Back to Index    

I confess I watch a fair amount of TV, so as soon as I saw the TiVo I lusted after it. At year-end 2005 there was a deal at JC Pennys that if you bought $100 in clothes (some brand name I no longer recall), they would send you a free TiVo. I jumped at it - and I'm still wearing those most of the clothes I bought then too!

The Series 2 unit showed up in Dec and included a month of schedule updates - so the box would know when shows were on the TV. Within a month I quickly decided this was technology we'd really use. The downside of a TiVo was that they wanted you to pay $12 (?) a month for updates to the system and TV schedules. That adds up. At the time they also offered a lifetime subscription of updates for $300 (sorry that is no longer the case). I was told that 'lifetime updates' meant 'as long as the box worked' - meaning if the motherboard failed in two months or 200 months, that's the end of the 'lifetime updates'.

So the decision came down to a bet about how long the hardware would last. The break even point was 25 months, so the daring wildman I was, I took the bet. In 2013 we started the 85th month, so I guess it worked out. :-)

At the time there was quite a bit of activity breaking into the TiVO to add your own software - often with the goal to allow one to copy the recordings elsewhere. I decided against that approach, but did decide to upgrade the drive from 40GB to something larger. I found software and instructions to make the change and since then we've never run out of space, so I'm happy.

A couple of years ago Comcast went digital with our service and I had to come up with a way to make the TiVo 'talk' with the Comcast controller to change channels. The solution was a bit of a hack - requiring taping a bit from the Comcast box to the TiVo remote sensor. It's ugly, but works and the mash of cables is tucked out of my sight. The quality of the TiVo image did not improve, of course, since from Comcast's view, the TiVo is just another analog TV, but who really needs to see John Stewart (or most shows) in 1080p HD?

The only real problem I've ever had came in 2012 when the TiVo screen went blank. I took the box apart, cleaned out years of dust, checked that the drive was still spinning and finally concluded the tuner had probably failed. A Google searched led me to the good folks at Weaknees who had parts and expertise and a reasonable enough price. After the part arrived, the problem persisted and they gave me a refund with no hassle. The real problem was that the controller from Comcast had failed - so now we're back online.

At various times I've wanted to perserve something from the TiVo and was unhappy with the meager software provided by TiVo. Instead I wrote a simple Perl script mytivo.pl which you are free to use.

Failure After 9 Years

We had a power failure in the fall of 2014 - not an extraordinary event, but the real significance was that while our ten year old Tivo would not boot. A little investigation showed that the IDE harddrive had failed. Some years ago I had replaced the tiny drive Tivo had provided with a 'giant' 200GB drive. After the new 200GB replacement drive worked, I pulled it out and backed it up using DD (just a bit-or-bit image of the drive).

This upgraded drive had now failed, so I dug out the replacement and found my last IDE drive for a replacement. It took seemingly forever, but the DD image was copied over. I wasn't very confident, because Tivo updates had been applied many times to the replacement drive and my backup drive was clearly way out of date. I put it all together and it booted! After a few days it was clear there was still something wrong, as the TV listings were not being updated so nothing could be recorded. Investigating with Google suggested the system needed a file system check (fsck). There were two ways to get this to happen, one very complicated forcing the boot into some sort of recovery mode and another one (from a Tivo tech) that suggested if you simple disable the network interface and wait 2-3 days, the software would recover - and this worked. Apparently, part of the Tivo recovery process at boot eventually results in an fsck (what I needed, apparently). I re-enabled the network and a couple of updates later, the Tivo was back up. My list of shows to record were out of date, of course, but they needed cleaning up anyway. I was pretty impressed that the Tivo boot process was so robust. Good job Tivo techs!

10 Year Update

My almost ten year old Tivo has been running for years now, but it is s-l-o-w. The memory chips were soldered in (remember when that was the case?) so the system just paged and paged and paged. Tivo had come up with lots of new hardware, but either the lifetime subscription was either not available, or cost a fortune - so I ignored their offers - until January 2015.

Tivo sent me an Email that offered a lifetime subscription for as low as $100. I had to buy new hardware, but given the original was SO slow and I'm on my last IDE back updrive, the day when it would fail for good must be coming. Turns out I was offered a basic Roamio and life time subscription for $400 or for $500 I could get the Tivo Roamio Plus and the lifetime subscription. We've used the Tivo a great deal all these years, so upgrading seemed a good deal.

I calculate that we saved well over $1200 taking the original deal. It'll take 35 months to break even for this new deal, but I'm pretty sure we'll be happy with it. The previous Tivo deal (see above) break even point was 25 months.