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Hardware Hacking Media Software Television Linux

Peter Seebach Pokes Around His TiVo 145

Posted by timothy
from the loosely-connected-scripts dept.
Warrior points out Peter Seebach's look into his Series 2 TiVo, writing "There are a lot of sites about 'hacking' the TiVo, to do this to it and that to it (and there's always the other thing too). After all, half the fun of owning something that runs Linux is to make it do something more (or different) than it was intended to do. But most of us only need so many Web servers (off the top of my head, I think I have 10 or 15 Web servers in my house already, including the embedded systems)."
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Peter Seebach Pokes Around His TiVo

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  • Until someone senior at IBM notices and has it pulled down. Interesting to see some of the people at IBM as real people though with a real interest in what they do.
    • by jhoger (519683) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @06:51PM (#12998659) Homepage
      The article's scope is clearly, purposefully limited to poking around the filesystem. No DMCA or other copyright issues involved. If anything, trade secret, but it's hard to argue using an Apple filesystem is a reasonable step towards protecting a secret.

      Anyway, I'd be surprised if IBM legal hadn't already given the article the green light.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Except that this guy doesnt actually work for IBM.
      He's just an ordinary geek I'm afraid.
    • For the record, as the article says, I'm a freelancer, not an IBM employee.

      That said, the editorial process at dW is not trivial or careless, and I'm pretty sure IBM will keep the article as is.
  • Numbers (Score:5, Funny)

    by Metteyya (790458) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @06:44PM (#12998610)
    10-15 webservers? Wow! We, Slashdotters, have been asking "does it run Linux" for a loong time and now we have it.
    And now excuse me, I have to cross-compile apache for my wrist watch.
    • Re:Numbers (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Obviously the next step is to run a web server on a web server. Wouldn't that be cool?
      • Re:Numbers (Score:3, Funny)

        by gildesh (799552)
        sadly... I once wrote a webserver in PHP didn't run for very long, the php apache module killed it after 30 seconds, but those were the most glorious 30 seconds ever
  • ...TiVo pokes around Peter Seebach?
  • by Em Ellel (523581) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @06:52PM (#12998666)
    Unlike most linux appliance devices, there is aactually a LOT of usefull things that can be done by rinning a web server on Tivo - like remote scheduling/control of the device for one.

    -Em
    • Like Tivo Web [fp2000.org]?

      Brett
    • by Osty (16825) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:05PM (#12998741)

      Unlike most linux appliance devices, there is aactually a LOT of usefull things that can be done by rinning a web server on Tivo - like remote scheduling/control of the device for one.

      Right, because Tivo doesn't already have that [tivo.com] (caveat: requires a Series 2 Tivo that's been upgraded with the now-free HME software, which you should already have from standard updates unless you've specifically hacked your Tivo not to update). You can also watch recordings in multiple rooms [tivo.com] (requires a second Tivo, of course), view [tivo.com] photos and listen [tivo.com] to music, transfer [tivo.com] your recordings to your PCs (caveat: with DRM, but what did you expect?), and develop [sourceforge.net] new applets.

      Tivo has been very good about embracing the hacking community (to the extent that they link to external forums from tivo.com that cover hacking), and have stepped up with official, free support for many of the features people were hacking for previously (the previously mentioned remote scheduling, photos, music, multi-room viewing, and PC transfers). They've also provided a nice SDK so you can easily write new Tivo apps using Java. With all of that, I simply don't see any need to hack a Tivo any more aside from increasing drive space (not that hacking will stop, nor should it -- that's where the innovation starts).

      • by mr_zorg (259994) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:26PM (#12998874)
        Yes, *BUT* if you're one of those people with a DirecTiVo, you don't get any of those spiffy things. DirecTV won't allow it. But I really like the integration such units offer -- you just can't match it with a standalone unit. So, hacking becomes a way to GET those features on your DirecTiVo...
        • Yes, *BUT* if you're one of those people with a DirecTiVo, you don't get any of those spiffy things. DirecTV won't allow it. But I really like the integration such units offer -- you just can't match it with a standalone unit. So, hacking becomes a way to GET those features on your DirecTiVo...

          Not being a DirecTV subscriber, I often forget that they have Tivo-based units. It's sad that DirecTV and Tivo can't work better together to provide HMO for DirecTV customers as well as stand-alone customers. I

        • Well put. Moreover, isn't one of the driving purposes of hacking to do something that hasn't been done just to see if you can do it? It's not as if running a webserver from your NES (which has been done and posted about here on /.) is "needed" -- it's more about the experience.
        • So do it yourself... (Score:4, Informative)

          by BLKMGK (34057) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (em4knujerom)> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @10:07PM (#12999662) Homepage Journal
          Seriously, the biggest feature I wanted from the SA TIVO was Folders for recorded shows - only on the SA models. I had two fairly slow but decent 120Gig drives in my unit and listing recorded shows took an eternity - it sucked. I had also used a method of modding the software that was no longer "supported" and in fact the developer had been driven out of the community. Asking for help from the guys who had driven the guy out was pretty useless. Well, one of the drives toasted somehow so...

          Okay, starting from scratch I did some research and learned that the 4.x software that has folders and HMO works FINE on the DTIVOS! I also wanted a better drive so I popped for a 250+Gig drive with 16meg of cache. Problem - LBA48 kernel needed. Yup, you can get a kernel that does this too - even purchase a CD to do it from a vendor (and the 4.x image too!).

          Bottom line - my TIVO runs the SA software, works fine, is FAST, has folders, has a standard interface to setup the supported USB NIC (okay, I upgraded to better drivers), doesn't encrypt my shows, and I can do extraction.

          Honestly? I SUCK at Linux but there's enough info out there that mortals can do this if you're halfway technical. I did lose the shows I'd already recorded and I would advise not reusing the original drive but overall it's doable obviously if I can do it. I purchased my images and the tools to support the vendor, I asked questions when I needed to on DealDatabase, and in general just muddled my way through.

          Now I just want to get TIVO2GO! on my DTIVO box, not yet sure how I'll do that - slices? Folks are reversing the TIVO2GO! protocol and the encryption on that has also been whacked so that might be a "significant other" friendly way of doing extraction... All in all I really like my DTIVO and it's got higher quality recordings than the SA boxes to boot .
          • Folders for recorded shows became available for DirecTV TiVo units a few months ago, when the big software upgrade happened. It's a really useful feature.

            But yeah, there's a lot of useful things that DirecTV doesn't support, and definitely won't ever support, seeing as how they are dropping TiVo in favor of their own DVR technology.
            • LOL, a disadvantage of not allowing them to upgrade me I suppose! What version are they up to now? USB ports still unused? Folders was pretty badly needed for sure. I see the SA boxes up to like V7 of the software with TIVO2GO! on it but other than that no real attraction for me. Appreciate the info on the folders, about time they caught up (lol). Maybe I'll put my old drive in and update it to see what the new software looks like :-)
        • Yes, *BUT* if you're one of those people with a DirecTiVo, you don't get any of those spiffy things. DirecTV won't allow it.

          [Follow these links, they'll tell you more than enough to get the job done.]

          Nonsense [pvrblog.com]. If you don't want to do it yourself [homeip.net] from scratch PTVUpgrade [ptvupgrade.com] will do it for you [ptvupgrade.com] or sell you a kit [ptvupgrade.com].

          (Just a happy PTVUpgrade customer... I just wish they'd offer the same product/service for normal Series 2 units).

      • Right, because Tivo doesn't already have that

        You're forgetting about the DirecTV DVRs, which run Tivo software but do not have (official) HMO support. There is no Tivo.com web scheduling for them, the only option is a built-in web server.
      • anyone know? I know with tivo2go you can make dvds and transfer video and what not, but are they doing annoying stuff like encoding macrovision on it and what not?
      • Right, because Tivo doesn't already have that (caveat: requires a Series 2 Tivo that's been upgraded with the now-free HME software, which you should already have from standard updates unless you've specifically hacked your Tivo not to update). You can also watch recordings in multiple rooms (requires a second Tivo, of course), view photos and listen to music, transfer your recordings to your PCs (caveat: with DRM, but what did you expect?), and develop new applets.

        I have three Tivo systems, including t

        • All that said, I wouldn't dream of suggesting that Tivo Central Online and Tivo2Go come close to approximating the power of TivoWeb or the like. Tivo Online, for instance, has two fatal flaws:

          1. It doesn't show you your current recording schedule
          2. Recording are scheduled the next time your Tivo updates

          As far as I'm concerned, those two flaws make the entire feature useless. The only time I would want remote scheduling is when I'm away from the Tivo (meaning I need some way of knowing what is scheduled) and

    • Actually, you make a good point; there's a distinction between running a web server so you can have a page that says "this web server is running on my toaster" and actually integrating it with the rest of the software -- but I think the TiVo people already solved THAT problem.
  • by linuxtavern (897805) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @06:53PM (#12998674) Homepage
    While this isn't information that wasn't already known about the Tivo, the way he presented it is very interesting. Documenting the process of how he figured out the drive map and how to read the drive is invaluable.
    Teach someone how to fish...
  • Who knows how to leave the HD connected to the TiVo for recording, but also simultaneously connected to a regular Linux box that can mount the HD "ro"? Without changing any of the SW running on the TiVo?
    • Well, if you were really dedicated, just hack an IDE cable to allow you to plug it into both controllers. Oh, and only have one machine on at the same time. This is a very silly question.
      • No, it's just a silly answer. Why bother, if you don't have the wizardry, just the keystrokes?
        • Re:Dual-Mount (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bonehead (6382)
          Yes, it is a silly question, for the simple fact that you eliminated the only possible answer within the question itself.

          You can't have an IDE hard drive connected simultaneously to two controllers, so the only possible way to accomplish what you're asking is to use some variety of networked file system.

          This, of course, requires making software changes on the TiVo, which you apparently can't be bothered to do.
          • Well, "bonehead", it's hard, but only a quitter says it's "impossible". You can't even be bothered to RTFA. If you RTFA, you'd see that the SW can't be changed, according to the author. Or at least that looks cryptographically hard, which is harder than an electronic hack. So just stay out of the way - what possible good can you do with your defeatism?
            • The software can be changed easily. The author is wrong.

              There's one model that I know of (the R10, sold by DTV) that requires one chip to be reflashed, but every other TiVo out there can be modified pretty easily. The security measures that he mentioned are there, but bypassing them borders on trivial.
            • Doc Ruby: take foot, insert in mouth. Bonehead here is one of the early hackers of TiVo, he's been on the scene since 2000. He does know what he's talking about. Circumventing the protection measures on the series 2 is easy.

              As for defeatism - it's you who displays such, not him.
              • Yes, bonehead was finally able to authoritatively state that the author of TFA is wrong, that bonehead has NFSd running on it. Which makes dual-mounting the IDE unnecessary. And makes bonehead a qualified TiVo hacker, which I accept - as well as their correction of the article's author. It does not make bonehead a qualified IDE hacker. Therefore, bonehead's statements that the IDE hacks aren't possible are not the final word. The final word is either from an IDE authority, or the "eureka!" from a real hacke
                • Defeatism, as in your stating that it's impossible to modify the tivo software because the author of the article said so?

                  Have some more foot, please. :)
                  • I accepted their authority until someone pointed out that they had it running. Then I immediately accepted that it was possible, without even asking for citations of other backup. That's not defeatism, that's "hope" and "confidence" in a solution. You know what else you can do with your foot.
        • I'm unsure how to even parse your response. You can't have one drive simultaneously connected to two active controllers. The only way, as I said, would be to hack a cable, and only have one controller active at a time. I'm not sure why that would be silly or in any way confusing.

          If you don't believe me, then read the ATA spec, think about what would happen when two controllers try sending commands over the same bus. Nothing good or predictable (save "not working") The drive and both controllers would
          • No, my question is born out of a dedication to hacking. I'm willing to accept that no one who read my question knows how to put two controllers on one IDE. Or even that no one knows how to do it. But hacking is all about making systems do things not in the spec, even prohibited by the spec. Hacking is an attitude of indomitability, of the superiority of "I can" over "you can't" or (usually) "huh?". Sadly, this thread is an unscientific demonstration of the preeminence of script kiddery, over hackerdom, in t
    • Re:Dual-Mount (Score:4, Informative)

      by FueledByRamen (581784) <sabretooth@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:14PM (#12998793)
      Disclaimer: I don't know much about the software layout of a Tivo.

      Since it's based on Linux, you can grab a copy of IBM's iSCSI target reference implementation from the web, and point it at the drive. Access the iSCSI target 'ro' on any other suitable machine.

      Or you could use NBD, but that might require a kernel module. The iSCSI target runs entirely in userland.

      Both of these, though, involve installing more software on the Tivo. Without some really weird hardware sitting between the drive and the Tivo's motherboard, that's the best you're going to get.
    • I imagine you'd have to cons up some sort of dual-port disk controller. Should be transparent to the TiVo, so no s/w changes.
    • You need something like http://www.i-tech.com/Products/IDE.php [i-tech.com] There is more to it then just mounting something ro, not least because multi-controller single-drive is just not the way ata works. You might be able to hack up a specific driver for a drive controller to work the same way as that product entirely passively, but I have my doubts.
      • The trick is to multiplex the IDE bus commands/data from the two controllers to the single drive, so they don't collide. Seems really hard, unless IDE has a "wait" signal to the controller, causing it to queue requests.
        • No, there's way more to it than that. You also have to make the multiplexing invisible to both of the host systems.

          Essentially, you'd need a piece of hardware that can emulate two separate IDE drives on one side, while consolodating those commands onto a single drive. And you need to manage to keep that drive from being corrupted by this scenario.

          Then, you also need HUGE amounts of buffer space to capture the TiVo's writes, not a single byte of which can be missed. Also, some pretty sophisticated predi
          • The article says it's too hard to hack the TiVo SW. Maybe it's too hard to hack a "dual IDE", or maybe there is a "wait" signal - I haven't seen anyone say there isn't, yet. I don't know, that's why I asked. I'm willing to wait for another hacker, or a definitive "no", rather than just a chorus of "I don't know, so no one does".
            • The article says it's too hard to hack the TiVo SW.

              Well, then the article is wrong, depending on your definition of "hacking the TiVo software".

              Yes, changing the function of the binaries is pretty much limited to some simple patches to enable or disable built in features.

              If you define "the TiVo software" as the entire system, though, there's a lot that can be done relatively simply. Simple, easy things like, for example, adding a fucking NFS daemon!

              What you're proposing is, technically, probably with
              • Here's the response I composed, too quickly for Slashdot to allow me to post it, before you started attacking me. I meant it then, but now I'm not so thankful - or curious about what you do.

                ---

                Well, I like that better. Thanks for the insight - too bad we had to butt heads over "tractability" so long, before we got what we're after.

                What stops you from emailing TiVo'd TV shows to your friends (other than copyright)?
                • What stops you from emailing TiVo'd TV shows to your friends (other than copyright)?

                  Honestly? Copyright I don't worry about so much, in a case like that. Sure, it's technically illegal, but from a practical standpoint it's more like taping it on the VCR and dropping the tape off to them. I don't have any big moral dilemma about recording a show and letting a friend watch it.

                  As for emailing it to them? It's just not practical. The only e-mail account that I know of that allows attachments that size i
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @06:59PM (#12998705)
    "But most of us only need so many Web servers (off the top of my head, I think I have 10 or 15 Web servers in my house already, including the embedded systems)." ...Not anymore you don't.
  • Linky (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hachey (809077) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:12PM (#12998777)
    Enjoy! [digitalinsurrection.com]


    --
    Check out the Uncyclopedia.org [uncyclopedia.org]:
    The only wiki source for politically incorrect non-information about things like Kitten Huffing [uncyclopedia.org] and Pong! the Movie [uncyclopedia.org]!
  • Nice sweet poke-around in a tivo, of course now I want play with one too ;)
  • ...would it be possible to apply these same "hacking" techniques to open source TiVo solutions like Freevo?
    • If you're wondering what filesystem your Freevo box is running, what it does on boot, or what all those nifty files in the bin directory do, you probably shouldn't be running it.
  • The TiVo survived (Score:5, Informative)

    by rigorist (176416) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:25PM (#12998864) Homepage
    I am happy to report that the TiVo seebs hacked on is working just fine as a plain and ordinary DVR. It came up just fine after I reattached the hard disk cable that seebs had forgotten to reattach (although he did put all the old screws back in).

    It's replaying today's stage of the Tour right now.
    • Was there really any question about that? From what I read in the article, he didn't even change any files. No reason it shouldn't be working.

      The only thing that would have been likely to hose it up, given that he made to changes, would be if he had booted into WinXP with the disk attached to the system.
  • by Symb (182813)
    Been done. He didn't analyze anything, just recorded his experience (the screenplay of which was scripted by the giants whose shoulder he stands on). The fact of the matter is proprietary and defensive hardware prevents you from exerting your OSS/GNU/HaXHiPPie powers. So buy it for what it's worth and use your time meaningfully OR hack to your hearts content with a freevo or equiv.

    The point still stands that Tivo is understandable by the majority of significant others out there. I got my wife a tivo. She l
    • Been done.

      Sure has. If only he'd posted this back in May of 2000 when these things weren't already common knowledge. Coulda saved me and a couple other guys quite a bit of time back then.

    • ... use your time meaningfully...

      Your homework assignment is to compare/contrast your statement with the following statement made by the author:

      off the top of my head, I think I have 10 or 15 Web servers in my house already, including the embedded systems

      Bonus points for using the phrase "lost cause."

  • Interesting article, if only, but not limited to, seeing the quote in context...
    a little bit of this... a little bit of that... and don't forget the other!
    :)
  • by Pollardito (781263) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:06PM (#12999067)
    After all, half the fun of owning something that runs Linux is to make it do something more (or different) than it was intended to do.
    just like half the fun of owning something that runs windows is to make it do something that it was intended to do
    • just like half the fun of owning something that runs windows is to make it do something that it was intended to do

      So windows was intended to actually DO something? Interesting, we must research what windows actually does. Though I suspect the results will be inconclusive.

  • Dealdatabase.com (Score:5, Informative)

    by BLKMGK (34057) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (em4knujerom)> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:08PM (#12999079) Homepage Journal
    Forget the AV and TIVO supported forums if you want to REALLY delve into a TIVO. They will freak out if you mention video extraction and you're likely to be banned before getting nay answer. Instead head for http://www.dealdatabase.com/forum/ [dealdatabase.com] and get into the GUTS. Warning, they eat their young over there so do some research before daring to post. Also grit your teeth as more senior members are designated as "gods" by some of the more irritating.

    That said - my S2 DTIVO is now running a 250+Gig HD, has a USB2 NIC attached, has encryption disabled, allows me to EASILY archive shows using MFSFTP (Etivo is looking interesting), and I'm running 4.x software that was designated for the SA versions of the TIVO but has features I wanted (folders!). I learned all about how to do that on DealDatabase and by doing research on the tools I heard about there. I honestly still am no "pro" with a TIVO but I've learned enough to make my TIVO more useful and that of a few others too. While that forum may be a bit hostile for the uninitiated it's about the best going for serious TIVO stuff and they won't ban you for daring to utter "extraction"!
    • Sadly, in finally getting completely through the article I see Dealdatabase mentioned as a resource. Doh!

      Honestly though, I'm also hacking a Linux based Linkstation, one of the things I run into is "what now" and "why?". On the TIVO I'm not sure what else I'll add or "why" I'll add it. I can get to the shows, with some work I can supposedly insert shows (why, I have a LinkTheater too!), I can maybe get it to play MP3s but again - why?

      Some might want to put a WEB server on it and yeah I have that but not m
  • In Soviet Russia, TIVO pokes you!

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