I shake an angry fist at Tivo

Well, I had another DirecTivo die, I think. I swear, these fuckers come with a two-year self-destruct timer built in. The last time this happened was in Sep 2003, so I suppose it's out of warranty, even if I knew where the receipt was, which I don't.

Right now it's doing a full reformat, at the suggestion of the support guy (which takes four hours), but he didn't sound hopeful.

It started acting like the load was really high (playback and background animation stalling for seconds at a time) and after I reset it, it wouldn't ever get past 70% on the satellite info stage. I suppose it might just be a dying drive, but (as you know) I hate computers, and so I'd gladly spend an extra $200 to not have to figure out how to install/bless/format a new $50 drive.

I briefly pondered whether maybe getting digital cable might not be so bad, but then I remembered that A) the cable-company-approved PVRs suck, and B) that'd leave me with one tuner instead of two. The Tivo GUI is really nice.

Are any of the DirecTivo models reputed to be more reliable than any other? This one was a Philips 7000/17. The previous one (that died in a similar way) was a Sony something.

Are there any models o DirecTivo that can be made to use ethernet instead of a phone line, without requiring surgery?

Before I reformatted it, I wasn't even able to get it to show me my season pass listings, so I'm going to have to redo them all from memory, dammit.

Tags: , , ,

54 Responses:

  1. strspn says:

    TV is so noninteractive. All the cool kids are playing video games these days.

  2. dballing says:

    Most cable companies' DVRs are actually dual-tuner. And you can get the dual-tuner HDTV DVR from them as well, and happily record two HDTV streams simultaneously.

    • taffer says:

      True, but they still suck.

      The one my cable monopoly has blessed has dual tuners, sure, but the UI lags behind the controller, and it's missing all sorts of useful UI features that TiVo's had since 1.0. Oh, and it's been corrupting MPEG streams while recording, so you get that fun blocky broken up video.

  3. icis_machine says:


    and follow up with a back up hard drive to protect yourself when you are done?

    we have a cd around here that supposedly makes a the proper image from scratch but we didn't have luck with it, so we bought from them and then bought an extra drive to back our stuff up.

  4. tjic says:

    The Tivo designers reckoned that after a few years they might develop their own emotional responses. Ya know hate, love, fear, anger, envy. So they built in a fail safe device.

    Which is what?

    Two year life span.

  5. fantasygoat says:

    My Series 1 TiVo, which I've had for 3 years, is still going strong even after someone stole it and the police returned it, but I had replaced the drives a long time ago with Seagates. Replacing the drives really isn't that hard, it's worth the effort.

    However, if you want, get a Series 2 TiVo - it has a USB port, and you can plug a USB->Ethernet dongle, put in a dialing code in the menu where you put in dialing prefixes, and it'll use the ethernet port instead of dialing out. No screwdrivers required.

    http://www.tivocommunity.com probably has the info handy.

    • kingfox says:

      You don't even need to bother with that dialing code nonsense. After the first software update you get from setting it up, you can just set the networking settings through the GUI.

      • zonereyrie says:

        Unfortunately DirecTV has disabled the USB ports on their units. The standalone units officially support networking though.

        • kingfox says:

          Yeah, though <lj user="fantasygoat"> said Series 2, so I assumed he meant standalone, oh master of <lj user="tivolovers">.

  6. osi says:

    these guys will do surgery on your DirectTivo for you.. (i do not believe it is possible to have one use ethernet not phone w/o surgery.. best i've done is having it do the modem thing over a voip link)

  7. sc00ter says:

    You could always go with the HDTiVo (image here). I have the non-HD version Huges DirecTiVo, as does a friend of mine. I haven't had mine that long but my buddy's had his going 4 years now I think.

    • jwz says:

      HDTivo's a thousand bucks, and there's very little HD content available on DirecTV. I'll wait a few more years.

  8. remaker says:

    DirecTiVo sucks ass, since DirecTV sucks ass.

    I wanted TiVo and wanted no Comcast, so I got DirecTV. What I didn't know was that DirecTiVos are crippled compraed to the standalones, and they are shit. You can't get any of the cool stuff on the DirecTiVo (Tivo2Go, Networked) unless you h4x0r the box.

    I have heard really good things about the new Comcast PVR (Motorola Motorola DCT6200 dual tuner series, not the Scientific Atlanta junk), but I still harbor hate for Comcast from my last 6 year stint with them. Though I am starting to develop a healthy loathing for DirecTV.

    Come to think of it, TiVo pisses me off, too. There are a few eye candy things that TiVo does that irritate me, and you can't shut them off. You also can't get the grid style schedule display without it being unbelievably slow (at least on mine). And it takes 20-30 seconds to pull up the "now playing" list which came up INSTANTLY on my ghetto Dish Networks PVR.

    So anyway... Shop for other PVR options. TiVo is still ahead in a lot of ways, but falling behind in others. The main main advantage of TiVo is its hackability, which is not useful if you don't hack it.

    And as others noted, there are decent 3rd party TiVo-hacker services. I'd get the big drive and the memory hack that makes the menus come up faster. And the unofficial networkable upgrade. But I'm reluctant to add more money to mine. TiVo is now on my "companies that piss me off" list. I *want* to like TiVo, but they have messed up in little but important ways and as far as I can tell they don't even acknowledge the problem.

    • sc00ter says:

      The DirecTiVo's are like that because of DirecTV, not TiVo. When I switched from cable/TiVo to DirecTiVo I only had a series 1 TiVo, so I didn't have any of the cool stuff anyway.

    • mark242 says:

      You also can't get the grid style schedule display without it being unbelievably slow

      The new kernel patch (to version, what, 7?) solves this problem. Grid display is near-instantaneous.

      • remaker says:

        I have an SIR-S4080R, rev 3.1.1.e-01-2-381

        Grid display takes 4-5 seconds to build. Is that "near instantaneous?"

        If yours is faster, how do I know if I have the patch that you reference? If I don't have it, then how would I command my TiVo to summon the miracle patch? Do I have to call the DirecTV Phone Drones?

        I think they avoid software upgrades, given that they refuse to allow the updated TiVo code that lets me program the TiVo over the network. The UI is OK, but a browser would go way faster than the remote...

        Feel free to tell me to RTFWS....

        • mark242 says:

          I would tell you to RTFWS but then I realized you have a DirecTivo. My bad-- you appear to be SOL.

          • remaker says:

            Yep. My original point was that DirecTiVo sucks ass. I *thought* I was buying a TiVo. What I got was shit.

            And I am bitter about it.

            I suppose I can run the hacking route, but I could harly be bothered. I expect my TiVo to be an appliance that needs little care and feeding. Silly me.

            Almost makes me want to go back to Comcast. Shudder.

  9. cryocone says:

    I had all kinds of problems with my after it upgraded its software. My modem had broke long ago, and a software upgrade had a) caused it to require to dial out occasionally and b)screwed up all my 'personalizations'.

    After a long time, I found that I could download the 164,868,469 byte file called 'DSR6000_25Xtreme.zip' which is basically a package which wipes your disk and installs the original 2.5 software and firmware. Then I applied some patches which prevent the software from being upgraded ever again. It's been perfectly stable ever since. This file only works on a Series 1 DSR 6000 model.

    It took me forever to find that file, though. You might want to ask someone who might have it (me!) if you need it.

    If you have a series 2, you can use a usb-ethernet device so you can do netowkring stuff without hardware hackery, otherwise, you're sol.

  10. jkonrath says:

    Did you try holding up the TiVO and saying "I WANT MORE LIFE, FUCKER"?
    Just checking.

  11. weev says:

    Take the chance to go MythTV 4 lyf.

  12. krick says:

    Because the DirectTivo units have smaller cases, they have problems with hard drive failure because of cooling problems. It's worse if you have it in a closed entertainment center and/or have stuff stacked on top of it.

    Installing a new drive really isn't that hard, at least with the older DirectTivo units.

    You should replace the hard drive but select one that runs as cool as possible like the Maxtor DiamondMax 16 (160 GB ATA-133) 4R160L0

    For more good drives, go to this page and select "Net Drive Temperature" from the drop-down list and hit "sort".


    To install ethernet, you need to flash the PROM first. See this page (section 2.7)...


    Again, it's not really that hard. You seem like a smart guy. And they *are* running linux.

    • cannibal says:

      I bought an ex-girlfriend a ReplayTV a couple years ago and she's had no problems with it, it came with ethernet, and is an older one that does commercial skip. Most geeks I know are using some variation of a PC with public domain software and a $99 card to transmit to the TV... don't have a TV, myself.

    • jwz says:

      Yes, I am a smart guy. And sometimes I have introspective moments. And, being a smart, self-aware kind of guy, I realized that I fucking hate doing this shit and will gleefully throw money at problems like this to make them just go away. That means using consumer electronics instead of rolling my own from kits. I realize that most of the geek set thinks that if you don't choose to use the homebrew-kit option for every device you own, you must just not be leet enough, but consider for a moment that I just want to watch tv, not sysadmin my entire fucking house.

      • hafnir says:

        Wow that sounds like what happened to me. 6 months before graduating I was like "I'm gonna have a EE degree and do all kinds of neat projects and stuff" and 6 months after I was like "I'm making money and I'm going to pay $50 for a pro with nothing else to do but this menial crap do it for me and test it way more than I ever would without much (or in most cases any) risk to me at all". I also learned living with crap is very DIY.

      • mysterc says:

        http://www.directv.com/imagine/PDF/HD_DVR.pdf. Works for me and I think you can use the USB ports to connect to an ethernet hub.

        but consider for a moment that I just want to watch tv, not sysadmin my entire fucking house.
        Best response have ever seen in my life

  13. otterley says:

    1) How long have you been a DirecTV subsciber? If your contract is up you can probably get an entirely new multi-room system for free; the TiVo-enabled box is only $50 on top of that, after rebate.

    2) Why would you need Ethernet support on a DirecTiVo? I could have sworn it pulls its channel guide off the air, just like every other DirecTV box does. I think the only thing the phone line is used for is PPV accounting.

    • jwz says:

      DirecTivo uses the phone line for software updates, and if there's no phone plugged in, pops up a dialog box whining about it daily. Also, without a land line, you can't initialize a brand new one. That dialog box is the only reason I still have a land line.

      • kingfox says:

        When <lj user="jenniever"> picked me up a TiVo, I was nervous about my lack of a land line, knowing that TiVo needs one for the initial setup/upgrade before you could just use ethernet. But it was able to connect and download everything it needed using my Vonage line. There's a series of dialing prefixes you can give it to slow down the modem, but I didn't even have to resort to those.

        So until I went out and got the USB->RJ45 dongle, I let it update daily via Vonage. It was slow, but it worked.

        • jwz says:

          OMFG. In what parallel universe can you imagine me giving a shit about voip? Go away.

          • Actually, I've been hearing good things about Skype. VOIP might almost be "plug and call" at this point.

            I'm in the same situation as you (well, except my DirecTivo isn't dead yet). I have a land line pretty much only because of that damn "feature". VOIP sounds good to me if I can get rid of my land line and just use my damn broadband connection for that daily call.

        • treptoplax says:

          Waitaminute. So this thing was running PPP-over-VOIP?

          /bang head on table

          It's so, so wrong that that was a reasonable thing to do...

  14. onceler says:

    I had a DirecTivo die a few years back. I couldn't find a receipt, but convinced them that it should be repaired for free because the warranty was longer than the model had been on the market. They ended up sending me a new one that was snappier than the old one, perhaps in the meantime they had upgraded processors. I've had no problems since.

    Just get a new one. They have ugly silver ones for $99 from directv.

    Half the appeal of the tivo for me is that it's one thing that just works. Remember that old 'joke' about what it would be like if cars were like computers, needing rebooting suddenly on freeways? I think mythTV users and tivo hackers have missed the point: the tivo is one blessed thing in my house that doesn't need maintenance and software updates and debugging. I plug it in and watch TV. Yay tivo.

  15. endquote says:

    "it wouldn't ever get past 70% on the satellite info stage"

    As if it's some kind of RPG or something...

  16. zonereyrie says:

    Check out the community info on <lj comm="tivolovers"> for a bunch of resource links.

    The two main sites to check are http://www.weakness.com/ and http://www.ptvupgrade.com/

    PTVUpgrade sells an 'InstantCake' CD-ROM that has all the tools and a drive image, and a menu driven interface - makes it easy to image a drive. Both sell replacement drives you can just plug-in and boot. PTVUpgrade also has a service where you can send in a drive and they'll (re)image it for you. Or you can just send in the whole unit for repair/upgrade.

  17. mark242 says:

    Question: is there a reason you prefer the DirecTivo to the standalone Tivo box? I understand that there's no re-encoding of the signal, but the ethernet phone home, the Home Media Option, and now the TivoToGo more than outweigh a marginally better video signal. Being able to listen to Shoutcast streams on my TV receiver (the best audio output in my home), being piped through my desktop, is pretty damned nice.

    • smackfu says:

      Does the standalone have dual tuners yet?

    • jwz says:

      I don't give even the slightest shit about TivoToGo or Home Media, and the ethernet thing is only a minor annoyance. Years ago, I used a combo DirecTV box + standalone Tivo, and the image quality difference when I upgraded to the combo box was profound. Also, you get a lot more storage: a "60 hour" DirecTivo holds 60 hours. A "60 hour" standalone Tivo holds 10, at any tolerable quality. Yeah, I could void my warranty and hand-upgrade it. Fuck that noise.

  18. d1663m says:

    You might want to check with your cable company, they may have the moxi available.

    I've never used a Tivo so I have no comparison with it. My mom-in-law has a dvr from her cable company though and it sucks ass compared to my moxi box.

    I have dual tuners, HDTV ready whenever I feel like adding HD channels. I can record two shows and watch another with absolutely no lag, no skipping, no errors or blocky frames. It's an absolute dream. I only wish it had THREE tuners. :) Though I have a tough time keeping up with what I have recorded now anyway. The only thing saving me lately is that I've watched every episode of every show I like, and now they're around to re-runs already.

    I'm extremely happy with it so far. If you can't get a Moxi from the cable guy then I suppose I'd stick with DirecTivo.

  19. gadlen says:

    My Tivo Series 1 went wonky on me after 3 years. Apparently, they hadn't gotten the "break right after the warrantee expires" timer synched correctly.

    I bought replacements drives from http://www.ptvupgrade.com/. I'm very happy with it. It really was as simple as
    1 open case
    2 remove old drive
    3 install new drive
    4 close case
    5 ???
    6 profit!

    I see that ptvupgrade also has Blessed DirectTV drives. If you ship them your unit (and money), they'll do any number of wonderful things to it, no sweat.