TiVo Hacks
100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: August 2003
Pages: 288

TiVo Hacks helps you get the most out of your TiVo personal video recorder. Armed with just a screwdriver and basic understanding of PC hardware (or willingness to learn), preeminent hackability awaits. This book includes hacks for changing the order of recorded programs, activating the 30-second skip to blaze through commercials, upgrading TiVo's hard drive for more hours of recording, use of TiVo's Home Media Option to remotely schedule a recording via the Web, log in to the serial port for command-line access to programming data, log files, closed-captioning data, display graphics on the TiVo screen, and even play MP3s.Readers who use advanced hacks to put TiVo on their home network via the serial port, Ethernet, USB, or wireless (with 802.11b WiFi) will watch a whole new world open up. By installing various open source software packages, you can use TiVo for mail, instant messaging, caller-ID, and more. It's also easy to run a web server on TiVo to schedule recordings, access lists of recorded shows, and even display them on a web site. While TiVo gives viewers personalized control of their TVs, TiVo Hacks gives users personalized control of TiVo.Note: Not all TiVos are the same. The original TiVo, the Series 1, is the most hackable TiVo out there; it's a box thrown together with commodity parts and the TiVo code is running on open hardware. The Series 2 TiVo, the most commonly sold TiVo today, is not open. You won't see hacks in this book that involve modifying Series 2 software.

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3.0

TiVo Hacks Review

By Claude Felizardo

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly TiVo Hacks:

Claude Felizardo

San Gabriel Valley Linux Users Group

Pasadena, CA

I've got mixed feeling about this book. I think it could have been much better but it didn't quite deliver in some areas based on some expectations i had before reading it.

First, let me say that I started hacking my TiVo back in early 2001 just after I got one as a Christmas present from my wife. I had been reading about the various hacks on the web for several months and had decided on a TiVo because it was so open to hacking, the very active TiVo hacking community, and of course it used Linux! Using information from the net, I was able to replace my original 30 GB disk for an 80 GB disk, install the TivoNet network card and started playing with caller-id. I had even installed the TivoWeb server but that was as far as I got and eventually lost interest in hacking my TiVo. Of course, this was fine with the family since I was interfering with their TiVo viewing.

Fast forward a few years to last November when I got a copy of "Tivo Hacks" and started flipping through the book. I tried some of the "safer" hacks I had missed before but had to wait until the long Thanksgiving weekend when the family would be out of town visiting in-laws and I'd have TiVo all to my self to try out the more interesting hacks. By the time they got back, I had a bunch of new things to show off:

how to rename recordings of my daughter's baton performances which had been recorded off the local community access channel.

using TiVo Control Station to watch the radar maps showing the rain in Atlanta and the nice sunshine in Los Angeles.

Most of the hacks I had already tried by the time I got the book but it was very convenient to have them all collected in one place w/o having to constantly search the net. I wish I had the book back when I first did my backups and replaced the hard disk which I had to do twice when the larger drive failed a year later and had to be exchanged. By then it was much easier with MFS Tools which is described in the book. Then there's all the common Linux tools that have been ported to TiVo and are described in the book as well.

I definely liked hack #96 which explained how to change the padding options including negative padding though there was a typo which I reported to the errata web page. This hack nicely solves the problem of trying to schedule back to back recordings where one show starts early and you want the previous recording to end early.

However, I was disappointed with the hacks regarding the Home Media Option. How could information that should be in a manual be considered a hack? I have a Series 1 so I can never use HMO so I was looking for hacks on how to set up my own photo album or play mp3's w/o having to perform a lobotomy on my TiVo.

Recently I've started extracting video using the hacks described in the book. Again, I had read about this on the Internet but it sounded too complicated. The author started off by describing the Media File System and how to pull video off using FTP then moved on to using a web browser. Next he covered how to view the extracted video on a PC and then how to convert the files to a more standard video format.

This has been very helpful when we want to save recordings of our daughter's baton performances. I wasn't happy with the quality of using a video capture card to record the analog signal so I had been planning on extracting the files. But because it looked too complicated, I had been filling up our TiVo with a few multi-hour airings from the local community access channels when all we wanted was a short 2-5 minute clip. Now I've been able to extract all the saved shows, convert the short clips to mpg files and burn them to a CD for the grandparents.

I did like the organization of the book and the logical progression of the hacks in the later chapters, especially those regarding networking and extracting video. Even though I had installed TivoWeb earlier, it wasn't until after I had read the descriptions in the book that I figured out how to use the various features and add-ons.

I think a CD containing all of the software would have been extremely useful rather than having to download from the net, especially when some of the URLs have changed or the usage of the tools have changed slightly since the book was published.

All in all, a must have book if you are hacking your TiVo for the first time but even experienced TiVo hackers can still benefit by having all the information collected in one place with helpful descriptions.

BTW, they do have some of the hacks available online at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/tivohks/

 
3.0

TiVo Hacks Review

By Bob Hammer

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly TiVo Hacks:

October 20, 2003

Bob Hammer

NCMUG

Berea Ohio

TiVo will change the way you watch TV forever. First a little background for the neophites that aren't familiar with the new product PVR or Personal Video Recorder. In July we had a demo of a Panasonic PVR that would also burn DVD Video. The TiVo, and its competitor ReplayTV, are PVR's but don't burn DVD's.

The TiVo will replace your VHS VCR for recording and playing back TV shows faster than Jack Rabbit. The TiVo is a set top box that incorporates a small computer processor combined with a TV Tuner and MPEG-2 hardware encoder. It will record your favorite programs and hold them for you for weeks until you have a chance to watch them. Set it up to record "3rd Watch" and it will find any station airing the show and record it, regardless if the programming schedule changes the day before. The TiVo connects via phone or internet each night to download the programming schedule for your cable or satelite system. With the "season pass" ability never miss another episode again. TiVo allows you to pause live TV for any reason, like a refriderator or bathroom run, and pick up right where you left off. You even have the ability to "rewind" several seconds of live TV because someone sneezed and you missed an important line of dialog.

Now back to the book review.

The idea of hacking an electronic device to make it work better or to improve its functionality is appealing to many. Some view the warranty seal as a warning while otheres consider it an invitation. Not all hacks involve "popping the top" on your box, but many do. Armed with your remote control a screwdriver and a little knowledge and instructions you can change the way your TiVo works. The book is will make you dangerous and advises you to back up before attempting anything drastic. That prevents the $400 door stop hack. But many hacks are performed just by reprogramming the unit using some systematic key punches on your remote control.

A note of disapointment as the book points out, most of the hacks are only usable on series 1 TiVo's. All you can buy today is series 2 TiVo's. The series 1 units were open code and easy to hack. The series 2 units TiVo changed and added a lot of secret code making the units less hacker friendly.

The 100 hacks are mostly a set of instructions that rely on previous instructions. For example using a #10 Torx screwdriver from the hardware store to remove the screws to the case is hack #20. Yes the instructions also include warnings about electic discharge and recommend placing the unit between your knees for ease of removal. There are several similar to this.

On the plus side, some of the simple hacks could enhance the units value greatly. Little things like being able to program a "jump ahead 30 seconds" button. Note: Replay TV has one built in – and has been involved in numerous lawsuits because of it. More difficult hacks include adding or changing hard drives to increase storage time. Using your TiVo as a web server and more. I found the book useful but somewhat techie. I guess with a title of "Hacks" that is what I should expect.

.I found one hack quite intriging. You can program Caller ID to appear on the TV screen. You have to subscribe to caller ID first. Instead of running for the phone during your favorite thriller, a line of message is superimposed over your show with the caller indentification.

No soldering irons required. But, if have a working knowledge under the hood of a PC you can modify your TiVo, All in all, the book is useful just for the remote control commands that can customize your TiVo and making TV watching more enjoyable.

 
5.0

TiVo Hacks Review

By Dale Farris

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly TiVo Hacks:

TiVo Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools

By Dale Farris, Secretary

Golden Triangle PC Club

September 2003

When the TiVo personal video recorder (PVR) first hit the market in 1999, TV viewers quickly learned a whole new way to watch their favorite programs. The TiVo device represents a sea change in television, far beyond what happened when VCR technology first began to develop.

In addition to its recording capabilities, TiVo will also let you control "live" TV, slip time, set up a television firewall, set up "season passes" to your favorite television series, integrate a high degree of technological intelligence in the device, set up wish lists, and record TV programs without videotape.

The TiVo device is actually a carefully tweaked desktop computer with a television tuner card. Instead of a Pentium or Athlon processor, the original TiVo is an IBM PowerPC 403GCX-based embedded system. It uses standard IDE hard drives, with custom MPEG-2 encoding/decoding hardware, a modem, and an infrared receiver. On the outside, it's running a Linux kernel. Everything the TiVo does, save the TV channel tuning and the video encoding, is done in software. Everything you see on the screen, all the interactivity through the remote and the recording schedule is all defined in code.

However, not all the TiVos are the same. The original TiVo, the Series 1, is the most hackable TiVo, a box thrown together with commodity parts. The TiVo code is running on open hardware. If you feel like it, you can throw the TiVo software out and just home brew your own code from the bottom up.

The Series 2 TiVo, the most commonly sold TiVo today, is not as open. To lock down the platform, TiVo, Inc. has started to add some "secrets" under the hood. While TiVo is not against people hacking their platform, they do have a media service to run, and they don't want people to freely play around with some of the stuff they intend to make money on down the road.

With the prevalence of TiVo devices, it is little wonder that we see an equally strong interest in finding ways to hack, or modify the device. The most common community of TiVo hackers on the Internet can be found at www.tivocommunity.com. Author Krikorian has assembled some of the more useful, interesting, and cool hacks found in this community, as well as on his own.

There are hardware hacks, requiring you to pop the top off your TiVo and fiddle about with the innards. There are also software hacks, requiring a little less manual dexterity but no less of a sense of adventure. And, for the faint of heart, there are remote control hacks you can do from the comfort of your favorite armchair.

There are also 2 types of hacks you will NOT find here. The first are those that circumvent having to pay for TiVo. There are a few open source projects out there, like MythTV that do the same things the TiVo does, but you don't have to pay a monthly fee or a single lifetime fee to get to use it. Instead, this service queries the Internet for those valuable tidbits of information on when and what channel your television shows are on.

The second type of hacks you will NOT see involve getting to the software insides of that new and shiny Series 2 box. Most TiVo hacking has been and continues to be done on the older and more open Series 1 box. There are those who have managed to gain access to the internals of the Series 2 box, opening it up to many of the hacks available to the Series 1 box. Unfortunately, these go beyond the scope of this book, are tricky, and are of questionable legality. Series 2 owners wishing to go beyond the remote control hacks and hard drive upgrades will most likely find newer hacks for Series 2 boxes appearing online over time.

Be sure you are aware of the clearly worded warranty statement when you get your TiVo -- "Do not open or you will void your warranty." If you open your TiVo, you will not be able to send your TiVo to TiVo, Inc., if a problem later develops. If this is of little concern to you, then by all means, open this marvelous book, open your TiVo, and start exploring these 100 tips and tricks to hacking your TiVo.

Summary of Table of Contents

The 100 TiVo hacks are organized into 7 chapters, including the following:

1 - TiVo Remote Control Hacks

2 - Adding More Hours

3 - The TiVo Shell

4 - Bring the Internet to TiVo

5 - TiVo and the Web

6 - Working with Videos

7 - Writing Code

Key Topics Covered

TiVo Hacks give users personalized control of their TiVo. This book explains how to:

Use your remote control to activate the 30-second skip to blaze through commercials, enable advanced wishlists, push fast-forward to the limit, and open the backdoor to further hacks

Upgrade your TiVo's hard drive for all the recording time you want

Log in to the TiVo command line for access to programming data

Display caller-ID on your television, present digital slide shows, and play MP3s

Use TiVo on your home network to schedule recordings, access lists of recorded shows, and display your preferred programming on your web site

Write your own TiVo programs in Tcl and C

Access TiVo's Media Filesystem for programmatic access to show details - actors, directors, Thumbs-Up ratings, and more

Book Contents

280 pages; preface; figures; tables; tips; index; cover colophon

Author

Raffi Krikorian

About the Author

Raffi Krikorian is an unapologetic TiVo lover and digital plumber. If you look hard enough, you can usually find him putting together a hack for some random and stray idea that sidetracked him from the last project or stray idea. He freely admits that his serious television addiction is probably getting between him and his goal of finally graduating from MIT for the second time, although he claims it's getting better. When he's not studying or watching TV, you can find him wandering around or trying something new. In whatever time is left, he tends to his wasted bits on his weblog, www.bitwaste.com/wasted-bits.

ISBN

August 2003 First Edition

0-596-00553-9

List Price

$24.95

$38.95 CAN

Publisher

O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.

101 Morris Street

Sebastopol, California 95472

1-800-998-9938

1-707-820-0515

FAX 1-707-829-0104

www.oreilly.com

 
1.0

TiVo Hacks Review

By Tony Murray

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly TiVo Hacks:

I normally love O'Reilly books, and have recommended many of them to others.

"Hacking TiVo," however, is the first release that I thought really let me down. My one and only objection is that the advertisements (About the Book, etc.) do not make it at all clear that the majority of information pertains only to the early TiVo models. Having a Series 2 running at least version 4 of the TiVo software, almost everything in the book is irrelevant or inapplicable to me.

Even the most lightweight "hacks" (the extra features enabled via the remote control) have only a small subset that are applicable to my system. The rest have to be unlocked with codes that can only be derrived by applying later hacks -- hacks that are also inapplicable to my system.

The book provides a clue for where users in my situation can begin to dig around for the information, and I have done that digging. Of course, if I had wanted to dig around through countless internet message boards, I would not have gone straight for an O'Reilly book!

I think the topics covered in the book are excellent, and would be of great interest to those looking for a handy compilation to help them get started hacking their Series I TiVo's (and/or those running version 3.0 or earlier software). I also found the book to be well-written and easy to follow.

However, I think there ought to be a disclaimer on the back of the book (or at least on the O'Reilly webpage) indicating that this book is largely not for newer TiVo machines (specifically Series 2 and version 4+ of the software).

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