Tasking Your TiVo

From Issue #10
-Submitted by TechLiving

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Create a virtual movie library

Today, while many own a TiVo™, few have harnessed the true power it holds. For instance, that black box (or at least the one with the TiVo logo on it) can actually act as a virtual movie library. That means you no longer have to retain your movies in hard-copy form, by downloading them to an iTunes-like database.

While the concept of this is somewhat glaring, it's really one of those things that are so obvious we often overlook it. And even though the newly released weaKnees drive upgrade kit makes this project much easier, it was indeed possible without it.

Step 1: Purchasing Parts

Before you begin, you're going to need a few parts. First on the list is weaKnees single 250GB drive upgrade kit. This is what will give you the extra space to store your movie collection. Because each DVD is roughly 4GB in size, your current drive isn't going to cut it -- unless of course, you're only looking to store about 20 movies.

You're also going to need a DVD player. It doesn't matter which one, just as long as it has an S-Video output. Also pick up a Monster High Resolution S-Video cable as well; it will allow for the best possible quality recording.

If the majority of your movie collection is on VHS, you need a VCR and an A/V cable. Keep in mind, however, VHS recording will be of significantly lower quality.

Step 2: Hard Drive Upgrade

The upgrade kit isn't difficult, but the weaKnees installation guide does a great job walking you through, complete with illustrations.

While I found the installation to be rather simple and straightforward, some may not find the same. For the reason I recommend spending 80 bucks and have weaKnees perform the upgrade for you -- springing for their Deluxe Upgrade Service. Within one business day, you can have your TiVo back before your spouse even notices.

If you think you've got what it takes, surf over to www.upgrade-instructions.com, follow the prompts and browse through your model specific guide. It's important to note that tearing through your TiVo box also voids the warranty. No big deal; chances are it's already up in the first place. However, it will have no effect on your lifetime or monthly service, seeing as your serial number is imbedded in your motherboard, not your hard drive.

Step 3: Connect DVD or VCR

For a DVD: Using the Monster High Resolution S-Video Cable, connect one end of the line to the S-Video port in the rear of the DVD player. Then connect the other side of the cable to the S-Video port in back of the TiVo. On most models, you'll find two S-video ports. Connect the cable to the one farthest from the RF IN and RF OUT cable ports.

For a VCR: Using the audio/video cable, connect one end of the red, white and yellow cables to your VCR; the other end should go on the red, white and yellow ports on the back of TiVo. Out of the three sets of A/V ports on TiVo, use the middle set.

Then, rerun the guided setup (go to Messages & Setup, Restart or Reset System, then Repeat Guided Setup), and program TiVo to have two sources: cable and satellite. Go through the satellite channels you receive on TiVo (note: these "satellite channels" will be the channels you receive from cable) and eliminate all but one channel. Channel 100 is often an ideal choice.

Step 4: Gather & Record

With everything just about ready, dive into your movie collection of sparkling (and some not-so-sparkling) DVDs and maybe some VHS tapes as well.

Before you can begin recording, you must put a few settings in order. First, set up a manual Record by Channel/Time for the length of the movie on the channel you have setup for the DVD player or VCR (your going to need to change this for each movie).

Next, change the recording quality to best (go to Messages & Setup, Settings, Recording, then Recording Quality). Repeat these steps and set the recording quality back to your previous setting after recording your DVD and/or VHS tapes to save hard drive space. The quality when recorded at Best is almost, but not quite as good as a DVD. So your end quality won't be exactly the same as it would be if you were to be playing the movie straight off the DVD, but nonetheless, the quality will be substantial. Really the only disadvantage to this method is that the recording will be named whatever was on that channel. For example, if your channel is named PPV Previews, all of your TiVo recorded DVDs and VHS tapes will be named as such. The only varying information between movies will be the length and record date. However, there is a way to get around this.

Assuming your TiVo is networked within your home network or connected to your computer -- as with the newly released TiVo Desktop 2.2 (for PC only) -- you can access the recorded files (in this case, movies) stored on TiVo and rename them as you wish.

If you play your cards right and move quickly, chances are you'll have 50 movies transferred within a weekend. I'd suggest setting your watch or a timer for the duration of each movie, so you don't forget to swap the disc. It may be long and tedious, but in the end it will be worth it knowing you'll never have to look for your favorite movie ever again.


Project Snapshot

Difficulty Rating: 3
[1=Child's Play, 2=Use Both Hands, 3=Call for Backup!, 4=Obi-Wan Worthy]
Estimated Time to Complete: 1 weekend
Estimated Cost: $300

The Problem
Your DVD collection is in disarray. A virtual movie library provides the ultimate in organization and convenience.

Parts Needed
The weaKnees single 250GB drive upgrade kit ($259), a DVD player with S-video output ($50 on average), Monster Cable's Super Video 2 High Resolution S-Video Cable ($14.99), an audio/video cable ($15), a VCR with A/V inputs (only if you have movies on VHS), a Phillips-head screwdriver.

Project Steps

  1. Purchase needed parts.
  2. Install the drive upgrade kit.
  3. Connect your DVD or VCR.
  4. Assemble your movie collection.
  5. Record your movies to the TiVo.

Bonus Info

The Right Stuff
Trying to find your TiVo's software version? Go to the main menu (TiVo Central), select Messages & Setup, Account & System Information, System Information, and then Software Version. The software version is the first two numbers shown

Plenty of Storage
If you own one of the newer TiVo models, you can replace your existing drive with as much as two 400GB -- that's up to 900 hours of storage!

Need to Know
Your Guide: Logan Kugler
Age: 16
Shocking Revelation: I own two incorporated companies.

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