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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