Customer Contacts

The 137 GB Limit

Looks like everyone wants a super-sized upgrade these days. 120 GB just won’t do. We’ve been getting lots and lots of email about the old 137 GB barrier, which no longer applies to any newer unit. So if your unit has a USB port, even it if can’t use the USB port, you can use drives as large as anything out there.

Here’s the deal: Most TiVos originally shipped with a version of the Linux kernel that could only read up to 137 GB off of any piece of fixed media. So the max storage space was limited to 137 GB per device, two devices per unit. That’s why the largest drives we sell for many units are 160 GB – they’re the next largest size above the barrier, so they’re the smallest that gives the largest space. That is to say, you could put two 250 GB drives in the older units, but you wouldn’t gain any more space than you would with 160s.

But at the end of last summer, all of the units with USB ports that couldn’t previously see more than 137 GB of space received OS updates. The updates include a newer kernel, and now those units can see the space on any drive. The largest we currently sell are 400 GB drives, but 500s are coming soon.

Customer Contacts

More MPEG-4 DirecTV Info via a Canned DTV Email

As a follow up on our earlier post about MPEG-4 and DIRECTV, we’re posting a boilerplate letter that DIRECTV is sending to subscribers who inquire about these changes:

Thanks for asking about HD equipment. I understand your concern about how our transition to MPEG-4 transmission will affect any MPEG-2 equipment you may have. Let me reassure you that most customers will be able to use their MPEG-2 equipment for quite some time.

That’s what we’ve been telling our customers – buying a DirecTV HD DVR now is not something that will be obsolete anytime soon, and, most importantly, it has the TiVo OS. The box that is slated to arrive with MPEG-4 recording capabilities will not have the TiVo OS.

At this time, our current HD programming will continue to be broadcast using the MPEG-2 standard; MPEG-4 technology will be used only to provide local HD programming in select cities. (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tampa and Washington, D.C. are expected to launch this year, with more to be added throughout the next year.)

OK – that’s the easy part.

Once local HD programming launches in your city, you will be eligible for an MPEG-4-capable receiver replacement. If you want to replace your HD DVR, you may need to wait a bit longer. Our new MPEG-4-capable DIRECTV HD DVR is expected to be available sometime in 2006.

All over the internet, people claim that DIRECTV plans to come out with the new HD DVR for MPEG-4 in February, but our sources push that date much further back. This boilerplate text hints that it could be a while.

Thanks again for writing. More details will be available when we launch the local HD service in your area, so watch your local TV, radio or mailbox for upcoming announcements or visit for the latest news.

For those of you who are clamoring for the new receiver, we have them, and if you can’t wait to get your hands on the massive new 5 LNB dish, we now have those also.

Note: More MPEG-4 info is in our earlier blog entry.

Customer Contacts

Customer support call/email of the day

Maybe it’s just a fluke, but we’ve been getting a flood of emails and phone calls today from customers asking if they can use their combo DirecTV TiVo with Comcast cable. The answer, unfortunately, is no. These units can only read DirecTV signals and can’t do anything all all with a cable signal – nor can they be modified to read one.

My guess is that there’s a somewhat straightforward reason for all of these questions, which is reflected in another slew of questions that we’re getting: is DirecTV cutting off all TiVos? The answer here is, emphatically, no. DirecTV will phase out the TiVo service on their new DVRs, but they aren’t changing the service on existing DVRs, nor are they cutting support for it. There are several million DVRs with TiVo out there, and the cost to them to swap them would be huge. And if you need any further proof that DirecTV will continue to support these units, look no further than the UltimateTV boxes. These haven’t been made for years, but DirecTV still sends out the signals they need. And why not? If they stopped, they’d both anger some customers, and have to swap out those units.


MPEG 4 Info for HD with DIRECTV

It may not be the number one question that we answer on the phone each day, but over time it might be. Everyone wants to know about the future of HD on DirecTV, and whether their HR10-250 (or the one they’re about to purchase) will be obsolete. In a word, the answer is “no.” The current HR10-250s won’t be obsolete anytime soon. We’ll give you more details.

Last January, DirecTV started the announcements of MPEG 4 transmissions. They claimed this would start mid-year (still hasn’t started yet) in twelve markets. The current update is that they claim to have the top twenty-four markets up soon. But the key is the programming here: local channels in these markets. If you have an OTA (over the air) antenna and get your local channels that way, then this is no improvement. Your HR10-250 (or H10 or H20 or older receiver) accepts input from an OTA antenna so you generally already get these channels.

At least for now, this is the sum of DirecTV’s MPEG 4 plans: local HD channels in twenty-four markets around the country. All other programming in HD (HBO, ESPN, Discovery, HDNet, HD movies, etc.) will remain in MPEG 2 format for at least the near future – probably for many, many years. Essentially, all DirecTV HD equipment out to date can only read MPEG 2 format, so all of that would need to be swapped if DirecTV cut these transmissions. The H20 is the new receiver and it can read MPEG 4 also, but it’s just trickling out (ours are in transit). And there is no MPEG 4 DVR out – the HR20 is rumored, but seems to be nowhere on the horizon – and, more importantly, it very likely won’t have the TiVo OS.

So we don’t think there’s any reason not to get an HR10-250 now. The new channels only benefit those in who can’t receive local HD transmissions, and they’ll need the new 5 LNB dish to get them with a new unit. DirecTV will be keeping compatibility with HR10-250s and H10s for several years to come.

Finally, there has been speculation about DirecTV’s plans to switch out all current HD equipment to newer equipment. We haven’t seen any concrete evidence that this will happen. We haven’t heard it from our DirecTV dealer representative either. It certainly may happen, especially as the price of HD equipment drops, but we just don’t have proof much less details.

Site Change

New Site Feature

Today we added a new feature to our site: Search. We purchased back-end software from isearchthenet – a company in the UK. With a little configuration time, we’re up and running. The search entry field appears on every page of our site in the left side navigation bar. Give it a try!