tivo phone home?
February 4, 2006 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Does TiVo still require a phone connection?

I'd like to get one for a friend that only has a mobile. Can TiVo use VoIP?
posted by The Jesse Helms to Technology (14 answers total)
posted by I Love Tacos at 6:13 AM on February 4, 2006

No... but if you get THE RIGHT adapter, it can connect via a wireless network. Make SURE that it is the right adapter though, TiVo is darn picky.

PS, the first time you connect, it should be through a phone line.
posted by k8t at 6:22 AM on February 4, 2006

Best answer: No, TiVo does not require a phone connection, even for the initial setup. (The original Series 2 DVRs did require a phone connection to set the system up initially. Newer units do not, and this fact is indicated on their boxes.)

In lieu of a phone connection, TiVo does require either wired or wireless ethernet connectivity, so your friend will need broadband at some point.

Your TiVo will not be able to use your friend's cell phone, but he especially won't need to use Vonage or anything silly like that, since TiVo can just hop on the network alongside it.

The ethernet connectivity is USB-based and sold separately. TiVo has their own branded wireless adapter that makes things quite a bit faster, using methods that are away from the answer to your question. See Tacos' link for purchasing information.
posted by disillusioned at 6:23 AM on February 4, 2006

For my old series 1, I installed a wired network adapter and connected it to this Linksys gaming adapter, which is total overkill except for my xbox which also uses the gaming adapter. You will need a router that provides DHCP. Works well, occasionally misses a daily call but rebooting the gaming adapter corrects that. Newer Series 2 Tivos should detect the network automatically. Older units need to have their dialing prefix set to ",#401". Vonage is definitely not recommended.
posted by Slap Incognito at 7:49 AM on February 4, 2006

I find it sad that Tivo people seem to have to sometimes jump through unecessarily difficult hoops to do something as simple as autoconfig'd networking, while the ReplayTV has had effortless, built-in ethernet since 2000. Just like Beta/VHS, and Apple/MS, the sad Replay/Tivo is proof that things don't always turn out the way you'd think they would.

In any case, I'm assuming that Tivo's networking for show show transfers works the same as ReplayTV - as in relatively large, MPEG-2 files being sent over the wire or air. These transfers can take a long time, and can be in real-time or as entire show dumps. Coupled with an active BitTorrent connection I was getting choppy VOIP on my Vonage for a while - I could hear fine but people on the other end kept hearing dropouts. Sign of a narrow upstream pipe - a classic cable modem issue.

The solution to getting fat pipe media devices to live happily with VOIP is Quality of Service, or QoS. Many recent store-bought routers claim to support QoS, but their implementations are usually a bit crap.

I loaded DD-WRT Linux onto a Linksys WRT54GS /Asus WL-500G Deluxe. Run the media boxes and the BitTorrent on low or normal priority, and run the VOIP on a high priority. You're better off on these low-end systems doing QoS based on IP alone. You can do application choking, but this CPU intensive for low-end routers. And doing QoS based on MAC ID or ethernet port is just bad networking.

Anway, now I have several shows streaming over the internet to other ReplayTV users, a 900 KB/s BitTorrent download, three streaming audio LAN feeds, two streaming video LAN feeds (from the Replays), and Vonage is again clear as a bell. So if you use VOIP on your home network, and you want to add on some media streamers, implement QoS if your connection quality drops.
posted by meehawl at 9:21 AM on February 4, 2006

The DirecTivo (Tivo for DirecTV) does require a phone connection.
posted by jca at 9:33 AM on February 4, 2006

I heard that there is a dongle that will work with a cell phone and the DirectTivo....but I have had NO luck finding out how to do this. Any help out there?
posted by what-i-found at 9:47 AM on February 4, 2006

The DirecTV TiVo does not actually need the phone line after initial setup. It will nag you to call (once a week at first, then every day after you've not called for a month), but you can ignore this; the program data comes over the satellite. If you order Pay-Per-View you should do it via the DirecTV Web site rather than the remote, or the receiver will start blocking PPV if it can't call in.

Some models of Series 2 DirecTV TiVos can be hacked (by installing the standalone Series 2 software on them) to support Ethernet or wireless connections, as well.
posted by kindall at 10:42 AM on February 4, 2006

Oh yeah, and you can hack it to stop nagging you about the call-in too.
posted by kindall at 10:43 AM on February 4, 2006

Oh, really...do tell. ;-)
posted by what-i-found at 11:06 AM on February 4, 2006

Really, Kindall? that's one of my family's pet peeves with our (otherwise much beloved) DirecTivo. Our phone jack is on the other side of the room from our box, and calling in requires a long cable just asking to be tripped over.
posted by MadamM at 12:37 PM on February 4, 2006

Ah, I misunderstood, my overly long question was about getting heavily networked Tivo to coexist with VOIP. Apologies.
posted by meehawl at 12:42 PM on February 4, 2006

Yeah, just look around for hacking guides for TiVo. It is fairly easy if you have some experience inside a computer -- you just buy the standalone TiVo Series 2 image from a particular company, install that on your TiVo drive, then install the hacks from another CD image. There are other hacks too, for example allowing telnet and/or control of the TiVo from a Web browser, disabling the encryption of recordings so you can just move them over to a computer and watch them, etc. Disabling the call-in nags requires installing a program called fakecall, which periodicallymakes the TiVo think it has already called in. Here is a step-by-step on istalling OS 4.x and doing the hacks. You can also apparently go to OS 6.x now, nice.
posted by kindall at 6:13 PM on February 4, 2006

Really, Kindall? that's one of my family's pet peeves with our (otherwise much beloved) DirecTivo. Our phone jack is on the other side of the room from our box, and calling in requires a long cable just asking to be tripped over.

That's the situation in my girlfriend's house, which we resolved with a wireless telephone jack like this thing. I found it at a liquidator for under $15. There's a number of them in this section of ebay.
posted by phearlez at 1:37 PM on February 6, 2006

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