XP Server for TiVo

Discussion in 'TiVo Home Media Features & TiVoToGo' started by Bill_Marsden, Jul 12, 2007.

  1. Bill_Marsden

    Bill_Marsden Bill_Marsden

    Jul 12, 2007


    My Dad would like me to build a computer to act as a server for his TiVo. I've built many computers, but don't own a TiVo (don't watch that much TV, but my Dad does). Assume somthing like an Athlon XP 2.0 Gig, 1 Gig RAM, 500+Gig HD, 10Meg Ethernet LAN (TiVo is wireless), where would I find the information to do this from scratch. The computer at this point is hypothytical, but easily doable. My dad has read several articles that make him think this is practical, and at this point I don't know either way.

    The thought is to treat the server as an extra big hard disk on the TiVo, and make it as automatic as possible.

    I am not a network guru, although I have been messing with LANs for almost 20 years.

    Any help would be appriciated. Thanks.
  2. wolflord11

    wolflord11 Lord of Darkness

    Jan 16, 2007
    I assume you would want something to transfer Tivo recordings to your Home PC, then maybe burn DVD's etc.

    An Athlon XP 2.0 would be fine, 1 GB Ram min (I would go for 2) a 500GB HD would be ideal. The ethernet I would get a 10/100/1000 Card. The Tivos work at 10/100 so 100 would be your fastest speed. 10 would be too slow.

    Also, Tivo can be wired or wireless. A wired connection is alot faster than wireless and easier to set up.

    As for the Tivo, get a Sereis 2 DT. It has the ethernet built in. A Series 2 ST needs an adapter to work.
  3. Bill_Marsden

    Bill_Marsden Bill_Marsden

    Jul 12, 2007
    Actually, burning DVDs isn't an issue. His Humanix has a really good DVD burner, one I am envious of. Like I said, I want to be able to use the computer HD like it was inside the TiVo box, which is one of the major points of networking after all.

    Is this possible?

    He has wireless and DSL broadband, his TiVo uses it reliably, so that should not be a problem. I would likely just wire the new computer using a fast ethernet connection in the wireless router.

    We will not be buying any new TiVo equipment, his TiVo has a lifetime user contract, and what he has works. We just want to enhance it with a larger hard drive, and we don't want to open the case.
  4. SMWinnie

    SMWinnie Dis Member

    Aug 17, 2002
    There are solutions to do some or all of what you want, but understand that you aren't going to get a network solution that works as nicely as cracking the case and adding a larger hard drive.

    The .tivo files are fairly large and TiVo networking can be quite a bottleneck. Also, while you're sitting in front of your TiVo, it's easier to pull files back to the TiVo than it is to get them off the TiVo. ("Pull" works pretty well but there's no "push.")

    Be aware that transfers from the TiVo to the PC will be slow and will slow the TiVo down. It's a fairly weak CPU and the TiVo-to-PC transfer requires a fair amount of processor time to do the required encryption. Transferring the files back to the TiVo is quicker, but you will likely find that "Best" quality shows aren't transferring in real time. (That is, you can't rely on the PC-to-TiVo connection as a streaming server.)

    If you're thinking of building a PC just to sit off in the distance and store files from the TiVo, then you need a PC that's long on storage but not very demanding with regard to CPU and RAM. Then you install the free version of TiVo Desktop and you're more or less good to go. You'll need to leave the PC on 24/7, and you can set TiVo Desktop to automatically snag shows off of your TiVo and put them on the PC. (This would be your "push" substitute if you want to have minimal interaction with the PC. Unfortunately, it only works series-by-series rather than, say, grab anything older than X days.)

    Probably the next thing to consider would be buying VideoReDo ($50) to run on the PC. This lets you edit the .tivo files sitting on your PC while retaining the TiVo header information. (The header information is, among other things, what lets the TiVo drop the file back in a folder when you pull it back to the TiVo from the PC.)

    Let me apologize in advance for the following, since you've been very clear in what you're trying to accomplish. For most users - and perhaps your father - the best solution to the problem is a bigger hard drive. Installing a new drive while preserving recordings is cheap and frankly no harder than building a homebrew PC. Plus, if time is too short, you can ship the box to Weaknees and get a 600hr/500GB drive installed (saving your recordings) for $380, shipping included. No TiVo during the roundtrip and you do have to yank it out of the entertainment center and put it back in.
  5. Bill_Marsden

    Bill_Marsden Bill_Marsden

    Jul 12, 2007


    My Dad will not be able to do anything technical, it has to be as invisable as it can for him to be able to use it. He loves TV, he has both cable and TiVo (although the cable in that area is pretty inferior, and not too high on integrity, they tried to confiscate Dish systems, claiming they were incompatible with their cable). But I digress, for this to work for him, it will require no intervention on his part.

    I was talking about a dedicated computer with the specs I mentioned on 24/7, and as large a hard disk as I can get my hands on (and they are quite large nowdays). Basically a TiVo server.

    This TiVo has a lifetime (of the unit) membership. They don't offer this anymore, so opening up the unit is not likely. My Dad will save a lot of money in the long run.

    Buying dedicated software is not a problem, as long as it does the job. From what I was just reading that would do the trick, my Dad has a long list of series he would use, but that is actually what this is about, more storage.

    I will mention the idea of sending it off to have the HD added, as long as these guys have some kind of warrenty. The computer route seems a lot safer in the long run, plus there is a second TiVo in the house for my niece. The 2nd unit isn't important, but if it is easy then it might have access (though maybe not, my Dad really is filling up his old unit).

    So to paraphrase what I think I have heard. I buy VideoReDo (is there a link, or is it here?), then what? Is everything pretty much on the TiVo? BTW, my Dad almost never uses best quality, he's after duration, then watchability.

    Video card isn't important either, from what I have read. We are talking about a single client server after all. And while my teenager is coming along, I am the techie of the family, though I stand in awe of my Dad's entertainment center setup, remotes everywhere and he knows em all.

    Thanks for the help so far, I appriciate your patience.
  6. wolflord11

    wolflord11 Lord of Darkness

    Jan 16, 2007
    What unit is the Tivo? If its an older Series 1 Tivo has a deal at the moment where he can get a Newer Series 2 DT and transfer his lifetime to that.

    But, I would look into just upgrading the HD to a much larger model. You can do it yourself, or send the unit to Weaknees. Yes they do offer Warranties:

    WeaKnees.com. We specialize in TiVo DVRs and TiVo upgrade products

    More info:

    ADD To Your Existing Storage

    Add 720 Hours* - Single 500gb Drive

    $299 - Eligible for Free Ground Shipping

    Lifetime or monthly subscription, and programming and settings all remain intact.

    Deluxe Upgrade Service
    We copy your settings and programming to the new drive. - you lose nothing! Your capacity will simply increase!


    So for $378 the Tivo is increased from what it currently is to an extra 500GB, the same as your Tivo Computer Server. Your Lifetime is untouched, all programming and settings are untouched. Yes you will be without the Tivo for a few Days or so, but well worth it. :D
  7. Bill_Marsden

    Bill_Marsden Bill_Marsden

    Jul 12, 2007
    I don't believe the lifetime fee is transferable, when the Humanix box dies, that's it, back to square one, and they don't offer it anymore either. This make the this TiVo unit pretty special, which is why we are trying to go the route I defined. I understand the network is slower than a wired IDE connection, but we won't be using the best quality modes, so it may not even matter. If it does, well, learning costs.

    I see my dad about every other weekend, so I will mention it, but we did think of it (without knowing specifics) and decided against. Hearing specifics Dad may change his mind, I am a go between in this. Do appriciate the link.

    To be honest other than a Humanix I don't know the model number, I'll be getting this info this weekend.

    I would also like details on how to go the route I was originally talking about. Other than software package previously mentioned, it is pretty much built into TiVo?
  8. gonzotek

    gonzotek tivo_xml developer

    Sep 24, 2004
    For what it's worth, Weaknees has a strong reputation and is probably the route I would take in your situation. But I understand the desire for the separate server.
    Points to consider and things to know:
    The tivo must have 'transfers enabled' under 'manage my account' on tivo.com.

    The unit must be a series 2 standalone (dvd player/recorder models included). Unmodified Series 1 & 3 machines and Directivo machines cannot do file transfers. I think you mean Humax, not humanix. I've heard other people make this mistake before. Anyway, assuming that's what it is, it should be compatible with TTG.

    You mentioned that there was another TiVo in the house, I think? If there is, and it's a series 2 and both are under the same account, and are both networked, you can enable transfers between the two in addition to the between both and the pc.

    I agree with wolflord's recommended specs for the computer.

    The free version of TiVo Desktop is all you need for the stated purpose. In addition to serving video it can also stream mp3s and photos to the TiVo. However, there are other server software options that offer additional features and services to the TiVo unit. If you've already made the effort of adding the above spec'd pc to the network, dedicated to tivo video serving and not for normal home computer purposes, you can have it do a few more things for the tivo without adversely impacting performance. For instance, Galleon is a free software that does everthing the free version of TiVo Desktop does and much more. It completely replaces (or happily co-exists with) Tivo Desktop and also provides weather, email, shoutcast streams, podcasts, movie listings, and much more. A more complete description is available at the website.

    Also available is pyTiVo, a transcoding server for TiVo. This one can serve up almost any kind video file you're likely to encounter on the internet. It is focused on reliable transcoding, and doesn't provide many other features than that, but again, it can happily co-exist with other TiVo software on the pc. Using this, you could hand him discs with home movies or things you've downloaded from the internet, and all he has to do is copy the file to the shared folder on the pc and they'd show up in a folder at the bottom of his now playing list.

    VideoReDo isn't strictly necessary for the storing and transferring, but is the best tool available for editing tivo videos. If he has no interest in that, there's no point in purchasing a license for it. It does have a free trial, so if there's interest you can give it a test drive.

    One thing you don't get with TiVo Desktop is subfolders. What that means is the Now Playing List on the TiVo will have one folder for each server and/or other TiVo on your network. So if you add the pc and other tivo that'd be two extra folders at the bottom of the NPL. Navigating into the folder of the second tivo, you would see more folders containing the contents of the remote TiVo's NPL. Navigating to the pc's folder, however, would simply list all of the files in the shared directory and any directories inside of it. With 500GBs, that could be a pretty long list. Galleon and pyTiVo both support subfolders, although unfortunately the latest TiVo Service update has a bug that makes them flaky. We're hopeful it will be fixed with the next service update.

    I know it might seem like a lot to digest and do initially, but pretty much all of the solutions will chug along with minimal technical effort required once they're setup and working correctly, and for my household, were totally worth the effort. My wife uses the music function all the time, and with a single tuner and a dual tuner, we rarely have to worry about recording time conflicts.

    Please feel free to ask follow up questions or for specific help with any of the software or hardware issues that might come up, there are a lot of people here (myself included) that really enjoy working with this stuff and are more than happy to share lessons already learned.
  9. beboyle

    beboyle New Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    One thing nobody has mentioned yet - the reason several replys are recommending expanding the hard drive is that there is no way to do what you originaly asked "...use the computer HD like it was inside the Tivo box." Tivo does not recognize or use external network storage.

    The other options using the software people have mentioned involve moving individual programs to the PC (which must be initiated at the PC end, either manually or, after some setup, automatically). They are not in any way transparent and will require your dad to at least learn to use the Tivo Desktop software.

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