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Old 05-02-2012, 01:39 PM   #31
mr.unnatural
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While an SSD is way faster than a standard hard drive in terms of surfing the menus and boot-up times, it offers no noticeable performance boost whatsoever in terms of recording and playback. It's absolute overkill for use in a Tivo. I don't know about the rest of you, but when I used my Tivos I tended to spend far more time watching recordings than surfing the menus. Spending $600 or more for a 512GB drive is ridiculous just to get through the menus quicker.

On another note, I use an SSD in both my primary PC and my HTPC for the OS install and miscellaneous apps. I use regular hard drives for data storage and recordings. Boot up is blazingly fast, but you also don't need a huge SSD for this purpose. A 64 -128 GB SSD should suffice for most users. The nice thing about SSDs is that you can get it almost completely full (i.e., 99% or better) and suffer no degradation in performance. A standard drive would start slowing to a crawl after getting past 80-90% capacity, especially if it was fragmented.
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Old 05-12-2012, 10:15 AM   #32
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I wonder how a Hybrid SSD would fare. Frequently accessed things like the menus and guide data could be cached on the SSD giving you that performance boost, but be more cost effective for a larger drive. I think I just saw the Seagate Momentus XT 750Gb for $130 or so.
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Old 05-13-2012, 01:55 AM   #33
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Yeah, if the hybrid technology is as good as they say it is, it would be great - the media can stay on the hard drive, the OS part can be on SSD and fast.

I know I've seen near-ssd performance on them (was surprised) so it can work. I'm considering getting that for one of my MCE PCs, but I don't know how well it'll work in that application.
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Old 05-13-2012, 02:09 AM   #34
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I suspect that the Tivo is not "smart" enough to use a hybrid drive effectively.
Not without user intervention, that is.
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Old 05-14-2012, 08:17 AM   #35
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I suspect that the Tivo is not "smart" enough to use a hybrid drive effectively.
Not without user intervention, that is.

honestly i dont know so that's why i ask- doesn't the drive have the smarts? I was under the impression that a hybrid drive had some sort of firmware/controller and it would notice what data is frequently accessed and move that to the SSD section and leave the rest on the platters?

But i'm not really sure if it would be able to do that with the way Tivo partitions the drive? Can a hybrid move partitions back and forth between the SSD and platters?
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Old 05-14-2012, 09:12 PM   #36
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My understanding is that older hybrid drives did need OS support (such as Windows ReadyDrive) but newer ones are smarter.

100% of the data does end up getting written to the physical drive. The SSD acts as a huge cache, and holds the most often accessed blocks from the drive. Writes can also be buffered in the SSD, getting written to the physical drive later. Since the SSD is non-volatile, it does not lose data if the power goes off. This is an advantage in laptops where the drive can stay spun down to save power.

Since most PCs do mostly reads, the caching algorithm will be tuned toward that. Since the TiVo is constantly writing gigabytes of data, it's possible the cache will end up flooded with the most recently written data rather than most often used.

As I said way upthread, I'm still not convinced that the TiVo is that I/O bound. It's possible that if it's using the swap partition a lot, that could hurt performance.
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Old 05-16-2012, 08:32 AM   #37
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...
As I said way upthread, I'm still not convinced that the TiVo is that I/O bound. It's possible that if it's using the swap partition a lot, that could hurt performance.
My current GUESS would be that the thing is still IO bound.

“back in the day”- there was the cachecard for the series 1 which basically behaved like something of a hybrid drive, but better if I recall. I think it was smart enough to JUST cache whatever part of the drive held the guide database so the all the UI things where on the cachecard and the OS and recordings where on the physical drive. The flaw though was that I don’t think it was non-volatile and so changes to the database could get lost with a power blip.

The UI isn’t vastly faster since those old days- if anything it’s slower by far when you factor in the much better hardware.

Here’s the cachecard site:
http://www.9thtee.com/tivocachecard.htm

with this blurb:
Quote:
Caching - The Tivo database is large (512MB) and every user-interface operation goes back to hard drive to read from the database - the same hard drive that is already busy reading and writing multiple high bit-rate video streams. The CacheCARDTM caches the entire database in high speed SDRAM so all database reads can be fulfilled instantly, rather than joining the queue for access to the hard drive. Database writes go directly to the hard drive so the Tivo database is always protected and is up-to-date on the hard drive.

The result?
A general speedup of the user-interface and halving the time of long operations such as re-arranging season passes.

For those who weren’t around in the day- the product was a little more than tacitly supported by TiVo- they were kind enough to preinstall the drivers for the cachecard in later S1 software updates IIRC.

What’s amazing to me is that the cache was as small as it was.

Seems like even today- TiVo could just add a couple gigs of memory to the motherboard and speed things up immensely if they engineered it as an onboard cache. Maybe make it 4 gigs and then cache not just drive IO but also the most frequently accessed web content. The UI would scream.
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Old 05-16-2012, 09:10 AM   #38
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...

What’s amazing to me is that the cache was as small as it was. ...
For the type of memory module that was used in the cache card I think 512MB was the largest capacity in which it came, and I'm sure the S1 TiVos couldn't use the ones newer than that.

If there were 1TB versions, they were probably obscenely expensive and there were probably only a very few (also very expensive) server motherboards which could use them.

Actually a lot of the computer motherboards that used that kind of module couldn't use any that were larger than 256MB.
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Old 05-16-2012, 10:52 AM   #39
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For the type of memory module that was used in the cache card I think 512MB was the largest capacity in which it came, and I'm sure the S1 TiVos couldn't use the ones newer than that.

If there were 1TB versions, they were probably obscenely expensive and there were probably only a very few (also very expensive) server motherboards which could use them.

Actually a lot of the computer motherboards that used that kind of module couldn't use any that were larger than 256MB.
Oh- I didn’t mean to be complaining about cachecard-

I’m saying it’s amazing to me that such a small amount (in Todays terms) was all that was needed to fit the database and speed things up.

And I understand TiVo’s decision to build the machines that way back then (I think they had only 64m or maybe 128 on the directive 1). My point was a small amount of memory in today’s climate is all that Tivo apparently needs to include to speed things up a bunch. At least they could have built the “elite” and maybe “XL” units with an extra couple chips (likely just upsize what’s there in the real world) and made a big difference.
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Old 05-18-2012, 12:06 AM   #40
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The original Series1 had just 16MB of RAM (32MB for the DirecTivo). This may have cause a lot of I/O if the database wouldn't fit in memory.

The Series2 had 32MB (64MB for the dual tuner models). The Series3 had 128MB, and the Premire has 512MB. As far as I know, nobody released a cache card for anything other than the Series1.
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Old 05-18-2012, 01:05 AM   #41
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My understanding is that older hybrid drives did need OS support (such as Windows ReadyDrive) but newer ones are smarter.
True, I have a PC with a 1GB SSD used as ReadyDrive. But it's a separate device that Windows sees as two drives, similar to ReadyBoost except it's built in rather than USB. In non-ReadyBoost aware OSes, you see two drives.

As for TiVo - it's all the little I/O that's the issue. Reading big chunks from the disk (i.e. playback) isn't an issue and hard drives are great at that. It's all the little reads and writes that happen. For example, doing database updates after a guide data download can make TiVo visibly more sluggish, or take hours as it reindexes. TiVo does prioritize media accesses over OS and database accesses, so you get stutter free video, but at the expense of possibly sluggish UI as TiVo ensures the media buffers don't underflow which can delay other I/O. Given the nature of the database accesses, the drive might cache the databases and parts of the OS, possibly speeding it up.
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Old 05-18-2012, 03:54 AM   #42
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SSD's produce only 10-20% of the heat of a normal HD because their isn't any mechanical friction heat created like their is from heads tossing back and forth and the spinning discs.

Not saying they don't get hot, just they produce alot less heat.

If I used a 2.5" hd heat sink case and inproved the heat sink on the proccessor of the TiVo, then I would say you could get by with a fanless TiVo

TGC
I have a good heat sink, but the drive boils, maybe something is wrong with the drive
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Old 05-18-2012, 05:01 AM   #43
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That's an awesome space. HD to add to it.
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Old 05-18-2012, 10:06 AM   #44
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I have a good heat sink, but the drive boils, maybe something is wrong with the drive
Failing hard drives do often draw more power and generate more heat. But what drive do you have a heat sink mounted on?
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Old 05-18-2012, 02:35 PM   #45
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The only real problem with the SSD is the TiVo is the worst possible load to put on it - it's constantly being written to 24/7 which they don't really like. There's a limited life cycle on them, so a constant write tends to prematurely wear it out.
Not if you have Thom's ninja hex editing skills and hack your partition tables to be on traditional rotating disk, but the Tivo OS, indexes and swap on the SSD.

Now THAT kind of a hack is something I would be willing to pay for! Or dig into the bowls of Linux partition table innards to figure out... Everything would happen on copies of my existing drives so it's pretty low risk to try it out - worst case scenario would be drives I'd have to use elsewhere and wasting some time.

Hmm..... sounds like a good skunworks project candidate...
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Old 05-18-2012, 02:39 PM   #46
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The Tivo is not going to support TRIM without software (and probably hardware) modifications.
If you use a sandforce controller TRIM is irrelevant. They accomplish the same thing as TRIM through over-provisioning. The MacBook Pro I'm using right now has a sandforce based SSD that's almost a year old and just as fast as the day I put it in, despite Mac OSX not supporting TRIM on non-Apple hard drives.

I think the only practical way this would work for me is to go down Thom's path of putting all the MFS partitions on rotating disk, with everything else being on the SSD. It's an interesting proposition. 4TB drives coming out make this even more appealing...
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Old 05-18-2012, 02:45 PM   #47
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I'm fairly certain the drive is not the bottleneck for TiVo, it's the CPU (as far as MRV, etc.). I really doubt a faster drive will result in any faster performance.
Actually it's memory. Tivo is incredibly stingy with RAM and it causes the OS to page to disk CONSTANTLY.

On top of continually writing multiple video streams

I've got a Tivo S1 with a cache card - best $100 or whatever it was I ever spent. I've looked off and on for transparent SATA caches that don't require OS drivers and are inline and self contained between the hard drive and motherboard. Similar in concept to external hard drive cases that have transparent RAID - to the computer they look as one drive, ideally to Tivo this would just look like a hard drive as well. All you need to do is get the majority of the database into the cache and the speed increase is dramatic...

I haven't looked in a while - maybe it's time to look again!
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Old 05-18-2012, 02:51 PM   #48
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While an SSD is way faster than a standard hard drive in terms of surfing the menus and boot-up times, it offers no noticeable performance boost whatsoever in terms of recording and playback. It's absolute overkill for use in a Tivo.
Maybe you have some alternate version of Tivo than I do, but every generation - S1, S2, The original OLED Series 3, Tivo HD and Premiere (I have and do own them all) started out awesome performance wise, and then with each OS update as they added more stuff and overrun the meager RAM built into the boxes, the interface lags more and more.

It's extremely infuriating to me. Perhaps your just more patient But it annoys me enough I'm now very, very interested in Thom's strategy and potential solution.

The more I have sat here thinking about it and talking about Tivo software updates that could be fun with that approach. One would certainly hone their skills! I'm going to look a little harder for a transparent inline SATA Cache again.

Hmm.. I wonder if someone has an iSCSI to physical SATA adaptor. That would be an interesting solution! I have a great NAS box already that I can easily add some more cache to if need be.
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Old 05-18-2012, 02:55 PM   #49
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I wonder how a Hybrid SSD would fare. Frequently accessed things like the menus and guide data could be cached on the SSD giving you that performance boost, but be more cost effective for a larger drive. I think I just saw the Seagate Momentus XT 750Gb for $130 or so.
I dunno - I tried Hybrid drives (Seagate Momentus) in both my Mac and Windows laptops and was underwhelmed. Then again laptop hard drives are generally much worse performers than their desktop counterparts. Now Tivo is not a normal PC - but I wonder how smart the cache in the drive is - will the steady recording of the live buffers keep it flushed out or will the drive's firmware be smart enough to favor the frequently accessed database files?
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Old 05-18-2012, 03:02 PM   #50
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As I said way upthread, I'm still not convinced that the TiVo is that I/O bound. It's possible that if it's using the swap partition a lot, that could hurt performance.
I have no reason to doubt the original poster of this thread, and based on my experience with the cachecard on Series 1 I can unequivocally state that Tivo - for the UI, anyway, is ABSOLUTELY I/O bound.

Hideously.

It's also pretty easy to deduce it from the upgrade pattern. When I go my first S1, it was great - then got slower with each successive software update. Then I got an S2 and I though "Wow, this is what I remember Tivo being", then it got slower yet again.

Then the S3 (OLED) was released and I pounced. Once again, performance was awesome and I was very happy - but sure enough, over time and system updates the performance once again went in the crapper.

I bought into the Premiere late in the game so I never did get to see if the earlier versions of it were any faster - at least with the HD menus off it's no worse than the S3 OLED

Probably a $5 part for more RAM would make all the difference - the problem is that would probably add $25 or more to the retail price of each Tivo - so I kind of understand why they do it. I just wish there was an easier way for those of us who it bugs the crap of to address it later if we were willing to pay.

Hmm.. I wonder if they did anything different with the Elites with the four tuners. Probably not
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Old 05-18-2012, 03:08 PM   #51
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What’s amazing to me is that the cache was as small as it was.
The efficiency was the driver. It guaranteed the files that needed to be in cache the most, and only those files, were in cache.

The fact that it was volatile really didn't matter. The amount of data, as you point out, is trivially small and Tivo's, by their very nature, are rarely powered off or reboot!

Quote:
Seems like even today- TiVo could just add a couple gigs of memory to the motherboard and speed things up immensely if they engineered it as an onboard cache. Maybe make it 4 gigs and then cache not just drive IO but also the most frequently accessed web content. The UI would scream.
It wouldn't even need to be a couple of gigs. CacheCard paved the way - a custom driver, a little bit of extra RAM and BOOM - a fantastic difference in performance due to a very specific optimization.

An optimization that's impractical to do on a general purpose computer but perfect for pre-made appliances like Tivo that are designed for a specific purpose. They obviously think the cost to do so isn't worth the effort, or the hiking of the retail price. And most people are so conditioned to accept crappy interface lag (or just not as OCD as I am - I admit it!) they would probably way prefer to not spend the extra $$ - never mind how much more enjoyable it makes the whole user experience.

Sigh.... the triumph of mediocrity...
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Old 05-18-2012, 04:03 PM   #52
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The original Series1 had just 16MB of RAM (32MB for the DirecTivo). This may have cause a lot of I/O if the database wouldn't fit in memory.

The Series2 had 32MB (64MB for the dual tuner models). The Series3 had 128MB, and the Premire has 512MB. As far as I know, nobody released a cache card for anything other than the Series1.
Nothign but the series 1 had the header on the motherboard so it would be impossible to build a card. Now you would need to build some sort of memory in line with the SATA drive- basically a hybrid drive.

might be true that the current boxes have more memory- but my GUESS would be it still "isn't enough"- there's probably more there for more tuners, or the like. But to me it's easy to watch the HDUI choke all over itslef and realize they could download the thumbnails and internet information for everything in the my shows list, everything suggestions, and most downloaded content and stuff that in a couple gigs on the motherboard and watch the thing scream. (I'm not saying it would be easy or evey possible with the current architecture but they could have thought about it when they moved to the S4/Flash UI and planned all around doing that)

Bottom line is TGC in the first post of this very thread said an SSD speeds things up ~40-50% which is similar to the cachecard results of years back- so it seems pretty clear there is still an IO bottleneck that memory could solve and TiVo made a decision to save a few bucks on each box at the cost of performance. We'll never know if tivo would have sold more by investing for more memory in each box- but I wish it were an option to try...
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Old 05-18-2012, 06:10 PM   #53
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Ha! Found a transparent inline OS independent SSD powered SATA cache: http://vr-zone.com/articles/waremax-...ing/12554.html

Not sure if it's still being sold anywhere just yet, but finally there is at least one that did exist. Now to see if I can locate one and test it out. Woot!

Edit - Google is quick! Now this thread and the link above are pretty much the only two english links related to this thing :P
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Old 05-20-2012, 08:34 PM   #54
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I'd love to experiment as long as it's "reasonable" in price.
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Old 08-12-2012, 03:00 PM   #55
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I'd love to experiment as long as it's "reasonable" in price.
Me to - I just can't find one to buy

Seems like it would be a perfect fuss-free way to speed up the one aspect of Tivo that drives me batty - the UI!
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:05 PM   #56
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It was mentioned that much of the media storage IO is undesirable to have on an SSD. I just wanted to point out that swap is in the same category.

In reality, the better option is to eliminate swap. It is fine to run Linux systems (and modern Windows variants for that matter) w/o swap. The trick is you just need enough RAM to not need swap.

Typically the reason you add swap is because the load on the system is unpredictable. This is often because there are interactive user(s) on the system doing random things. With an appliance like the Tivo, this is not the case and this use is the poster child for running swapless.

Is it not possible to increase the RAM on these devices? What are the HW specs for the HD and Premier? How much swap is allocated? If you can add the amount of RAM that they allocate for swap and remove the swap entry in the fstab, you should be golden.

Memory is so cheap these days it would be a shame if it was not possible to run w/o swap due to memory restrictions.

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Old 09-19-2012, 12:39 PM   #57
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It was mentioned that much of the media storage IO is undesirable to have on an SSD. I just wanted to point out that swap is in the same category.

In reality, the better option is to eliminate swap. It is fine to run Linux systems (and modern Windows variants for that matter) w/o swap. The trick is you just need enough RAM to not need swap.

Typically the reason you add swap is because the load on the system is unpredictable. This is often because there are interactive user(s) on the system doing random things. With an appliance like the Tivo, this is not the case and this use is the poster child for running swapless.

Is it not possible to increase the RAM on these devices? What are the HW specs for the HD and Premier? How much swap is allocated? If you can add the amount of RAM that they allocate for swap and remove the swap entry in the fstab, you should be golden.

Memory is so cheap these days it would be a shame if it was not possible to run w/o swap due to memory restrictions.

-john
Go back and re-read where you said "an appliance like the TiVo..."

It's not designed with hardware upgrades in mind the way a computer is.

So anything newer than an S1, adding more RAM probably ain't happenin'.
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:49 PM   #58
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So I take it the memory isn't socketed. Bummer.

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Old 09-19-2012, 12:54 PM   #59
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So I take it the memory isn't socketed. Bummer.

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Sockets cost money.
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:49 AM   #60
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WD just came out with a new 1TB Velociraptor drive. $302 on Amazon. 10000 rpm, 5yr warranty. That would probably speed up the Tivo nicely, if it could dissipate the heat enough.
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