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TiVo Upgrade Isn't 374

creff writes: "TiVo's new software, version 2.0, disables features on recorders that do not have a subscription to their service. I would like to pose the question of ethics and legality of this move to the slashdot readers. Do they have the right to modify an item that you own? I don't remember clicking on any EULA..." Another reader submitted a long thread about this "upgrade".
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TiVo Upgrade Isn't

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am a Tivo owner and just wanted to point out to any who are interested that the upgrade is incredible. There are a ton of new features, most notably the season pass manager which allows you to prioritize shows so that conflicts will be automatically in the event of two shows being on simultaneously. In general, the interface is great, there are tons of options, and Tivo has totally changed the way I watch television. I can't recommend it enough, if you haven't seen it working go find someone who has it and check it out. I don't work for Tivo, I am just a very satisfied customer. I bought my Tivo for about $1000 when the first were coming out (the 30 hour model) and shelled out $250 or so for the lifetime subscription (which apparently only goes along with my unit, don't know if they offer that anymore) but I don't regret one cent of that. I've had the thing for well over a year now and I've never had a single problem with it, and many of my friends who have seen it have gone out and bought one just because they didn't like going back to regular TV after seeing Tivo. Anyway, wave of the future man, check it out. Tivo rocks my world. Everyone at Tivo, keep up the great work.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    get into a tivosh set db [dbopen] trans { set setup [db $db open /Setup] dbobj $setup set ServiceState 3 } dbclose $db Then disconnect your tivo from the phone line.
  • I have a Hauppague (sp) WinTV PVR, which is designed as a video recorder. They only support win9x at the moment, with a beta Win2k driver.

    The supplied software isn't too bad, but it lacks decent scheduling.

    Viewing and simple recording works under linux, but it's onboard mpeg2 compression chip isn't supported in it's current configuration.
  • Not all closed-source companies are looking for permanent MS-style lock-in. The majority of them are simply trying to protect their investment, trying to avoid giving it away, a little bit of lock-in to ensure that the R&D money isn't lost after the first month of operation.

    It would be great, you know, if open source evangelism really worked. If "Open Source" became a feature that ordinary consumers looked for, along with Total Harmonic Distortion and Size in Cubic Feet. Without that level of penetration into the brains of the masses out there, I'm afraid that we advocates are left holding the bag. We are "locked in" to a religion that isn't taking hold.

    The parent is one such example. There is no open source video recorder with the features of Tivo, and as long as there's Tivo, there probably won't be an open source version. Developers are motivated by laziness, impatience and hubris; and as long as Tivo is "close enough", they will be lazy and impatient (why spend a year developing when we can just buy one), and hubris doesn't apply when you are developing for an audience that doesn't want what you've got.

    As a result, more hackers are hacking Tivo than are trying to develop an alternative. And those people wanting a religion instead of a platform are left holding the bag. It's no use telling Tivo users "I told you so" without having an open source alternative in hand; if the open source religion says "it's Tivo or nothing" I'm afraid there will be very few converts.

    So Tivo made a mistake and sold a bunch of early units without explicitly requiring the subscription. I imagine they didn't think anyone would NOT get the subscription, but they also didn't anticipate hackers opening the boxes and sharing workarounds for people to avoid paying to upgrade the hardware, either -- something the "closed source" companies don't have to worry about. And now, not making any money, trying to stop the bleeding, they've assumed that anyone actually using their services is actually trying to use their services. How rude of them!

    It's doubly ironic that one of the only alternatives is Microsoft. If Tivo dies, we'll all be running WebTV, you know. Or is that what you want?

  • First point I'm not going to argue, particularly. I'm going to stand by my assertion that the AVERAGE Tivo purchaser plans to buy the service, and saying that everyman actually takes a minute to make the choice whether to buy the service is silly.

    Second point: Incorrect. The Tivo clock can be set via NTP from any server. Alleging that Tivo has some monopoly on NTP is silly. And again, I maintain that if you want to use the device in an unsupported way, Tivo has no obligation to be your NTP server. If you choose to connect to their network for NTP, you also should accept the consequences, the "AUP" of their network. If you don't understand the implications of dialing into Tivo's network to set your clock, you probably shouldn't be trying to use the Tivo device without a subscription. You can't have it both ways.

    As to the lifetime subscription: I continue to say that if your Tivo unit and Tivo itself last more than two years -- a pretty good bet as best I can tell -- it's a good deal. YMMV. Caveat Tivor.

  • by emerson ( 419 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:13PM (#169985)
    I really don't have much sympathy -- even if you don't want to pay for the guide data, plugging the thing into the wall to use Tivo's dialup to access Tivo's network to sync to Tivo's NTP servers means you're using their service and therefore are going to get the upgrades and other such things, and rightly so. If you don't want to take part in the Tivo process, don't plug it into the phone jack -- Tivo doesn't owe you a free clock sync if you're not paying them to use their network.

    That aside, there's a couple of options. One is that Tivo offers a 'lifetime' subscription to the guide data for a flat fee of $200. Sounds expensive, but just think of it as a full-featured Tivo for a one-time cost of $600.

    Failing that, you still have your old 1.3 version on there in a separate partition. Tivo upgrades load the new OS onto an alternate root partition, then when it's successful, resets the boot sector to boot from the upgraded partition. The old one is still there, as the new 'alternate,' waiting for the next upgrade.

    There's a holy MESS of information in the Tivo Hack FAQ (start at about how to get a serial console on your Tivo box and change around your boot partitions as well as a bunch of other stuff. Unplug your Tivo from the wall so you don't get any MORE upgrades (therefore blowing away your 1.3), and start reading. You can get your 1.3 back, although there are all SORTS of caveats and readme's about doing a revert like that. Stop complaining and start reading and learning.

  • That would mean that the Tivo itself is illegal under the DMCA, since it "decripts" a video signal producing a MPEG stream, and is marketed to the United States. Sorry, already violated, all bests are off the table.

    WolfSkunks for a better Linux Kernel

  • I think about people like my uncle who buy something, figure they own it and if it quits working, they take it back. I didn't read the TiVO contract but it certainly does not sound like they make it abundantly clear that you would be forced to buy the expensive service later and that they would cripple the product if you didn't. Even if he couldn't return it, my uncle would put the damn thing back in it's box and stuff it up in the attic. Having been burnt, he wouldn't consider similar products in the future. I'm with him. I won't consider buying something like this and I'll be real quick to point out to others why they shouldn't either. Legal or not, it's dishonest.

  • by Smack ( 977 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @05:32AM (#169988) Homepage
    It would be very hard to prove that there was actual intent to do harm. Also, the computer is explicitly not protected from Tivo. They automatically have access to it if you hook up your phone cord.
  • more like... for those of you that didn't subscribe to the data that tells the car how to run properly, the car won't run properly. The tivo only records a half an hour because that's all it knows about programs if it doesn't have guide data. It works in half hour "chunks", unless it has the guide data that tells it that the program you're currently watching is longer than that.

    It's more akin to the "gps system" in your car not working correctly because you didn't buy the map data! Sure, it can tell you your exact latitude and longitude, but it would be nice if you could figure out what street you were on. :)
  • You have no choice but to plug it in to the phone line, since (according to this guy's website) there is no other way to set the clock, and a Tivo with the incorrect time is next to useless.


  • Decryption brings the DMCA into play only if the decryption involves an "effective access control," that is, an 8-bit or longer key.

    Got a source for that? I'd be interested in reading the legal definition of "effective", in re access control. Obviously, eight bit is far from effective-- but so is the CSS (a lame version of a 40 bit system).

  • by jelwell ( 2152 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:15PM (#169993)
    Calm down already, from TiVolutionary's response in the forum:
    "For the record...

    In our next release we are reinstating the use of the record button (the only thing that changed between 1.3 and 2.0.1 for customers who bought units that shipped with software prior to 2.0. We did not really mean to change that functionality. We do apologize for the inconvenience this caused for the time it takes to get the new software out.

    In 2.5, with no service, on boxes that were purchased with a software release prior to 2.0, pressing the record button will record for 30 minutes, and then stop. Nothing else should change in the no-service-state."

    Joseph Elwell.
  • Until then, whatever legal immunities they might have, they have a moral obligation to make the devices work for all customers.

    Companies have no "moral obligations" - their only true obligation is to their shareholders, and their obligation to them is to make money.

    I would agree that legally, they are required to make the unit function as advertized for all users, else they could face a false advertizing lawsuit.

    Just my 2 bits =)

  • So the manual says:

    TiVo may, at its discretion, from time to time change, add or remove features of the TiVo Service or change the terms and conditions of this agreement. (page 76)
    It says that the service can be changed. But if I am not a subscriber, I don't use the service. In this case, they are changing my hardware. That I purchased. They can completely rewrite the service, and it should never effect someone who is not subscribed.

    This space for rent. Call 1-800-STEAK4U

  • by Lightn ( 6014 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:37PM (#170003) Homepage
    Being heavily into the TiVo underground scene (, I thought I'd share some information about the situation.

    While I am generally a supporter of TiVo, I have to agree with this guy. TiVo stated that TiVos that upgraded from 1.3 to 2.0 would still be able to manually record shows (boxes that ship with 2.0 are limited to the 30 minute buffer period). While this was technically true, they certainly downgraded functionality that people paid for.

    The one touch recording was supposedly removed because it was causing confusion since it would just automatically start recording that 30 min block. So it wasn't too useful to begin with, but certainly useful in certain situations.

    I think the now playing changes are the most significant, as they represent a direct effort to remove functionality from 1.3 software.

    The "nag screen" is not new. Few people on the avsforum new about it in the beginning when everyone subscribed, but when it came to people's attention, there was some heated debate, with me against TiVo. I never felt they gave an adequate responce to how having a nag screen makes the subscription to the service completely "optional."

    The backdoor to the 1.3 software is known and the method to set the clock is also, although it is certainly not user friendly. Check (I think the input format is the same as the date command arguement).

    Downgrading is impossible short of a complete backup of the Tivo harddrive. The database format and structure has changed and there is no easy way back. Although a lot of people did backups when they upgraded their tivo's hard drive. Just don't restore from an image from another brand or to a lesser version of software than the tivo shipped with! And some people are working on being able to do a complete drive setup on any sized disk from scratch.

    There is a EULA in the manual, but I think it only applies when you subscribe to the service. The same debate about loss of functionality was made when people saw of the changes in 2.0 as negative (no matter how minor). The general consensus was that TiVo couldn't support multiple versions economically, so if you subscribed to the service you had to accept the changes in functionality that came with software upgrades. This situation is certainly less clear...

    Also, it is general held that until recently (and maybe still), TiVo paid manufactures a certain amount of money for each box sold. And they certainly spend a lot to obtain each user (advertising money, check the financial reports). Most of their income comes from subscription fees. To some that just indicates a bad business model and they won't care, others might.
  • So when I bring my Ford Taurus in for servicing and the tech replaces one of the on board computers so that it shuts down the engine if any subsequent servicing is performed at any place other than a dealership....Well that's just my reward for ignoring the invisible free hand of commerce...

    Please remember Einstein that AT&T was and IBM was nearly broken up for behavior like this - the hard coupling of hardware and service and software.
  • by MbM ( 7065 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:47PM (#170007) Homepage
    Yes, but much of the information is stored on a proprietary filesystem known as MFS (media file system). It's complicated by the fact the standard scripts only allow upgrades, not downgrades (hence why TiVo refused to reload the 1.3 software).

    The proceedure for restoring the old software isn't easy, it's still on the disk but you need some means of accessing it. For those not familiar with the TiVO it goes something like this:

    The tivo has a connector on the back for interfacing a DSS satellite system, with the addition of a null modem adapter a user can access the PROM menu and change configutation data like the kernel bootup params. The 1.3 startup scripts used to have a backdoor -- bash would be run if you added the variable shondss=true (sh on dss port) to the kernel commandline. Unfortunately that's one of the things they remove in the new software. Bugger.

    Ok we'll boot the 1.3 root partition, just a change of root= right? nope. The UI is loaded on the MFS and the supporting applications on the root filesystem, mixing and matching them can cause real trouble. Ok, let's not start the UI, let's set 'runmyworld=false'.

    So now we've altered the root=, added shondss=false and runmyworld=false and we finally have a bash prompt. What now? well now we have to remove the new version of the software via tivosh (a convoluted shell built around tcl).. I won't even get into that mess.

    Oh.. one other thing, the database format used on the MFS partition has changed between 1.3 and 2.0. I'm not aware of how much has changed, it may only be portions used by the subscription in which case you could revert.

    At any rate attempting to revert the softare would void your warranty and possibly screw up your tivo. Fun huh?
    - MbM
  • If you don't want to take part in the Tivo process, don't plug it into the phone jack -- Tivo doesn't owe you a free clock sync if you're not paying them to use their network.

    The posts on the linked BBS seems to imply that TiVo units' clocks lose a minute a month if they are not synchronized with the NTP servers. I highly doubt the possibility of this just being a bug that escaped TiVo's QA testing, especially given what they just did with the 2.0 upgrades. It all seems very underhanded.


  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @12:17AM (#170010)
    There are lots of people who would have
    bought one of these things (like me) who
    won't now (like me) because of this.

    I hope it's way more than just a class-action
    suit. I hope they broke some international law
    by screwing up the Canadians, and have to pay
    billions in fines or their CEO has to do hard time, or something like that. If the extortion
    claim is brought up, I think they can be prosecuted under RICO.

    Wish I could just make my regular linux box
    be a PVR.

    Tivo is too new on the scene to be arrogant enough to create this kind of PR. And the
    messages from the Tivo spokesman only confirm
    that they do mean to be assholes about the whole

    Peasants, please storm their castle.
  • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:57PM (#170012) Homepage Journal
    There are some timeshift programs out, and some cool projects, but nothing close to a Tivo in functionality.

    1. Asus Digital VCR
    2. Cyberlink PowerVCR II - My favorite.
    3. ATI Raedon Digital VCR

    Some Unix ones I found.
    1. WebVCR - needs Video4Linux
    2. vcr - needs Video4Linux
    3. FFMpeg - Comes with a software vcr

  • No, he could have set the clock himself, all he had to do was plug a serial line into the port on the back of the TiVo. I don't think that TiVo is obligated to provide you with a clock-setting feature, since you're obviously not interested in making the device function properly, because you're not using the service which usually accompanies the device.

    It was ReplayTV that inserted the commercials during pause, not TiVo.
  • Sheesh. If you were seriously thinking about buying a TiVo without the subscription, then you are going to be wasting your money anyway.

    Yes, unless you get the lifetime subscription, it is $10/month. Unless your time is worth nothing to you, then the it is well worth the price.

    My TiVo has allowed me to watch what I want, when I want. I consider it to be one of my best purchase decisions... ever.

    So instead of spending time bashing a product that you haven't really tried out, why don't you go talk to a friend that has one (and has the subscription)?

    So much effort is spent by corporations to try to get me to buy things I don't want and I don't need. TiVo is one of the few companies that actually turns out a useful product and service.

    So what if they messed up the features for people who don't have a subscription? Perhaps they made a mistake, perhaps it was intentional. It doesn't really matter to me and the other TiVo subscribers. If you bought the device thinking it would be greatly useful without the service then you were misled. Maybe they are to blame for that too.

  • by dschuetz ( 10924 ) <david@d a s> on Thursday June 07, 2001 @04:42AM (#170016)
    Note that this same post was shown elsewhere in this thread without the "CEO" signature. And that it appears on the AVS forum with only "-RB" as a signature. I searched all over the forum, but didn't find any copy of this message with a CEO's signature.

    AC, please post a link directly to an AVS forum message where TiVolutionary claims to be the CEO.

  • I dont see anyone bitching when someone builds a better birdhouse and it isnt what you think is better.

    Are people going to complain BMW is infringing on their rights when they come out with a combined muffler-catalytic_convertor, that you have to replace as a large (read:expensive) single part...and this part will be standard issue for all future BMW's and you wont be able to buy the old part from BMW anymore? "But I used to be able to replace the muffler and convertor separately...and my dad says you used to be able to pull the platinum plate from the convertor so you didnt have to replace the whole convertor either."
    BR It's rediculous to say that something you pay for is forever yours if it doesnt exist in a vacuum. You use their service, you know they can change your software, you live with that. Or you could always try to install an old catalytic convertor and muffler separately in the sanctuary of your own garage. Just dont let the smog guys test it.

    Often wrong but never in doubt.
    I am Jack9.
    Everyone knows me.
  • So why hasn't someone hacked the tvio to change what phone number it dials/use the serial port for updates, and write a simple server in perl to gather this information off of the net for free? it can't be that hard to do (I'd do it if I had a tvio and a subscription, but I refuse to have my tv viewing habits sold to every corperate peeping-tom that is willing to ante up for tvio-s peepshow.) This thing can be hacked/reverse engineered easily. Hell, someone already got an ethernet card stuffed into the thing.

    Time to tell tvio that these units are OURS, and we are going to do with them what we damn well want to. (Note, some people will whine that we will be putting tvio out of business...wahh bla.. only the technically savvy will be avoiding the tvio tax and tactics.... the normal drone (90% of their customer base) doesn't have the brain-power to set up a linux box, let alone open a tvio and sucessfully hack it.)
  • Pretty retarted example there, Here's a better one.

    Would you be happy if BMW, on a "free safety check" at the dealer, removed your tachometer and the FM radio band from your radio? you'd be screaming bloody murder and looking for heads. In your screaming you find out that this only happens to people who dont pay for the extra protection coverage package that includes the on-star (Or whatever company you use) monthly fees.

    But this is EXACTLY what tvio did. They removed features from the unit that were there at the time of sale. If you are sold something and then get something that is not what you sold them, then the US govt will force you to pay restitution or make it right. HP had to give thousands of US customers all their money back on the HP Journada 420 because the display wasn't a true 16 bit display (it was 12 bit) and 99% of all these customers couldn't tell the difference. TVIO just removed features that many people noticed right away, and I smell a class action lawsuit coming...... and TVIO will lose if it comes to it.

    So sorry, TVIO effectively entered the customers homes and stole property, until they return it and apologize they are liable.
  • Then buy a DirecTivo and get lifetime TiVo service for $249. It'll run you $650 or so, but it's not such a bad deal for (effectively) two DirecTV receivers and two VCR's in one box... (No, you can't use the second tuner yet, but it will be enabled this summer.)

    Don't buy UltimateTV; they don't have a lifetime service option and you'll be paying monthly fees to them forever.
  • slightly off topic here...AT&T cable put advertising in their digital cable setup. This was 6 months after I got their service. This makes it slower to flip through the online tv channel guide. I don't think that if I am paying for cable service that I should have to see advertisements in the process and that it should be this slow. It is not just a little slow it is sometimes unresponsive. And I am PAYING for this.

    SO how does this releate to TIVO? Simple once you buy the TIVO, the VCR, the video disk, the cassette tape, the cdrom, or whatever you are basically agreeing by your usage of the item to biug business telling you what to do with it. This happens in the record industry (napster, you can't trade what you own), AT&T Cable, I can't filter out the ads in the tv guide, TIVO you are stuck with their upgrade. This is the same as if your ISP changed its policy on how it billsyou. Your only repercussion would be to stop using the device.

    This is the new age of big business doing what it wants and screw the consumer.. didn't you know that? Microsoft is growing and growing, AOL is too, AT&T.. PG&E in CA is getting what they want.. and do you know who has to pay the most? The residential customers... who pays the least... other companies (Oh and if you don't know what I am talking about think energy crisys in ca)..

    Yeah this may be slighly off topic, but tivo is just another company that thinks it can screw the user just like any other big company....

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • He bought a product that runs a cron script (or something like that) that connects to the Tivo servers and does things, which includes downloading updates. He knew that the product does this.

    If your box connects to my server on a regular basis and request software and then downloads and executes it, and you even know that your box does this, then the "without authorization" condition has just gone out the window.

    Secondly, most of the changes don't qualify as "intentionally causes damages", although I think the nag-when-switching-channels is pretty intentional. The other changes (e.g. not showing the manual record times) are just user interface mods where the "damage" to non-subscribers might just be unforseen.

  • DMCA doesn't outlaw all RE where encryption is involved. It outlaws RE where encryption "effectively controls access" to a copyrighted work.

    In the context of writing a Tivo server emulator, what copyrighted works are protected here? Packets of usage statistics that were generated by the Tivo? The time of day, generated by the server? Get real.

    DMCA does not prevent writing a Tivo server.

  • by dr_labrat ( 15478 ) <> on Thursday June 07, 2001 @12:23AM (#170037) Homepage

    There is no linux version at present, but they are open to suggestion.

    I use it on my windows box. Does the trick!
  • don't you have to sign a contract to make it legally binding?

    No. That's a basic principle of contract law. As long as the four elements of a contract exist, (a meeting of the minds or an agreement, consideration, mutual performance and an offer an acceptance) there is a contract. An example would be if your neighbor says that he would pay you $1,000 if you mowed his lawn and you got out your lawn mower and cut his grass, there would be a legally enforcable contract even though you signed no paper. There was an agreement (as to the work and the consideration), consideration ($1,000), mutual performance (each side has a responsibility to fufill -- you cut, him pay $1,000) and offer and acceptance (your behavior in performing the requested work is evidence of acceptance).
  • It's a module. Linus has specifically allowed the distribution and use of closed source, binary kernel modules.
  • I'm working on this exact thing at the moment-- I've managed to get xawtv to display output from my cheapo hauppage winTV capture card, so that's a start.

    VCR looks like a good way to go (and WebVCR is just a frontend to VCR) but it requires the avifile libraries, which are located on , a site which gives me a whopping 28 bytes per second. I've been trying for WEEKS to download the avifile libraries I would need to use VCR, but to no avail. I can't find a mirror, either-- if anybody's got one, post away!!!!

    FAME looks good to-- it takes video4linux output and uses an assembly encoder to make short work of compressing it. This could be run via cron, if only I could get it to compile on my Mandrake 8.0 install.

    FFMpeg, SAMPEG, and MPEG2Encode all have promise, too, but again, one problem or another is keeping me from getting them to run. MPEG2Encode is compiled and appears to be working, but it has to be the most complicated encoder I've ever used in my life. If anyone has a good sample config file handy for NTSC VCD and SVCD bitrate encoding with MPEG2Encode, let me know.

    And lastly, bttvgrab is working too, but it dumps to a wacky format (.pmm?) and a separate .wav file for audio. Supposedly it integrates with mpeg2encode for realtime encoding straight to mpeg, but the docs don't describe what I would need to do to make bttvgrab aware of my mpeg2encode installation. If I can't make the realtime coder work, then I will do scheduled post-encoding. The problem then means I have to figure out how to multiplex the audio and video back together, something else I'm not sure how to do with most of the encoders. (again, mpeg2encode seems to do it, but I'll be darned if I've made sense of that program's 10 million config options yet...)

    So, in short, there are nearly a dozen programs for linux to do exactly this, but like everything else fun with linux, putting it all together is going to be a challenge. Anybody with more information, please post!!!!!!
  • I don't know how the one-touch record button functioned under version 1.3 without the subscription service, but if it wasn't limited to 30 minutes, they have no business limiting it on version 2.5.

    If you had a clue, you'd know that it was limited to 30 minutes before. This is NOT a change, it's a complete reversion to the way it was in 1.3.

  • That would be true, IF this was only a matter of what the service permitted.

    This actually disabled *features* of the TiVO you purchased, and has nothing to do with the 'services' you get through subscription (listings, etc).

    The box, all by itself, now does LESS than it did BEFORE, all by itself.
    That's gotta be illegal.
  • I really don't care what TiVo expected people to do. They sold a product that (as advertised) would work without a subscription. They're later going back and crippling that product, so that it no-longer works without subscription.

    That's bait and switch, and is illegal. Plain and simple.

    As a side note, I see great value in a tivo without listings, it's a VCR, except higher quality and of larger capacity. They advertised it as such, but with more features as well. I currently use a VCR, so a digital VCR would be a great purchase.

    Now, as for poor TiVo, who we're supposed to feel so sorry for... Tough.

    As a programmer I'm still supporting much of my early work. It needs more bugfixing and I negotiated worse contracts (less pay for fixing those bugs). But I *can't* ignore those unprofitable contracts. I entered into them honestly, they are the stepping stones that got me where I am today, and I'm legally and morally obligated to continue doing what I contracted to do.

    I may not understand why some of my customers still prefer to use software I wrote in the late 80s, but I didn't sell it to them with a time limit, they're free to do what they will do.

    So, understandably, I have little sympathy for TiVo. They're where they are today because they sold a ton of units, many to people who simply wanted a digital VCR. It is NOT acceptable to hang those customers out to dry now.

    Especially since, if they wanted to have them stop calling in, they could simply allow for manual setting of the time and remove the nag screens, then people could happily use their units in the manner they intended, without any phone calls or future software updates.

    This is actually worse than I stated, TiVo didn't just ignore old customers, they deliberately went out of their way to disable those old units that were functioning correctly.

    And they act as if it's the customers fault, for buying a product and expecting it to work as advertised.
  • Companies have the same moral obligations as the shareholders. And vice versa.

    This whole limited-liability bullshit has gone too far. Many people would be perfectly happy buying stock in a company that contracted killings for the mob, as long as they wouldn't be held liable and as long as they thought it was profitable.

    Explain why customers, who can't buy a senator and get a law passed, should follow the laws that companies buy. Law and the society it enables are based on the expectation of fairness, the law is blind and all that. If the law works in your favour, why would I follow it?

    This is made worse by companies with 'no moral obligation' in the eyes of their stockholders corrupting our legal system for a quick buck.
  • They clearly did NOT (note, past tense) that the service was required. That's a recent change. Customers who bought original units were assured they'd work without the service - they even sold to people in Canada and other unsupported areas, which should prove that they intended this.

    TiVo units contain a hardware bug where they lose time at aproximately a minute per month, there is no way to set this except by dialing in, which was allowed even for unsubscribed people.

    The unit is broken (bad clock) and short of a recall, the best bet is to have them automatically update the time frequently. This is TiVos fault and their fiscal responsibility, imho.

    As for this whole idiotic business model of selling for a los... It's TiVo's choice to do so, and it's their choice to require a contract or not. They didn't require a contract for services in the beginning, so people fairly bought those units wanting only the hardware.

    The law only insists that each side in a contract get something, not that it ends up being profitable for both parties.

    Would you accept it if you bought a P3-1Ghz with 1GB of RAM and 150GB of drive space for $1200, then had the company give you a P2-500 with 64MB because "you should have known that is was unreasonable to expect that much for that price" and that when you complained they told you to quit whining, or they'd disable the computer all-together?

    So they made a deal that wasn't terribly profitable, they'll do better next time, or someone else will. Not my problem.
  • I know you're just answering the "do I need to sign" but what you just said shows that shrink-wrap contracts aren't valid...

    1) There's no meeting of minds because this implies knowledge beforehand.

    2) There's no consideration. They aren't legally entitled to prevent you from using the software, so they can't offer it to you.

    As soon as you buy something, you've got 100% rights to use it in any way it was advertised, or a reasonable person would believe it should be usable. (to paraphrase the law)
  • Under 1.3 the record button recorded (for me records) for 30 minutes. They're not dropping any functionality that used to be there, they're simply changing it back. Since there's no stop button they don't really have a good alternative. It is supposed to record a currently playing show, so I see a 30 minute recording for a currently playing show as a good compromise. If what you want to record is going to run longer, bring up the "manual recording" option and set it up to stop when you want it to stop.

  • by Merk ( 25521 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @06:44AM (#170055) Homepage

    Yeah, that $200 subscription is great and all, but just tell me, how do you get it to work in Canada, or Australia, or any of the many other places where people have TiVos and can't get the service? I'd love to have the service, but getting listings for Boondox, Arkansas isn't going to do me much good.

    I can appreciate that TiVo doesn't want to have to support an old version of their software, and doesn't want people in the US to avoid using their service. But I don't think it's fair to turn a functional digital VCR into a really big paperweight, when the only way to make the unit functional again is to move to the US.

  • Exelent. So when I sell you a pack of gum that has a license inside that lets me break into your house to take a piece whenever I want, is that ok?
    I mean, im within my rights if I decide that you initally paid to little for the pack of gum, and I want to remove 5 sticks by your logic.
    I figure youre a troll, but what the hell. Trolls like gum.
  • What value added? People don't have to pay $10/month for their VCRs to work because the embedded firmware "adds value" to the otherwise useless hardware - the software is part of the product itself.

    As you pointed out, people DO already pay for the internet, where the TV guide information they want is freely available... so why should they ALSO have to pay Tivo?

    I predict Tivo willl fall by the wayside unless it changes, and the winner will be a PVR that simply connects to your ISP (dial-up or broadband via ethernet port) and gets the information for free, or maybe one that doesn't even need it to provide most of what people want - TV pause/resume/skip and manual programming (just tell it the show channel/time, and it'll record it forever until you tell it to stop).

  • The serial cable is only an option for hackers. From reading the AVS forum I thought the problem was that people were just doing a call (or is a "test call" different?) to get the date, but then - without being a subscriber - they were getting the 2.0 software automatically and then losing functionality (although I guess they allowed it to continue downloading because they thought they were getting something for free).
  • by StenD ( 34260 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @07:35AM (#170060)
    But the subscription is almost exclusively pitched as "optional",
    System Requirements
    Paid subscription to TiVo service and access to a phone line is required.
    - Sony Digital Network Recorder SVR-2000 box
    Yes, that sounds to me like the service is being pitched as optional.
  • But at least a way to get back to the original software...

    From reading this, it seems that he just bought the thing. (Sort of... it's not entirely clear.)

    If it was still within the n-days return period, I say take it back, complain it doesn't work as advertised. Then buy another one if you still feel like it.

    THEN (now that you've learned your lesson), do some of the hacks described [], and don't plug it into the evil phone line.

    Personally, my view of Tivo, Inc. just went WAY down. They just scored a major win with the award of their patents, they're inches away from smacking Microsoft & Ultimate TV with an ugly stick... and they still feel they need to do this to their customers?

    Bad Tivo. (Whack!) No stock options for you! Go sit in the corner until you learn to play nice!

    (Still, just to be fair... didn't UltimateTV do some silliness like inserting ads while you're fast-forwarding? This was a change from out-of-box functionality... but not nearly as invasive as what Tivo has done!)

  • I have absolutely no interest in paying a subscription fee for a directory service.

    A "directory" is not sufficient. What TiVo provides is a database which combines show times, actors and directors involved (so you can record, e.g. "all Hitchcock movies"), user preferences and feedback and some interactive TV tie-ins (e.g. you can hit select during promotions for upcoming shows to select them for recordng).

    I would really like a stand-along digital recorder that would record the raw MPEG-2 video/audio stream from a DirecTV receiver. I am willing to pay $500 for such a device, but I'm not willing to pay $15 (or more) each month just to use it.

    TiVo costs $600 for unit plus lifetime subscription (lifetime of that unit, that is). A friend of mine said, "buy a TiVo, it will change your life." I said he was being silly. It's only TV after all. I hate to sound like the SNL skit about the mentalist on broadway, but buy a TiVo. It will change your life.

    The features just keep getting better too. You can now start watching something, decide half-way through that you want to record it, and because TiVo has a half-hour buffer, you get the WHOLE THING. You can set priorities on season passes so that if they conflict, the conflicts are resolved according to your tastes. It's just too cool.

    As I tell my friends: I don't watch TV anymore. My TiVo does it for me.

    Aaron Sherman (
  • I don't have a TiVo (and now, never will)

    Nothing personal, but this is the one aspect of Slashdot that I truely hate: the negative rumormongering.

    As someone else pointed out in this thread, the TiVo folks have acknowledged this one as a bug, and are turning the feature back on in an update. It's a result of the addition of one of the most asked for features: saving the live-TV buffer when recording a program on the fly.

    Note timed recording still worked just fine for non-subscription TiVos....

    so perhaps I don't understand what "guide data" is. If it's essentially just TV listings, well, free sites for that abound on the Net. yahooTV, for one.

    Sure, you can use those. It will be hard to split out the detailed information like actors and directors, but you could hit IMDB for that. The only thing you don't get is the database of user feedback for each of those programs. This is not just a rating system, but a personalized rating system. Thus, the TiVo can look at what you like and say: aha! You're going to like "Slashdot: The Motion Picture" too. And, then it will record it for you, if you have free space.

    Aaron Sherman (
  • Even if this was a fluke, it shows me the danger inherent in becoming too used to any service over which I don't have control. As far as possible I avoid that, and so, TiVo is still out for me.

    But that doesn't make any sense. Like TiVo, don't like TiVo -- I could care less, but the whole concern is over TiVo updating your box so that standalone features broke.

    It's like saying that your VCR manufacturer gave you a prom-update that broke the VCR for people who don't use the prom-updates.

    You only care if you sign up for the service, and then drop it. Given that the way to go with TiVo is to sign up for the lifetime membership, why the heck is this a concern?!

    The only possible concern would be that you use their service and then they drop their privacy policy on the floor AND remove the opt-out features on the box AND you care (which I would). If that's your concern I suggest you buy a TiVo+service and don't throw away your VCR. Works for me....

    Aaron Sherman (
  • The problem is that TiVo's technology is only mildly interesting (though patented...)

    What is really grabbing people about the TiVo is the combination of their technology with their centralized database of show times and preferences data. As digital VCRs go, the TiVo is only very cool. What makes it kick-ass is the ability to say "record everything directed by Hitchcock," or "record my favorite show whenever it happens to be on, but only the first-run showings."

    In order to do this, you would have to have a quality source of guide data....

    Aaron Sherman (
  • If you choose to connect to their network for NTP, you also should accept the consequences, the "AUP" of their network. If you don't understand the implications of dialing into Tivo's network to set your clock, you probably shouldn't be trying to use the Tivo device without a subscription. You can't have it both ways.

    Unless TiVO made these terms and conditions explicitally clear then they probaly deserve prosecution. For "hacking" and/or fraud.
  • Maybe I'm mistaken but I thought what was running on TiVo was LinuxPPC, or at least a variant of LinuxPPC. Wouldn't it be fairly simple to hack around this problem, write a replacement package to replace these missing features, or downgrade to the older version of code? I don't own a TiVo myself but I'd love to get one. Someday...


  • by tmoertel ( 38456 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:38PM (#170073) Homepage Journal
    In any case, your whole argument goes out the window if they state in the terms that come inside the Tivo packaging that they reserve the right to change the software on the box.
    Companies can print whatever they want inside the packaging, but if it ain't legal, it ain't legal. If the packaging claimed that the manufacturer "reserved the right" to take stuff from my house, would that legitimize stealing?

    Compainies do this kind of thing because many people are sheep and will actually fall for bogus claims of "reserved rights" and disclaimers for things that can't legally be disclaimed. The people who belive this garbage are throwing away their rights by being dumb enough to believe that those rights don't exist, simply because A Big Corporation told them so.

    My advice: Don't be one of the sheep.

  • > damage without authorization, to a protected computer;

    Looks like the word "protected" will let Tivo an easy way out. They could argue that if the user really was concerned about the integrity of his Tivo, he could easily have "protected" it by not plugging in the phone jack. He wasn't using their service after all, so then why would he need to be connected to the phone at all?

  • I don't believe you had to purchase the service at all. If you look in the forums I think you will see this happening to many people who have no subscription AT ALL ('unsubbed'). The ONLY thing they have done is make the "test call" to set their clocks on the unit because there is no way to do that manually. Sure you could blame them for buying a piece of equipment that only allows you to set the clock by making a call to the company...but that's really a stretch. That's almost entrapment. How should I know that just making a test call is going to result in *software being downloaded and installed* on my machine? Consumer's shouldn't have to be always on edge wondering if every little feature of something can potentially be used to scam them in the future.
    "Batteries...sure, use any type you like. (BUT THEY'LL BLOW UP CAUSING YOU TO HAVE TO BUY A NEW UNIT HAHAHAHAHAHAHA)"
  • What kind of specs are available for the TiVo hardware, anyway?
  • > Gotta say Tivo just lost a customer though. I had been thinking about buying one for awhile, had it budgeted for next month. But a bullshit move like this... *sigh*.


    Next project: Spend some time checking out the status of Linux drivers for my ATI All-in-Wonder-128 32M card.

    And if that doesn't give me any love, install Windoze Scripting Host and goof around with VB for a weekend using the bundled software. I can capture and encode MPEG2 video in real time when the box is suitably overclocked. All that's missing is a 30G hard drive and a user interface.

    A little bit of Perl (yeah, it'll run in a Windoze console too!) and a suitable lynx -dump to and I've got my TV listings. []

  • The one touch recording depends on you having guide data.

    When your subscription runs out, a message will appear saying "hey, your subscription ran out!". This will appear for ~1 month if I remember right. During this time the tivo still functions and is downloading guide data.

    After the month, the TiVo goes into boat anchor mode (ie: the unit is pretty useless; always has been, always will be when in this mode). It stops updating guide data and other related information until the subscription is removed.

    After about two weeks your guide data will run out. So what's the point in having the recording function work when it's going to stop working in 2 weeks anyway?

    Before you could record a half hour while watching tv. You can no longer do this. Whoppie do. Somehow I fail to see the severity of this loss.

    You can still have manual recordings for an arbitrary length on arbitrary channels.
  • Why are these companies getting away with this!?!?

    Because the market is letting them. The consumer base has spoken with their dollars, and they've said that this sort of setup works just great for them.

    If change is to come, it needs to come in the form of an alternative that consumers like better, or for the consumer base to decide that this sort of scheme makes the product worth less than what they paid -- and they'll abandon the idea wholesale.

    When you sell to non-geeks, geek concerns fall by the wayside. Geeks are still a minority (and probably always will be).

  • So, the difference between a software upgrade and a virus would be.... what... something you want vs. something you don't want?

    That's like saying that the definition of a 'weed' is a plant that grows where you DON'T want it to.
    • it will probably come with the new "improved" software only
    Correct. All the new units should come with 2.0 on them. And they certainly will not work without a subscription.

    • they sold these things.
    Actually, Philips, Sony, and Hughes sell the hardware. TiVo sells the software (aka "the service".) Pay attention to the name of the product... "Philips Personal Video Recorder with TiVo Service" You own the hardware, but you do not own the software on the drive (or any of the content of MFS -- backgrounds, fonts, sounds, etc.) TiVo is well within their legal rights to do what ever they want to the software. Please keep in mind this nut left it plugged into the phone line calling into UUNet and thus costing TiVo money while paying nothing.

    • ... gain unauthorised access ...
    Right. First, the TiVo is not a "computer" in that sense. Second, how can it be claimed to be unauthorized access when it called tivo and did exactly what it was designed to do (and likely had done before)? He plugged it into the phone line knowing it's going to call TiVo everyday. Unsubscribed units do get upgrades -- though they will be the last to get it. And if he bothered to look, you certainly can set the date manually.

    This is not a mistake. It's not an accident. The 2.0 software was intentionaly designed to be a pain in the ass without a subscription. TiVo doesn't make anything off the sale of the hardware -- they sell the "with TiVo Service" part. Everyone of those boxes will try to call TiVo everyday (if it cannot call in for several days, a watchdog reboots the box) either via the 800# -- which costs tivo in the neighborhood of 5 to 7 cents a minute -- or by a local UUNet modem pool which certainly costs TiVo money. They are not likely to change their stance on this. They are also moving to make it harder and harder for people to hack the hardware -- a PROM with a crypto signature on the kernel + initrd image, an initrd image with copies of core files which it will replace if changed, no more "shondss", etc.

    And, the TiVo is much more than a TV listing as found "in the Sunday paper." (Last time I checked, the sunday paper was far from free.)
  • But if he was not a subscriber, then why did he use their service to set his unit's clock?

    Furthurmore, you have totally missed the point of my post. Let me try again:

    I go down to the local DratShack and buy a new phone. The PFY behind the counter tries to sell me a service plan.
    Me: No, I do not wish a service plan. I just want a phone.
    PFY: But without a service plan, you cannot place nor receive calls.
    Me: I'm too cheap to pay for a service plan. I want to be able to call 911, for which the phone does not need to have a service plan. Furthurmore, when I go on trips, I will buy a cheap prepaid phone card so that I may place calls during my trip.
    PFY: OK, but you might not be able to get firmware updates without a service plan.
    Me: Over-the-air updates don't bother me. Sell me the damn phone!
    PFY: OK, but this could bite you.

    Now, other than the obvious fact that this account is fictional (the PFY knows far too much to be working at DratShack), this is exactly what this gentleman did: he tried to buy on the cheap, and the Tivo docs quite plainly tell you that without service, your Tivo's functionality is greatly reduced.

    Just as an unregistered phone might stop working at any time, an unsubscribe Tivo might stop working at any time. If that is unacceptable to you, then either buy a subscription, don't buy the unit, or accept the consiquences of your actions.
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @03:53AM (#170108) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to post an alternative point of view to the prevailing view here.

    First, allow me to establish my credentials. I am a long-time Linux hacker, an engineer, and a strong believer in freedom. I'm also the owner of a DirectTivo unit.

    Now, when I purchased the DTV I knew that it would not function without two subscriptions: the DirectTV subscription and the Tivo subscription. Never the less, I bought it, and paid the price for a lifetime Tivo subscription.

    The Tivo docs very clearly tell you that a Tivo without a subscription will be much less useful than one with a subscription. Tivo makes their money on the subscriptions, not the hardware (a common sight here on /.).

    Now, while I agree that it wasn't nice of Tivo to downgrade the functionality of the units in the fashion they did, their primary focus is the folks the get money from, i.e. subscribers. If this guy wanted to do things on the cheap, he should accept the responsibility for his descision.

    If I buy a cell phone, it is next to useless without a service subscription of some sort. If I buy a wireline phone, it is a paperweight without a service plan from my local telco. My DSL does me no good if there's not a DSLAM at the other end of the line. We buy things that need subscriptions all the time. You should go into those purchases with your eyes wide open.

    This guy didn't.

  • If you're going to get the lifetime sub you'll save money buying a Replay.

    This comparison, of course, assumes that Replay will be staying in business and not changing their service for the next year or two. Based on their recent struggles and business changes, that wouldn't be a solid bet.

  • I'm sorry, I have absolutely no sympathy for you people. TiVo is an excellent product, and I would never think twice about "tipping" the creators $10/month for DAILY updates of time data, guide data for 15 days in the future, and the feature-rich menus that involve rather in-depth program searching, down to actors names. The software will even pick programs for you based on your likes and dislikes! What more could you ask from this?

    It is stated on every (at least Phillips) box with a large blue sticker that it "Requires subscription to the TiVo service" for full functionality. If you don't read the box, it's your own damn fault. It's like drinking weed killer because you didn't read the label to find out it was harmful to humans.

    This post, and the other anti-TiVo posts here are disgraceful. They do NOT have a "moral obligation to make the devices work for all customers". Not at all! They clearly state both on the box and in BOTH manuals that you need the TiVo service! It's like bitching that you bought a cable modem but can't use it because it didn't clearly state you needed to have cable modem service with it. You just can't separate some things. And as far as morals go, the dealers and manufacturers sell TiVos at a loss, only to be reimbursed later in advertising and subscription money that TiVo brings in.

    So the fact is, you can get TiVo without a subscription. It costs an extra $200 or so - just like the box SHOULD cost if the manufacturers were selling them with a standard mark-up. I have less than NO sympathy whatsoever for people that whine about this sort of thing. If you bitch about the money, you obviously have less than half a clue as to what goes into these things, and what it costs to keep them up-and-running with the full subset of features, not to mention the added features that are coming out every few months (like DirecTV dual tuners, coming summer 2000). Give it a rest.
  • As for the "can't justify spending $10 a month for program data that is free on the web and comes in the Sunday newspapers", I see once again evidence of idiocy. YOU PAY FOR THE NEWSPAPER. YOU PAY FOR WEB ACCESS. NOT FREE. Sure, these are certainly cheaper ways of getting that information - the Web access by virtue of you using it for many other things. But do either of them automatically integrate the program info with the tuner? Allow you to record by show title - not caring about the time and channel? Link the program descriptions with all your recordings so that you don't have to label everything? No. The $10 per month is for the value added service to that information - not the information itself. I certainly feel it is worth it, and have the lifetime subscription, so I have no monthly fee - I just have effectively paid as much for my TiVo as I would have for a Replay unit. Replay sucked.

    Don't worry, there will soon be many plain digital recorders that don't have a service, but are just like a manual VCR with a hard drive instead of video tape - probably some models with integrated tape for archiving. There will be a need for the sub $400 market using digital recording. There will likely be a price war with the subscription units which will almost be given away to keep customers from going with the non-subscription units.

    I'm also so sick of all the ragging on TiVo's $10/month by people not wanting to pay it who then went and bought Replay because it didn't have a monthly fee. These idiots don't realize that the extra they paid for the Replay could also have bought them the lifetime TiVo subscription.

  • This is nothing new. DirecTV has been sending down "updates" that kill unauthorized access cards for years now.

    HackHu ( is a good site for info on DirecTV "update" news.
  • I think my Grandma would agree that sacrificing a little book time to keep up with news about the technology that got me a job paying more than anyone else in my family at the age of twenty-two is a good thing. :)
  • Two points:
    • If you add $250 to your budget, you'll have a lifetime subscription and all of these issues will be moot.
    • TiVo generally has more features and is easier to use than Replay. If you browse the user forums for both devices, you'll see that Replay users ask for new features and changes much more than TiVo users do.
    I bought a 60-hour TiVo from Phillips, and although I did spend a lot ($750 including subscription), the device is amazing. The software works great, it has lots of features (2.0 is way better than 1.3 in my opinion), and it's totally changed the way I watch TV (for the better, obviously).
    Lord Nimon
  • by Ryu2 ( 89645 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:11PM (#170133) Homepage Journal
    that would give TiVO-like video recording functionality (live pause, etc.), using a commodity PC with fast HDs, and video in, but without being hobbled to a subscription service? Hmmm...
  • >
    they sold these things.

    Actually, Philips, Sony, and Hughes sell the hardware. TiVo sells the software (aka "the service".) Pay attention to the name of the product... "Philips Personal Video Recorder with TiVo Service" You own the hardware, but you do not own the software on the drive (or any of the content of MFS -- backgrounds, fonts, sounds, etc.) TiVo is well within their legal rights to do what ever they want to the software. Please keep in mind this nut left it plugged into the phone line calling into UUNet and thus costing TiVo money while paying nothing.

    Nonsense. I've seen the ads, I know how these things were sold. Who sold them, whether the manufacturer or Tivo, is besides the point. The point being that the customers bought them and the customers own them. Including the bits on the hard drive, subject to normal copyright law restrictions (I own the books on my shelf, I can't copy or resell them but they still belong to me, not the author or publisher.) Tivo has no more right than my 13 year old neighbor to alter them without permission. Those customers (the majority) who subscribe to the service will have given them consent, but customers who bought it for it's stand-alone abilities only have given no such consent. Leaving it plugged into the phone line might well be described as bad judgement - but it was behaviour encouraged by Tivo who made it at least seem that this was the only way to set the clock. Plugging the phone line in no more gave Tivo consent to crack his box than my plugging a line into my personal computer gives you consent to crack it. Anyway, if the expense of providing NTP service to non-subscribers was a concern, they could have simply chosen to only provide it to subscribers (and perhaps even point out the obscure method necessary to set the clock manually.)

    My point stands, this was a simple crack job, and if Tivo won't fix the mess they have made of other people's machines quickly and apologize for it profusely, they can and should find themselves facing both criminal charges and a class-action lawsuit.

    "That old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."
  • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @12:52AM (#170137) Homepage

    Excellent post. Should be modded up. Well, unless your bullshitting of course, I don't know enough to be sure but it doesn't look like you are to me. ;)

    Gotta say Tivo just lost a customer though. I had been thinking about buying one for awhile, had it budgeted for next month. But a bullshit move like this... *sigh*. I don't even care if it is possible to hack the thing back into shape. First off that probably wouldn't be true of one I bought next month, since it will probably come with the new "improved" software only, but more importantly, this is just a total disrespect of the customer and of basic concepts of fairness and decency, not to mention the law. They sold these things. They didn't lease them. Modifying the software like this... well it is illegal and immoral and a damn good sign this company is not one that I want to give any money. I hope they get sued. Better yet, criminal charges should be filed. Seriously. I believe there is a federal law in the US now that makes it a rather serious criminal offense to gain unauthorised access to a computer, and an additional offense to use that access to remove or obstruct capabilities/functions etc of that computer, interfering with its legitimate use... well it's late and I didn't phrase that well, and of course IANAL, but if I owned a Tivo I'd be talking to one. Sadly with our current legal regime in the US, suing them would be an uphill battle, so it probably won't happen unless one of the pissed off customers happens to be rich. Maybe a class action suit? I don't know... but this is definately wrong.

    Considering how great Tivo has been on some issues in the past, maybe they will reverse their error. Maybe we shouldn't all just suddenly decide they are evil because of one mistake. Ok not maybe, certainly. Mistakes are made, it's only human. The key will be how they respond in the next few days though. If they stand by this illegal cracking of boxes (it deserves emphasis) that they do NOT own against the owners wishes though, there is simply no excuse for that. On the other hand, maybe someone at Tivo with a little power will pull their head out of the orifice it's jammed in and we will see an apology. Maybe they will fix the damage their little cracking expedition has caused. If so, I urge the victims to forgive them. If not... I say crucify the bastards.

    "That old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."
  • by jacobito ( 95519 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:13PM (#170141) Homepage
    I'm responding to this post and to another below...

    First, it is untrue that using the Tivo without the service would only occur to the technically inclined. I think it has been made pretty obvious that the service entitles the user to program listings, and that the unit itself functions independently (or ought to).

    Second, I think it's disingenuous to assert that the poster was somehow leeching off of Tivo's network because he was using it to set his clock. If I understood the post correctly, that is the only way to set the clock; it cannot be set manually. If the clock cannot be set, then the device is useless -- its use is to allow for the time-shifting of television viewing, and for this a clock is needed.

    Finally, the 'lifetime' subscription ought to fill any consumer with skepticism. After paying that $200 for an already expensive consumer product, imagine the sting you will feel when Tivo invariably goes out of business, unable to sustain itself because it couldn't convince consumers to fork over $120 yearly for television listings.

  • Most clocks loose time after a while, even digital ones.. Alot of it had to do with temp. I remember on the secret life of machines (god I wish that show was still on) they put one digital watch in a microwave and another in a fridge and left them there for a few hours.. When they pulled them out they were about a min. apart.

    The time will drift.. it does on any computer. That's why things like NTP exsist.


  • except you can't really watch it on your TV easily.
  • Sounds like it would be a better idea to get hold of a GFX card with grabbar functions and write some good software for it.

    Besides, with digital TV/HDTV you really do want to get the original MPEG2 stream instead of decoding it once, and then encoded again when you record. Any set-top boxers/satellite recievers with firewire out? ^_^

    Hack your own future!
  • Taking snippets of law out of context rarely gives a useful result.

    You could just as easily argue that by letting his Tivo call up and get the upgrade, he was pirating the Tivo software.

  • by John Miles ( 108215 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:35PM (#170148) Homepage Journal
    Excellent. Reminds me of the Windows/Office XP registration bogosity, where you have to get permission from MSFT to continue running the software you (most likely) paid for if you ever upgrade your motherboard or hard drive, or if BillG just feels like making you say "Uncle."

    This momentous event has inspired me to coin a neologism (note 1) describing software or hardware products whose vendors exercise an inappropriate, unwarranted, and unsolicited degree of remote control over its post-purchase operation:


    Google doesn't find any occurrences of the term on either WWW or Usenet, so I hereby claim all proprietary IP rights to the word "tetherware" and all variants thereof on an exclusive worldwide basis.

    Happily, a license to propagate this meme is available for only $1 per use, payable via PayPal to []. Use of the term "tetherware," in public or private, without remittance of the license fee will result in the remote disabling of your personal communications apparatus via techniques previously employed by Vader et al., Imperial Business Software Alliance, c. 1977.

    I've even come up with a tres trendy slogan for my new invention:

    "Tetherware: Where do you want to be dragged kicking and screaming today?"

    (Note 1: If you don't know what a "neologism" is, see [] and choose the meaning that most clearly applies.)
  • IANAL, but:

    Looks like the word "protected" will let Tivo an easy way out.

    Indeed, the law makes clear distinction between "a computer" and "a protected computer". However what protected means here is unclear to me. It may be protected by this law or protected by user. The former qualifies, the latter may be argued (a rape can not be justified because the victim was too weak to defend herself.)

    why would he need to be connected to the phone at all?

    Because it's his unit and the user is free to plug it wherever he pleases, including even less obvious possibilities :-) If seriously, the cable might have been plugged to evaluate the service with possible intent to subscribe. Failure of a homeowner to install a better lock would be a very weak defense at the trial of a burglar.

  • My 3dfx (R.I.P.) TV Tuner software for my STB (Really R.I.P.) TV Tuner card has the ability to set up recordings, like a vcr or a Tivo. However, it can only record in .avi format. It appears to support the mpeg format, but lacks some sort of a plugin? In .avi format, I hit the 4 gig filesize limit under Windoze in about 15 minutes. So, does anyone know what I need to do to get it to record in .mpeg?

    Alternatively, does anyone know why this same TV Tuner won't work under Linux? On Mandrake 8, I just get the same channel it was playing last under Windows, and under Red Hat I don't get anything at all. With both I use XawTV.

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

  • It would be very hard to prove that there was actual intent to do harm.

    There was intent to compel the consumer to pay for a repair to their unit. That's damage.

    Also, the computer is explicitly not protected from Tivo.

    "Protected" is defined in the law. It just means "covered by the law", and that includes anything "involved in interstate commerce", which is interpreted broadly.

    They automatically have access to it if you hook up your phone cord.

    But they don't have authorized access if you didn't sign up for their service. That's the point here. And this is about a tangible product, not a service, so the notion of "license" isn't applicable. The ordinary UCC terms for sales apply. The seller can't forcibly take back part of the item sold.

    Any good prosecutor could build a strong case around this. They could argue that Tivo provided a free feature, setting the clock over the phone line, as a way to gain access to a secret backdoor into the consumer's property. This allowed Tivo to hack into their customer's paid-for products. Tivo then used this backdoor to implement an interstate extortion scheme affecting thousands of consumers.

    Just because a company does it doesn't mean it's legal.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:39PM (#170169) Homepage
    18 USC 1030 [], which criminalizes the transmission of computer viruses, includes the following:

    knowingly causes the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally causes damage without authorization, to a protected computer;

    There's a $5000 damage requirement, but you get to aggregate that over all the victims.

    And trying to use such an act to sell a service may be extortion.

    Note that in this case, the user did not agree to some shrink-wrap license which might be said to justify the act. He didn't subscribe to the service.

    Somebody with a TiVo and this problem should file a criminal complaint.

    And Tivo offering to fix the problem if you complain isn't a defense for this crime.

  • by GCP ( 122438 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:27PM (#170170)
    He had to connect to the phone to set the clock, because Tivo wouldn't let him manually set it. While connected to the phone, the unit called "home" in the middle of the night, and downloaded a new OS -- one that removed features that had existed previously, features that he had paid for.

    When he bought the product he made a choice to trade a certain amount of money for certain features. Tivo, after the fact, disabled some of those features. He didn't get to unilaterally retract some of the money he paid them after they delivered his Tivo, did he? Why should they be able to unilaterally retract features?

    "They're a business" is not an answer. Busineses don't get special treatment under contract law. They're just parties, like individuals are.

  • That just means that the life expectancy of the unit is, say, three years. At that point, either they drop support for the older hardware, or expect it to die a natural death, or expect everybody to have upgraded anyway. :-)
  • by yerricde ( 125198 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:38PM (#170180) Homepage Journal

    Heck, we could even get the listings from the net and provide those too. Reverse engineer the protocol and enable whatever features you want! ;).

    No. If you try to reverse engineer them but find out that the protocol is encrypted, you just violated the DMCA because you published your results on a site accessible to United States viewers. Sorry.

  • by Boone^ ( 151057 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:21PM (#170214)
    That $200 lifetime fee expired at the end of April, I believe. It's now $250.
  • by Cryptnotic ( 154382 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:45PM (#170225)
    Here are the facts:
    • TiVo is losing money. For last year they posted a 100 million dollar loss. Their income was only 3 million dollars.
    • TiVo PAYS Sony and RCA to manufacture the boxes. Yes, that's right. It's not the other way around. TiVo actually has to subsidize the cost of manufacturing the boxes.
    • The ONLY way that TiVo makes money is through its subscription service.
    Hopefully TiVo won't continue to make the boxes less and less functional, since they might soon be out of business.


  • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @04:18AM (#170230) Homepage Journal
    Blockquoth the poster:
    I ask you: Have you ever run a business? When running a business, is your priority the people who pay more, or the other people?
    Your obligation is to provide the service advertised for the price agreed upon.

    TiVo advertises these boxes as digital recorders. They say that subscription "enhances" -- not "enables" -- that functionality. Therefore, they imply that subscription is optional.

    They wrote code that, when used as intended, requires a dial-in, to keep the clock from drifting one minute per month. There might be other ways of avoiding that, but they don't give them and they don't support them. Therefore, they created a situation where non-subscribers would be forced to connect to their network.

    I'm tired of the rants that say, "You're not paying for the service so shut up." In the business world, you need to anticipate legacy costs. They should either have charged enough to cover for non-subscribers or should never have created a class of non-subscribers at all. They blew the call and now they're abusing their customers.

  • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @03:49AM (#170231) Homepage Journal
    Blockquoth the poster:
    Or is it because it allows you to engage in borderline legal activity (time-shifting) that you think that they are on "your side"?
    Um, what's exactly "borderline" about time-shifting? It is a result of the Betamax ruling and a now well-established part of copyright law. I guess being "only" 20 years old and supported in every case is not enough.

    Sheesh. How we can complain about people taking away our rights when we seem willing to abdicate them ourselves?

  • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @04:24AM (#170232) Homepage Journal
    Blockquoth the poster:
    Frankly, I consider the fact that the unit works at all without the service to be an unexpected bonus; the box was clearly designed and intended to be used with the service, and doing otherwise, it seems to me, is just asking for this kind of thing to happen over time.
    And if TiVo and retailers were honest, hey, that'd be OK. But the subscription is almost exclusively pitched as "optional", "enhancing" the TiVo experience. As such, a customer could quite easily assume that one could use the basic functionality of the TiVo without the service.

    From the ads I've seen, TiVo created that impression quite deliberately. As such, they should have factored the expected cost of non-subscribers into the cost of the machine. Also, through malice or incompetence, they apparently designed software that can set the clock (officially) only through a dial-in. Therefore they are automatically tying non-subscribers to their network and are obligated to support them, too.

    If TiVo doesn't want to deal with non-subscribers, then they should give a fix that allows core functionality of the machine (clock set, recording, etc.) without a connection. From then on, they can refuse all calls from non-subscribers justifiably and they can cease upgrading/fixing the software of non-subscribers.

    Until then, whatever legal immunities they might have, they have a moral obligation to make the devices work for all customers.

    The tie-in to service is why I hesitated from getting TiVo at all. I feel vindicated. You can be sure they will never get dollar one from me now.

  • by AntiNorm ( 155641 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @12:13AM (#170233)
    Besides, with digital TV/HDTV you really do want to get the original MPEG2 stream instead of decoding it once, and then encoded again when you record. Any set-top boxers/satellite recievers with firewire out?

    Unfortunately, the reason why you won't find any set-top boxes/receivers/etc. with Firewire output is because of our good friends at the MPAA. They won't allow it -- unencrypted digital video signals are their enemy because they "encourage piracy."

  • by IronChef ( 164482 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:27PM (#170235)

    Problem is, that doesn't do any good for a normal non-geek. The issue is that Tivo is breaking something that people bought after purchase. What about the technophobes of the world? Their big breakthrough this year was understanding what a digital recorder can do for them -- can't expect them to get right into hacking!

    I was sort of on the fence between ReplayTV and Tivo a while ago. I chose Replay eventually, partially because there was no monthly fee. I am even more glad I did now.

    Too bad RTV is out of the hardware market now... I think all you can get right now with their tech inside is the Panasonic ShowStopper. It's a poorly designed device... it will block the *display* of any Macrovision-encoded program. Not just the recording -- the display. Forget about viewing your DVDs with the Panasonic as a pass-through device... and apparently some cable TV signals fool the Macrovision circuit, and it will black out normal programming on occasion.

    Panasonic has been called to task on this but they won't back down. There are a lot of angry users out there.

    The Psi Corp can have my ReplayTV model 3030 when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers! Best $300 I ever spent. My first unit was DOA (classic RTV quality control) but the replacement is flawless. Too bad you can't get them anymore. I wouldn't eBay for one either, the QC is poor any you sadly need that factory warranty.
  • by ddent ( 166525 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:09PM (#170238) Homepage
    How hard do you all think it would be to emulate their servers? Intercepting the phone call would be dead easy. Heck, we could even get the listings from the net and provide those too. Reverse engineer the protocol and enable whatever features you want! ;).
  • by SubtleNuance ( 184325 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @05:49AM (#170254) Journal
    but he also agreed to subscribe to the Tivo service.

    Um no he didnt. The article, and many responses clearly state that the TiVo advertisied the service as optional. He signed nothing when he exchanged money for the cardboard box containing his PVR. If he had signed a contract - like you do when you sign up for phone service and receive a 'free' or 'discounted' cell phone (ex $29 per month * 3 years = free phone).

    You are off base here - he most certainly did *NOT* agree to pay for the service. They have broken the unit he paid for. Like the other poster described, X,Y,Z Features for $MMM. Simple. I hope someone sues/charges these people - this is extortion... and yet another example of corporate hubris.

    Tivo is fully justified in taking away any feature they want: YOU have broken the contract, not them.Completely wrong.

    Now, you might not think that's a good way to do business,

    X,Y,Z Features for $MMM. They offered. He accepted. He is not responsible to their ongoing concerns.

    but consider that Tivo doesn't make a single dime from the unit sales,

    X,Y,Z Features for $MMM. They offered. He accepted. He is not responsible to their ongoing concerns.

    their model is entirely software/service driven.

    X,Y,Z Features for $MMM. They offered. He accepted. He is not responsible to their ongoing concerns.

    Therefore, I think it's completely fine for them to disable their software for people who violate the service contract they agreed to when purchasing the unit.

    They have broken his unit. He did not agree to any contract. TiVo should be charged criminally for vandalism, extortion, bait-and-switch, false advertising, contract violation, etc etc.

    You don't like it? Fine, buy the Philips or Sony unit and write all the PVR functionality yourself.

    Why? Again, the citizen::business relationship: X,Y,Z Features in some thing for $MMM. They offered. He accepted. He is not responsible to their ongoing concerns.

    don't buy the unit if you don't agree to the terms.

    .... need me to repeat the way this works - again?

    Did you read the article? You really couldnt be *more* 'off-base'.

  • by phr1 ( 211689 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @12:16AM (#170265)
    I really don't have much sympathy -- even if you don't want to pay for the guide data, plugging the thing into the wall to use Tivo's dialup to access Tivo's network to sync to Tivo's NTP servers means you're using their service and therefore are going to get the upgrades and other such things, and rightly so.
    That's like saying if you look at Microsoft's web site to check the latest security alerts, you're using their service so they have the right to "upgrade" your operating system. Things aren't that bad yet!
  • by b1t r0t ( 216468 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @07:22AM (#170274)
    Second of all, how did he get the updated software, unless he was dialing in to TiVo? If he really wanted to use the box without TiVo service, why was he dialing in with the modem? If he was happy with his boat-anchor mode 1.3 box, why not just yank the modem cable out of the back? Why? Because he wanted the clock set by TiVo, so, he basically wanted to dial-in to their service for free.

    RTFL. Or at least RTFL more carefully. He didn't have it dial in because he was too lazy to set the clock himself. He had it dial in because he couldn't set the clock himself. TiVo doesn't let you set the clock on your own. You have to dial in! If it weren't for this one little camel's nose under the edge of the tent, he wouldn't have had it dial in.

    At this point, I'm glad I never got around to getting one of these things. This, plus the other thing I've heard they've tried (putting a commercial on the screen during pause) shows that they care more about money than their customers.

    I'll wait for a more "open" solution.

  • by koreth ( 409849 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:27PM (#170312)
    At least one of the complaints this guy has is in fact due to an improvement in the new software; the one-touch record now includes as much of the beginning of the show as exists in its rewind buffer. No program guide equals no way for the unit to know when the current show started.

    Now you could maybe argue that TiVo's engineers should have accounted for that case and fallen back to the old behavior so as to not break their legacy non-subscriber users. But you know, as someone who wants his TiVo service to keep running as long as possible, I can't work up all that much enthusiasm for the idea of TiVo spending engineering and QA resources supporting customers who're costing them money (they were losing money on every unit sold for a while, maybe still are, and making it back in subscription fees).

    Then again, the idea of using a TiVo without the program guide is strange to me to begin with, so clearly I just don't get it. The guide is one of the nicest things about the unit; I have stopped knowing or caring exactly when most of the shows I watch are downloaded to its disk, and network schedule shuffling doesn't mess me up unless it's so last-minute that the listing service doesn't get notified. If you want to manually set your record timers, a VCR is cheaper.

    Frankly, I consider the fact that the unit works at all without the service to be an unexpected bonus; the box was clearly designed and intended to be used with the service, and doing otherwise, it seems to me, is just asking for this kind of thing to happen over time.

  • by GreyPoopon ( 411036 ) <gpoopon@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday June 07, 2001 @12:45AM (#170315)
    In our next release we are reinstating the use of the record button (the only thing that changed between 1.3 and 2.0.1 for customers who bought units that shipped with software prior to 2.0. We did not really mean to change that functionality. We do apologize for the inconvenience this caused for the time it takes to get the new software out.

    So I guess it was ok for them to make the "Now playing list" display without record times? And having the "please subscribe now" message suddenly start showing up EVERY TIME YOU CHANGE THE FRIGGIN CHANNEL is ok too?

    In 2.5, with no service, on boxes that were purchased with a software release prior to 2.0, pressing the record button will record for 30 minutes, and then stop. Nothing else should change in the no-service-state."

    I don't know how the one-touch record button functioned under version 1.3 without the subscription service, but if it wasn't limited to 30 minutes, they have no business limiting it on version 2.5. This statement sounds very suspiciously like they intentionally disabled the record button, and based on the uproar they got in response, have decided to "graciously" reenable it with limited functionality so they won't read about themselves on the front page of some newspaper.

    Car company "X" would like to thank you for your business. We've just upgraded the operating system in your car's onboard computer. Here are the changes we have made:

    • Slight improvement in fuel effeciency based on new algorithms.
    • Bug fix in GPS system
    • For owners who did not subscribe to our warranty service, there will now be a twenty second advertisement before the vehicle will start.
    • Also for owners who did not subscribe to our warranty service, Reverse will only work for ten seconds at a time.


"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972