Easily portable digital TV recording for multiple homes?
October 6, 2010 2:13 PM Subscribe
Asking for a Friend: My father still uses VHS tapes. I need to get him on tech from this millennium.
posted by GJSchaller to technology (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
(From Friend's viewpoint):
His sole reason for still using VHS is portability. He maintains three residences; our townhouse, his wife's house, and her family's lake house. With tapes, he can set up a VCR in any location to record, then take the tape with him and play it back in any of the aforementioned locations, because VCRs are ubiquitous across the three houses and something taped on one VHS VCR will work on every other VHS VCR on the planet. He's told me that if I can find a way for him to have that same level of easy portability, he'd switch over to full digital in a heartbeat (he's well aware that his current method won't work much longer, given that the machines and media are wearing out and aren't manufactured anymore).
I figure I can sell him on the idea of replacing the VCRs with DVD players that have USB ports and internal media decoders; such devices only run about $50 each, which he'd probably be OK with (that's cheaper than VCRs were when he bought them). Bonus, he has a small-but-growing collection of DVDs but doesn't have nearly as many DVD players as he does VCRs, so he can't presently watch DVDs nearly as conveniently as tapes. The playback platform isn't an issue; the recording platform, however, is.
What I need is a way to record cable TV - NTSC at minimum, but bonus points for non-encrypted ATSC digital cable - onto digital medium. Not particularly concerned with what the medium is, so long as its removable read/write media - USB stick would be preferable, but just about every storage tech currently manufactured can be converted to USB trivially. Should also have a simple-to-use 10-foot interface for at least set-and-forget timer-based recording. Features such as TiVo-style schedule-based recording and removable media file-management would be excellent, but not required. Being able to fiddle with things like codec type, container format, bitrate and whatnot would be nice but not essential (he's using analog 8-hour VHS cassettes that are older than the neighbor's kids, on machines that I remember from my childhood; *anything* digital would provide both denser storage and higher playback quality).
Ideally I'd like a set-top box or something running an integrated OS; this all *can* be done with a computer running any of the Big Three OSes, but I would really rather not go that route - it's overkill for his needs and too many things can go wrong with a computer. A purpose-built set-top unit would be much preferable.
Basically, I need something exactly like a VCR, only recording a standard media file format to removable read/write storage. Any ideas?