Why my DVR Expander only for TivoHD?

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by AZ_Tivo, Mar 21, 2008.

  1. AZ_Tivo

    AZ_Tivo New Member

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    Jan 17, 2005
    AZ

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    My apologies if this has been discussed (beaten to death) already. I am not too happy that we are forced to use My DVR Expander as the only option for additional storage with TivoHD.

    I understand that Tivo made a mistake with S3 which they fixed with THD, but why? Too many calls to customer service? like they don't get called for other issues?

    It would have been okay if the price was in an okay range. We pay twice for this puppy as compared to a normal 500GB WD external drive.

    Now, the question. What is there which prevents us from using any other drive with THD? Is it internal to Tivo. Is THD programmed to check and allow only certain models to hook up to it? Does it need certain circuit board? Any hacks so far?

    I know I can upgrade the internal drive but I just wanted to know the technical reason behind the limitation of using My DVR Expander only.

    /rant
     
  2. Icarus

    Icarus Member

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    Upcountry...
    All of your questions/comments are discussed in the first post in the Esata expansion FAQ, which you should read, if you haven't done that yet.

    http://tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?t=370784

    Drives that are configured and sold for 24x7 operation and configured for multimedia streaming rather than computer data just cost more than cheaper commodity drives housed in cheaper external enclosures. A normal external drive connected to a computer will not be operating 24x7 for most uses. Tivo external drives will be operating 24x7, since the streams are spread across both drives.

    You can use any drive you want to, but only the tivo certified drive will work as a plug n play drive in the Tivo HD. For any other esata drive/enclosure, you'll need to pop open the tivo, remove the internal drive, use winmfs or other tools on the internal and new external drive to prepare them for use. If you have to remove the internal drive to do that anyway, it's probably better to just get a larger internal drive and keep the original drive as a backup.

    And, yes, there are standard commands that Tivo uses to identify the drive, and it's capacity, etc. For better or worse, TiVo decided that on the THD, they would only officially support TiVo certified drives, probably to reduce the support matrix. However, that still doesn't mean you can't use any drive, it's just a bit harder to use non-TiVo certified drives on the THD. Anyway, this is all in that FAQ.

    -David
     
  3. rodbac

    rodbac New Member

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    Aug 16, 2005
    Probably a simple agreement between Tivo and Western Digital for Tivo to not include drivers for anything else. Then Tivo gets a cut of each purchase, and WD gets to charge twice the price for putting "DVR" on the box.

    It sounds a touch like collusion but it's really not, and is not an uncommon business practice. It's only irritating because it's such mundane equipment being used (that we're used to seeing being interchangeable with any other equipment with the same interface) and we're used to being able to "hack" Tivos.
     
  4. Icarus

    Icarus Member

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    Upcountry...
    Specific disks don't need specific drivers. (Any spec-compliant sata disk uses the same driver. The sata controller chip in the tivo needs a specific driver, but that's it, and that driver is bundled with the tivo software.) Obviously this is a generalization, because there are also physical (size) boundaries that may be built into the software, but those are covered in the FAQ along with one or two external enclosures/disks that are known to not work.

    -David
     
  5. rodbac

    rodbac New Member

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    Aug 16, 2005

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    You're right- only different controllers need different drivers. I was kinda generalizing to give Tivo a little less grief.

    The point is they officially locked out anything other than the single drive they tested (as if other brands/models would work any differently).
     
  6. wildtexaschef

    wildtexaschef New Member

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    Jul 4, 2005
    I tend to disagree with you to a certain degree on this point.

    Hard drive's that are sold for "SERVERS" are the SAME drives being used in Desktop machines.

    I have a Dell Server using the same 750gb hard drives, that I use in my Dell Desktop. Although I have 8 of them in my Dell Server & only 1 in my desktop. They are still the SAME Seagate drives.

    Servers are designed to run 24/7 as well. The drives that are used in servers that are meant to be used as file servers for accounting or database use are the Same drives being used in media servers too.

    Servers use all forms of Raid. (0,1,5,10). So drive usage still remains the same.

    Now I will agree. Seagate & Western Digital do have Hard drives that they design especially for DVR usage. There is some debate on the actual differences in those drives & drives sold for Desktop/Server computer use. However I have noticed that MTBF seems to be exactly the same.

    NAS (Networked Attached Storage) servers are becoming cheaper & easier to obtain. NAS devices are being designed & sold for Media use. That is to stream Video & Music as well. I have several of these devices as well. They are designed for 24/7 use. The 1TB drives in my NAS units are the same drives being sold & used in other servers as well as desktops.

    Also consider warranty support for the Hard drives as well. The warranty period & coverage for Hard Drives remains the same.

    Now on to the original OP's comment /rant....

    There are at least a dozen MINOR reasons as to why TiVo will only support and allow use of the DVR Expander on the TiVo HD.

    THE MAIN REASON... is "BOTTOM LINE".... ie Profit. Allowing other drives to work has a negative impact on their bottom line. (Or so they beleive) Whatever the "Cause". TiVo is in buisness to make money. Period. They aren't here to make the world a better place. They are here to make money for the share holders. Keep that in mind. Just like any other buisness today. They are here to make a profit for their shareholders first. Any decesion a buisness makes is based on how it will impact their bottom line. Thats the way any good corporation in buisness to make money opperates.

    TGC

    P.S. --- FYI

    TWC & Cox as well as a few other cable companies are using in some markets the SA Cable DVR. This Cable provided DVR in some markets does have the eSATA port enabled to allow the cable customer to make use of an external eSATA drive. TWC & Cox both specify which drives they will allow you to use with their DVR. In fact in Oklahoma City Cox cable actually specifies there is only one drive they will allow you to use. That is the Western Digital DVR Expeander.

    So don't blame Tivo for forcing you to use only one drive. Other DVR providers are doing the same.
     
  7. Icarus

    Icarus Member

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    Upcountry...
    Well, we're really getting a bit off topic here, but even with the low end servers you are talking about, even Seagate has different model numbers for drives for servers than they do for desktops. (There's a standard code for the last couple of characters of the model number that typically indicate the use of the drive. And yes, they usually have similar if not the same specs, except for the firmware or some other minor differences.) Even so, Dell may sell (or you may have used) the desktop drives in your server.

    But that's just very low end of servers. Higher end servers tend to use faster and smaller drives and more reliable drives, depending on the servers use. And those are completely different than anything you would tend to use in a desktop or low end server, and they cost a lot more per Gigabyte.

    The drives that are optimized for digital media recorders have different firmware. First, they are optimized for acoustics. Second, the error handling on those drives is quite different. They are optimized to keep up with x simultaneous streams and if there's an error, it's probably ok to just deal with a single bad block rather than retry or return an error to the driver when the data being read/written is just part of the video stream. The drive in your computer is optimized for keeping the data safe rather than keeping up with multimedia streams. While some vendors allow you to modify the acoustical behavior of the firmware, they don't allow you to change how the data streams are handled. Finally, there's the external enclosure itself. With the drive operating 24 x 7, the enclosure must be designed to deal with the extra heat that the drive emits. Usually that means some form of active cooling. Many cheaper external enclosures don't have any form of active cooling.

    That said, is there anything wrong with using a desktop drive in your Tivo? Many people do it and are satisfied with the results. I did it myself in my S1, and it lasted for many years with the desktop drives. However, I'm sure some of the stutters, bad spots in programs and other artifacts I noticed over the years are probably attributable to using a desktop drive rather than a drive optimized for handling media streams.

    With 8 drives in your server, I hope you have some active spares sitting around. :) Your MTBF for any one of those drives is 1/8 the average MTBF of each of the drives.

    Anyway .. the WD My DVR Expander my very well be the only external esata drive out there with the proper cooling and firmware optimized for DVR use, for all I know.

    I just switched out a 750G Seagate Free Agent Pro for a Seagate 750G DB35 media drive in an Antec MX1 enclosure on my S3.

    -David
     
  8. ciper

    ciper Active Member

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    Nov 4, 2004
    Thats the root of your problem.
     
  9. lew

    lew Well-Known Member

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    The my DVR Exapnder sells for $199. I challenge you to find an external 500 Gig eSATA drive priced at $100. Please only quote a drive with an appropriate external case (hard power switch with a fan). Please only quote a regular price from a regular vendor. Not some ebay vendor of questionable quality. I won't even limit you a DVR certified drive.

    Other posters are disappointed the DVR expander isn't available in larger sizes.

    Read the long thread regarding external drives. Wrong case or wrong cable and the drive doesn't work well with tivo. I don't blame tivo for limited support to drives that actually work.

    Tivo didn't do anything to stop users from using programs like WinMFS to add an external drive. Maybe 20 minutes of work.




     
  10. rodbac

    rodbac New Member

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    Aug 16, 2005
    It's marketing unless there are spec differences noted (as noted by someone earlier, there are a lot of specialized drives used in some servers)- hard drives aren't "binned", etc.

    The WD "My DVR" drive is the exact same drive in an enclosure designed no differently than any other. They charge more because it says "DVR" on it.

    Yeah, literally twice as much is a bit of hyperbole now that the price has been driven down.

    Note, though, that it's not terribly tough to find one for around $100 now- it takes some shopping around, and probably entails a rebate or two, which is unacceptable IMO.

    This is strongly to Tivo's credit. Letting us keep the ability to "hack" our boxes if we're comfortable doing so is very appealing and not something it would be hard for them to all but eliminate if they wanted to be dcks.

    I don't blame them too strongly, either, but if you get a drive with a poor-quality case or cable, the drive doesn't work well with much of anything (outside of simple storage where a few corrupted bits doesn't affect anything but the corrupted file, which isn't the case with a Tivo evidently).
     
  11. JWThiers

    JWThiers Smartypants

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    I think the point is that in general an esata drive is an esata drive. Why shouldn't someone be able to slap any size drive that they want into an esata enclosure. Sure have a branded model that they specifically support, but why not open it up to any enclosure that meets whatever the min spec is and let people put in whatever size drive(s) that they want. Saying that tivo esata expansion will only work with this model drive is like saying that your car will only work with mid grade unleaded gas from Exxon. It will also work with premium or regular and it could be from BP or Shell, it will work just fine. Just ask the people with an S3 that are using "non supported" ESATA drives if they don't work just fine.

    Heck why not sell an empty enclosure and let the consumer provide whatever SATA drive they want?
     
  12. lew

    lew Well-Known Member

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    I agree a drive is a drive but I don't agree an eSATA drive is an eSATA drive.

    There is a long thread that talks about using unapproved external drives. Many posters had a problem using enclosures without a "hard" power switch. Others had a problem using an enclosure without a fan. Still others had an issue with some of the cables. Posters who tried the external WD drive sold by COSTCO found tivo can't handle the bridge adapter that allows for USB/ESATA/Firewall(?)connection.

    I don't think a tivo unit can check on what enclosure is used. Limiting official support to solutions that work makes a lot of sense.

    I applaud tivo for continuing to allow users, who know what they're doing, to use "unapproved" solutions.

    Look at the FAQ thread.
    The Antex enclosure, that's recommended, costs around $50 and the cable that's recommended goes for $10-$20.

    The same posters who are complaining about the DVR expander would complain if tivo sold a certified enclosure for $75.

    APRICORN just came out with a line of DVR eSata drives. I'd hope they'd work with tivo for certifcation so customers have a choice.



     
  13. JWThiers

    JWThiers Smartypants

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    Thats why I said

    and

    Probably could have been clearer if I said a SATA drive is a SATA drive and the enclosure meets this min spec, but that was the intent. Tivo could probably make a fortune selling empty enclosures for $50 - $100 (whatever a fir price is) and letting people BYOD (Bring Your Own Drive).
     
  14. lew

    lew Well-Known Member

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    I agree with your first point, although others think there is something magical about the DVR specific drives.

    I don't think tivo would make a fortune selling empty enclosures for $75-$100. People would still complain about the cost, compared to the cost of searching the web and buying for cheap A/R.

    A lot of the complaints are from posters who would like to purchase drives with larger capaciites.

    Assume an enclosure and cable is worth at least $75, $100 if tivo sold it and wanted to make money. At that pricing the DVR Expander is reasonably priced.

    I'd be happy if tivo certfies other DVR designed external drive solutions, such as the one from Apricorn.

    Letting people who know what they're doing buy their own, but prove they know what they're doing by opening the unit and using winmfs makes sense to me.


     
  15. AZ_Tivo

    AZ_Tivo New Member

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    Jan 17, 2005
    AZ
    My 500GB Cavalry eSata ($119.99-20=$99.99) from buy.com says hello to you. Cavalry has a OEM WD drive in it with three years of warranty and is sold by buy.com. Also involved is a $20 coupon from Google which I could use for DVR Expander if buy.com sold it. WorstBuy has no such coupon facility but they do sell My DVR Expander, for $199.

    Also my 500GB Calvalry eSata reminds me to tell you that buy.com also sells it's cousin 1TB Cavalry eSata for $189.99. For a better deal, you can get $10 off using GCO or $20 off if you have Google coupon. Getting a bargain matters to some, for some it does not.

    I don't mean any disrespect to you. You are a senior member here. Just that I feel if Tivo had opened THD like series 3, lot more people (average users) would be happy. I personally can open the box and throw in an internal 1 TB after preparing the drive. It's the rest of the folks who have to pay more and get less storage.
     
  16. JanS

    JanS Member

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    Oct 18, 2004
    San...
    I have found that the physical drive is the same it's the firmware loaded on the drive that is different.
     
  17. Eccles

    Eccles Mostly harmless

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    Yeah, but technically-savvy folks who frequent forums like this are a small minority of TiVo's customer base, and for the vast majority, the TiVo is an appliance, not a computer or hacking toy. For that reason, it makes sense for TiVo to limit the eSATA compatibility to only approved devices, which are in and of themselves, just another appliance to the great huddled masses.

    If technically-savvy folks want to futz with other drives, there's an alternative and unsupported way for them to do so, and they take upon themselves the responsibility to fix their own foul-ups, but for the vast majority of the target market, sticking to the appliance model makes perfect sense.
     
  18. Gregor

    Gregor Wear Your Mask! TCF Club

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    One point I think you're missing is Tivo opened up the S3 by accident, and decided to leave it open, as the alternative would have been a lot of upset customers.

    If everything had gone to plan, both the S3 and HD would only use approved external drives, in the hope of cutting down Tivo's support costs. Of course, the WinMFS solution would still exist.

    Personally, I think having approved drives is great, as it gives the non-technical customer a way to easily expand the unit at a reasonable cost.
     
  19. webin

    webin New Member

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    Feb 13, 2008
    Hillsboro,...
    I agree. I actually am a tech savvy customer, but would rather have a plug-and-play "it just works" solution instead of going through the process of adding an unapproved drive. Sure, that process is cheaper and relatively pain-free, but for $200, I consider the My DVR Expander to be a pretty good way to add 65 hours of HD (which I'd actually never use).
     
  20. Eccles

    Eccles Mostly harmless

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    Dec 27, 2001
    Austin, TX
    I'm in the same boat - I'm more than capable of performing the necessary incantations to upgrade the internal drive or add my own external - I did exactly that with my S2 - but this time I have opted for the plug-and-play solution and it's working just fine, thankyouverymuch.
     

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