Connecting an external hard drive to the Tivo via USB

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by geetarandsushi, Nov 17, 2004.

  1. geetarandsushi

    geetarandsushi New Member

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    I wonder if this will be possible down the road...
     
  2. W Auggie H

    W Auggie H Tivo Enthusiast

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    Sort of... but maybe not the way you are thinking. The forthcoming TiVoToGo will sort of let you do that. In theory, TiVoToGo will let us copy content off our TiVo boxes to our computer. From there we can have a large drive and archive our shows off to it.

    I am sure some will argue that it is or isn't possible to attach a usb hard drive. I don't believe that is the road TiVo is going down.
     
  3. geetarandsushi

    geetarandsushi New Member

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    yup I heard that. That would be pretty cool. I wonder how much longer we'd have to wait.
     
  4. JimSpence

    JimSpence Just hangin'

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    About as long as it takes for hell to freeze over. Well, maybe only half that time.:)

    I suspect that the USB hard drive would have to be connected to the PC.
     
  5. ZeoTiVo

    ZeoTiVo I can't explain

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    why just a USB hard drive connected to the PC
    how about a portable video player with a hard drive you hook to your PC via USB. You have a stash of shows on your PC from TiVoToGo and pick the ones you want to take along and transfer them to the portable video player (which is basically a USB hard drive with an LCD screen)


    until 3rd party players get on board then someone will probably figure out the steps to use a USB external Hard drive on the PC when TiVoToGo comes out.
     
  6. maggard

    maggard New Member

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    I was told, by an engineer at a certain TiVo supplier, that this is in the cards, indeed has been for a long time. The downside is last time we spoke he mentioned he'd been working on Firewire/IEEE 1394 code so it is possible TiVo may be holding off on this 'til a next-generation box ships.

    My own *guess* is TiVo won't enable any of this until they're sure the material is locked down, at least enough so they can say they tried. Thus I'd expect TivoToGo to have been out a bit and battle tested before this comes to pass.
     
  7. geetarandsushi

    geetarandsushi New Member

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    Nov 8, 2004
    so they are saying that you can simply plug a hard drive into the back of a tivo, and voila! Extra space?
     
  8. zeroduck

    zeroduck New Member

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    Jul 16, 2004
    It certainly is possible, using open source drivers.

    But, the part you dont realize is how much testing it takes in order to roll out features like that.
     
  9. maggard

    maggard New Member

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    Jan 9, 2003
    Boston
    Not quite.

    • TiVo has to enable the connection.
      Original Series2 TiVos are USB 1.1, newer have USB 2. So far TiVo has only included drivers enabling USB 1.1 functionality. However adding & enabling USB 2 should be easy, especially as those drivers are now fairly mature & stable.
    • You will need a reasonably fast connection.
      USB1.1 is slooow for hard drive access. USB2 is fast but involves some significant CPU overhead. Firewire/IEEE 1394 is fast & low load but not ubiquitous, I don't know of any TiVo's with it. FWIW Firewire/IEEE 1394 is also a digital video standard so including/using it is a two-fer, indeed it's the planned interconnect for most future video devices.
    • TiVo needs to enable external drive support.
      Like USB 2 the drivers for external hot-connect drives are now a mature, stable, well understood technology. TiVo can leverage upon it's Linux OS and port those drivers to their specific platform with little effort or concern, but it is an item that has to be done & QA'd (assuming it hasn't already been done in-house.)
    • You will need a properly formatted hard drive.
      TiVo's use a Linux-type disk format, EXT2. Most consumer external drives come formatted (if they are at all) for a Windows format, typically FAT32. So either TiVo will need to include a disk formatting routine (trivial) or you'll need to do a bit of prep work. Not hard, but it is an additional step.
    • TiVo has to let the data go free, or at least, free-er.
      As noted above, TiVo is likely loathe to make access to their material easy. Sure one can pull a drive from inside a TiVo, copy it, mess around with it, replace it, etc. That's still more difficult then explicitly enabling external portable drives. Some sort of content protection is certain, exactly like we're hearing about for TiVo-ToGo. Thus it's reasonable this will follow that.

    The first hump will be telling all of us USB1.1 folks we're 2nd class citizens. With USB 2 drivers suddenly allowing all of those with USB 2 to run a theoretical 40x faster we'll be dinged. We won't lose anything, we'll just not be as fast/shiny/kewl as the others.

    Porting the drivers should take only a few days of engineering time, if that. QA would take longer but I'm betting they've had this stuff in-house for a while so it should be good to go. It's possible CPU overhead is a limiting factor but I doubt it, keep in mind the basic TiVo data architecture is tuned fairly loosely (witness sharing working over those USB 1.1 connections.)

    Digital Rights Management - who owns our shows, whose rights are being managed? We paid for the service, the channel, the TiVo, still that's the biggest baddest impediment.

    [Edited to correct a tense]
     
  10. Jonathan_S

    Jonathan_S Well-Known Member

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    Northern...
    Not quite. While the TiVo software is installed on a EXT2 partition the videos are stored on a TiVo proprietary file system called MFS (media file system).

    Of course that doesn't really change your point, its just a technical correction on the filesystem type.
     
  11. ZeoTiVo

    ZeoTiVo I can't explain

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    Still why go through all that work from TiVos perspective if TiVoToGo takes off and you can easily just use a USB drive on your PCs
     
  12. mantene

    mantene Turtles...Tonight...

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    Well, becuase external hard drives can be expensive. More people have Home networks than external hard drives.
     
  13. maggard

    maggard New Member

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    Thanks!

    I couldn't remember if TiVo used EXT2 for the show files & their home-brew MFS for the TiVo-code, made a 60/40 call and was wrong. Thanks for the correction.

    Actually it does add another item on the ToDo list for TiVo: Put together & QA a format routine for MFS that works over USB1/2 and/or Firewire/IEEE 1394. Or adjust the TiVo architecture to support another disk format for external drives, probably FAT32 for compatibility.

    Hmmm, I wonder if MacOS X supports reading NTFS natively? I know it does FAT32 but NTFS is a bit faster and more robust. 'Course NTFS'd annoy all of the Win9x folks.
     
  14. maggard

    maggard New Member

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    A consumer grade home router runs about US$20 for a generic these days, cabling probably averages another US$20.

    A consumer grade 802.11b wireless router costs about US$20 for the router and a bit less for the client cards. A good consumer 802.11g router costs about US$60, about US$40 for the cards.

    A generic External USB1/2 Firewire drive shell is about US$30 plus the cost of the drive inside. Drives are going for about US$.50 per GB these days. For a brand name external drive figure about $1 per GB (basically double the price of a nekkid drive.)

    Lots of folks are using external drives at home for backup purposes. They plug it into a target PC and dump everything to it over night, then unplug it and put it someplace safe-ish 'til the next backup (or restore). It's not as reliable as tape backup but it is less overhead and reasonably effective.

    By the way, an Apple or HP iPod is basically a small external drive: They comes out to about US$10 to US$12.50 a GB.


    *All these prices are what you'd pay online, not at a CompUSA or some BigBox-R-Us next to the toaster ovens & clothes washers.
     
  15. bdmayo

    bdmayo New Member

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    Ok, more than a year has passed since the last post in this thread. Are there any changes to this subject? Can a USB case with whatever sized hard drive be attached to the Tivo?

    Even if the recorded shows are in a format that only the Tivo will recgnize.
     
  16. dgh

    dgh New Member

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    Pictures of the S3 prototype show a SATA connector.
     
  17. ChuckyBox

    ChuckyBox New Member

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    Certainly not with an unhacked TiVo. You might poke around the "underground" hacker forums a bit and see what people have done.

    I think it would be a nice feature to have a sort-of data warehouse connected to your TiVo via USB -- an archive onto which you could dump, and from which you could retrieve, more material. Yes, you can do this now with TTG and TiVoComeBack and your PC, but it is slow and awkward and requires another device. And, yes, you could just put the material on a DVD if you have a burner. But this would be a simple, fast, elegant way to increase storage. The material could be stored in TiVo-native format, and maybe not even be movable to another TiVo, so I don't see DRM concerns.

    Operation would be simple: You plug in the drive, TiVo sees it and gives you a new menu option: "Archive." You open it up and you can transfer shows back and forth from the internal drive to the archive. Sweet.
     
  18. ZeoTiVo

    ZeoTiVo I can't explain

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    it was more than a picture - they had a working SATA connection and had an external drive that was working. However it was not the cool archive type idea that I would like as well as ChuckyBox would want to see. for this one the shows would be recorded and the TiVo file system will decide how shows get stored and on which drive. Shows might even get stored across both drives. So if you remove the drive shows just dissapear and you do not know which ones it will be.

    now there was also an ethernet port on the S3 and that has the potential to make things twice as fast. if that happens than TTG and TTCB become quite useful as a way to archive to drives in a PC
     
  19. ChuckyBox

    ChuckyBox New Member

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    Yeah, the S3 will be a different story -- more storage options because of the SATA port and (hopefully) faster TTG transfers.

    But there are tons of series 2 boxes out there that could have a nice little upgrade if you could add a USB archive drive. I think it would be a pretty easy software upgrade for TiVo to implement, and would make a lot of people happy.
     
  20. peteypete

    peteypete New Member

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    Feb 2, 2004
    Can someone explain what SATA is and why it is better than USB?

    My 300gb tivo is full now and I'd like to dump directly to a external hard drive without going through TTG to a computer.

    Why is this hard? With tivo now making a branded wifi adapter, can't they make a branded add on hard drive?

    I mean technically, isnt' it kinda easy?
     

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