How to build a better set-top box

I’ve ranted and raved about my experiences with TiVo in the last couple of months, buy but now that I’ve allowed the box into my home, I admit I can’t imagine watching TV without it. A recent question from one of our readers, however, makes me wonder just what else I should expect from it.

Brett Newcome asks:

I am in the process of developing a set-top box and would like to ask the consumer what they want in a DVR/PVR. What features would you guys like? What add-ons would you guys like available? What features of other DVRs do you not like and like?

I’ve already shared my thoughts (although I could gripe about the single-tuner issue, too), but figured others might like to add to a list. Anybody got any ideas for that “perfect” Digital Video Recorder? Maybe a built-in Flash player or Web integration?

Use the comments below to let us know.


3 thoughts on “How to build a better set-top box”

  1. I’ve been using ReplayTV for a few years now and I’ve come to the realization that what I really want out of a PVR is a way to turn it into a media server. That’s why I think computer connectivity is so important, so that you can use your PC as a media server. But ideally, it would be best to use your PVR as a server, and not be limited to just the single harddrive that comes with it. Why not add harddrives? Either into the box itself or as attached storage. That way, it can grow as you need it.

    And you should be able to do what you like with those files. They shouldn’t be locked down to a proprietary format or locked to the box. You should be able to move them from PC to box and back.

    Also, it should recognize multiple file formats, including vobs, so you can rip and store your dvd’s on the box and still get access to alternate audio and captions.

    Multiple recorders/tuners are important, too, so that you can watch and record different shows, or catch recording conflicts and shift them to another tuner.

    Ultimately, a successful box will have a good user interface, one that’s easy to record shows, easy to find shows, easy to prioritize recordings, or to turn them off in whole or in part. Example, if you’ve got a channel set to record all shows with the word ‘Iron’ in it, and you see a show coming up that you don’t want to see, you should be able to turn off just the one show recording, but keep your overall recording options intact.

    Also, Replay had a neat feature of internet sharing, where a show could be sent to another Replay owner over the internet. That’s a good idea…but it was too slow. They used dialup speeds even though it was wired to a LAN, and those files are often over a 1GB. So, why not incorporate a BitTorrent client into the box? Speeds up transmission, and can be extremely fast if lots of people have the same show.

    And lastly, get a channel guide that can easily shift forward or back by a few seconds/minutes when recording a show. I’m so tired of networks shifting their schedule just to screw with the recordings, so you miss the beginning or cut off the end. Not fair, and the PVR should be able to detect it. If they notice a blank interval a few seconds before it’s supposed to record, then it should guess that the network probably shifted the show early and start recording.

    I had some other thoughts on the subjects, but I can’t remember them now. If all this gets put into a retail box, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

  2. Just wondering if you’d be interested in bloging / podcasting about Matrixstream’s cutting edge video on demand and IPTV Technology ( TV over broadband ). This is a technology that allows the consumer to receive a potential for unlimited VOD / IPTV content up to 1080P in H.264 codec over any broadband connection on a PC Player or set top box for TV ( IMX1020 1080P High definition STB – the world’s first 1080P H.264 STB ) If you’d like to see pictures and video’s of the this new STB you can go to . Let us know if your interested.

    Yours Truly Aaron Keogh

    Tel: 604-291-7727



  3. Thanks, but… isn’t really in the business of “blogging,” per se. I just like to rant and appear silly in public. The products/technologies that you do see mentioned here are usually just part of my everyday life. Thanks for the links, though.

    (On the other hand, I am willing to paint any company’s logo on my neighbor’s house for a mere $250,000!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *