If you have an HP MediaSmart Server and a TiVo, you'll be happy to know the two companies just made it a lot easier for you to view video recorded on your TiVo from any Mac or PC on your network. We installed the free HP MediaSmart Expander for TiVo add-on to our MediaSmart Server EX495, and transferred TiVo recordings to the server for playback all over the network. Let's see how well it works.
Installing this little add-on is a snap, a matter of placing a small downloaded file into a special folder on the MediaSmart Server. A few clicks later, and we were entering our TiVo DVR's media access key, opening up the gateway from DVR to server.
That resulted in a new tab on the Windows Home Server console, where you can see your TiVo's recordings, and transfer them to your server and back. This is where we ran into our first problem with this system: The transfer is excruciatingly slow, even on the fastest network and newest MediaSmart Server hardware. For instance, we transferred a half-hour HD recording of NBC Nightly News, and it happened just about exactly in real time, resulting in a 2.62GB file.
Once that arduous transfer process is over, these recordings play beautifully from any computer, as long as you've installed the free TiVo Desktop software. That Desktop software doesn't seem to have a whole to do except to make sure you've entered your secret Media Access Key for your TiVo — after that, you simply use Windows Media Player to watch your TiVo files in full resolution. Then we discovered another big drawback: No pay-TV recordings can be transferred (see the red flag in the graphic below, next to Bill Maher's HBO show). So if you want to watch that HBO show on all your computers, this plug-in won't get you there. Damn.
The recordings looked just as sharp and artifact-free as they did on the TiVo, and streamed over a gigabit Ethernet system with ease. However, we were disappointed to discover that the files are unplayable until they're completely transferred. Perhaps it's a lot to ask, but one of the many advantages of using a TiVo is the ability to watch a live show while it's still in progress. No such luck with this little plug-in.
We like The MediaSmart Expander for TiVo's video streaming capability, but wish those transfers from TiVo to server could happen faster. Or maybe it could just be made more convenient. Given the huge number of tinkerers associated with MediaSmart servers and TiVos, there's bound to be a script soon written that automatically transfers all of TiVo's recordings onto the server.
It's too bad all this transferring and fiddling is necessary — we long for the obvious solution, simply playing video on any networked computer directly from the TiVo. And damn whomever is responsible for those red flags, not permitting premium content to be transferred at all, despite the heavy gauntlet of digital "protections" brought to bear. Given the state of piracy and digital rights management circa 2010, that's probably not going to change anytime soon. Meanwhile, even though it's crippled, this is a promising plug-in that makes an already useful MediaSmart Server even more so.