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Television United Kingdom Entertainment Hardware

TiVo To Brick All Remaining UK PVRs On June 1 286

Posted by timothy
from the you-get-to-keep-the-remote-though dept.
handelaar writes "Perhaps in order to 'encourage' existing users of UK Tivo units to change their TV service to Virgin Media, pay £149 for a new 'Virgin TiVo' that they won't actually own, plus £34.50 per month in service charges, Tivo is to cancel all EPG data service to all the Tivos still in use in the country — and existing units will become basically nonfunctional at that time. The faithful aren't amused, having stuck by the company for several years, and mostly paying £120 per annum for service until now. 50% of UK residents aren't able to avail of this generous upgrade offer even if they want to — the cable company in question only covers about half the country."
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TiVo To Brick All Remaining UK PVRs On June 1

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    tivo must not like having customers

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @07:37AM (#35219532) Journal
      TiVo likes having customers, but they've changed their mind as to who their customers are. They no longer focus on direct sales. Instead, they sell boxes to cable and satellite companies, who rebadge them and sell them on. This cuts their supply chain overhead and guarantees large number of sales, so it's more profitable.
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Given that their UK customer base is microscopic, perhaps they do. They're positioning the Virgin movie as the official UK launch of TiVo, a product which actually hit the shelves about half a decade ago. That should give you some indication of the number of subscribers they have.

  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:23AM (#35219228)

    It might cost more up front, but in the long run it's much cheaper, and you get to control the recordings.

    Although the BBC has been applying to be able to encrypt it's EPG data for HD channels - there was a large fuss made about it at the time but I've heard nothing since, so I presume they are sneaking it in the back door quietly.

    • by Malc (1751)

      Seeing as everything from the Beeb is on iPlayer, why bother?

      I've been VCR/PVR freee for a few years now, and I really don't miss it. Catch-up TV via my PS3 (or now Freesat box) has been good enough. Sure, some of the features and video quality are missing, but then I guess I'm just not bothered enough by TV.

      I got my first Tivo about 2001 when I was living in Canada. Tivo weren't offering service in Canada at the time, with some BS excuse about having to translate everything in to French and that being t

      • by N Monkey (313423)

        Seeing as everything from the Beeb is on iPlayer, why bother?

        AFAICS, this was in reference to the Freeview HD broadcasts where the BBC will also transmit quite a lot of content from non-Beeb sources.

        I don't think external content tends to appear on iPlayer for very long (if at all) and, correct me if I'm wrong, not typically at HD resolution.

        • by Malc (1751)

          The bitrate of the iPlayer content isn't sufficient for SD resolution, so the HD resolution issue is rather moot. I watch it all at 1080p anyway :) Then again, my partner doesn't notice the artefacts and macro-blocking, and she isn't bothered when it degrades to a lower bitrate stream due to network congestion. For most people, it's simply not important to worry about.

          I can't say I've missed anything because it wasn't made available, although I have when it wasn't available for long enough. Again, that'

    • by DrXym (126579)
      There isn't much that the BBC can do to encrypt anything. They might be able to scramble the EPG but the variety of different data sources, e.g. DVB-T, DVB-T2, DVB-S2 means the data will leak out. BBC HD on satellite is going to be virtually identical to BBC HD on Freeview except for its program number. The crypto key would also have to be divulged to STBs anyway, probably in firmware so it's going to be there to find. I doubt the BBC really cares much about doing it except to tick a box. They might also
  • Brick? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:23AM (#35219230) Homepage Journal

    What? Something is bricked because it is no longer served programming info now?

    This is bad, TIVO sucks, their lifetime subscription doesn't cover the lifetime of the device, etc.

    But stop fucking using the term brick unless the device is incapable of powering on.

    • Re:Brick? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Spad (470073) <slashdot AT spad DOT co DOT uk> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:28AM (#35219254) Homepage

      I don't get this, surely it's not hard.

      Something is bricked when it is, to all intents and purposes, interchangeable with a brick. Not simply when it doesn't work properly any more or has less functionality.

      • No, brick has a very specific meaning in electronics jargon. You can refer to a router as bricked if the only recourse is to jtag it; you may not correctly refer to it as bricked if you forgot the password. Again-- a surge which fries the flash chip would be a bricking; losing your internet connection and being unable to use the router, not so much.

        You wouldnt call your TV "bricked" if your provider cut you off, because the device still functions. These TiVOs will still function, and are therefore NOT in

    • Re:Brick? (Score:4, Informative)

      by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:40AM (#35219298)

      But stop fucking using the term brick unless the device is incapable of powering on.

      You, sir, are correct. From the link in the summary:

      Without the program guide data provided by the TiVo service, Series1 boxes will have limited - if any - functionality. They can still be used to view previously recorded programs and, under certain circumstances, may be used to record programs manually.

      So they are stopping the service used by the device, limiting it's functionality. It's like owning an intelligent radio, and your favorite station goes off the air. They are do not doing anything to brick the device.

      • They* know how much using the term "brick" incorrectly incenses us and use it to motivate comments and generate content.

        *The dark evil forces that lurk behind innaccurate and misleading story submissions.

    • Re:Brick? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlie@hotmail. c o m> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:41AM (#35219300) Homepage

      But stop fucking using the term brick unless the device is incapable of powering on.

      There are plenty of ways of bricking something and not being able to even power something on is only one of those. Like for example a gaming console: if you hit the power button and it goes on, but nothing else happens, then it clearly is bricked.

      Basically bricked means the device no longer useable for the purposes it was actually originally made for and getting it to functional state requires tools not even a regular geek has at his or her disposal. It is not bricked if returning it to functional state is sufficiently doable, or if it doesn't do what you want it to do but still serves the purposes it was sold under.

      • Re:Brick? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Man Eating Duck (534479) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @08:37AM (#35219774)

        Basically bricked means the device no longer useable for the purposes it was actually originally made for and getting it to functional state requires tools not even a regular geek has at his or her disposal.

        No, I don't agree. I understand that the device will continue to function exactly as if you disconnected its data cable. Bricked would mean that it functions about as well as if you had disconnected its power cable.

        The company discontinued a service, this does not mean that people can't switch the device on and use all of its offline functionality, ie it is *not* bricked. If they issued a remote update which erased all firmware with no possibility of recovery, now that would be bricking.

      • Re:Brick? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @10:26AM (#35220612)
        I would say that your definiton of "bricked" is close. My definition of "bricked" is "the unit in question has the functionality of a brick." It may turn on, but it does nothing useful. If you can recover it without opening the case, you should not use the term "bricked". If someone else can recover it, you may use the term "bricked", but they should not.
        In the case of this story on this board, the term "bricked" is completely inappropiate. It seems that you will still be able to manually program these to record programs, you just will no longer receive scheduling data which will allow the unit to automatically record shows for you. Not only that, but I would think that a good portion of slashdot readers would be able to hack one of these to obtain programming data from an alternate source (I'm not familiar enough with Tivos to know how difficult that might be, it may be more difficult than I imagine).
    • by robably (1044462)

      I bricked about this happening to "meme" [slashdot.org] a couple years ago, then bricked the solution, [slashdot.org] so I'd like to brick some words of encouragement to anyone who feels bricked by the loss: brick your vengeance. If you can't brick "brick," then nobody can.

      Heretofore, "to brick" can brick anything. You can brick a beer; you can brick a pizza. You can brick a computer; and you can brick your girlfriend. You can brick your hat, except in Soviet Russia, where hat bricks you.

      Go brick someth

    • by redelm (54142)
      Agreed. As read in the summary, it appeared TiVo was sending out some sort of patch/signal that would render the device inoperable. A malicious attack, a felony in most countries. The reality is they are stopping sending data that helps the device function. Not a felony or tort, but perhaps a breech of contract.

      The summary writer deliberately exaggerated to arouse an audience. Deceit. Equal opportunity, editurds can be trolling slashtards too! Live down to the lowest of the audience and you will los

  • by lennier1 (264730) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:25AM (#35219238)

    How exactly is punishing your loyal (and still paying) customers a good business move?

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jamu (852752) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:43AM (#35219308)
      When they'll remain loyal and pay more than enough to compensate for the ones that leave.
      • by mindwhip (894744)

        Shame that isn't the case...

        I'm one of the loyal UK Tivo customers... I currently have cable service from VM. I was considering updating purely so I could get HD channels, however since they announced the termination of the old service not only am I going to stick with my SD box, I'm going to downgrade my TV package to the 'free with other services' one, and actively discourage people I know from getting the VM Tivo. Since I'm the 'tech guy' amongst my group of friends/co-workers I guarantee Tivo/VM will

        • by aug24 (38229)

          Absolutely. Especially for those of us who don't get Virgin (49% of the UK), and wouldn't want their crappy service anyway (my parents used to have it - I'd go almost anywhere else based on their experience).

          I was a long time TiVo advocate, but no more. I will be recommending the Humax Foxsat + Freesat to everyone from now on. EPG is in the Freesat signal, so there's no way that you can get shafted like this again.

          Justin.

    • by hughbar (579555)
      Well, it's a numbers game not an ethics game. If there are a few of them and they're not likely to be noisy, then **** 'em.

      Incidentally, this is why [apart from being old] I prefer my books as books and not digital artifacts controlled by Amazon etc. etc.
    • by EMN13 (11493)

      Note that the customers are not still paying - assuming TiVo isn't lying anyhow. They say customers have not been billed since November and that service until June 2011 will be free. For a device last sold in 2002, that doesn't sound unreasonable. Sure it's annoying, and the hassle and price-bump may cost em goodwill, but it's hardly an extreme step.

      • by aug24 (38229)
        I paid for a lifetime subscription. I *already* paid. TiVo are not mentioning that anywhere, or justifying their definition of 'lifetime'. I think I've been robbed.
      • by mindwhip (894744)

        A lot of the UK Tivo users were sold a 'lifetime' subscription which, costing more than the box itself, entitled the user to 'program information for the life of your Tivo' (from the original documentation). The original service agreement was worded significantly different from the current one but was changed bit by bit over the years.

        That was YOUR Tivo and not what it was later twisted into 'as long as we can be bothered and don't want to use it as a stick to force you to sign up to a cable company servic

    • Because they've changed market. TiVo no longer cares what direct-sales customers think, because they no longer want to sell to individuals. They want to sell to companies that place orders in the tens or hundreds of thousands. This move makes customers in a market that they don't care about unhappy, but makes Virgin Media happy, which is likely to give them more sales.
  • £149? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:25AM (#35219240)
    Not sure where you get that from, the Virgin V+ HD box is free (well, a once off £50 activation charge) for new customers, and as an existing customer I can get one for £70 including the activation charge.

    Plus the "£34.50 per month" includes TV, phone (line rental and a fairly decent call package) and 10MB broadband.

    Not saying that what Tivo are doing is acceptable (although they never promised eternal service in the UK, or did they? Since people are paying an annual service charge, I would guess not), but at least get stuff correct before ranting.
    • and 10MB broadband.

      Slipped a decimal point or three?

      • by Spad (470073)

        Well, technically they offer 10Mb, 30Mb, 50Mb & 100Mb (In some areas, they're still rolling that one out), so in places they do offer 10MB+ broadband.

      • Nope, if you ring the Virgin Media call center when signing up, you can get bumped up to their 100Mbit service for nothing extra. Thats roughly 10MB.
      • I just recently moved from Australia to the UK and that's one of the interesting things I noticed. In the UK you pay for the speed of your connection rather than how much you can download. So as others are saying, the 10Mb is referring to a 10Mbit connection speed. You can download as much as you want.

        In Australia, the speed is basically always "ADSL2+" which means a theoretical maximum of about 20Mbit but in practice is highly dependant on how far away you live from the telephone exchange and the quality o

        • I just recently moved from Australia to the UK and that's one of the interesting things I noticed. In the UK you pay for the speed of your connection rather than how much you can download. ... You can download as much as you want.

          You must be new here. They all advertise that it's 'unlimited' but then massively throttle how much you download if you go over their secret hidden limits.

          • You must be new here. They all advertise that it's 'unlimited' but then massively throttle how much you download if you go over their secret hidden limits.

            Well, yeah. I am new here (to this country) :). What are these secret hidden limits though? In Aus, the limit is low but clearly marked. The limit is often split over peak and off-peak periods too. So for example, you might have 25gb to use during on-peak and say 30gb to use during off-peak. Off-peak is usually from about 1am to 7am (certainly not half the day) so you've really only got 25gb to use unless you leave your pc on overnight downloading or whatever. I haven't been here long but I haven't run into

            • Some ISPs list what their policies are on the details of the packages. The cheap policies normally list 10, 20, or 40GB transfer limits. The more expensive ones normally state that it's unlimited but a 'fair usage policy' applies but don't list what this policy is, meaning they can just throttle whenever they like.
        • Not entirely sure where your numbers come from, but I've seen ADSL2+ devices synched at 46mbit at work. Admittedly, the cabling distance from the DSLAM was about 20m (we have several DSLAMs one floor below my department, in the VIC lab... the 46mbit was on a Lucent Stinger), but I've seen customers in the field with attainables in the 30-40mbit range on an ADSL2+ connection.

          Perhaps you mean that they won't sell you a connection faster than 20mbit on an ADSL2+? That, I would find completely believable... we

    • The monthly fee for the EPG service is £5/month if you're on the lower two TV packages, and free if you're on largest. Assuming they apply the same price when they switch to TiVo, it'll be half the price TiVo currently charges.

    • by bamf (212)

      Not sure where you get that from, the Virgin V+ HD box is free (well, a once off £50 activation charge) for new customers, and as an existing customer I can get one for £70 including the activation charge.

      We're not talking about the V+ box though, this is the new Virginmedia Tivo box.

    • by aug24 (38229)

      I bought a "lifetime" subscription. TiVo are now defining that as nine years, no argument, tough.

      I am extremely unimpressed, and won't be buying a new TiVo. Not that I can get Virgin - or would want Virgin - anyway. They seem to have given up making good kit and selling it themselves, and instead got into bed with first Sky, then Virgin, two of the greediest and crappiest providers around.

      Anyway, there will be homebrew, so the box won't be bricked, and even failing that I should still be able to use

    • the Virgin V+ HD box is free (well, a once off £50 activation charge)

      So not really free then.

    • Not saying that what Tivo are doing is acceptable (although they never promised eternal service in the UK, or did they?

      Actually they did. You could pay a monthly fee, or pay a single fee of £250 for "lifetime updates". I expect the people who paid that are going to be a bit annoyed.

      However, there was an unofficial "gentleman's agreement" that hackers wouldn't release any code that screenscrapes or otherwise downloads the EPG data over the net (using the ethernet card addon), and if anyone did that, then talk of it on the forums was banned. That agreement is now null and void, so there's a good chance that someone wi

    • Virgin Media's TiVo offering is distinct from V+. it will, presumably, eventually supersede V+, but they are not the same thing.

      http://tivo.virginmedia.com/
    • by rossdee (243626)

      "the Virgin V+ HD box is free (well, a once off £50 activation charge) for new customers"

      If 50 pounds is now virtually free, then the value of sterling must have dropped quite a bit. Tell you what, you send me a 50 pound note, and I will send you $10US back to cover the cost of postage.

  • by lexcyber (133454) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:26AM (#35219242) Homepage

    Maybe they learned from a successful business model from cupertino. Where you lock in, treat everyone like crap and make them pay a premium price is the winning ticket to huge stock price increase.

    - Sent from my Iphone

    • But they are missing one KEY tactic. That they make damn sure that everyone with their product thinks they are completely fucking cool.
  • That I switched from Virgin Media to Sky, although the broadband was better on cable, the rest is junk, and Virgins customer service sucks (well it did for me), as for tivo, I've never used one, I've always had mythtv, and sky+ so i'm not short of recording from TV options, just my 2 pence worth :D
    • I certainly agree that Skys TV service is significantly better, but their tactics leave a lot to be desired.

      In 2009 Virgin launched their own version of Sky One, called Virgin One. In 2010, Sky bought an owning share in Virgin One and renamed it Channel One. At the end of 2010, Sky discontinued Channel One, so once again we are left without a competitor to Sky One.

      If I could get Sky without having to have a dish stuck to the side of the house, I would switch, but I cant.
  • To add some context (Score:4, Informative)

    by bamf (212) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:55AM (#35219358)

    Tivo haven't actively sold the boxes in the UK for about 8-9 years now. This isn't a modern service being canned, it's effectively a legacy system.

    • by aug24 (38229)
      Legacy, maybe, but I paid for a 'lifetime subscription', and most of the boxes are still in perfect working order. Do you really think 9 years is acceptable?
      • by Spad (470073)

        Lifetime of the service, not of the box or your lifetime.

        • by aug24 (38229)
          So the service runs until it doesn't, and they could have canned it the day after they took my cash? Do you actually think that's reasonable, or do you work in marketing/legal?
      • You may have seen the words "lifetime subscription" in there, but what did the rest of the contract actually say? That's the important bit, not just the bit you remember from the advertising blurb. It's a bit like "unlimited broadband" in that respect. If you really think that you've got a legal case, engage messrs Sue, Grabbit, and Runne.

        • by Lehk228 (705449)
          so the question is whether to sue for breach of contract or sue for false and misleading advertising
        • by aug24 (38229)
          I'm not suggesting they won't have covered themselves legally. I'm suggesting they are a bunch of crooks.
          • Unfortunately "covered themselves legally" implies "not a bunch of crooks", whether they're doing something that you like or not.

            There are already consumer protection laws in the UK that protect people from misselling. You already have an extended period in which to cancel contracts going forward. These days you have extra protection if you buy online ("distance selling"). Even advertising standards (though enforced by the industry) are surprisingly strictly enforced.

            However, if you're signing a contract

  • Boat Anchor Mode (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dredd13 (14750) <dredd@megacity.org> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @06:56AM (#35219362) Homepage

    When TiVo was first coming out on the scene, there was talk that there was, hidden deep in the code, a "boat-anchor" mode, which Tivo assured the faithful (which at the time were typically bleeding-edge technology hounds) that if TiVo ever went belly-up, their boxes wouldn't be useless, that there was a mode which they could push to all the units that essentially said "We're going off the air now, open yourself up for use however the owner wants", and that it would offer up some alternative options for shoving EPG data into it gathered from other sources.

    It seems that maybe this is what TiVo should be doing with these UK Series1 units, even if they're not technically "going off the air".

    • Re:Boat Anchor Mode (Score:5, Informative)

      by Adrian Harvey (6578) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @07:15AM (#35219426)

      See Oztivo [oztivo.net] where they've hacked the series 1 frimware to get it's updates over the Internet from a community run guide service. I'm in NZ and using the New Zealand variant on an English Series 1 TiVo (the kind we're discussing here) to good effect. TiVo have resisted people doing this in countries where they're selling the guide service - perhaps now is the time for the community to have a go?

    • by unitron (5733)

      If they did this for UK Series 1 machines it would take approximately the speed of light crossing the Atlantic for U.S. S1 hackers to put it to use over here.

      If this wouldn't make it any easier to open up Series 2 and up, TiVo might even welcome this as a way to get rid of their S1 subscribers, who by now must mostly be people with Lifetimed units that don't make Tivo any money and qualify the owners for discounts on service for later models.

      But I suspect that opening S1s would make it possible to figure ou

  • by TenMinJoe (727612) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @07:00AM (#35219380)

    Is the TiVo guide data format understood? The BBC offer free XML listings data for all UK channels (not just BBC channels) - it seems like it should be possible for motivated developers to convert this into usable TiVo format data.

  • Analogue TV is currently being shut down in the UK - last region(s) in about a year, so complaining that an analogue TV recorder is no longer usable is a little weird surely? May as well have a moan about the government turning off your TV while you're at it!
    • by Viol8 (599362)

      Well I know a number of people who have 3 or more analogue only TVs in their houses including portables and let me tell you , they're NOT happy about having to buy a digital set top box for them all if they don't want a useless brick sitting in the corner.

      • by Ash-Fox (726320)

        Well I know a number of people who have 3 or more analogue only TVs in their houses including portables and let me tell you , they're NOT happy about having to buy a digital set top box for them all if they don't want a useless brick sitting in the corner.

        They could just throw it out instead. I live in Britain and I don't own a TV - It's not hard.

      • We survived here in the US. Some lucky folks even got a $50 coupon from the government to use towards buying a converter box. Surely with all those TV licensing fees the UK charges citizens to watch TV they can scrap up a few pounds to help people upgrade to digital. Otherwise they will lose out on continued licensing fees for those bricks sitting in the corner.
    • by mindwhip (894744)

      I love/hate how people don't get it.

      Most people DON'T use them to record crappy analogue broadcast TV, it wouldn't be worth it for just 5 channels. We use them to record TV from Cable and Satellite set top boxes via scart cables as the Tivo has a built in system to change channels on the STB. Even ignoring the ability to record the Tivo EPG was years ahead of the cable/satelite versions (and is STILL better than the Virgin Media EPG 8 years on as well as being better than most 'new' Digital TV PVRs).

      It's

  • by Goffee71 (628501) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @07:25AM (#35219466) Homepage
    this is like Microsoft withdrawing support for Windows 98 or Internet Explorer 5 for home users... these things are a decade old and while they were unique back then, there are FreeSAT, Freeview, PVRs and other options now if the S1 owners aren't in Virgin areas. Most of the forum posters have said or suspected this was coming... no tea cups were rattled by this announcement - especially as most users have workarounds planned.
  • by aug24 (38229) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @07:38AM (#35219536) Homepage

    What a total PR fail. TiVo used to have such a good reputation.

    Presumably Virgin made this a condition of the contract and TiVo rolled over. Shame on both of you, avaricious, nasty, money-grubbers.

    Remember folks (UK and US): don't buy a TiVo product, or a Virgin Media one, they will take your cash and then let you down.

    Justin.

  • by gig (78408) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @08:33AM (#35219758)

    Canceling cable TV was one of the best things I ever did. It takes a while to adjust, but pretty soon you enjoy TV more, and life more, because you only watch stuff you really like, and you watch it whenever you like. You have to seek out shows and movies a little more because they're not being shoveled onto you, and you find the ones that you end up really cherishing. If you have a TiVo, you already admitted cable TV is broken. Just get off the pipe.

  • I'm having a hard time drumming up an excess of sympathy for people who bought TIVOs. They are and have always been a highly proprietary device... AND subscription service to boot. There is nothing open, standardized, modular, or off-the-shelf about them, and that was quite intentional. It is a closed device precisely because that was intended to maximize corporate profits. As such they are open to whatever manner of megalomaniacal mischief [say that fast seven times] that corporation feels it can manag

  • Can they be jailbroken? Can one do anything interesting with the very cheap mini-computers that are about to flood the market?

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