Using TiVo’s Wireless G USB Network Adapter | iLounge Backstage

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Using TiVo’s Wireless G USB Network Adapter

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Friday, April 7, 2006
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You’ve probably already read about the soon-to-be-expired TiVo Lifetime Service deal posted here a couple of weeks ago: if not, this is the weekend you should take advantage of it, because the offer ends on April 15th. If you did (like many other iLoungers have!), or already had a TiVo, you’ll want to read this next part: preparing your TiVo to connect to your home computer network in anticipation of the release of TiVo to Go for the iPod.

I don’t have the statistics here to quantify this, but my sense is that home networks started to grow in popularity when broadband cable and satellite modems became available, and that lower-cost, easier-to-use wired and wireless routers have helped that process along in recent years. Today, computer networking is common, but it also says a lot that all the current game consoles and handhelds (save Game Boy Advance) now have ways to get online; Xboxes, Sony PSPs and Nintendo DSes even include Ethernet or wireless features straight out of the box. Other devices can join networks, too, and so relatively late in the game - basically, at the end of 2005 - TiVo decided to offer its own Wireless G USB Network Adapter ($50, available through Amazon.com) for its Series 2 DVRs. It’s made from metal and plastic, looks sharp, and includes a black 6-foot USB cable that connects to one of two USB ports on any Series 2 TiVo. Mine finally arrived off of a backorder list this week.

TiVo was far from the first to sell a network adapter for its own boxes, and if you do a few searches online, you’ll realize what a mess was caused by the company’s earlier reliance on third parties to release compatible parts. The TiVo web site makes you wade through a weird list of certain serial numbered adapters that work with certain TiVo units, so confusing that you can’t order any third-party adapter online with full confidence, or walk into your average Circuit City and know for sure that the random box you pick up is supported. For example, if you’re thinking of getting a D-Link DWL-G120, make sure it’s version B2, because C and B1 won’t necessarily work. How about Netgear’s WG111? You’ll need to check and see if the WG111’s serial number starts with WG72 or 130. It gets worse - buy one of the “working” adapters and you still might have problems; even if it works, you may only get 2/3 the transfer speed of the TiVo-branded Adapter, which has a new Broadcom chipset inside, and toggles between 802.11g or 802.11b based on the network it finds in your home.

I went through the research process a couple of weeks ago, and ultimately decided that the TiVo Adapter was the smarter way to go - for wireless at least. (Wired adapters are only modestly less expensive, and I’d prefer not to have cables running through my rooms or walls.) TiVo’s price was only slightly higher than the others, and it was guaranteed to work, quite possibly better than the others. Plus, it looks nice: a plastic antenna top flips out of a heavy metal and plastic base, all parts at least vaguely cosmetically matching those of my home entertainment center. I took delivery of my Adapter on the same day as a friend received his, and since I’ve had a few people ask for my opinions on the setup and user experience, I’ve posted them at Read More below.

My friend’s setup experience was easier than mine: he reported that he just plugged the Wireless G Network Adapter into his TiVo, and after a few setup screens, it worked - one mid-installation power outage in his home later, at least, he was able to verify that it was doing just fine. This is fairly easy to determine without even having a TV on: when the Adapter is flipped open, there are two lights immediately next to each other, and if they’re both on, the device is powered up (left) and linked in to your network (right).

His is the most common version of the setup story I’ve heard. My setup was a bit trickier: it was quickly apparent that the Adapter and TiVo were talking to each other properly - TiVo displayed the MAC address of the Adapter as soon as it was connected with its included USB cable to one of the two USB ports on TiVo’s back, and the Adapter’s power light was on. But the network light was flashing, suggesting that the connection hadn’t been made. So the obvious next step was to enter the setup menu, which appeared under Settings > Phone & Network.

I had to pick my network (easy), configure my router to assign dynamic rather than any static IP addresses (intermediate difficulty), go through WEP password settings (easy), and then repeat the process about 15 times (annoying). I can’t explain why, but I kept getting N10 “can’t connect to your network” errors, despite the fact that two computers were connected to the network using the same settings. Eventually, after clearing all of the settings and starting one last time, something clicked, and the connection was made. At that point, I switched the TiVo over to Network mode rather than Phone mode, and tested my settings. They worked. All in all, the experience for me was only as painful as connecting any other non-Mac device I’ve owned to my network, maybe a little better, though certainly with fewer steps to screw up. Your experience, like my friend’s, may be considerably easier.

Because of the connection, it’s now possible to transfer the TiVo’s contents to a networked PC or another TiVo, if I had one, as well as to access MP3 music and photos stored on either a Mac or PC. And in addition to the fact that a phone line’s no longer necessary for TV schedule updates, you can also program your TiVo to record from the web with a feature called Online Scheduling, even if you’re not at home - useful if someone from the office recommends a show and you can’t get home in time to set up the recording. Lots of people are doing these things already; photos in the previous article showed some of them, and TiVo’s website show others.

Of course, my purchase was proactive: viewing TiVo files on another Mac or iPod is obviously what I’m excited about, and that’s still a little ways off. Until then, I’ll probably be using the Adapter to move old Twilight Zone episodes onto my otherwise dusty PC, keeping the TiVo’s hard drive ready for new episodes of Wonder Showzen. What are you guys recording, and how are you using the TiVo’s networking features?

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Comments

1

my transfer speed to other tivos is now about 3x real time, i love it. no more waiting to transfer messages. can’t wait for more internet options to be offered.

Posted by ty on April 7, 2006 at 9:59 PM (PDT)

2

TiVo’s wireless adapter is wholly and completely useless to anybody until they get WiFi Protected Access (WPA) working, which currently (or I should really say, still) is not on the horizon. If you’re still running WEP on your home network, you’re an easy target. Remember that new, more sophisticated attacks on WEP take minutes rather than hours. Until TiVo supports real security, I’ll leave my Series 2 hooked up to ethernet instead.

Posted by Christian on April 8, 2006 at 6:10 AM (PDT)

3

Though WPA is a superior network protection solution, and surely will be supported in the future, many (dare I say most) people use WEP or no security at all, making this an entirely viable solution for millions of people. For better or worse, not everyone is hyper-concerned over network attacks, and as support for WPA is regrettably not universal, many home networks are forced to operate in lowest common denominator mode (WEP) mode anyway.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 8, 2006 at 8:01 AM (PDT)

4

The TiVo wireless adapter works fine on WEP and open networks.

If network security is of utmost importance to you, there are other solutions.

Posted by GaryT on April 8, 2006 at 1:46 PM (PDT)

5

Help me out.  Tivo has older USB hardware running at, if you’re lucky, 12Mbs.  So isn’t that a bottle neck?  Regardless of how fast your network connection you’re limited by that last inch.  Or am I wrong?  I don’t get it.

Posted by Jeffsters on April 8, 2006 at 1:54 PM (PDT)

6

No, most of the Series 2 hardware out there has USB 2.0, full-speed support for which was enabled in version 7.x of TiVo software.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 8, 2006 at 9:28 PM (PDT)

7

The bottlneck is the 233Mhz CPU the DVR has.
The 5xx having a CPU assisted USB2.0 (rather than a standalone USB2.0 chipo n the 2xx units), doesn’t help. Moving some of the network processing off of the TiVo system to the adapter does help.

Posted by GaryT on April 9, 2006 at 8:07 AM (PDT)

8

Does this work with a series 2 Directivo?

Posted by Mark on April 10, 2006 at 9:56 AM (PDT)

9

Just so you know, the TiVo - iPod (or PSP) isn’t that far off.  As a beta tester for TiVo I’ve been using the latest version of the TiVo Desktop which will automatically convert the .tivo files into formats that work with the iPod or PSP.  The only catch is you have to purchase a license for the codec, and I have no idea how much that will cost since one was provided to us beta testers at no cost (although it does expire sometimes in April).

Shouldn’t be too long a wait, we are on Beta3 and they’ve told us it’s going to be released soon.

PS - Mark, no the TiVo adapter doesn’t work with the Directivo….Direct TV doesn’t offer the Home Media features that regular TiVo customers get.

Posted by No Name on April 10, 2006 at 11:53 AM (PDT)

10

I bought a Tivo last January and after reading your post about the “soon-to-be-expired TiVo Lifetime Service deal” I was even more grateful that I decided to buy the lifetime subscription vs. an annual contract.

I have my Tivo connected to my network via a Linksys USB 2.0 10/100 Ethernet Adapter.  It took some effort to locate the specific model number that would work with my Tivo, but eventually I found one.  Prior to that I was using an earlier version of the same adapter which was USB 1.  Switching to a USB 2 adapter made a sizeable difference in speed when transferring content over to my PC. 

Still, I wish there were a way to connect my iPod or another USB 2 external hard drive directly to the Tivo’s USB adapter to transfer content.

Question for “No Name”:  I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the updated Tivo Desktop - Have the content transfer speeds been improved in the newer version?

Posted by jeff on April 10, 2006 at 12:58 PM (PDT)

11

I’m curious…how does TiVo define “lifetime”?

As a so-called ‘lifer’ with ReplayTV, I know that my service’s definition of “lifetime” only goes as far as my recorder’s own ability to continue to work. Which isn’t so bad now, since that $300 I paid them five or six years ago has already put me dollars ahead. But my ReplayTV DVR is also a Panasonic-branded and built unit, and if they ever decide to pull the plug on service and support (they stopped making ReplayTV units years ago)...no more “lifetime” if a circuit board goes T/U and I can no longer keep the thing running. For ReplayTV, “lifetime” is NOT transferrable to a new recorder. I wonder if for TiVo it’s the same.

Posted by flatline response on April 11, 2006 at 3:08 AM (PDT)

12

A couple of things.

I’ve found that shows take a long time to transfer to my computer over the wirless connection.  I’m still using 802.11b wireless at home, and that may be the brunt of the problem, but a 1 hour show took over 2 hours just to transfer to my computer.  I gave up on trying to watch TiVo on a portable device until I upgrade my home network to 802.11g or I run a hard-wire connection to the TiVo.

In response to flatline.  According to TiVo, and from what everything I’ve read, the service is not transferable to another TiVo unit unless it’s still under warrenty, and it’s a same series unit.  So a series 2 TiVo lifetime membership can still transfer to another series 2 TiVo if you have a defective unit.  After the series 3 comes out, you’re pretty much out of luck.  Anyone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Posted by kirnkorner2001 on April 11, 2006 at 6:15 AM (PDT)

13

1. Yes, the lack of support for real network security is a legitimate concern. No security, or WEP security (almost the same as none), means your neighbor, or your neighbor’s kids, or anyone else passing through the area, can hop onto your network. From there it is often trivial to gain access to individual machines and hey, lookee what you’ve got on your computers…

2. Yes, it’s been a pain for TiVo and everyone what many USB/WiFi adapters have had one part number and multiple completely different chipsets (and driver requirements). TiVo’s Linksys deal was a step towards resolving this, as is their “we know what is in it!” TiVo-branded adapter. That said the TiVo model, aside from the know-quantity & TiVo logo, seems to be no better or worse then any other compatible adapter.

3. A wired connection, if convenient, is still probably the best option. It’s secure, the lowest cost, most reliable (using your microwave or 2.4 GHz phone won’t interfere with it), and fastest. For example in my case it was only 15” and a hole through the back of a closet to run a cable between my TiVo & router. Never had a problem. On the other hand friends with their TiVos set up wirelessly lose connection every-time someone nukes up a bag of popcorn downstairs in their kitchen.

4. TiVo’s “Lifetime” has always been “Lifetime of the TiVo” and non-transferrable (unless the lifetime’d TiVo unit died while under warranty.) That said when the Series 2 came out TiVo did offer upgrade incentives to Lifetime Series 1 owners and _might_ do so for Series 2 owners once the Series 3 has been out a few months. Or not. In any case it’s a good investment if you plan to keep your TiVo for a while.

5. DirectTV TiVo features are dependent on DirectTV, not TiVo. To date DirecTV has chosen not to pass on any TiVo improvements to their customers. These improvements, like networking and the Home Media Services, are perfectly compatible with DirecTV units (many folks have gone around DirectTV and independently hacked theirs) but, again, the upgrades are up to DirecTV, not TiVo.

Posted by Michael Maggard on April 12, 2006 at 11:54 AM (PDT)

14

I have a wireless router connected to my broadband service for my laptop. Is this all I need to use tivo’s usb network adapter for the new tivo hd dvr (not series 3)?

Posted by Randy on December 15, 2007 at 9:25 AM (PDT)

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