cTiVo follow-up

When I got home from work today, the three movies I’d queued up to transfer from my TiVo and re-encode were all on my hard drive, apparently fully transferred. I started the process at around 7:30 am, I think, and it looks like it finished up just after 11 am, so I guess that’s not too bad for three long movies. I think the bulk of the time is the encoding process, not the actual transfer, though I’m not sure about that. I set it to encode for viewing on the Apple TV, which seemed like a good idea. There are a bunch of other settings, but I didn’t spend much time trying to figure them out.

So, bottom line, I think cTiVo is probably a pretty good tool for getting stuff off the TiVo, whenever I want to do that.

I had actually wanted to finish watching Stray Dog tonight, but there was a “Girls Night Out” event going on in Somerville tonight, and apparently “girls” like loud, blaring dance music, so quietly watching a foreign movie wasn’t really in the cards. Instead, I took a walk to the mall and grabbed a burger. Then, when I got back and found that the loud music was still going on, I watched an episode of The Flash with my headphones on, cranked up loud enough to drown out BeyoncĂ©’s “Single Ladies.”


When I got my TiVo Bolt, I spent a little bit of time figuring out how I could offload shows from the TiVo to one of my computers. There used to be an official program from TiVo, but they discontinued that several years ago. I’d heard a bit about cTiVo for the Mac and PyTiVo for Mac/PC/Linux, but after taking a quick look, I decided that they were both probably too complicated to deal with at the time.

Back in March, TCM had a little Kurosawa marathon, and I recorded five movies from that. And, of course, then I just left them on the TiVo and never got around to watching them. This week, they started showing in the “going away soon” list, so I decided I should watch them, and maybe also look into offloading them from the TiVo.

So I went and looked into cTiVo again. It turns out that it’s actually really easy to install it and connect it to your TiVo. I’m having mixed success with it though. I set it to transfer Stray Dog and Seven Samurai last night. It copied Seven Samurai fine, but it only copied the first hour of Stray Dog for some reason. So I’m transferring Stray Dog again. It’s taking quite a long time to transfer and encode files, and I’m a little unclear as to whether it’s the transferring and/or the encoding that’s the issue. Well, either way, I’m going to leave it transferring some stuff while I’m at work, and see what it looks like after I get home.

Rovi Buys TiVo

A company named Rovi just bought TiVo. This wasn’t unexpected, and hopefully won’t affect my TiVo Bolt, which is a really great DVR and streaming media box. I hope the combined company does well. I don’t think this deal will affect the TiVo hardware or service at all, at least in the near future.

I think that, if I ever have to give up my TiVo, I’ll probably take that as my cue to give up on cable TV altogether.

Kurosawa on TCM

Earlier this week, TCM had a little marathon of Akira Kurosawa movies. I caught them all with a WishList search that I set up when I first got my TiVo Bolt. I’m still really liking the Bolt. I don’t think I could go back to the cable company DVR, and I hope I don’t ever have to. TiVo might get acquired by another company soon. If they do, hopefully they’ll keep making new hardware and supporting their existing hardware.

A busy week

It’s been a busy week, starting with my follow-up visit to my doctor, where I found out I have a hernia. So a lot of my energy this week has been spent just thinking about that and planning for the surgery that I’m likely going to need.

And, at work, we’re in the last stretch of our upgrade from Dynamics AX 2012 RTM to R3. This is a really big update for us, as we have a lot of custom code, so there was a lot of work to do. The final upgrade is scheduled for this weekend, so I’ll have to work on Sunday. And the first week after the upgrade is liable to be a doozy, as various stuff we didn’t catch in testing shakes out.

Meanwhile, the RMA process for my MacBook’s SSD is plodding along. I got the RMA # and the UPS return label this week. I need to print out the label and package up the drive this weekend. I’ve been without my MacBook this week. and have been using my ThinkPad a lot, which is actually a pretty good experience, except that I keep wanting to use Emacs key bindings for a few things, like Ctrl-A and Ctrl-E for beginning of line and end of line. As soon as I get used to using ‘home’ and ‘end’, I’ll probably get the MacBook back up and running, and I’ll have to re-learn the Emacs key bindings.

And I’ve got my TiVo Bolt set up now. I dropped by the cable company office after work yesterday and picked up a CableCARD. I got it installed easy enough, but it took two calls to Optimum support to get it working. I think that “support tech roulette” gave me a clueless rep on the first go-round, and a more experienced one on the second. But both reps were polite and patient. Then it took me a couple of hours to set up the channels and my recordings. I’ve discovered that the channel line-up is a little different when you’re using a CableCARD than when you’re using a box. So I’m going to have to get used to some new channel numbers. The recordings seem to be working out OK too. I’ve got last night’s Daily Show, Nightly Show, and Late Show all on there, ready to watch. But I’ve also just figured out that I needed to re-run the guided setup to get the TiVo to fully recognize the channels that didn’t show up the first time around. Hopefully, that’s the last thing I’ll have to do, and it’ll be nice and stable now, with all the right channels and a fully-populated guide.

TiVo Bolt

I ordered a TiVo Bolt yesterday. I’ve been using a cable company DVR ever since I upgraded from standard def to high def TV, and I’ve never been really happy with it. I had a TiVo Series 2 from 2004 to 2008. I retired it in favor of the cable company box because, at the time, I didn’t want to pay for a new HD Tivo. (I can’t remember exactly how much they cost, but I think they were pretty expensive at the time.)

The old Series 2 TiVo was pretty cool, but with a few rough edges. The IR blaster that you had to use to control your cable box was a kludge, and it didn’t always work. And, initially, the box had no connection to the internet; it had a modem connection that was used to dial directly into TiVo’s servers every night to download program guide updates. (At some point, I hooked up an external wifi adapter, which allowed me to unplug the phone cord, and allowed the TiVo to pull content down from the internet.)

The cable company DVR service costs me $12/month. And the cable box itself costs a little less than $8/month. So I’m paying about $20/month for equipment. With the Bolt, the first year of service is free, then it’s $15/month, if you pay monthly, or about $12.50/month if you pay for a full year in advance. And the cable company will charge me $2/month for a CableCARD. So. in the long run, the Bolt should turn out to be less expensive than continuing to use my crappy cable company DVR.

I don’t know why I haven’t bought a new TiVo before now. There always seemed to be good reasons not to. First would be the cost. The more recent boxes have actually been pretty affordable, and I get occasional emails from TiVo with specials on refurb units, but I could never quite talk myself into it.

Second would be perceived risk. Nearly every time TiVo releases a new unit, the reviews on it inevitably start off with a paragraph about how TiVo is a “troubled” company that can’t compete with DVR boxes provided by the cable companies. Yet they’re still out there, making new boxes, and doing well enough, as far as I can tell. And it’s been maybe ten years since cable companies started renting DVR boxes to their customers.

Third would be ambivalence and/or guilt about how much TV I’m watching. I’ve been toying with the idea of “cutting the cord” recently, but buying a new TiVo is also, in a way, a commitment to continuing to pay for cable TV. There’s not much point in the monthly TiVo subscription if I’m not also paying for cable TV. So I feel like I’m committing to cable TV for at least another year or three, if I’m paying for a TiVo now.

So I’m pretty well committed to keeping my cable subscription going for at least another year, I think. I’m having thoughts about dropping down to a slightly less costly service level, but I’m grandfathered into a plan that doesn’t exist anymore, and there really isn’t much flexibility in their current plans. I’d love to drop down to something that just has the broadcast channels, and a few basic cable channels, like Comedy Central and SyFy. But there really isn’t a plan like that.

I also need to figure out what to do with my old Series 2 TiVo. I’m a little embarrassed to say that it’s still sitting on the shelf under my TV. It’s at the bottom of a stack of equipment that’s basically stacked in “relevant” to “obsolete” order: Roku, Apple TV, Cable box/DVR, HD-DVD player, TiVo. So I can really get rid of the Series 2 and the HD-DVD player, and of course the Cable box will go back to the cable company. I did a little digging, and it looks like Best Buy will accept the TiVo and HD-DVD player for recycling (along with some other old electronics I have lying around), so maybe that’s a task for this weekend. I’d actually like to plug in the Series 2 and see if it still works, before scrapping it. Partially out of curiosity, and partially so I can wipe the hard drive. I don’t think there’s much that anyone could do with the information on the drive, but you never know.

And I’m also thinking about the best way to get the new TiVo hooked up, and in what order I should do things. The TiVo should show up in the mail next week, maybe on Tuesday. I need to get a CableCARD, and maybe a tuning adapter. I should be able to take care of that by going to my local cable company office on Saturday. Then I’ll have all the equipment I need to do the setup. Then I can hopefully return the cable company DVR next weekend. It occurs to me that there’s probably no way to transfer my unwatched content from the cable DVR to the TiVo (or anywhere else). And I don’t think I can have the TiVo and cable box hooked up at the same time. So I’m going to have to either binge-watch all the stuff on my old DVR before hooking up the TiVo, or just write it off. Well, I guess it’s good to get a fresh start once in a while, right? I am finding that I’m letting a few shows pile up, and I’m just not that enthusiastic about them, so maybe it’s time to start over and trim down on what I’m recording. I really haven’t been excited about Gotham or Blunt Talk, for instance, even though I feel like I should like them.

new TV

I bought a new TV yesterday. It was kind of inevitable that I’d trade in the old CRT for an HDTV of some sort at some point, but I guess the PS3 was the tipping point. It just didn’t make sense to have both a Blu-Ray and HD-DVD player in the apartment, and not have a decent HDTV. I got a 32″ LG from Best Buy. It’s this model. It works great with the PS3, but that’s the only device I have hooked up via HDMI at this point. I only had one HDMI cable in the apartment, and I didn’t want to pay Best Buy’s price for HDMI cables. Instead, I ordered some from MonoPrice. When they arrive, I’ll be able to hook up the HD-DVD also.
Alas, there’s not much I can do with the cable box / Tivo combination. That’s composite at best. I can get a new HD cable box from Cablevision, but that’s probably not going to do me much good unless I trade up to an HD DVR, which I’m really not ready to do yet.
The Wii can’t do HDMI, but I can trade up from composite to component, which my friend tells me is worthwhile. I should have ordered a Wii component cable set from Monoprice when I ordered the HDMI cables from them, but I didn’t think of it until after I’d placed the order. Looking around, it does seem that Wii component cables are nearly as overpriced as HDMI cables — $6 from Monoprice, $30 elsewhere.
I’m also thinking about getting an antenna, so I can pick up over-the-air HDTV. Antennas are cheap enough, though I’m not sure how well they’ll work here in Somerville. We’re basically too far from both New York and Philly to pick up regular TV or radio stations from either market without some grief, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to pick up a few stations with a good antenna.

TiVo stuff

Now that I have my TiVo connected to my network, I’ve been playing around with a few things that I thought might be worth blogging about.

First, the new online services appeared on my box a few days ago — Yahoo weather, Live365 music, podcasting, and so on. All this new stuff is pretty neat, but there are some rough edges. For instance, everything is pretty slow; sometimes it takes a few seconds for the TiVo to respond to a click from the remote. The podcasting application does a reasonable job of playing podcasts, but it doesn’t support fast forward or rewind. Weird. I think the killer app here would be support for pulling down video podcasts to the TiVo, but that’s not included yet. I really don’t have much interest in sitting in front of my TV and listening to audio, but it would be real convenient if I could pull down video from the internet and watch it on the TiVo instead of my home computer.

I’ve also been playing around with the standard TiVo Desktop software. This is fine for streaming music from your computer to your TiVo, but, again, that’s not really that useful or interesting. The ability to pull shows from my TiVo to my computer is kind of interesting, but I haven’t bothered trying it out yet. I would up turning off the TiVo server software on my machine, since the software doesn’t seem to be able to exit gracefully when I turn off my computer. It pops up a whole bunch of error dialogs that need to be dismissed. Very annoying. I know other people have had this problem too; I’ve seen several references to it on the tivocommunity forums.

I also tried out an open source program called Galleon. This is a server program that runs on your computer and lets you do a bunch of interesting things with your TiVo. Unfortunately, I found that it ate up a lot of RAM and processor time, even when it should have been idle, so I uninstalled it from my machine. I think one of the problems here is that it’s written in Java, which has always caused some trouble on my current machine.

So, in a nutshell, about the only useful thing I’m getting out of the network connectivity at this point is the ability to check Yahoo weather. Maybe at some point, I’ll straighten out the problems I had with Galleon, and do something interesting with that. Or I’ll get completely fed up with FM radio, and start listening to audio on the TiVo, either podcasts, Live365, or my own audio collection.


I got a Netgear WG111 network adapter for my TiVo last week. I bought one online from BestBuy.com, figuring it would be the right adapter, since it was listed under “accessories” on their Tivo page. No luck though — I got a v. 2 adapter, which didn’t work. I returned it to my local Best Buy store with minimal hassle, and had a friend pick up a compatible adapter from *his* local Best Buy, which happened to have a couple of them in stock. It works fine, and was only $30. (I see they’re up to $57 this week, so I guess I got it just in time.)

I installed TiVo Desktop today. It seems to be working fine, though I haven’t tried to transfer anything from the TiVo to my computer yet. The functionality for viewing photos and listening to music via the TiVo is working fine.

The music functionality might actually be worth taking advantage of; I have a lot of music on my computer that I’d like to listen to on my stereo. I don’t sync my iPod to my desktop PC, and my DVD/CD player on my stereo doesn’t play CD-Rs, so I’m pretty much SOL for listening to music from my desktop PC on the stereo, unless I transfer it to my iBook, then sync it to my iPod, then hook *that* up to the stereo.