[Chicago-talk] Very late Tivo Hacks review

Young, Aaron Aaron.Young at citadelgroup.com
Fri Dec 19 12:32:12 CST 2003

my pithy offering

Tivo Hacks
This is a book for the Tivo owner that loves their Tivo, could not live
without it, loves what it does, but surely...it can do a little more.
And this book is for the person that wants the value of the published
book.  There is definitely something convenient about holding step by
step instructions in your hand while your equipment is in pieces before
you just waiting to have those two 200gig harddrives placed inside to
eventually be filled with episodes of Home Movies and Space Ghost.  And
it is valuable to know that that information you hold was read by at
least one other person before you.  While most of this information is
scattered throughout the net on various websites, this book attempts to
consolidate and summarize all that information into an all in one guide
for Tivo upgrades, and it was written by people who have done what you
are planning.  I can't imagine a handier guide.
While there are some typos early in the book, which I HATE, they are
easy to ignore, and do not lead you down the wrong path (I have read
some programming books that decreased my knowledge in an area).
Fortunately, this book only seems to suffer from it the first few
chapters, and then, if there were any more, I missed them as I was busy
trying to learn how to put a webserver on my Tivo and expand its
capacity by 2-300%.
I've never considered myself a hardware guy, and so, the chapter on
removing the drives and putting them into a desktop are rich enough with
detail to make even me feel confident enough to try it.  And I must
note, the pictures are a tremendous help.  After reading that chapter,
you will realize just how many Tivo are out there and appreciate the
effort that went into putting such a guide together.  I am just glad I
do not have one of the more difficult models to upgrade; at least those
unlucky souls out there will have a guide. They even document where the
"hard to get at" screws are and some that you can safely leave to the
side as an "extra part."
The first connection to the Tivo described in the book is via the serial
connection.  While reading about the serial connection, I almost found
myself yelling at the book as if I were watching a horror movie (Come
one, don't use the serial connection, I have a Tivo2!) (I own a Tivo2
series model which comes with a network card preinstalled.) But I knew I
was only going to regret skipping this chapter if I ever hacked up my
Tivo so bad that I couldn't use the ethernet.  Also, there is something
prideful in knowing how to connect to your Tivo any way it can.  He
shows us how to transfer new software to the Tivo and how to configure
it to run on boot up. We do this with some manual work made easy by
using some freely available tools.  After reading that first chapter, I
was tempted to dig out a serial connection and prepare myself to OWN
that Tivo, but there was a lot of book left to go, so I kept at it.
Next, if you are fortunate enough to have a Tivo with a network
interface card, then getting to Tivo via ethernet is trivial and
thoroughly described.  If you are not that fortunate, or just have an
older Tivo lying around and you do not want to leave it out of the lan
parties, there are even instructions on how to connect a network card to
older Tivos.
Now, that the connection was made and convenient, he shows us that there
are already a suite of advanced tools out there (with more being
contributed).  Once you see the webserver, you may never use your remote
to schedule recordings again (you can even use it as the remote). You
can even use it to read email and or have your email read to you.  It
will play mp3s and show you caller ID.  Having Tivo connected to the
network opens brand new doors.
The only chapter I truly struggled with was the programming the Tivo
chapter.  I know that Tivo is undocumented, and I appreciate the effort
it must have took to find out all those commands AND what options they
take.  But TCL is NOT an easy language to just pick up, and I have had
some training in it.  Then I remember, this isn't Learing TCL, so take
note.  If you really want to hack Tivo, you will have to read source
code and you will need a better guide for TCL than this book had space
to give.  On the other hand, there are already so many programs out
there, by the time you have grown bored with them, you will have had
enough time to get a good TCL book.
The book is organized well and each chapter builds on the previous.  The
book builds your knowledge fast enough to keep you from getting bored,
but thorough enough that you can learn everything.  As you make the
first fledgling connections to the Tivo, you are pretty excited to just
be connected to the thing and make your name appear on the television
screen.  (It kind of reminds me of my first computer, an Atari 800XL.)
As you go on through the book, you find yourself feeling more and more
confident about what you can do with the Tivo and it is almost like
getting a new Tivo.  A hacked Tivo is to Tivo what Tivo is to
television.  Once you do it, you will wonder why you hadn't done it

Aaron F Young
Broker Reconciliation
Operations & Portfolio Finance
Citadel Investment Group LLC 


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