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Posted on Friday, January 21st, 2005

Dave!Who knew that my disappointment in TiVo's new TiVoToGo service would get such attention? I keep seeing my comments popping up in other sites, and can only guess it's because I had the audacity to say that TiVoToGo is a flawed technology that's no better than VHS VCRs in many ways. Either that, or it's because I drew a cartoon.

Anyway, the latest is over at Big Damn Heroes (which is a pretty cool site now that I've been reading through it!) where they take issue with my reasons TiVoToGo sucks ass. I though it only fair that I post my reply here in an extended entry...

My comments in comparing the TiVoToGo technology with that of a VCR was not meant to imply that a VCR is superior to TiVo... as the beginning of my blog post states, I love TiVo, I just feel that the transfer service comes up short. Of course, I'll never know unless TiVo releases a dual-tuner Series 2 DVR and a Mac version of the TiVo Desktop software, but there are still issues that concern me:

MY ORIGINAL COMMENT: "Some shows can be tagged as non-transferrable, such as pay-per-view and some premium programming, meaning you can't watch them on your computer at all (whereas a videotape can record anything)."

BIG DAMN HEROES: "Try recording a Macrovision-scrambled program with a VCR some time, Dave. It'll record, sure, but you won't want to watch the results. DRM has been with us for some time, and it's only going to get worse. And for the record, I've yet to find any tagged programming amidst my own recordings."

MY REPLY: You are confusing DRM with blocked content in my post. TiVo reserves the right to selectively block content from being transferred. Right now, that may be a comedy special on HBO and Pay-Per-View, but how do we know that eventually TiVo will start blocking Veronica Mars, Desperate Housewives, and Lost because networks complain TiVoToGo is cutting into their DVD sales? If it were just DRM, I'd be fine with it... but it's not... it's the fact that something I want to transfer may not be available entirely either now, or in the future.


MY ORIGINAL COMMENT: "All video requires a 'media key' to be unencrypted. This is to prohibit sharing the content, and doing so may result in your account being revoked (whereas a videotape requires no such bullshit)."

BIG DAMN HEROES: "Neither does a DVD, which you can burn from a T2G file."

MY REPLY: If I record something on a VHS tape, I can pass it to a friend who might have misses an episode of The Simpsons... do that with TiVoToGo file and you could get your account revoked?!? And yes, I realize I can burn the content to a DVD or a VHS tape and THEN give it to a friend (assuming it is not tagged as non-transferrable), but why is that allowed where passing over the file is not? We are to a point where digital content has the ability to liberate us from physical media... yet TiVo is dragging us back to the "stone age." This is not progress. It's landfills already overflowing with garbage and waste being crammed with discarded CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes.


MY ORIGINAL COMMENT: "The video is not in a standard format and requires special software to operate... currently only available for Windows 2000 or Windows XP (whereas a videotape will work on any VCR without special conditions)."

BIG DAMN HEROES: "Unless it's a Beta tape. Or Hi8. Or D8. Or DV. Or S-VHS. Or HD-VHS."

MY REPLY: Again, you're missing my point here. Beta, Hi-8, D8- S-VHS, and the like are all PHYSICAL MEDIA. There is a reason that they are incompatible with each other, because the technology and method used are physical in nature. Digital media is not physical. But with TiVo having proprietary encoding that's only available for Windows, this means people who want to watch their video on Macs, Linux boxes, mobile phones, digi-players, and the like may NEVER be able to play TiVoToGo files, and this is just ridiculous. The entire point of portability is to be able to transfer the video to a device that suits you. If your device is capable of playing video, then it should be able to play TiVoToGo files and the content you pay for every month (and it could if TiVo had chosen to use a standard format).


MY ORIGINAL COMMENT: "The TiVoToGo service will only work from specific players, meaning those of us with DirecTV boxes that have TiVo built-in or multiple tuners are shit-out-of-luck (whereas a VCR is a VCR is a VCR)."

BIG DAMN HEROES: "See above. An HD tape will only work in an HD VCR... this is not a flaw in the technology, it's common sense."

MY REPLY: I'm not giving up my dual-tuner TiVo with DirecTV, even if TiVo releases a Macintosh client for TiVo Desktop. This is not just going backwards in comparison to a VHS VCR, it's going backwards in comparison to TiVo!


The big picture here is that TiVo had an opportunity to give its paying customers a legal way of watching content on other devices instead of chaining them to a television set. The fact that they caved to pressure from networks and crippled the process to a point where such flexibility is only available to a portion of their subscriber base is lame. TiVo revolutionized how people record television content. After waiting five years for a way to watch that content on my laptop or portable player, I expected the same kind of revolution from TiVoToGo. But when the solution to every problem seems to be "burn it to a DVD," I have to ask... what's the point in the first place, and how is that superior to VHS technology from thirty years ago except that you don't have to rewind a DVD?

Categories: Television 2005Click To It: Permalink


  1. Thomas Hawk says:

    Your article and cartoon are getting the attention because they are insightful, entertaining and well thought out.

    Nice work.

    I don’t know if you saw yet today but Gizmodo picked up your cartoon as well.


  2. Dave2 says:


    That’s nice of you to say, but it’s YOUR article that was thoughtful and entertaining. Mine was just a rambling statement of disappointment.

    Hmmm… I read Gizmodo via RSS, so I didn’t know about the cartoon. Thanks for pointing it out. Something new to add to my blog. 🙂

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