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November 12, 2004

Tivo Hacker Innovation

CNet has an article on Tivo hacking with an underlying theme that it gives Tivo some good ideas on features for the future. I have a lot of respect for the people who write hacks for Tivo, but I disagree with the article's contention.

Tivo hackers have done some brilliant work, but they've had to overcome many obstacles to get things to work properly. MFS_FTP is a great piece of software, but what makes it so great is that the author overcame so many roadblocks to make it functional. Transferring files has been around for many decades, so it's not exactly a revolutionary new idea.

Things that would be trivial to do on other platforms become insurmountable mountains in Tivo hacking. Things like converting a file from Tivo's proprietary format to regular old MPEG2 for instance, getting the software to react to the remote control, or even just drawing text on the screen can all take many hours of reverse engineering.

I don't blame Tivo either. Their business relies on the fact that they need to play nice with MSOs, and one way to really piss them off is to make it easy for users to break their business model. Tivo's investors want their money spent wisely, and costly litigation doesn't exactly bring investors knocking at your door.

I have a lot of respect for the Tivo hacking community, and I apreciate the work that they do. They are definitely innovative and industrious. It's also true that they have come up with some new features worthy of emulation. I'm impressed by anyone who climbs Mt. Everest, but these guys do it barefooted. It's an accomplishment to get to the top with snow between your toes, but it's not exactly the fastest way.

Posted on November 12, 2004

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