Tuesday, December 09, 2008

And The TiVo Is Hacked - In A Good Way

Last night, I started the process of hacking my TiVo. At the time, it left me with a non-working TiVo and a non-working Linux sever. My plan was to tackle this later today after I got some Real Work done. But alas, with the particular Linux server down, my network wasn't working. Something was going to have to get fixed.

The problem I was running into last night was that a typical TiVo drive isn't trivially mounted on a X86 Linux box. Apparently, it's PowerPC and the drive needs to be mounted with byte swapping in effect. The good news is that the MFSLive CD, a small CD to boot and mount TiVo partitions will do this byte swapping for you. But, only if the drive was a secondary IDE master or slave.

The upshot of this all means that I had to coax two very short IDE cables into hooking things up just right. This morning, I managed to find just the right combination.

With the TiVo drive mounted, I was able to copy various unix tools to it, and most importantly, turn on the telnet daemon.

Once this was done, I put the drive back in the TiVo, booted it up - and amazingly, was able to telnet to the server. Using the built in text2osd I was able to send the following message to the screen:

Now the real fun can begin.

It just never ceases to amaze me that a situation that was so grim 6 hours ago, so seamlessly came together now. The moral of the story: when in doubt, leave it and get some sleep.


  1. Nice work! I used to read up on what you could do with the hack in place but i haven't checked on it in a while. We still have our Tivo Series2 from a lifetime subscription we got years and years ago. But we have an HDDVR upstairs now. I don't think i'll ever get a new Tivo though. Just doesn't make sense to pay $200-$300 for a system and then pay a monthly service fee on top of it when you can pay $10 - $20 a month to rent an HD DVR.

  2. Thanks Jordon.

    Yeah, we have an ancient Series 1, where we purchased a lifetime subscription. It's probably among the top 5 purchases we've ever made, if not the best.

    As for hacks - I'm just trying to get the content off the box. Which, turns out, might not be that hard. And because I'm dealing with a Series 1 box, the video isn't encoded in any particularly tricky way.

    The fact that I have shell access is just bonus.