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No need to worry

David Nunez
David Nunez
2 min read

TiVo, I learned today, has gone to great lengths to try to disable hacks in their latest software on their Series 2 machines (no word on whether or not my hacks will stick on my Series 1…)

You can’t blame them, though, for being so paranoid. It’s so “easy” downloading stuff from my TiVo to my computer (where it will be so “easy” for me to send a million commercial-free copies of Michael Jackson’s interview to everyone I know):

Steps to get a 2-hour episode from Tivo to a Mac to a DVD:Here’s what it takes to get a 2-hour program into your machine:

  1. Hack up your Tivo. This is really a prerequisite. You need to make sure that Ethernet (TurboNet, in my case… an add-on, after-market card I got) is enabled and that ftp access is on. (approximately 2-4 hours, based on your Linux experience… also requires nerves of steel as you potentially ruin your machine by tinkering with the core software that runs the TiVo (after ripping out the hard drives and mounting them on another Linux box))
  2. Install Tivo Web. (another prereq). This sets up a web server on your tivo that allows you to control your TiVo through a browser. Also gives you extra, bonus information about your tivo and some goofy, uber-geek parameters to set (like bitrates and stuff). (approximately 1 hour… straightforward… assuming you got step 1 all right (with permissions, reasonable file placement, etc))
  3. Patch your Tivo Web to show saved programs’ FSIDs. The FSIDs are “handles” or pointers to the stored files on Tivo. Tivo’s file format is proprietary… tystream… It’s basically MPEG-2 (DVD standard) wrapped with some extra Tivo-ish data… useless in its raw form for watching anywhere besides on a TiVo. Restart of TivoWeb required (30 minutes)
  4. Make sure auxillary programs are in place on both Mac (NetCat, TyConvert, mpgtx, mpegger, QuickTime Pro, QuickTime Pro MPEG-2 Component) and TiVo (NetCat, sendstream) (1-4 hours… hunting and searching and trying to compile correct versions… depends on availablility of binaries and/or comfort level with building source in Linux)
  5. Find show you’d like to backup and write down its FSIDs (usually multiple numbers for larger programs). (a few minutes)
  6. Open Bash session on both Tivo and Mac. Run NetCat on Mac and use sendstream on TiVo over NetCat to send show (referenced by FSIDs). This will put a .ty file on your Mac. (I’ve been finding approximately 1.5:1 transfer time (i.e. it takes 3 hours to transfer 2 hours of show)
  7. Use TyConvert on Mac to strip away TiVo-specific metadata from .ty file (not long, relatively… 10-15 minutes)This results in an MPEG-2 file that can be played, presuming you have the proper support on your Mac (i.e. QuickTime plugin). I found the freeware players to be too sluggish on my Mac (since they couldn’t take advantage of hardware acceleration). HOWEVER, you still can’t edit, dupe to DVD, or otherwise make good use of this MPEG-2 file because even the QT plugin is not friendly with the muxed video and audio in the MPEG-2. For example, when I open the MPEG-2 in Final Cut Pro, I get Video, but no sound. This is a known limitation.
  8. Therefore, demux your MPEG (i.e. split it into sound (.mp2) and video (.m2v)) using mpgtx. (approximately 20 minutes)
  9. convert your mp2 into QT-friendly AIFF (30 minutes)
  10. Use Quicktime pro to merge the two streams together again into a .mov or .avi… (1:1 time ratio; 2 hours for 2 hours of footage)
  11. (optional)Edit as you wish using iMovie, Final Cut Pro, QuickTime Pro, etc.
  12. Burn to DVD using iDVD (LOOOONG time… untested)

So you see why the broadcasting companies are all up in arms. Look out TiVo! Granny is going to be the worst video pirate you’ve ever seen (assuming she lives long enough to sit through the conversions).


David Nunez Twitter

Dir of Technology at the MIT Museum • Writing about emerging tech's impact on your life • Speculative insights on the intersection of humanity and technology 🤖