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New Tivo User - Setup Information

Old 12-03-05, 11:58 PM
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New Tivo User - Setup Information

I'm posting my experience with setting up a new Tivo obtained from the JC Penny's Dockers promotion. There is a lot of old and just plain wrong information out there and I figured I'd post my findings for others who managed to get in on the deal.


The free Tivo is a TCD540040. This is a Series 2 Tivo capable of recording up to 40 hours of video with basic compression. Basic compression is the lowest quality compression of 4 possible levels. This Tivo will record about 10 hours with the highest quality compression.

With respect to equipment, Tivo recently started following the satellite television marketing model. That is you get free/reduced equipment in exchange for a 1 year contract. All Tivo activations after September 6th, 2005 have a $150 cancellation penalty if you cancel before the end of your first year. Activations that include a gift subscription do not have this penalty. So since the Tivo from JC Pennys came with a 3 month gift subscription, I am not subject to the early cancellation penalty. This is true of all Tivo gift subscriptions so if you'd like to try it out without being locked into a contract, just buy a 3 month gift subscription and give it to yourself.

A credit card is necessary to activate service. The card will not be charged until after the gift subscription runs out. You may choose to apply the value of the gift subscription to the cost of a lifetime subscription ($299). The standard monthly rate is $12.95, but some subscribers have been able to lower the rate to $6.95/month by calling customer service and threatening to switch to a cable company DVR.


The Tivo has 1 composite video, 1 s-video, 1 stereo audio, and 1 RF inputs. It has 2 composite video, 1 s-video, 2 stereo audio, and 1 channel 3 output. There are no component video or digital audio connections.

There is a port for an RS232 connection to specific receivers and another port for an IR blaster.

It also has two USB ports. The only use I can find for USB is a networking adapter. I wonder why there are two USB ports?


The unit I received supports home networking out of the box. A telephone connection was not necessary to set it up. It will connect to Tivo via a wired or wireless USB network adapter that you supply. The firmware and guide data downloads more quickly than with the dial-up modem.

According to Tivo, most wired USB adapters will work with this model. A very limited number of wireless adapters will work with it. I bought a Netgear WG111 USB wireless adapter from Best Buy for $30 AR. This adapter has a Tivo sticker on the retail box. Verify that the USB adapter serial number starts with "130" for compatibility.

Adding a network adapter provides support for the Home Media Option which is now free with the standard subscription. The HMO allows you to stream pictures and music from a networked Windows computer and send (DRM'd) video files to a computer for playing with their player. You can also run a server on your PC source dynamic images from the web. The sample application serves up traffic cameras, but you can tweak the XML config files to point to anything (weather radar, etc).

HMO allows you to set up a recordings from a remote computer. It may take up to an hour for the new recording timer to take effect. You can do this with a phoneline Tivo, but it can take up 36 hours to take effect.

It is possible to burn a Tivo videos to a DVD with additional software from Tivo. These DVDs should be playable in most DVD players.


This Tivo is upgradable with a second larger drive. This will provide more space for recordings. There are many guides out there on how to do this. Tivo does not actively discourage users from upgrading their hard drives, but they will void your warrenty.

Without a subscription the Tivo is a paperweight. This particular unit is much more difficult to hack than previous versions.

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