February 23, 2019

Tux on the Telly: An Open DVR Product - page 2

Better Than Just Getting the Remote Control

  • July 31, 2003
  • By Brian Proffitt

Interact-TV is the Westminster, Colorado company that makes the Telly, which can be initially classified as a DVR. But this set-top box has a lot more features than the stock TiVo or ReplayTV units you get from the local electronics store. For instance, the Telly comes equipped with a CDRW/DVD combo drive, a VIA C3 933-Mhz processor, and an operating system that is a direct decendant of Red Hat Linux.

This, along with the ports on the Telly--four USB, one 10/100 Base-T ethernet, one serial, and one parallel, among others--make this sound like a home PC more than a set-top system. But this is the line that the Telly's makers are deliverately straddling with the product, as it also falls into the same category of media PCs that carry Windows XP Media Edition.

Ken Fuhrman, the CEO of Interact-TV, gives the device the market-speak name "home entertainment server," which sounds like a lot of overpromise and potential for underdelivery. Digging more into the guts of this system, though, one finds that the Telly could wear this moniker without a wince of irony.

Because what makes Telly really stand out from its nearest competitors is the concept that Interact-TV wants its customers to be able to upgrade and tweak the system whenever they want. Don't like the stock 80 GB hard drive? Open the system up and pop in a larger drive. No more sneaking around to buy upgrade drives out on eBay and then busting the product warranty.

Want to swap out the CDRW/DVD combo drive for a DVD-R drive? Feel free (though wait a bit until Interact-TV adds the support drivers for such devices in the future).

Oh, and how about those software updates? Just use that Ethernet jack and connect to the Interact-TV servers using the built-in Web interface. In fact, you can use any machine's Web browser to connect to the device and program it remotely.

Network connectivity plays a big part of the Telly's sell--the device uses Samba to connect to Windows-based networks and standard netowrk protocols to connect to everything else. So, what you record can be easily pulled to other machines on the network, or perhaps ripped music uploaded to the device for playback in your home entertainment area.

If there is a down-side to this machine, it could be the current price tag: the device lists for $899 in the US. For roughly 60 hours of recording, this is a bit steep compared to similar products--though the Telly does not include any sort of subscription to access the online programming guide. That is free to Telly users. The fact that the device is essentially open is also a major plus in its favor, given the hassles of dealing with closed systems like TiVo and ReplayTV.

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