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TiVo’s Desktop 2.3 Plus, pictures and details, part 2

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2006
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Two hours have passed since the last TiVo Desktop 2.3 Plus update on Backstage, so you can probably guess what that means: so far, the package has converted 1 full TV show from TiVo to iPod format. Here’s how it has worked so far.

After taking 40 minutes to transfer a 36-minute TV show wirelessly from my TiVo to my PC, TiVo Desktop 2.3 Plus wasn’t yet ready to let me watch the video on an iPod - it still had to go through the entire process of conversion. Wow. So with the preferences set to MPEG-4 as shown in the preceding Backstage entry, Desktop automatically initiated a background TiVo-to-iPod conversion process, indicated by this little bubble in the bottom of the screen tray. Thankfully, this process can run concurrently with the transferring of the next file from the TiVo, and you can get percentage (not time) progress updates by hovering your cursor arrow over the TiVo icon.

No shock here: the conversion process is painfully slow. On my old PC, which has been out of active use for 2 years now, it took 49 minutes to convert the TiVo/MPEG-2 video file into MPEG-4. Another way to put that: it took me 89 minutes to move a 36-minute TV show from the TiVo into an iPod file, not including the brief period of time it took to add the file to iTunes. (Desktop 2.3 Plus doesn’t handle that last step automatically, unlike Elgato’s EyeTV 2 software.) Your conversion time may vary wildly from this one, depending on the speed of your computer - it could be five times faster, or similar, depending on how old your machine is, but remember, that number most likely will affect only the 49-minute conversion (reducing it to 10 minutes or so), not the initial 40-minute transfer time.

On the bright side, the MPEG-4 file - shrunk from 729 to 220 Megabytes, down to 320x224 resolution, 24kHz stereo audio, 843kbps/second - works almost perfectly in iTunes and on the iPod. In addition to looking roughly as good as the video that is being sold for $1.99 online, save for the added commercials and beginning/end minutes, the MPEG-4 file played back without any sort of problem, and appears to have proper audio/video synchronization. (The sample photos above and below come from an episode on bootlegging that intentionally degrades some of its video, for those curious.) Besides converting the file, Desktop 2.3 Plus properly tags your show by artist and genre from the TiVo’s program guide data, making it appear as a TV Show on the iPod, rather than a generic movie, and takes a stab at titling the episode that isn’t always as clean as the iTunes Music Store’s tag, but acceptable. The tag had the wrong season identification, though, and TiVo Desktop doesn’t have a way to fix that. You’ll need to do it in iTunes, or a superior video tag editor.

More thoughts will follow on this soon, but there’s a mixture of relief and disappointment at this stage: relief that MPEG-4 files work on the iPod, but disappointment that they take so long to transfer/convert, and can’t be processed under Mac OS. Admittedly, it’s much easier to occupy a spare PC with conversion tasks all day, but having an end-to-end Mac solution would be so much nicer.

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Comments

1

I have two TiVos in the house networked. I’ve done the VirtualPC > DirectShow Dump > iPod video converter of choice. I was waiting for the updated TiVo Desktop with iPod compatibility, but was expecting it to be PC-only.

Luckily, I gave up on the multi-step conversion and waiting for TiVo, and bought the EyeTV 250.

Sure, I have to double up any recordings that I want on TiVo and EyeTV, but most of the time there isn’t much overlap (hour-long dramas to watch with the wife on TiVo; Simpson and Daily Show on the EyeTV).

It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to convert each 30-minute recording to iPod format on my Duo Intel Mini (a bit disappointing), but the conversion happens automatically and is imported into iTunes. So every morning, I get up and update the iPod with last night’s Daily Show.

I’m very happy with the results.

Posted by MCC5 on June 21, 2006 at 8:12 PM (PDT)

2

For the past several months I have been using PQ DVD to Ipod.  http://www.pqdvd.com/dvd-to-ipod-video-converter.html

This program costs $35 ten dollars more than TIVo but converts the following file types: DivX/XviD video, avi, wmv, mpg, mpeg, dat(VCD), rm, rmvb, Tivo2Go, dvr-ms, qt, mov(ver 2)and Tivo files.

It rips DVD and converts them to Ipod format.  The time is about 7 to 10 minutes for a 30 minute show I record on my Tivo

Posted by David Krassin on June 22, 2006 at 8:21 AM (PDT)

3

TVHarmony.com people!
It’s a free program that
1) Auto-downloads from your Tivo
2) Converts to Ipod/Mpeg4/etc format
3) Not restricted to 320x240
3) It’s..um…free

Posted by Sigh... on June 23, 2006 at 11:55 PM (PDT)

4

After spending all day trying this out with about 20 files I have to say I’m disappointed on a few levels.

For starters, I tried out the H.264 conversion (to see what it was like) and it was such horrendously godawful quality I didn’t think twice about ditching all my work to try the MPEG-4 format (as shown in the article).

The one feature they left off is that *.tivo files that you already have downloaded to your computer can not be converted without first copying them back to your TiVo and then retransferring them to your PC.  Its a terrible oversight (intentional or not), and one would hope they would spend some time to add in.

That the GUI doesn’t nicely track the conversion process is also a real shame.  You only get conversion feedback via your system tray icon.

Next time TiVo should spend some time looking at the other offerings out there and make something comparable.  Not hype something that is only mediocre in ability.  It’s nice that they have this now, but they shouldn’t be overly proud of it.

Posted by circeus on June 24, 2006 at 9:53 PM (PDT)

5

I’m a TVHarmony user and I have to say, I’m *very* happy with the program.  As the other poster mentioned, it’s completely free, and on top of that, it detects and removes commercials!  Yes, it takes hours upon hours and the interface isn’t as smart as it could be, but when I get up every morning, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Glenn Beck are all ready for me to transfer to the iPod, sans commercials, for my train ride in to work. 

I was really hoping that the Tivo solution would also be able to automatically sync the files to the iPod, but it looks like it doesn’t.

Posted by Garrett on June 26, 2006 at 9:53 AM (PDT)

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