TiVo could be even more cool

Just read an article on O’Reilley showing a sneak peek of Tivo Hacks. It described how to hack your TiVo to display stock quotes, sports scores and weather. It even mentioned another hack to set up reading email.
Now these specific uses aren’t especially thrilling to me but they probably are to someone. I remember hearing a few years back that a software engineer at work hacked into their TiVo. “Must get to Linux prompt!” Jesus (I thought), don’t these engineers have anything better to do? The thing I didn’t realize at the time was that TiVo was simply an app running on top of Linux. If it’s Linux, that means you can do anything to your player (in theory). That’s what this engineer was up to. First, can a get to a Linux prompt? Maybe later, how to add new functionality?
If TiVo was really smart, they’d make this sort of tampering legal and open their player to third party development. Amazon did this a few years back with Amazon Web Services. Lot’s of folks internally thought the company was giving away the crown jewels. This was and still is (to some degree) a risk. But the bet Amazon made was there would be folks that would extend Amazon in ways it’s internal development staff might never have thought of. Tim O’Reilly is a big pro web services fan for Amazon. Of course the best example is Linux where it’s open platform has made the mighty Microsoft truly scared of a free operating system.

TiVo could knock it’s competitors out of the water by providing an extensible API to allow anyone from professionals to amateurs to extend its player with new features. Perhaps a simple card slot for easy upgrading? Or wireless access which would allow users to apply patches? Damn TiVo could be cool. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t look like it’s thinking this way as evident by them closing access to their player in series 2 models. 20th century thinking there. Too bad.

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2 Comments on “TiVo could be even more cool”

  1. Erik Benson says:

    I don’t have a TiVo, but I wish I still had the prototype I built a year or so ago that matched television shows to products on Amazon. I did it by scraping tv listings from yahoo and trying to match television show titles with products. It was pretty successful, especially after I added a bit of logic about what to look for (add “season” to searches in video/dvd, add “figure” to toy searches, etc).
    I ended up ditching the idea (I probably have the code around here somewhere though) because it would’ve needed more work to really be useful, and television listing information was a pain to scrape. But your TiVo entry reminded me of it… this would be an obvious application that would be fairly easy to build. For every show, press a button and see what products are available for that show. Buy with 1-Click, etc. The old amazon/television integration dream. There’s no reason that couldn’t be built today by one of these TiVo hackers.

  2. Jeff says:

    As I write this, I’m backing up my Tivo’s A drive in preparation of installing an ethernet card, an additional 210 GB of capacity and, soon, all the add-on software I can get my hands on. If only Amazon Web Services had a remote 1-click API, eben’s idea would be totally doable.