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TiVo + Vonage = ?

OK – so you’re hi-tech and you’ve dumped your landline for Vonage or some other VoIP. And now your TiVo doesn’t dial-in. You’ve got a bunch of options to get back on track. Figure out which model classification you have below and we’ll tell you what to do. Believe it or not, all TiVo DVRs have a serial port (even though it looks like a headphone jack) and this makes for some possibilities.


Series 1 TiVos (Philips DSR6000 and HDR series, Sony SVR-2000 and SAT T-60, Hughes GXCEBOT): These units are the original. If they work, keep them going. We sell an external modem kit for your TiVo that will work with Vonage and most other VoIP providers. It’s easy to install, quick to setup, and just plain-old works.

Series 2 Standalone TiVos and DVD TiVos: If you’ve got one of these, and you’ve got VoIP, then you just need a network adapter and you can get your TiVo on the net and you won’t need a phone line. Just go into Messages and Setup and tell your TiVo how to connect after you hook up the hardware.

Series 2 DirecTV TiVos (including HD): Two options here. Easiest is: don’t dial it in at all. If you’ve already set up the unit, it doesn’t need to dial-in anymore. It’ll complain that you haven’t dialed it in in XX days (mine is finally over 400!) but you just have to click Select once per day, max, and it’s gone. You can’t purchase PayPerView from the unit, but you can still purchase it by phone or on the internet and this TiVo will see the show. Don’t worry about the guide data running out – that comes from the satellite dish on these units. But if you want to get rid of the warning message (nag screen) and/or be able to do PayPerView, you can use our external modem kit. If you have one of these units, you’ll need the $11 cable also since one didn’t come with your unit originally.

If you haven’t set up your Series 2 DirecTV TiVo yet, then you have two options. You can go to a friend’s house (even one without DirecTV) and get through the two setup phone calls there. If you do that, first get the unit through the beginning of setup with a satellite dish connected; then call DirecTV and have them activate the card. After that you can do the dial-ins without the satellite dish connected if you need to. The other option is, yet again, the WeaKnees external TiVo modem kit. This will get you through initial setup, and the later dial-ins.

One final note: at least one VoIP provider doesn’t support modems at all, so we recommend that you avoid them: Packet8.

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Buy a Battery Backup…and please don’t void the $50,000 insurance policy!

A month ago, we pleaded with all DVR owners to purchase an uninterruptible power supply. We consider this so important, that we’re reminding you again—please, if you have a TiVo DVR, purchase a UPS! A UPS, unlike a standard surge protector or line conditioner, will protect your TiVo from power fluctuations, surges and power drops. Because it has a battery to provide power, a UPS is able to increase power when it drops, and can step down power when there is a surge.


UPSs nearly always come with some amount of ‘insurance’ from the manufacturer, which promises that if any unit connected to the UPS is damaged from a power event (surge, brownout, etc.), the company will reimburse you for your losses. After talking with several manufacturers, we have learned a bit about how these insurance policies work.

Obviously, the purpose of a UPS is to avoid trouble down the road. However, if you do have problems, you’ll want to be sure that the UPS manufacturer’s insurance policy will cover your losses. To do so, you must install the UPS properly, and comply with the manufacturer’s requirements.

The insurance policy on UPS devices is likely to require you to jump through various hoops. For example, APC has a number of conditions that must be met if you expect to make a claim, including.

1. REGISTER YOUR PRODUCT ON TIME! You must register the product by returning to APC the warranty card provided with the product within 10 days of purchase. All information must be filled in, and you should retain a copy for your records. The warranty card must clearly identify the types of electronic equipment that will be plugged into the APC product for which protection under this policy is claimed. All connected equipment must be UL or CSA approved.

2. DO NOT USE A UPS WITH AN EXTENSION CORD, SURGE PROTECTOR OR OTHER DEVICE! The APC product must be plugged into properly wired and grounded outlets; no extension cords, adapters, other ground wires, or electrical connections may be used, with the sole exception of other standard APC 120 volt products. The installation must not include power protection products made by any manufacturer other than APC. The installation must comply with all applicable electrical and safety codes set forth pursuant to the National Electrical Code (NEC).

3. SUBMIT YOUR CLAIM QUICKLY! Any claim under the Equipment Protection Policy must be made within 10 days of the date of alleged damage to the connected equipment.

I suspect that the number of failures attributable to a faulty UPS is fairly small. However small, though, it seems pretty clear that the number of valid claims has got to be miniscule. How many UPS purchasers read the fine print sufficiently enough to register the product? And of those who have actually registered, how many fail to submit the claim on time? It’s gotta be a small number.

I don’t mean to suggest that UPSs fail frequently; to the contrary, we have many customers whose problems (TiVo-related problems, that is) disappeared the day they purchased a UPS. Inexpensive investment…well worth it.

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The “Welcome! Powering Up . . .” Screen

A note from the troubleshooting archives: The Welcome! Powering Up Screen.

When you first boot any TiVo DVR, you’ll see a version of the “Welcome! Powering Up” screen. For most units, it’s one of these two below. For the oldest TiVos, it looks a bit different.


This screen is built into the firmware on the motherboard of the unit. Software updates don’t affect it, and you’ll see it even without a hard drive installed in the unit.

The next screen is the “Almost There” screen. It’s at this point that the TiVo starts to read data off the hard drive. So if you get as far as “Almost There” that means you have a hard drive present and the motherboard has begun reading from it. Older units with the gray “Welcome” screen can progress to a gray or orange-and-black “Almost There” screen depending on the software version.

So the progress during start up is a good place to do some troubleshooting if you suspect you’ve got a hard drive problem. If you get to the “Welcome! Powering Up” screen and no further, the TiVo can’t read the OS from the hard drive. So in 99% of those cases, a replacement hard drive with the right TiVo OS on it, properly formatted, will fix the problem.

Have a different problem with your TiVo? If you get no screen at all, then you may have a bad power supply, or just a cabling issue. If you get further than this screen, then you could still have a hard drive problem or another issue.

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Rebate on Harmony 880

Logitech is offering a $50 rebate on the Harmony 880 until April 25, 2006. We have the Harmony 880 for $229, with free shipping, so after rebate, your net cost is $179. That’s a pretty good deal for an excellent remote. In addition, for the lower-end Harmony 676 ($124.99 at Amazon) you end up with a new cost of $74.99.


An excellent review of the Harmony 880 is over at PVRBlog.

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New Years Resolution for your TiVo – a UPS

What’s the best thing you can do to keep your TiVo up and running? Get it on a UPS.

Here’s the basic idea: Your TiVo is a computer, and you probably have a UPS on your computer. For the same reasons, you should have one on your TiVo. It’s a computer also, and, frankly, the power supply in it likely isn’t as robust as the one in your computer.

If you’re wondering what a UPS is, it’s basically a battery that goes between your TiVo and your wall outlet. If the power drops – even a bit – then the UPS takes over and adds the power back into the equation from its battery. So the TiVo won’t see a power drop at all – and the drive inside the unit is much less likely to be damaged.

Many people have their units plugged into surge suppressors. That’s half the battle – those keep too much power from getting to the unit. But a UPS does both: it keeps too much or too little power from hitting the unit, and both can seriously damage a TiVo.

Consider this pretty inexpensive unit from Amazon, or find one at your local Staples or Office Depot. It’s a good investement.

We have more info on our site about using a UPS with your TiVo.