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Old 10-11-2006, 05:26 AM   #1
BigDogues
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SSD in a Tivo?

Has anyone ever tried putting a SSD in a Tivo as the primary drive? Yes, I know they are very expensive but I am wondering if it could be done. The reason I ask is that I building a new home and I am considering going off grid. (over $30,000 to get electricity to the site ) So I am wondering if it could be done. Right now 8 gigs are about $300. (Yeah, I know, tiny.) What I am thinking is having some short term storage on the SSD and longer term stuff on a regular HD.
What do you think? Is this even within reason? Is there a better way to completely minimize power consumption in a Tivo? (besides shutting it off )
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Old 10-11-2006, 05:50 AM   #2
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A TiVo cannot use a smaller HD than the one it shipped with. Furthermore, you need more than a Solid State Disk, you need a Flash-based disk - one that holds the data when powered off and one designed for lots of read-write cycles and which has an IDE interface.

I can't quite see what the point of this would be - the rest of the TiVo uses more power than the disk does. Today's TiVos are quite miserly - maybe 25W steady state. Powering off is the only way to save power, but then it won't record, will it?
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Old 10-11-2006, 06:22 AM   #3
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I can't quite see what the point of this would be - the rest of the TiVo uses more power than the disk does.
And let's not forget that you're going to need a source to feed the TiVo and that will most likely take power. And you're certainly going to need something to view the recorded programs on and that will take lots of power.

The TiVo's hard drive is the least of your concerns...
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Old 10-11-2006, 06:43 AM   #4
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There are many ways to save power but the power consumption of a TiVo is VERY tiny when compaired to other things we concider important.

This guy: http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/ says he has reduced his usage to about 150 KWH per month. I have not gotten near that but his ideas have cut my bills in half and I run 3 DTiVos and 2 computers 24/7.
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Old 10-11-2006, 06:55 AM   #5
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25 watts? Really? That's it? When you say "steady state" do you mean in standby?
I thought for sure it would have been considerably more.
Hmmm, looks like I've better to invest in a Kill-A-Watt meter before having anymore brainstorms.
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Old 10-12-2006, 11:10 AM   #6
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Standby or no standby - no difference. Yes, you'd probably find a power meter very handy. Older TiVos were around 40-45W.
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Old 01-31-2011, 10:38 PM   #7
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See also here (which I also linked to here).

I think this would work great. (Post followups to the latter link above please.)
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Old 02-01-2011, 12:39 AM   #8
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I don't think an SSD would help much. I think the slow boots on a TiVo have more to do with the lack of processing power and RAM then the speed of the drive. It might help a little, but it's not going to be the same night and day difference that you'd see booting Windows on a modern PC.

Plus they would only be able to use it for the OS. SSDs would not deal well with the constant writing/overwriting that a TiVo does for the live buffer. They have to use very sophisticated load balancing algorithms just to get a few years use under normal PC conditions. In an environment where the data was constantly being written/rewritten they would burn out very quickly.

Not to mention that the price per GB of SSDs is still 10X+ that of HDs. A small OS only drive typically costs more then an entire TiVo.

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Old 02-01-2011, 07:59 AM   #9
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Holy thread resurrection
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Old 02-01-2011, 02:07 PM   #10
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This has come up before. I don't think an SSD would be ideal for a TiVo. TiVos aren't really I/O limited, they're CPU limited, so you won't see any better performance. The slow bootup is due to the security checks of computing the file signatures on every program on the disk. The constant writing of the live buffer would probably shorten the SSD life substantially over what you see in a PC.
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Old 02-01-2011, 02:20 PM   #11
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FYI, here's an actual report of a user (TexasGrillChef) putting a SSD drive into their TiVo HD.
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Old 02-01-2011, 03:43 PM   #12
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There are techniques where an SSD can be used as a persistent cache for data on the hard drive, and that would be the most effective way to utilize SSD on a Tivo. There are hybrid SSD/traditional drives that could be used and implement an algorithm to determine what information to cache. These hybrids will get more popular over the next few years.

Using SSD for storing video content makes no sense at all. The storage medium is either fast enough for video playback or it isn't. It's a binary proposition. The hard drive is already good enough. Furthermore, as others have pointed out, SSDs wear quickly when written to frequently.

Using SSD for database storage may offer some meager benefit. My S1, S2, and HD were all pretty quick operating the UI over the database to search and retrieve programming. The Premiere is the only one that can be horribly slow, and that's probably due to some stupidity that crept into the design, like waiting for network content to be fetched, or dealing with an inefficient flash interface.

Using SSD for OS/boot can offer some real advantage as many people think the reason for the painfully slow boot is because it's doing security checksums of the OS partition. Since this is read-dominated and a SSD is good at read performance and the OS partition rarely changes, I'd expect some improvement. Of course, a better solution would be to simply drop the annoying security scan and open the box back up to hackers. I've seen other DVRs boot quickly. There's not excuse why Tivo can't too.
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Old 02-01-2011, 09:28 PM   #13
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Not just boots, but getting to Now Playing on, for example, a S1 that has a big hard drive *IS* I/O bound... right? (Swapping, basically.) Since there are/were cache cards to add that supposedly sped that up.

So a SSD would speed that up. (Though IMHO probably not worth the cost.)
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Old 02-01-2011, 09:32 PM   #14
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I'm about to try this in the next few weeks. Just got the ssd and a large hard drive.

To keep the expense down, I plan to use a small ssd for the A drive and a large hard drive for the B drive.

I intend to customize the partition layout, putting all the Media partitions on the B drive, and all Application and other partitions on the A drive.

This will require making the partition structure by hand, plus copying each partition by hand with the dd utility. Then I'll have to hexedit the TiVo partition map in /dev/a10, then fixdivorce /dev/a10.

Should happen this month. I'll be reporting back here on whether it worked or not.
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Old 02-02-2011, 05:14 AM   #15
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Sounds interesting, let us know how it goes. Would be really neat if such a hardware upgrade could significantly improve the tivo's speed. Great that you are trying it out.
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Old 02-02-2011, 07:29 AM   #16
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SSD will be a huge fail in a Tivo. Due to the limitations and issues with SSD technology, the drive will fail within a year or so. Just look up the millions of articles about the waste of a SSD on a PC without TRIM enabled... now add the stress of a constant rewritten cache and recorded and deleted shows.. and yep.. the thing is going to die an early death. On forums, I am seeing alot of the early non-trim enabled drives dieing now.

Putting an SSD in a Tivo is like giving a 2 year old a lifetime supply of cigarettes, cocaine, and alcohol and say he's going to have a wild life. Yep.. wild, but he will be dead before he's 21.

If your insistant on trying this route.. I'd suggest trying a hybrid drive.. but even that I think the speed boost is more driver related than drive related.
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Old 02-02-2011, 10:35 AM   #17
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I'm using an IBM X25-M G2 ssd. According to anandtech, it maintains performance without TRIM.
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Old 02-02-2011, 11:26 AM   #18
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I'm using an IBM X25-M G2 ssd. According to anandtech, it maintains performance without TRIM.
You mean Intel, not IBM, and it does need TRIM to keep up performance, though it degrades less over time than some others. SSD is wasted on a TiVo - the rest of the system is too slow to take advantage of an SSD.
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Old 02-02-2011, 12:55 PM   #19
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Totally not related, but I was in a presentation yesterday where a database appliance configuration was shown that had 5 Terabytes of Flash memory! Yikes!

Not for Primary storage, purely as a performance cache....
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Old 02-02-2011, 01:00 PM   #20
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Totally not related, but I was in a presentation yesterday where a database appliance configuration was shown that had 5 Terabytes of Flash memory! Yikes!

Not for Primary storage, purely as a performance cache....
I wonder if it was something like facebook/flashcache? http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=388112370932

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thom
To keep the expense down, I plan to use a small ssd for the A drive and a large hard drive for the B drive.

I intend to customize the partition layout, putting all the Media partitions on the B drive, and all Application and other partitions on the A drive.
Please keep us advised about how this turns out. What series Tivo are you going to do this on? I wouldn't mind a similar setup for my Premiere (does the Premiere support two internal drives?) if it works out. Partitioning the seldom-written stuff onto the SSD and the frequently-written to the hard drive is certainly the way to go if you can pull it off.
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Old 02-02-2011, 03:24 PM   #21
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It is going on a Series 3 with OLED display.
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Old 02-02-2011, 03:27 PM   #22
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I wonder if it was something like facebook/flashcache? http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=388112370932
Oracle Exadata

www.oracle.com/exadata
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Old 02-02-2011, 04:34 PM   #23
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It is going on a Series 3 with OLED display.
I have an S3 with a pair of 1T Hitachi 7200 RPM drives and two CableCards. (Note these drives are definitely not known for being miserly on power). The unit has a TA, but I'm not including it in the measurements. Powering up both drives and the TiVo simultaneously results in a peak power usage of 79 watts in the first few seconds, after which the power usage drops to 53 watts and then drifts back up to 63 watts. I suspect once the unit stops rebuilding the database, the usage may fall even further, and disabling the tuners may shave a few watts, as well. Dropping off the external drive and just monitoring the TiVo with its internal drive results in a peak of 50 watts. After booting is complete, this settles to 48 watts. Using a 5400 RPM "green" drive might shave another 5W or so. The SSD might drop it to near or below 25.

As to the performance, the posts above are perhaps a bit misleading. While it is true the TiVo can be stretched to over 90% CPU utilization in some cases, in general it is neither a matter of being I/O or CPU bound. It's just that the real-time processes take precedence over any ordinary tasks, such as searching the database. The TiVo simply will not allow user space tasks to eat up all the bandwidth, no matter what. Here's a snapshot, for example, of the TiVo that was just booted. It is still updating its database, and will continue to do so for the next couple of hours, as well as buffering both tuners. Yet, as you can see, it's really not using all that much in the way of CPU resources.

All that said, the SDD will perhaps somewhat improve the responsiveness of the menus, but it won't do anything at all for recording.

Code:
Mem: 39876K used, 2552K free, 0K shrd, 748K buff, 22724K cached
Load average: 4.15, 3.87, 2.43    (State: S=sleeping R=running, W=waiting)

  PID STATUS RSS  POL  PRI %CPU %MEM COMMAND]
  373 D       11M NONE   0 21.6 28.1 swedishChef
  482 R       660 NONE   0  3.9  1.5 top
  411 S      8584  RR    5  0.3 20.2 swedishChef
    2 SW        0 FIFO  40  0.3  0.0 keventd
  101 SW        0 FIFO  40  0.3  0.0 b_event
  349 S       11M  RR    5  0.1 28.1 swedishChef
  477 S       11M NONE   0  0.1 28.1 swedishChef
  476 S       11M  RR    5  0.1 28.1 swedishChef
  297 S      4980 NONE   0  0.1 11.7 swedishChef
  403 S       11M FIFO  10  0.0 28.1 swedishChef
  353 S       11M  RR    5  0.0 28.1 swedishChef
  386 S       11M FIFO  10  0.0 28.1 swedishChef
  327 S       11M FIFO  10  0.0 28.1 swedishChef
  404 S       11M FIFO  10  0.0 28.1 swedishChef
  365 S       11M  RR    5  0.0 28.1 swedishChef
  393 S       11M  RR    5  0.0 28.1 swedishChef
  330 S       11M  RR    5  0.0 28.1 swedishChef
  384 S       11M FIFO  10  0.0 28.1 swedishChef
  367 S       11M  RR    5  0.0 28.1 swedishChef
  328 S       11M FIFO  11  0.0 28.1 swedishChef

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Old 08-26-2011, 08:28 AM   #24
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I'm about to try this in the next few weeks. Just got the ssd and a large hard drive.
...
I'll be reporting back here on whether it worked or not.
Did you ever try this Thom? If so, how did it go? Do you have any benchmarks for with and without the SSD A drive?
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Old 08-27-2011, 05:02 PM   #25
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Did you ever try this Thom? If so, how did it go? Do you have any benchmarks for with and without the SSD A drive?
Yes, I did. I handcrafted my partition layouts so all the large MFS media partitions were on drive B, and all other partitions were on drive A. The TiVo would boot and display the opening animation. I had just enough time to press the TiVo button to display the main menu, when it would reboot. From my reading, it appears that there is some piece of software in the TiVo that checks to see if the partitions are located where it expects them to be.

I have come up with another way of doing it that I think will work, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Basically, if you use a hardware RAID controller (I've identified two I think will work), a small SSD and a larger hard drive to appear as a single large hard drive (RAID controller JBOD mode aka Large mode aka whatever-the-controller-manufacturer-calls-it), the SSD will get all drive reads and writes to the first sector addresses of the combined disk drive, and the actual hard disk will get all the remaining reads and writes. If you make sure that all the non-MFS-media partitions are in the SSD portion of the combined disk drives, you will gain a speed advantage in accessing the boot image, root filesystem, var filesystem, and database portions of the TiVo filesystem structure, with the TiVo software being happy that all drive A partitions are actually on drive A where they should be. Drive B would just be a hard drive. I have all the hardware needed to try this, I just haven't felt like tearing it apart again. My main desire for trying this is to get quicker response to the various menu commands.
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Old 08-27-2011, 09:34 PM   #26
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What about a drive with built-in flash memory for acceleration? I think Seagate had one of these.
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Old 08-28-2011, 01:19 AM   #27
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I thought about using five 500GB Seagate Hybrid drives in a RAID 5 array for the A drive. That would have 16GB of flash memory for read caching of most used sectors. They would cost more, plus they would have to be mounted, so I'm not planning on trying that, at least for a while.
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Old 08-28-2011, 08:37 AM   #28
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bschuler2700 said it. SSD's have a limited number of writes/rewrites. HDD's do not. Can one see the flaw. One is better off running SpinRite on an HDD, then installing it on your TiVo for longevity . What is the point of supposed power savings if the SSD dies at a very young age compared to HDD's. And at the current cost of SSD's, one would easily wipe out any supposed power savings. Why can't a WD "Green" HDD be sufficient? And those batteries for going off the grid are gonna be your much bigger worry.
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Old 08-28-2011, 10:21 AM   #29
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I have come up with another way of doing it that I think will work, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Basically, if you use a hardware RAID controller (I've identified two I think will work),
Which two hardware controllers have you found? I'd like to look into this as well.
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Old 08-28-2011, 11:36 AM   #30
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As I understand it, the limited number of writes issue has disappeared for modern SSDs. However, performance will suffer if you can't take advantage of TRIM or garbage collection, so if you are going to get an SSD for a TiVo, get one that has automatic garbage collection.
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