Bell ExpressVu 9200: Bad default behaviour for event timers

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Bell Satellite
September 19th, 2005 • 9:29 am

Last week, I mentioned some pretty bad flaws in the user interface for creating even timers on the new Bell ExpressVu 9200 receiver.

In that post, I mentioned a new default behaviour on this model. When you create a new event timer, by default the receiver adds 1 minute before the start and 3 minutes after the end. In other words, if you browse your on-screen guide and select, say, a football game starting tomorrow at 2:00 pm and ending at 4:00 pm, by default the 9200 receiver will create a timer event that starts at 1:59 pm and ends at 4:03 pm.

This is a reasonable idea in theory. Many broadcasts are not exactly timed to perfection, and it’s not unusual to have a movie or sports show that starts on time, but ends a couple minutes after the time indicated in the guide.

The problem is that this default behaviour creates a major conflict with one other essential feature of the 9200 receiver, which is the ability to record two different shows at the same time, using the two built-in tuners.

Imagine the following scenario. There are three things on tomorrow afternoon that you want to record. One show starts at 2:00 pm on channel A and ends at 4:00 pm. The second one starts at 4:00 pm on channel B and ends at 6:00 pm. And the third one starts at 3:00 pm on channel C and ends at 5:00 pm.

If you program these events using the 9200 without making any changes to the default options, here’s what you’ll get:

  1. one event timer that will record from 1:59 pm to 4:03 pm on channel A
  2. one event timer that will record from 3:59 pm to 6:03 pm on channel B
  3. one event timer that will record from 2:59 pm to 5:03 pm on channel C

Now let’s see what will happen in real time with the 9200 and its two tuners:

  1. At 1:59 pm, the receiver starts recording channel A using Tuner 1.
  2. At 2:59 pm, the receiver starts recording channel C using Tuner 2.
  3. At 3:59 pm, the receiver is still recording channel A with Tuner 1 and channel C with Tuner 2, and yet it needs to start recording channel B. But it can’t! It only has two tuners and they are both taken!

This is pretty bad. There is no reason why the 9200 receiver should not be able to record the three shows I want to record, because I only ever want to record two shows at the same time. But because of the default options in the event timer interface, for a few minutes at the end of one show and at the beginning of the other one, the receiver will actually need three tuners!

Of course, the 9200 doesn’t have three tuners, so what does it do? Well, it fails to record the third event altogether!

What makes this even more unacceptable is that, even if the first two shows are on the same channel A, the problem will still occur. The receiver is not even smart enough to know that, if it’s already recording what’s being broadcast on channel A at 3:59 pm, it doesn’t need to start the second event timer on that same channel A until 4:00 pm, and that it doesn’t need to make the first event timer on channel A extend beyond 4:00 pm, since what’s on channel A will be recorded by the second event timer starting at 4:00 pm anyway!

It’s hard to believe that the engineers who designed the 9200 receiver could be so dumb as to miss this major conflict. In addition, the 9200 receiver, like previous models, has a built-in feature that is supposed to automatically detect recording conflicts. On single-tuner receivers, if you try to record two different things at the same time, the receiver normally displays a warning telling you that you have a conflict and asking you to delete one of the event timers. On the 9200, if you try to record three different things at the same time, the receiver normally displays a similar warning.

But it doesn’t here—even though there is a clear conflict during the short interval in between shows!

The only solution is to make sure, when you program the event, to manually remove the extra 1 minute before and 3 minutes after. And of course, we’ve seen how painful the interface for editing these extra minutes is.

If anyone still wonders why I feel that most of the technology available in our modern society is in some kind of permanent beta stage, there is a perfect example. This is the kind of problem that the unsuspecting public should never have to deal with!

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