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.