As I continue to mull over the new (incomplete, buggy) TiVo Hydra interface, while awaiting patches, evidence has surfaced that TiVo cloud recording remains an active project. When the Tablo-fighting TiVo Mavrik OTA solution was scrapped, I’d assumed cloud was similarly off the table. However, recording options and uncovered code on tivo.com suggest otherwise. As revealed last spring, it appeared TiVo would offer two tiers of cloud recording capacity (20GB, 50GB) and we know they were testing on Bolt this time last year. Wether or not the presumably optional service will be limited to over-the-air programming is anyone’s guess and if it’s something enough of us are willing to pay for… given sufficient recording capacity and out-of-home streaming.

(Thanks Cole!)

How To Upgrade To TiVo Hydra

Dave Zatz —  October 29, 2017 — 78 Comments

The switch has been flipped and Hydra is now available to TiVo Bolt, Roamio, and Mini owners who want it. However, you probably want to review these considerations before proceeding. Further, the downgrade app, should you later choose to throw in the towel, does not yet appear to be available and TiVo Minis have had some trouble with the upgrade process.

Should that not be enough to dissuade, here’s how to get in early on the optional upgrade: Hit this link, log into TiVo.com, and select the boxes you’d like to update. The TiVo Service Numbers are being swept in every two hours so, should the 24-48 hour wait be too long, you’d go into your network settings to force a connection to receive the update and then reboot to apply it.

Keep in mind any Minis you have will ultimately need to match the host DVR interface. So excluding them or trying to prioritize them within the request form won’t ultimately mean anything. With that in mind, I’d suggest updating everything or nothing.

I haven’t had enough time with Hydra to pass judgement, other than to say I appreciate the menu customization and find the animations, transitions, etc very smooth … although there’s going to be significant retraining in regards to deprecation of the left directional button and rethinking of the now playing show info banner, plus who knows what else. Also, at a meta analytical level, the new interface has me wondering what makes TiVo a TiVo. Hm.

The TiVo Hydra Heads Up

Dave Zatz —  October 28, 2017 — 62 Comments

TiVo Hydra is coming… the interface (and more), several years in the making, that re-envisions the TiVo experience upon a modern, extensible platform. And should you be primed and ready to go, TiVo Consumer VP Ted Malone has provided details how to accelerate the optional update process for existing Bolt, Roamio, and Mini boxes:

On Sunday morning, you will be able to go to a page on the TiVo website and request the upgrade for any TSN that is on your account. While not technically “forever”, you will need to wait 2-3 hours before forcing a call to download the new software.

However, before you take the plunge, there are some things you should know…

  • Despite the extensive gestation period, including the incorporation of Fan TV talent and departure of design chief Margret Schmidt, Hydra remains a work in progress. Folks who lived with the prior interfaces for years upon years should be prepared for a shock to the system. Not to say the experience isn’t good, but it’s dramatically different and not yet complete. Not that these things ever are
  • And one feature in particular power users need to be alerted to: PC-to-TiVo uploads (think TiVo Desktop, pytivo, etc) are not yet operational. I don’t believe this is an intentional EOL event. Rather, there was work prioritized ahead of this more niche functionality and the retrofitting of likely archaic hooks. However, transferring recordings from various TiVo DVRs to Hydra boxes works (via TiVo.com, versus STB initiation) as does downloading recordings to computer.
  • The possibly pioneering, two column Live Guide is gone. Which amuses me to no end. For years and years I pined for a grid guide (look, here’s a post from 2006) while TiVo pushed their supposedly superior solution and lamented grid guide removal after TiVo’s brief dalliance. But, in what I assume may be a concession to the cable companies, Hydra features a traditional grid guide. While I’m perfectly OK with that, I suspect many others may not be.
  • Owners of first generation TiVo Minis should be aware they lack the interface’s critical ‘back’ remote control button. The ‘zoom’ button will act as a stand-in should you be prepared to move forward with Hydra without committing to the purchase of a new remote.
  • Should you update to Hydra and later change your mind (or someone in your household changes it for you), you can revert back. However, it requires a complete factory reset … and lose of all your recordings.

In any event, I expect several updates over the next few weeks ironing out any last-minute bugs before the team gets to work on more significant refinement based on our feedback and what I assume is an extensive roadmap.

Choosing Roku Over Fire TV

Dave Zatz —  October 27, 2017 — 19 Comments

My streaming hardware preference has waxed and waned over the years. And, whereas I’d given the Fire TV a slight edge the last year, the balance has now slightly tipped to Roku. Of course, outside Apple TV and Nvidia Shield, a solid, high quality experience can be had under $100 — no doubt about it, both the Amazon and Roku platforms are great.

I’ve preferred the Fire TV voice remote for a variety of reasons, including the feel, layout, and infinitely more versatile Alexa voice control. And, amongst the new stick/dongle-esque streamers, Amazon provides a superior physical design … that doesn’t require a HDMI adapter for certain television mounting situations. Further Amazon has provided a generally richer interface and app experiences. However, where they started to lose me is an updated interface infested with advertising that not only distracts but also interferes with navigation.

On the flip side, Roku’s interface and a large number of apps are ridiculously simplistic. But what they lack in visual complexity, they more than makes up for in clear, efficient interaction… which is ultimately of more importance. Where they really hit it out the park in 2017 are models with new remotes that also control television power and volume. Instead of crippled, unpredictable HDMI-CEC interaction, Roku supposedly uses EDID over HDMI to identify your television and load up the relevant IR codes. And in my small-scale test, it performed remarkably.

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Yeppers, TiVo Bolt Does HDR*

Dave Zatz —  October 24, 2017 — 48 Comments

As you’ve probably heard, TiVo announced three new Bolt DVRs and a 4K Mini today… which came as no surprise to me, since I’ve spent months tracking them. So, in talking with Ted Malone, my former colleague and newly installed VP of Consumer, I focused on other, geekier matters. And a question I frequently get is HDR. As it turns out, the entire Bolt line (old and new) is currently HDR-ready — specifically the more ubiquitous HDR10. However, it’s dependent upon partner providers, like Amazon and Vudu, to implement the expanded color spectrum within their apps. Given TiVo’s significantly smaller retail footprint, compared to say Roku, those orgs reasonably prioritize other platforms. But hopefully one day they’ll also see fit to service TiVo customers.

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By way of the FCC, we gather the TiVo Vox Voice remote remains on track for a fall launch and that older Roamio hardware (running Hydra) will be supported via a USB Bluetooth dongle (vs Bolt’s native BLE capabilities). Details on voice interaction have also been prematurely provided, and behavior appears quite similar to Xfinity … which is a positive.

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As Roku typically does, they’ll introduce a variety of hardware updates later this fall. And, as ZNF typically does, we’ll break that news to you first.

A trusted source indicates several 2017 models will be bundled with a revised Roku remote that expands television control — including a new handy dandy power button and brining the volume rocker to more models, independent of remote listening. However, instead of going with IR like Sideclick, I wonder if this represents an expansion of the HDMI-CEC capabilities Roku introduced last year. Update: It’s IR. Can I get an amen?!

Beyond that bit of practical news, I can now confirm that a 4K HDR Roku Streaming Stick+ will join the lineup mid-range, with the universal remote, while maintaining an elongated stick presentation — versus taking on a more chunky dongle form like Google has and Amazon will, with an incoming Fire TV. On the lower-end, the 2017 Roku Express will see a significant performance bump … and may finally make my list of recommended streamers. At about 1/4th the cost of Apple TV, why not?

As to other Roku rumblings, looks like the company has taken a renewed interested in audio as they march towards an IPO.

Due to the tremendous number of (accurate) leaks, there weren’t too many surprises from the new Steve Jobs theater located within the new Apple campus. But a couple of interesting items, that I hadn’t anticipated, caught my attention.

Apple TV Price Drop
I was convinced we’d see an Apple TV price drop of some sort, perhaps tied to a touchless-remote on the bottom-end, to bring them inline with the market leading Roku and Fire TV. However, Apple controls the supply chain like no other and is conceivably content with lower penetration but presumably larger margins. While not quite a surprise, again given those leaks, it was refreshing to see Apple will sell 4K movies for the same price as 1080P while upgrading existing purchases… for those who consume in that manner, anyway.

Expansive iPhone Lineup
While both the iPhone 8 and iPhone X were correctly predicted, in hardware if not name, I didn’t expect Apple would keep around so many former generations of phone. To meet a wide array of budgets and fend off the onslaught of solid lower-end Android handsets, the iPhone SE, 6S, 6S Plus, 7, and 7 Plus will join the 8, 8 Plus, and X on store shelves – in multiple capacities and colors. At least for now. Remember when they offered a single model? Beyond the expansive lineup, Apple is clearly committed to offering more than two years of updates (unlike the competition) — not that it’s a new m.o., but I do wonder if at some point they choose to fork the software a bit and continue to provide security patches to older OSes on hardware that cannot support the latest and greatest.

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