A couple of weeks ago, I received a comment from a person wondering why their DVR was using significant amount of space when using HD recordings.  It dawned on me a couple of days ago that what the DVRs really needed was compression and fragmentation software inside them.

Simply put, a DVR is nothing but a dumb computer without a keyboard or mouse.  However, these “computers” are in fact one-trick ponies meant to do one thing and that is to record shows (and obviously play them back and manage them).  It’s obvious as with computers that deleting shows off the machine’s hard drive creates a lot of fragmentation and thus needs to be optimized by defragging the drive.  Without defragging, the space on the drive is so segmented that to the navigator software, it appears that more space actually is used then really is.  A good defragging of the hard drive occasionally would optimize the drive to store more and stop “Disk Full” errors.

The other thing that the DVRs could use is compression software.  Anybody who had a computer in the early 1990’s may be familiar with products like Microsoft  DoubleSpace or Stac ElectronicsStacker program.  Both of these programs did essentially the same thing: compress the hard drive.  Unfortunately, the biggest problem with both of these programs was that they made wild claims about the amount of compression ranging anywhere from 0% (no compression) to around 80% (full compression depending on content).  The best level I ever got for compression with either of these programs was around 15% way below the claims made by either company.  Compression also caused the computers to sometimes run very slow depending on content which added to the problems that these programs had.  Eventually, as hard drives got larger and cheaper (somewhat), the need for these programs disappeared.  However, the need for these programs are more important now especially given the limited capacity of most DVRs.

It is highly unlikely that we will ever see either of these technologies installed as part of the software on the DVRs from any company anytime in the future despite being desperately needed and in my opinion a strong requirement.  Until companies like Time Warner Cable employs REAL programmers who can do more than draw fancy ugly screens, speed and efficiency will continue to be an issue with the DVRs.