Peeking out of the Tivo walled garden

Tivo's DRM spoils the fun of playing with home media networks and locks users into a walled media garden.
Written by Phil Windley, Contributor

I heard about TivoServer for the first time yesterday. This program runs on you Mac, Windows, or Linux box and looks like a TiVo to other Tivos on your network. You point it at a directory with your favorite video content and now you can watch that content on other Tivos anywhere in your home. The code is pretty new and consequently, the whole thing is pretty raw with sparse documentation and a few bugs. Nevertheless, it's a cool idea.

There's only one fly in the ointment: Tivo's DRM. My Tivo box can see the server, but doesn't recognize it as a legitimate source of content. To make that happen, you have to patch your Tivo with Superpatch--not a trivial process. And then when Tivo updates your OS (something they do with surprising frequency) you get to do it all over again. Not only that, but since you're defeating the DRM, you're probably breaking Federal law (the DMCA) by installing the patch.

Yeah, I know--it's Tivo's business model and I signed up for it when I bought the box. I ought to just set up MythTV and forget it. Still, I can't shake the vision of being able to watch movies from a server using the Tivo interface. My family knows the Tivo interface. The interface is easy to use and is something Tivo just nailed. We're big Tivo fans. We just want a few windows in the wall surrounding Tivo's garden.

Apple TV is no better, of course; it's just a another walled garden for iTunes content that doesn't--as far as I know--talk to the Tivo or Windows HME, let alone MythTV or whatever devices I want to buy. All these walled gardens have balkanized what could be a very interesting time for TV, movies, and music. Eventually, I think they'll collapse under their own weight, but that day may be a long time coming.

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