January 1, 2005
By Scott Lewis
This month I want to take a look at
Firefox. I also have some new information on the HD DVR (that provides my HDTV) from last month. Since I have a lot to tell you about
Firefox I will start
with the update on my HD DVR
(Scientific Atlanta's Explorer
HD DVR Part II
A couple of days after posting last month's article on the bastard box (read last month's article to know why I call it the bastard box) the box froze up. I had seen this a couple of times before, so I predicted a reboot was about to happen. Sure enough while my son and I were watching a show the bastard box did not let me down. It reboot. I figured we would be able to go back to the show we were watching in a minute or two.
Alas, something different happened. The bastard box started downloading a software update. It said it would take several minutes. So we started watching a DVD. About 10 minutes later the box was done doing its update. We switch back to the bastard box and finished watching our show without any issues.
However, I noticed a new option when we came to the end of watching a previously recorded show. The normal options are to play from the beginning, erase, skip to end, etc. The new item to note was an option to "Copy to VCR." I don't know how it would copy the show to a VCR except to play it while a VCR is connected. Since I don't have a VCR connected to the bastard box I didn't give it another thought.
I did, however, want to see if there was a new option for recording shows. As you will recall from last month my biggest gripe is that I can't select a show to record every week at the same time. I picked a show at random from the guide and selected it. I went to the screen to select whether to record "One Episode" or "All Episodes." Nothing new. I guess they didn't add a "weekly" recording.
I did come across one new feature that I complained about last month. The bastard box finally shows how much space is left on its hard drive to record shows. This is extremely important so you know to clear programs before the box gets full.
Then the box died. Yes, died. I don't know why, but two days after it updated itself it just turned itself off and would not even power on. I had to take it back to Time Warner for a replacement. This is one of those times when I am glad I am paying for the service to provide a cable box. If this was a purchased box and out of warrantee I would be up the creek without a paddle. At least Time Warner is nice about swapping out equipment. I just hope this is not a trend to have to replace the bastard box every month or so.
New HD DVR
They gave me a newer model. I now have the Explorer 8300HD, which has a 160 GB hard drive, twice what the 8000HD had. When I plugged it in I pulled out my spreadsheet with all the shows I watch. I am now very glad I keep this spreadsheet. (As you may know from last month I maintain a spreadsheet with all the shows I regularly record, because the bastard box does not allow weekly programming.)
I added a few programs to the schedule and all was as expected. However, some times I was thrown out of the guide when I confirmed the recording. I was always returned to the guide in the past. I also noticed that the "click sequence" had changed. I HAD to use the A button to confirm a one time recording. I did not need to do this on the previous box unless I went into the options for recording.
When I came to the first show that I normally set to record "All Episodes" I saw something new. After I confirmed I wanted to record "Joey" for All Episodes I was shown a new screen with two options. The first option was to record every instance at every time, and the second was to record every instance at this time slot.
Hallelujah, I can record shows weekly. I went into the guide and started looking for the shows that I already put in so I could change them. I "edited" a show to change it from a One Episode recording to an All Episode recording with the new weekly option. After making the final choice to record the show every week I was thrown out of the guide... again. Next, I tried canceling the recording of shows, so I could start over. Nope, canceling the recording of a show also throws you out of the guide. This is annoying when you have to keep navigating the guide to program shows.
Eventually I was able to determine a pattern. Editing or canceling a show you have previously set to record throws you out of the guide. Also, if you choose the option to record All Episodes AND follow through with the option to record every instance at any time you will also leave the guide... without warning. The bastard.
So... the bastard box has taken care of two of my biggest gripes. 1) Weekly recording. Thank heavens! 2) Space left for recording new shows. All is not golden, as after a few weeks of using this box I have discovered that when you tell it to record all episodes at this time slot, that does not take days into account. So, Teen Titans still records seven days a week. Oops, not perfect, but I can live with it.
The downside is that the interface is a little worse than before. However, since I don't have to keep using the guide every week to record the same shows over and over I will have to spend far less time with the bad interface. I can live with it.
Now if they could just put some kind of search feature in that I could criticize.
I have been patiently waiting for the arrival of Firefox, the official 1.0 release of the open source web browser. I have read a lot of information that says you should switch... if for security reason alone. But I wanted to wait until the final release. I didn't want my opinion tainted because of small bugs in the pre-release versions.
I am only writing about it now because I wanted to spend some time with it. I downloaded it and have been using it side-by-side with Internet Explorer for an entire month. I can tell you that it is reasonable to switch and use Firefox as your default browser. That means that it is good enough that even though it has some quirks (or differences from IE, depending on how you look at it) it is just as good or better than IE.
I will save the "which is better" answer for the end. In the mean time I will list all the "issues" I have with Firefox.
Actually a few of the items listed here have good points, it is just that to get the bad you have to read it all.
Speed goes to Firefox... hands down. It is leaner than IE. It seems to load faster than IE, and displays many pages quicker. I like it.
The big question is whether I would switch to it permanently. Alas, I cannot not use it exclusively as I have found some web pages that it does not work with. So I can't give it a complete recommendation to make the switch. However, I think it is feasible to make it your default browser. Just keep IE around for when you need it. Hopefully that will be less of an issue as more and more web sites figure out that they don't work with Firefox.
As a final note, I really like the simple look of Firefox. I remember downloading earlier versions of Mozilla, when it looked like Netscape. I hated it. It was too busy looking. Firefox is very simple looking and easy to use. It is better than IE in this regard. I used to like that IE was easier than Netscape/Mozilla, but Firefox did it right.
Firefox is a winner, but you need to keep IE around just in case.
Until next time...