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Supersize Me


The other week, I spent three rather strange evenings with a Sky Plus Box and a hacksaw. If this sounds a little strange then that’s because it was – but let me explain.

In case you didn’t know, Sky Plus, is a digital satellite box with an integrated hard disk that lets you record TV without tapes. You can pause, and rewind live TV, and set recordings for a programme or indeed an entire series at the touch of a button. Once you’ve got it, you quickly wonder how you ever lived without it. The box can store up to 20 hours of recording, which isn’t too bad but as it's so easy to set recordings it does tend to fill up quickly. The good news though is that the hard disk inside is a regular 40GB EIDE drive, which should make it a relatively easy job to upgrade, as per the instructions here.

However, it proved to be anything but straightforward for me. Initially, I purchased a 120GB drive, only to discover on forums that while these upgrades seemed to work at first, many users came across what became known as the, “17 minute bug” where they couldn’t fast forward past 17 minutes. As a result my new drive went instead into my PC as a second disk.

A few months later though and Sky themselves had upgraded the software to allow for bigger drives, so I tried again. I bought myself a nice big fat 250GB drive, that if all went to plan, would give me about 120 hours of recording space. Fantastic! However, when I unplugged the box I was dismayed to find that I simply couldn’t get the lid off. Of the three screws holding it in place the threads had gone on two of them and my screwdriver just couldn’t turn them. The best laid plans and all that…

The new drive therefore, sat on a shelf for a couple of months gathering dust before I decided that enough was enough. I was getting into that Sky Plus and two measly screws weren’t about to stop me. Enter the hacksaw. The process took me a good couple of hours, spread over the course of three evenings –the delay caused by my wife actually wanting to use the Sky Plus to watch television on, which, though inconvenient, I could hardly complain about.

But as I found myself sawing away at the back of a piece of consumer electronics, with my hand beginning to ache, I began to wonder why exactly I was doing this. After all, did I really need to store 120 hours of television? When would I have time to watch it all?

Aside from telly, I’ve got quite a few DVD movies that I haven’t watched, and of those I have, I’ve barely touched the extras. Now one of the reasons that consumers took DVD to heart so quickly was not just the enhanced sound and picture quality but also the wealth of extra features on the disc. But let’s face it -how often have you actually watched absolutely everything on a DVD, including the multiple commentaries often included. Heck, on a Lord of the Rings Extended Edition DVD even getting through the film alone is hard without booking a week off work.

And then there’s the stuff we create ourselves. Indeed, the other day I found myself staring at a growing pile of DV camcorder tapes on my desk at home. Now don’t get me wrong, DV camcorders are great. I love picking it up and filming the latest exploits of my 13 month old son, but unfortunately as clever as DV camcorders are, those tapes just don’t edit themselves.

One of the best reasons for capturing special moments is that you want to share them with family and friends. This means that you have to do more than just dump the footage onto your hard disk – that’s the easy part – you want to create a DVD. Now, this is of course all well and good, but it doesn’t half take a lot of effort. I’ve made one DVD since the nipper arrived, and with a little help form iMovie it was nothing short of a masterpiece. However, genius takes time, and these days, I don’t seem to have a lot of it. So there have been no more DVDs made, but there is an ever increasing pile of DV tapes.

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