS a couple times before, which means it was already starting to go bad. Now that the blind reset trick didn't work, your TVGOS is likely a goner. When the TVGOS dies it takes the manual timer with it, so forget being able to time shift. You CAN use it on total manual by hitting the record and stop buttons, and it will copy from a TiVO or cable DVR. I wouldn't rely on it for anything important, though: the unit is almost completely dependent on its accursed TVGOS software, sooner or later when every last invisible scrap of it tanks the machine will spontaneously inform you it has an "HDD error" and lock itself down so tight you won't be able to do a thing with it. At that point you lose any video that was on the HDD.


Unfortunately the only way to reinstall the TVGOS is by removing the drive from the Pioneer, installing it or attaching it to a PC, booting the PC into the Knoppix (Linux) OS, and entering a string of DOS-like commands to copy a new TVGOS onto the drive. This generally only works for new replacement virgin drive, your corrupted drive would be resistant to the reinstall or would likely fail quickly if it "took". Also you would need to obtain a Pioneer Service Disk and Pioneer Service Remote or generic clones of them, another pain. On the Pioneer TVGOS models the EPG repair seldom goes quickly, you often have to do the entire process repeatedly until it "takes", and trust me on this you'll be ready for a straightjacket by the end of it. There have been a couple of claims on this forum that the TVGOS can be repaired simply be inserting a "firmware disc", but that trick has never worked for me: I think this only applies to the European version with "Guide+", not the American "TVGOS".


Of course there are many who have perfomed this procedure successfully and replaced a dead TVGOS by installing a new drive in their 531 with a fresh copy of TVGOS. But in my experience with nearly a dozen, the repair often fails within a few weeks to perhaps a year at the outside. There is something wackadoodle with the 531-533-633 motherboards that make them a little "inhospitable" to replacement burners or hard drives: no logical reason but these damn units simply do not like to be repaired once their TVGOS fails- they give up the ghost and want to be left alone to rot. Even Pioneer recognized this eventually, they quietly blew a fortune in 2006 replacing many "unfixable" 531-533-633 units with the new (and far FAR more reliable) model 640 under warranty.


I absolutely love Pioneers, wouldn't use any other brand myself, so it pains me to say it: the 531-533-633 models are possibly the all time worst recorders ever made in terms of reliability and serviceability: real lemon-dogs. Every mfr has made one disasterous mistake, this was Pioneers. All the Pios before or since have been very reliable and are easily repaired, the 640 and later series being damn near bulletproof.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I was willing to give the repair a shot until you mentioned the special remote. I'm not spending another dime on this thing. We had one several years ago when they were still selling them at Walmart (got it from ebay cheaper) and it always worked great. Then someone broke into our house and stole it. So we replaced it with another from ebay, then someone broke in again and stole it. So now we replaced it AGAIN from ebay, and two years later it craps out.


So needless to say, I'm hesitant to buy another Pioneer again. But based on what you say, I'm wondering if I should try a 640, or go with a TiVo. We used our 531 primarily as a DVR and a DVD player. We might burn TV shows or VCR transfers to DVD only once or twice a month. So if we got a Tivo, we'd have to keep the 531 for playing DVD's and the few-and-far-between DVD burning. Or we could get a 640 and just replace the 531, which I have to say is starting to sound appealing.


What has the 640 done differently than the 531-533-633 that makes it so much better? And is there anything I could do with a 531 that I can't with a 640. I seem to remember seeing something about removing the option to edit out commercials on models after 633, but that was at least 2 years ago so I could be wrong.


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Bummer about the repeated burglaries!
Thats terrible to hear, I'm so sorry you had to go thru that more than once. Hope you at least got some insurance coverage back?


What kills the Pioneer531-533-633 models is the horrible implementation of TVGOS as software loaded on the hard drive. It is very fragile software that corrupts easily, and it paradoxically forces the hard drive and the recorder to run constantly so it can stay updated. Essentially the machine was designed to run itself into the ground asap: not the smartest move Pioneer made. The TVGOS feature was/is very popular on other brands like Panasonic and Toshiba which put it on a dedicated hardware chip- much more reliable. All TVGOS recorders were discontinued a year or two ago and can only be found used now.


I can't exaggerate how badly this misguided 531 design blew up in Pioneers face: it cost them a ton of money in warranty service and was PR nightmare. Rather than try to fix their poor TVGOS design they chose to drop it altogether from later models, hoping to avoid anyone ever mentioning the words "Pioneer" and "TVGOS" in the same sentence again. The 640 and later models were designed in cooperation with Sony, which was having problems of its own: together they came up with a really solid chassis with possibly the best burner you can get in a standalone DVD recorder. They operate exactly like your 531, using the same editing screens and other displays, the only difference is no more TVGOS: you set the timer like you would a VCR or any other DVD recorder.


Unfortunately Pioneer no longer sells recorders in the USA, you would need to buy one from an import dealer or online Canadian source, which is what I and many others here have done. The easiest models to come by are last years 450 and this years 460, they are identical except for USB/DV inputs added on the 460. Either will run $300 or so delivered to the USA. In your case, since you'll be moving to TiVO as your primary timeshift device, you don't necessarily have to get a Pioneer with hard drive: any inexpensive DVD-only recorder from WalMart would do for backing up TiVO occasionally. If you want to get a little fancier, the only hard drive equipped recorder still marketed thru USA stores is the Phillips 3576, excellent unit with 160GB HD and ATSC digital tuner. Not quite as refined as a Pioneer or Panasonic but still a really good unit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Luckily we had renters insurance, so we got some money back. Now we live in a city with less crime, and in a much better part of town, so hopefully that's a thing of the past.


I haven't necessarily decided on a TiVo now that these other options are presenting themselves. Best case scenario, I would just like to replace the 531 with a reliable equivalent (i.e. DVR, DVD burning, EPG on a chip). I'm certainly not opposed to picking up a used unit if there's certain models of the Panasonic or Toshiba DVR's that fit that bill you can recommend. If TVGOS has been discontinued on new models, is there a risk of TV Guide stopping the service? My girlfriend's parents bought a new Sony LCD TV and I was surprised to see that it had TVGOS built into it, I'm assuming for people who don't have digital cable or satellite.


If that's not possible for whatever reason, second choice would probably be a Pioneer 640 from eBay. That's assuming my girlfriend is willing to go back to manually setting up shows. Oh, on a side note, how is the VCR+ implementation on the 640? Is it any easier than manual setups?


The last option would probably be a TiVo used in conjunction with the 531 if we decide we can't live without on-screen listings. I'd rather not add yet another set-top box and remote to the system if I don't have to.


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Nope, TVGOS still lives on, although after 2/'09 it will only be in digital form OTA.


But the new DTVPal CECB ATSC tuner should keep those old, analog-based TVGOS recorders receiving guide data and working just as they always have (although I don't think I would even bother with another Pio with TVGOS).


The difference between using VCR+ and setting manual timers? Maybe a couple or so button punches, I'd presume. Not really that much of a difference.
 

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Be careful making a decision based on VCR+. I tried it on my Pio 640 and found that it generates a diff. code for each show each day and time slot.

Here's my post back then , and if I remember right, the "test" I mentioned to see if it would timer rec weekly shows failed to record the next week's show, so it turned out to be pretty lame... back then, anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Argh, I hadn't considered any complication from the digital switchover next year. So let me see if I understand you correctly. We have cable and a 4-5 year old tube TV, but it's not digital cable and thus no cable box. I have read many times over that the switchover will only affect people receiving free over-the-air broadcasts, and not cable or satellite subscribers. Plus, I've read that analog cable will still work until at least 2012. Correct? But you're saying that, despite still receiving analog cable after the switchover, the TV Guide listings are going digital and my DVR wouldn't be able to use the signal without a converter box?


If that's the case, then yeah, I don't see any reason to invest in another TVGOS system if it's just going to stop working in less than a year, and I have no plans to upgrade to digital cable until I have to. In addition, I don't see a fancy-pants digital TV in my future anytime soon. So going with a TiVo would avoid this mess because it's going to get its listings from the internet or phone, correct?


Thanks for chiming in!


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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Yeah, I've already decided that the VCR+ is pretty pointless, at least for my situation. We don't get a local Sunday paper (thus no local weekly TV listings), so I would have to look up the codes online. I did find a way to do that through TV Guide's website, but it involves 4 or 5 clicks just to retrieve one code. I might as well just set the thing up manually at that point, it'd be quicker.


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If you have to have TVGOS and would prefer a HDD model, and don't mind ebay, I'd suggest a Panasonic EH-55. It has analog TVGOS which we are all hoping will be converted from the digital TVGOS by using a DTVPal CECB.

It has a 200GB HDD and of course DVD burner. Canadian Future Shops may still have some for ~$300 NIB and you can search for ebay to see what their going on that.

Note Tivo may be your best bet, if you don't care about the monthly charges, which since you have cable it sounds like you don't.

Note before buying your Tivo make sure it has a cable card slot or some other way to receive digital cable. If you don't it may cease operate quite shortly since many cable systems are converting their channels to digital only. Come to think of it unless you have or plan on getting a digital STB the Panny wouldn't be able to tune the digital channels either. The DTVPal is for OTA only, not cable.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by poo706 /forum/post/14199774


If that's the case, then yeah, I don't see any reason to invest in another TVGOS system if it's just going to stop working in less than a year, and I have no plans to upgrade to digital cable until I have to. In addition, I don't see a fancy-pants digital TV in my future anytime soon. So going with a TiVo would avoid this mess because it's going to get its listings from the internet or phone, correct?

One thing to consider is that current analog TVGOS is delivered by Gemstar to Gemstar's encoders at PBS stations via telephone line. The still unanswered question is, will Gemstar/CBS continue to send that telephone-based TVG data to their encoders, and will PBS continue to support this method (making sure the encoders are plugged in)?


I haven't read anything to suggest they won't, but maybe someone else has?
 

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Apparently, some people are already losing the TVGOS info by switching over to all-digital service. But some aren't. Depends on what your cable company is doing, or what they will do.


I think you can sometimes split the signal, one lead to the RF input, and the other to the digital cable box, so that the analog locals can get to the tuner and the analog host channel can be picked up. But sometimes they strip the signal from those, also. But the DTVPal box won't work with cable and pick up the digital info and convert it like with OTA. You'll need the digital-based TVGOS built in to the digital tuner, like with the new Sony LCD's. Which, unless the TV has video out, won't help you as far as recording anyway.


That's unless you can find a US Panasonic EH55v or EH75V, because you can set it up to work with a digital cable box, and still download the guide info for cable over-the-air. That may work for you right now, but I don't know if the cable info will still be available OTA after the analog cutoff (in the case of using the DTVPal with it to convert).


With TiVo, if your cable company eventually switches to SDV ("switched digital video"), you'll need some kind of "dongle" that supposedly TiVo says they will have and supply.


Between the two, I'd probably just go with TiVo at this point. There are no digital-based TVGOS recorders on the immediate horizon as far as anyone knows, although there very well might be eventually. (Except maybe the Echostar TR-50, which will only be OTA anyway.) As far as analog cable though, as long as they are keeping that available, and if they're passing along the data now, they should continue to do so. You could call them and ask them how long they plan on keeping extended basic analog going, but you know how dependable the CS people's words can be.


They could tell you "not long at all", just to try to get you to rent their DVR.
 

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I've got a call into my state's PBS chief engineer asking if they know anything about continuing the tel-based analog TVGOS. The CS I talked to and left a message with said the last meeting she was at, they still don't know. I'll post here if/when I hear from chief engr.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by poo706 /forum/post/14199774


Argh, I hadn't considered any complication from the digital switchover next year. So let me see if I understand you correctly. We have cable and a 4-5 year old tube TV, but it's not digital cable and thus no cable box. I have read many times over that the switchover will only affect people receiving free over-the-air broadcasts, and not cable or satellite subscribers. Plus, I've read that analog cable will still work until at least 2012. Correct? ...

After scarring everyone, local (Albuquerque) tv stations and even comcast recently have been making extra sure to say "If you have cable, you won't be affected by the switch over." So I think if you can get regular cable now, you'll be okay. This does not mean that your cable provider will keep your favorite stations in the places you see them now. Ours moved Hallmark and The Game Channel to digital, which I didn't care about until Hallmark had a movie I wanted to see (but Netflix will have it). What mildly irritates me is Comcast still has the channels on their regular rolling grid. Stupid. Comcast should replace them with better programming. If I wanted to watch those channels, I'd go rent another Scientific Atlantis (I think) DVR from them, but I had digital for a year or two and finally got bored of all the reruns and Comcast's failure to keep that grid up to date.


And I've mentioned before that I don't think Albuquerque's Comcast passes along the TVGOS signal, so I have never relied on it, simply programming in programs I want to record on my Pio 531H(s), like we used to do on old VCRs.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by wajo /forum/post/14200214


I've got a call into my state's PBS chief engineer asking if they know anything about continuing the tel-based analog TVGOS. The CS I talked to and left a message with said the last meeting she was at, they still don't know. I'll post here if/when I hear from chief engr.

I just got a return call from my PBS Network Ops Center and analog TVGOS delivered by Gemstar via tel. line to PBS is going to go away in Feb 2009... "as far as they know now."

 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Ok, so after all this, it appears that there is a lot of uncertainty regarding TVGOS and its fate after Feb 2009. Given that I have analog cable (Comcast in Indiana) with a most likely analog TV and don't plan on upgrading to digital anytime soon, it looks to be a crap shot whether it'll continue working or not. That's not a chance I want to take, especially on a $200-300 unit. And without TVGOS, I don't see a good reason to go with anything other than a TiVo since its listings should be unaffected by the switchover.


So at least I've narrowed down to what I should buy next, thanks to everyone here. I've had these Pioneer 531's long enough that I've never really paid any attention to TiVos, so I'm decently ignorant of them. Now it looks like my next step is to head over to tivocommunity.com to ask which TiVo in particular I should get. (Most likely a used eBay model with a lifetime subscription to use with my analog cable, analog TV, and Vonage or cable internet or wireless, if anyone's got any suggestions)


Argh, this shouldn't be so difficult.


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To add to the TVGOS talk, I just checked my EH-55. In Minneapolis WCCO channel 4 (CBS) is sending the analog TVGOS that my EH-55 picks up. I had thought PBS was sending the analog while CBS would be sending the digital. Looks like in MSP anyway CBS may be doing both with their analog station sending analog and digital station sending the digital. Note I don't have anything that gets digital TVGOS to verify but I have read WCCO is one of a few stations broadcasting digital TVGOS.

If I get the Sony LCD with digital TVGOS, and figure out a way to display what station is sending the TVGOS, I'll report back.
 

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TVGOS is not going away, its just hibernating at present. Those with analog-based TVGOS recorders will likely have increasing trouble in getting a signal, but the company is definitely moving forward with some kind of ATSC/QAM -based service. Sony is in no position to waste money on useless features: since they are incorporating TVGOS in nearly all their newly released ATSC HDTV displays I think it highly unlikely they put it there with the expectation it would be useless in six months. Something is percolating. But it isn't here yet, so back to you and the here and now picture:


Your "cable without a box" scenario torpedoes the easiest and most sensible short term solution: rent the cable company DVR until TVGOS sorts itself out next year with new products. Since you don't want to upgrade to a cable service tier that gives access to a DVR, you're more or less screwed for cheap answers. The only reliable DVD machines left with analog TVGOS are Panasonics, and they fetch ridiculous prices second hand, even more as new-old-stock imports from Canada. Panasonic's recent discontinuation of the Canadian DVD/HDD units (as well as USA) is driving prices sky high. For someone with money to burn I'd say go ahead, but since you are obviously frugal with your cable subscription I don't think you'd be too happy gambling with a $500 machine that may be obsolete next year. All the supposed converters that would keep analog TVGOS viable are still vaporware, not to mention you have the dreaded "girlfriend factor": she's not going to want to deal with a possibly flaky secondary feed providing an unstable guide for an obsolete analog recorder.


I'm not that familiar with the latest TiVO variants, but if there are updated ATSC/QAM capable TiVOs they would be the way to go in your situation. If you want a one-click, long term automatic timeshift solution that doesn't involve upgrading your cable or gambling on the future of TVGOS, then TiVO seems the only option. Pair it with an accessory DVD recorder, with or without hard drive, and your bases are covered. It would cost 50-100% more than you paid for the 531, plus monthly TiVO fees, but it will do exactly what you want with no reliability headaches.


Eventually a new digital TVGOS may make its way into USA-market DVD recorders, but it will be a half-measure. The hardware mfrs all pulled hard drive DVD recorders from the USA in 2006 and seem hell bent on not bringing them back, so any recorder with a new TVGOS is going to be DVD-only: not terribly useful. If we're extremely lucky, maybe Phillips will add the new TVGOS to its 3576 recorder in a year or two, since its the very last remaining DVD/Hard Drive recorder for sale in USA. This is a strong possibility, given Panasonic has pulled out of Canada now as well as the USA: Phillips seems poised to jump in and compete with Pioneer for whatever market remains in Canada for DVD/HDD units. This time next year should be interesting.
 
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