TiVo Crash

Our TiVo Series 3 bit the dust.

The signs were there — a couple of days before the fateful day, we had noticed that it was sounding louder than before, the ominous sound of a hard drive on its way out. And then a couple of days later, it rebooted spontaneously and gets stuck in the “Powering up…” screen. I’m 99% sure it’s a bad hard drive as I can hear the too-familiar sound of the hard drive “clicking” when I put my ear close to the unit.

I think I am beginning to hate hard drives. It’s not long ago that one of my Western Digital MyBook drives bit the dust. Maybe it’s coincidence or maybe hard drives have become more finnicky because we have an insatiable appetite for disk space and drive manufacturers keep churning out bigger drives that squeeze out more space but probably have tighter tolerances and/or lower MTBFs.

It turns out the warranty was only 1 year and we’re outside of that, so I headed on over to weaKnees and ordered a 500 GB pre-imaged drive. I used 2-day shipping because we’re going to be going on vacation next week and I want the TiVo to be operational before then.

Hopefully, a few minutes with a Torx screwdriver on Friday will get us up and running again, though I think that our shows are lost forever.

It occurred to me that one problem with PVRs is that there’s not a nice and easy way to back them up. You could backup your shows (but not Season Passes, settings, etc.) to a computer with TiVoToGo, but you still will need a newly imaged hard drive if yours fails. And you could do other things if you hack your TiVo (not even sure if S3 TiVos are hackable) or remove the hard drive (voids the warranty) and stick it in a PC in order to duplicate it to another disk or store an image of it. There’s no easy way that I can think of for an average consumer to have much protection. It would be nice if you could use the eSATA port for backups, but it seems that eSATA drives are only used for expanding storage (which actually increases the number of points of failure!). Or it could be nice if TiVo supported backing up a TiVo hard drive to a computer or network file share like a Time Capsule, ReadyNAS, Drobo, etc. They could even make money by selling TiVo-branded or TiVo-approved solutions.

Alas, you have more backup options if you use something like MythTV, but I don’t see us ever being able to transition away from the familiar TiVo interface.

TiVo HME SDK for Python

Just stumbled up on this (via TiVoBlog who in turn found it via TiVo Lovers) and will have to give it a try sometime:

From TiVo HME SDK for Python:

An implementation of TiVo’s HME (Home Media Extensions) protocol for Python, as a module (hme.py), a simple server (hmeserver.py), and examples (mostly ported from TiVo’s Java HME SDK). Everything is released under the LGPL 2.1+, except where noted. (Most of the examples are Common Public License.)

I developed this in Python 2.5.1, and haven’t tested it with other versions, but it does nothing exotic. (hme.py depends only on the struct module. hmeserver.py is a bit more demanding.) But I have tested it in Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows XP.

CableCARD problems again

Once again, we’re not getting some of our channels. Yesterday we couldn’t get Bravo; tonight we get Bravo, but not Comedy Central.

We’ve had problems like this before and it usually requires calling Comcast and giving them a bunch of numbers for our CableCARDs and having them give them an electronic kick in the pants.

I’ll call Comcast tomorrow.


Update: The TiVo was saying that CableCARD 1 was not functioning properly. After calling Comcast and scheduling an appointment for Saturday and futzing around with the TiVo which was acting really weird (getting confused which cards were inserted or not), I rebooted the TiVo and all seems to be well now. Crossing fingers…

Galleon: A media server for TiVo

Finally got a chance a few nights ago to try out a recent version of Galleon, a media server type app that you run on a Windows, Linux, or Mac and then expose various “applications” to a TiVo Series 2 or 3. I had heard about a new alpha version (with preliminary HD support) on TiVoBlog.com and had been meaning to try it for a while.

Written in Java, it works on Windows, Linux, or Mac. I tried it on Linux – specifically an Ubuntu 7.04 system. Downloading and running it was simple as I already had the required Java 5 JRE (I have sun-java5-jre and sun-java5-jdk installed). A script called run.sh launches the server and another called gui.sh launches a configuration GUI.

Galleon TiVo media server app

Not everything worked for me. There’s an application called “Desktop” that’s supposed to let you view your computer’s desktop from your TiVo, but for me it showed a blank screen. I also initially had trouble with the email application which lets you view email on your TiVo from POP and IMAP servers. The server app was emitting Java exceptions for inability to load classes from the JavaBeans Activation Framework (JAF). I fixed this by apt-get installing libgnujaf-java (an open-source JAF package) and then creating a symlink to the /usr/share/java/activation.jar file in the Galleon lib directory.

The Photos application was the most obviously useful application to me – I’ll have to try some of the others. There are many apps for handling various kinds of media including music, iTunes playlists, movies, photos, etc.

Amazon Unbox so far a no-go on my TiVo Series 3

I just registered for Amazon Unbox and I read in several places that the TiVo Series 3 is supported.

However, after linking my Amazon account with my TiVo account, only my Philips Series 1 DVR showed up.

So I went to TiVo Online | DVR Preferences and I saw that Enable Video Downloads is checked for my Series 1, but for my Series 3 it says “N/A”.

TiVo s3 download na

Now I know that Series 3 doesn’t yet support TiVoToGo, but I have never heard anything about not being able to download *to* a Series 3 or use Amazon Unbox – in fact, all the docs I’ve seen from both Amazon and TiVo seem to indicate that a Series 3 should work.

I posted on TiVo’s support forums and other folks also indicated that it should work.

I’m going to give TiVo a call and see what they can do…

WDS on the WRT54g

Up until today my wireless network infrastructure at home consisted of a single Linksys WRT54g (running the Sveasoft Alchemy firmware) and a Linksys WAP54g. The WRT54g was and is connected to our DSL modem and is our gateway to the Internet at on the LAN. It has one wired client, provides 802.11g, and is configured to do WDS so that the WAP54g in the living room could operate as a WDS client and provide a working Internet connection to our TiVo.

Recently, we got a TiVo Series 3 in the living room and decided to move our TiVo Series 1 up to our bedroom. I wanted the Series 1 to be able to connect to the Internet (it has a TurboNET card which provides an Ethernet jack), so I moved the WAP54g up to the bedroom with it. This of course left our Series 3 in the living room without an Internet connection.

Last night we went to Staples, planning to get another WAP54g for the living room, but when we got to the store, we noticed that for some reason, the WRT54g was $50, $20 cheaper than the WAP54g. So I bought the WRT54g, pretty confident that the WRT54g is more powerful than the WAP54g and could do everything that it did.

Well, it does.

In fact, it’s pretty easy with the new WRT54g as it seems that Linksys quietly added support for WDS to the stock firmware. It’s not at all obvious since it’s not mentioned anywhere in the configuration screen, but it apparently works automatically, once you have the prerequisites set up. All I needed to do was set the new WRT54g to a new IP,, use the same SSID, wireless channel, and encryption settings, and then go to the WDS screen on the old WRT54g and put in the MAC address of the new WRT54g. Instant extension of my network.