TiVo ToGo TooSlow

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.

Categorized as Geek

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.

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