Every year I try to summarize all of the things I wish Santa would bring me this year. Let's rush to the tree and see what's there.
Tivo HD. There is something cult-like about Tivo. For those who know what Tivo is, we all exchange knowing glances. I actually had high-def television removed from my home because my Tivo could not record it and I refused to watch television without it. Then Tivo released its first high-def recorder, but I would not pay $800 for the honor. Now Tivo HD is about $250, which is the perfect price-point for high-def recording, and I am back in the ballgame. Of course TivoHD won't work with satellite, so I am back in the market for cable television, but there is no technical sacrifice too great for Tivo. (When I give speeches, people ask me what the greatest technical achievement of my lifetime has been ... the moon landing? Color TV? The Internet? SkyLab? XM Radio? MTV? HBO? The Olsen twins? To me it is clearly Tivo.)
Western Digital My DVR Expander. Now, the only issue when you get a Tivo or a DVR is there is never enough room on it. (Derk's Law: The amount of cool programming on TV in any given day requires 1 gig more than the amount of space available on your Tivo). Now Western Digital, the hard-drive people, have released a $200 hard drive with 500 gigs of space on it designed for the e-SATA port of Tivo Series 3 and TivoHD DVRs as well as some DVRs made by Scientific Atlanta. This is enough for another 60 hours of HD programming or 300 hours of normal digital programming. There are some hacks available to make some other e-SATA drives work as well, but this is an elegant solution.
HDTV: There are so many HDTVs on the market today it would be silly for me to even summarize the market in the space I have. What I can say is this winter's market is the best ever with prices dropping and quality improving. The TV that three years ago cost $10,000 is $1,000 today, which is something else. What I find funny is the box stores and everyone else are selling HDMI cables for $30, which have a retail value of $2. If you buy a DVD player or whatever and you're not using an HDMI cable to hook it up, do so. Just don't pay retail. Head to eBay and buy a bunch at a normal price.
UpConversion DVD Player: If you get an HDTV, consider spending $50 to $125 on a new generation of DVD player with an "up-conversion" feature. This will take normal DVDs and use technology to convert the picture to better definition. Of course, purists will note this will not approach Blu-Ray or HD Discs, but the difference is amazing never the less and certainly with the modest amount, especially if you use an HDMI cable.Flat-panel monitor: This is your season if you're still on a CRT monitor. C'mon, get over it. The electricity payments alone will pay for it. $140 bucks. Fork it over.
James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm, and tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.