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The TiVo® Page for
Macintosh OS X 10.5 (Leopard)

When the TiVo® service officially became available in Canada in December 2007, I obtained a TiVo® Series 2 Dual Tuner 80 Hour Model (TCD649080) within the first week.

Initial setup was a breeze, and the connection to my LAN made it even simpler than having to activate using a telephone connection. I simply followed the directions to configure the network settings for the TIVo, and then activated my subscription.

In addition to the basic PVR functions, the TiVo® service had MANY features that I was not aware of before I installed and started using mine. I had originally thought that a TiVo was basically a digital video recorder that would record and playback shows, much like a VHS recorder, but with an integrated show guide. Some of the features that I found I like the best include:

  • Pause/Rewind Live TV

  • Watch one channel while recording another, record two different channels at the same time, or record two different channels at the same time while watching a previously recorded show.

  • Season Pass records my favorite programs whenever they are on.

  • Listen to my iTunes music on TV

  • Advanced search capabilities (name, category, WishLists/Pivot searches, Guru Guides, and more)

  • Schedule TiVo recordings from the Internet

  • KidZone controls what kids can see on TV

Then came the disappointments!!

  • Series 2 TiVos are not HD capable.

  • One digital and one analog tuner. So, it is not possible to watch one digital channel while recording another.

  • Poor/terrible Macintosh support (see below).

  • 80 hours of recording. This is 80 hours of low resolution storage (see table below). Although suitable for iPod viewing I much prefer the highest resolution recording when I am going to timeshift to a computer, or save to DVD. At this setting I get a little over 20 hours of recording time. This is not much especially when you consider that most of my viewing time is on the weekends. So I usually record 6 or 7 days of programs before watching and deleting them. If I travel or am away on the weekend I lose programs. In addition, I often keep kid's programming for several weeks as my children often like to watch their favorite shows several times.

      Approximate hours of recording time vs. recording quality
    Basic Medium High Best
    TCD649080 (80 hours) 80 48.5 37 23.5

  • If you have more than one TV each TV will require it's own TiVo®. And each TiVo® DVR will require it's own annual subscription to the TiVo® service.

  • No commercial skip. For me one big appeal of DVR technology is the ability to skip commercials, and hence reduce the time "wasted" watching TV programs. For example a 60 minute program usually distills down to about 40 minutes once the breaks are removed.


After using the TiVo for a while I was able to clearly define my goals:

  1. Get content from the TiVo® DVR onto DVD for long-term time shifting.

  2. Get content from TiVo® onto a Macintosh for intermediate-term time shifting.

  3. Get content from DVD onto TiVo® for viewing on TV.

  4. Get content from a Macintosh onto TiVo® for viewing on TV.

  5. Find some way to skip commercials.

Macintosh Users are "second-class" TiVo citizens

    Although I have several computers with Windows XP installed, they are dual boot and are usually running Ubuntu linux. Additionally, I have several terabytes of storage connected to my Macintosh, and more on my LAN on my networked MP3 server. I have less than 500 GB attached to my Windows computers. So my preference is to use a Macintosh to manage my TiVo.

    I quickly found that being a Macintosh user meant that I was a "second-class" citizen when it came to the capabilities of the TiVo® support software. TiVo® Desktop for Windows (V2.6) is a vastly superior product to TiVo® Desktop Mac (V1.93). For example, the free Windows version supports uploads from Windows to a TiVo in the following formats: Windows Media Video (.wmv), QuickTime Movie (.mov), MPEG-4/H.264 (.mp4, .m4v, .mp4v), MPEG-2 (.mpg, .mpeg, .mpe, .mp2, .mp2v, .mpv2), DivX and Xvid (.avi, .divx).

    At first glance the Mac Version of TiVo Desktop didn't even provide the ability to upload content to a TiVo. Searching the TiVo Community Forums revealed that with the upgrade to version 1.93 TiVo implemented the "ComeBack" portion of TiVoToGo, however this functionality was disabled by default. A hack was found, and this was followed by the discovery of the an Easter Egg to enable this feature. However, even when hacked, the Macintosh version of TiVo Desktop only supports uploading MPEG-2 (.mpg) files to the DVR.

    To use the Easter Egg you must first set up your TiVo, and install TiVo Desktop 1.93 for Macintosh (link at bottom of page) then:

    1. Open System Preferences...

    2. While holding down both the Command (Apple) and Option keys click on the TiVo Desktop icon.

    3. When the TiVo Desktop window is displayed there will be a Video tab that allows configuration of TiVo ComeBack.

    4. Check the Publish my videos option

    5. Click the Change... button and select the folder you would like to access from your TiVo.

      Note: TiVo Desktop does not recognize nested folders, so all content must be at the top level in this folder. See About makeTiVoSymLink... at the bottom of this page.

    6. Enter the MAK for the TiVo.

      NOTE: If you have more than one TiVo you can only share the your Macintosh content with ONE TiVo at a time. To make content available to a second TiVo you must enter it's MAK number here, and this terminates the connection to the first TiVo.

    7. Enter the name you want to see on the TiVo Now Playing screen on your TV.

    8. Click the Start button to turn TiVo Desktop on. When you do this your computer will scan the video folder and will create a .properties file for each .mpg file in this folder. The .properties file is a text file that you can edit using a simple text editor such as TextWrangler, SimpleText, BBEdit, etc. Do not use a word processor such as Word. This file contains only two entries that are used: description and title. These two items are uploaded to the TiVo along with the .mpg file, and provide the content that is displayed on the TV when the Info button is pressed or the menus viewed.

1. Downloading content from TiVo DVR to a Macintosh Computer

There are a several different ways to get video recordings off the TiVo and onto a Macintosh.

  • WebServer

    A Series 2 TiVo has a built-in webserver. Once a TiVo is configured and connected to a LAN any web browser that supports https can download files directly from the DVR. To do this:

    1. Launch your web browser (in my case I use FireFox),

    2. Enter: https://TiVo_ip_address into the address bar (where https://TiVo_ip_address is the IP address that was used when the TiVo was set up.

    3. You will probably be notified that the security certificate is from an unknown agency, simply click OK.

    4. Next you will be asked to enter in a name and password For name just enter tivo (lowercase), and in the Password field enter the MAK for your TiVo.

    5. After a short pause the Now Playing window will be displayed. This web page provides information about stored content including: Source (channel), Description, Date, Size (playing time and file size), and a Link that will download the selected show onto your computer's hard drive.

    The major drawback to this approach is that the downloaded file is a .tivo, and these files cannot be played on the Macintosh unless they are ripped into MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 files. There are several utilities that can do this including: TiVo Decoder and Visual Hub (links at bottom of this page).

  • TiVo Download Manager

    The TiVoDecode Manager (link at bottom of this page) is a free Applescript GUI that automates the downloading of content from a Series 2 TiVo to a Macintosh computer. It also decodes the downloaded files into MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 files.

    The only issue I have encountered with this software under OS 10.5x is that it does not properly handle queued files, and so recordings must be downloaded one at a time. Since it is Applescript

2. Burning TiVo files to DVD

Once content has been downloaded and converted to a MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 format, most DVD burning software can be used to output the files onto DVD.

3. Upload previously downloaded TiVo® content onto a TiVo®

As my TiVo only provides about 20 hours of recording I have two solutions: upgrade the hard drive in my TiVo to a larger drive, or download and store my content on another device and then upload it to the TiVo when I want to watch it. After some research I found the site at weaKnees.com. This site provides much useful information about TiVo hardware and several different upgrade options.

Ultimately I decided that no matter what size of drive I had in the TiVo, it would always be full, and I would end up moving files off the DVR and onto an external device, so I may as well use this approach from the beginning.

Interestingly, the Macintosh version of TiVo Desktop cannot upload native .tivo files back onto a TiVo. It will only upload MPEG-2 files. This means that in order to download/upload a show you must rip the downloaded .tivo file into MPEG-2 format that can be uploaded. TiVo Decoder, TiVo Decode Manager, and Visual Hub all provide this functionality.

Once your content is ripped into MPEG-2 format TiVo Desktop is the only game in town for uploading this content from your Macintosh to your TiVo. Above I described the steps required to enable this functionality on OS X.

4. Uploading DVD content onto TiVo®

This is important to me as I have young children, and I want to be able to load new movies onto the TiVo to protect the original media from damage.

Initially there did not appear to be any way to get DVD content onto the TiVo. But after some more Googling I found mention of a program called VisualHub. VisualHub takes many different formats and can transform them into most common file types including TiVo files. See the links near the end of this page for a link to VisualHub.

5. Commercial Skip

While TiVo's button will get you through those intrusive commercial breaks soon enough, it requires some trained skill to manipulate those and buttons while anticipating the end of the commercial blocks.

The button on the TiVo remote will bring you to the end of a program, or if you are at the end, it will bring you to the beginning. If you are fast forwarding, the button will skip you to the next tick mark. This hack is all about repurposing that button to act as the 30-second skip.

Play any recorded program (must NOT be Live TV), and then, enter the following sequence on your remote:

3 0

If you have successfully entered the code your TiVo will ring out three Thumbs Up sounds and your button will now skip forward by 30 seconds.

Note; This hack isn't permanent. If your TiVo ever needs to be updated or rebooted (after becoming unplugged or after a power failure) this hack will go away and you will have to reapply it.

Last Thoughts

Most of my TiVo Googling and hacking occurred before TiVo announced that Macintosh TiVo support would be through Roxio's Toast Titanium product. Having now used this SRP $100.00 USD software I would offer the following positive comments:

  • It provides a suite of tools to deal with many tasks.

    • Tivo Transfer - provides a nice polished interface for downloading .tivo files from your DVR including queuing multiple files, and scheduled downloads.

    • Toast Video Player - provides a good quality video player which can play .tivo files. This app is also used to set markers when editing your content in Toast Titanium.

    • Toast Titanium - provides the ability to configure and burn DVDs containing TiVo content.

  • Easy to use.

  • Provides a reasonably good end-product.

  • Provides the ability to convert .tivo files to other formats.

On the negative side:

  • Windows users are provided with free tools to perform these functions. Why do Mac users have to pay for the same capabilities?

  • Ripping .tivo files is time consuming and CPU intensive. A single DVD may take over 15 hours to rip and burn. This means you can save and download your content faster than you can burn it by a factor of about 4:1.

Useful Links

About makeTiVoSymLink...

    TiVo Desktop for Macintosh does not recognize nested folders wthin the selected Tivo Videos folder, so all content must be at the top level in this folder. To overcome this limitation I wrote a small Applescript droplet that creates a symbolic link for any file dropped onto it. If this symlink is copied into your video folder TiVo Desktop will then follow the link and let you upload any MPEG-2 file stored on any Finder-mountable volume (local, LAN, WAN).

    You can download makeTiVoSymLink here. This is a simple shell script that does the job for me, but you use this software at your own risk. No warrantee, guarantee or suitability for usage are stated or implied.

    To use makeTiVoSymLink:

    1. Create a folder titled aliases on your Desktop.

    2. Drop your MPEG-2 file on top of makeTiVoSymLink and release the mouse button.

    3. After a brief pause a symbolic link file will appear in your aliases folder.

    4. Copy this file to your TiVo Videos folder and it is now treated by TiVo Desktop just like any other file stored in the TiVo Desktop folder.


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©2008 Black Pearl Computing Ltd.
Prepared: 4/19/2008 Last Modified: 4/27/2008 18:55