TiVo ToGo TooSlow

After three weeks, I finally got my service update for v7.1 of the TiVo kernal yesterday evening. By the next afternoon I had a DVD of recorded shows. Instant gratification it’s not.

After three weeks, I finally got my service update for v7.1 of the TiVo source code yesterday evening. I immediately installed v2.0 of TiVo Desktop, which is doesn’t have many more bells-and-whistles than the previous version. Oddly enough, my Linksys USB Wireless-B network adapter wasn’t working after rebooting the TiVo. Simply pulling out the USB connector and re-plugging it corrected the problem. What I would have liked to be doing is plugging in a Wireless-G adapter, but that wasn’t part of this update. This leads me to speed issue number one. Even though I have an "excellent" connection at my TiVo on the WiFi network, it takes approximately 1 hour to transfer 30 minutes of medium quality video. That’s not just slow, it’s damn near untenable. Why was the NFL worried in it’s case trying to block TiVo from having the ToGo service that people on the East Coast would be sending video to blocked out viewers on the West Coast? At this time, that is completely not possible using the out-of-the box hardware and software for TiVo. Can you modify it to do that? I’ve no doubt that can be done, but the NFL wasn’t going after those people.

With my TiVo once again on the network, I proceeded to download some of my recorded shows to my Windows machine (still no Desktop 2.0 for Mac? Will there ever be anything TiVo for Linux? Does anyone else find that ironic?). I wanted to check the show, so I opened one up in Windows Media Player, only to find this annoying message scrolling over my show stating that my Elecard MPEG2 Decoder had expired, and to go to some site to update. My Ass. Just download Windows XP Video Decoder Checkup Utility and switch your default decoder. I happened to have two other versions of Cyberlink’s decoder installed. You probably have one, and if not, Power DVD from Cyberlink is relatively cheap and works nicely.

I installed the trial version of Sonic’s MyDVD 6.1. The software’s no more impressive than I remember the version preloaded on my Dell to be, but you can at least import custom made DVD menu themes from Photoshop. That’s a nice bonus that I don’t think Nero yet has. I just used a stock theme for my project, as custom themes are for people who don’t have new toys to play with. The video editing kept crashing the program, so I can’t tell you what its capabilities are. The chapter selection works well, which is the easiest way I’ve found around commercials for recorded television (I also have a Windows MCE PC, so it’s come up before). So now it was time to test the DVD burning.

Now, I had fears that it would cause a memory dump with my Plextor burner, as did the older version that I had scrapped after a Plextor tech support agent had explained the conflict. By the way, Plextor tech support is the best I’ve ever delt with, just in case that factors into your hardware decisions. Anyway, that conflict is why I was so disappointed TiVo was going with Sonic in the first place. Well, that at least was no problem. I was able to burn a DVD with Plextor as advertised on Sonic’s hardware list. However, if I thought transferring the data was the only slow thing I’d have to deal with, I was mistaken. Speed issue number two involves the fact that the TiVo video must be transoded to mpeg 2 for DVD. This is done at roughly a 1:1 speed. That is, for ever minute of recording, it takes about the same amount of time (or more) to transcode the video and audio. It’s like we’re downloading this stuff on a 28k modem all over again. It’s not that I don’t have a reasonably fast PC: a 3.0Ghz P4 with 512MB RAM and a SerialATA hard drive. It’s not the fastest I understand, but combined with the pokey 802.11B transfer, we’re talking nearly 6 hours to put together a DVD. Why did I even bother buying the really fast Plextor? Four times write, 8x write, what difference does it make at that point?

So TiVo ToGo hasn’t exactly let me down. I still plan to add on a couple of cavernous hard drives onto my home network to store some television series and a few movies. Some of these will, in time, even make their way to DVD. However, I don’t think I’ll be passing out copies of football games or movies anytime really soon. My time’s too valuable to spend it just trying to piss off the NFL and the MPAA.

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