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The Secret Origins of TiVo 151

Davis Freeberg writes "TiVo is probably better known for their ad zapping technology than their television advertisements. In fact, other then a few lousy infomercials and a commercial that was rumored to be banned by the networks, TiVo has never really had much in the way of TV advertisements. Apparently though, one of TiVo's more rabid fans did some sleuthing and discovered a hidden easter egg video buried deep within TiVo's own website. The video itself exposes the true origins of TiVo's technology and how they got their hands on that ad zapping photon remote to begin with."
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The Secret Origins of TiVo

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  • Were .mp4 files around back in 1997?
    • by krell ( 896769 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:35AM (#16029543) Journal
      "Were .mp4 files around back in 1997?"

      He has some MP4 files that Bush actually recorded with his Powerbook in 1972.
    • No. MPEG-4 was ratified as a standard by the Moving Picture Experts Group in 1999.

      Now if only Tivo boxes would be able to play back MPEG-4, then we'd have some news here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gwiner ( 685297 )
      The unit in the video demonstrates features that were not available until the Series II units w/ LAN capability were introduced (photos, music), so I'm thinking this was meant to promote the series II, or perhaps the forthcoming Cable Card models.
    • mirror, youtube (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Latching onto your comment for page position. Sorry.
      Mirror1: http://www.qcs-rf.com/slashdot/bluemoon.mp4 [qcs-rf.com] (faster than the original site)
      Mirror2: http://wakkah.net/pub/bluemoon.mp4 [wakkah.net] (uploading as I post)
      Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsXUPmWAfhY [youtube.com]

      Posting AC for no karma whoring
  • by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:09AM (#16029470) Journal
    Linking to a 40 meg file hosted on TiVo's servers on the front page of Slashdot? Not nice.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hassman ( 320786 )
      Uhhh... Wha? This isn't a real ftp link. Something tells me this is a bit planned for.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Gonzotek ( 206051 )
      What about YouTube? TiVo Bluemoon Video [youtube.com] posted by (Dave Zatz [zatznotfunny.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Not nice, like taking open source code and then locking it in hardware that prevents people from modifying it?

      Not nice, like sueing companies for having the gall to implement playback and recording at the same time? Or sueing companies for making it so that pressing "play" after fast forwarding/rewinding causes playback to resume slightly before the button was pressed?

      Not nice, like removing the commercial skip feature due to pressure from TV studios?

      I wonder what TiVo could possibly have done to make peop
      • I noticed in the video that the box included a menu to select music by category and artist. Isn't this the patented tech that Apple just got sued for using in ipods? Another victim for the patent holder?
    • Looks like 400 to me.. Ya, so im a sucker, but i was curious. Ill never own a tivo so its not like they are going to gain a customer out of this 'news scam' anyway.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      What? TiVo is a commercial enterprise, and bandwidth is a cost of doing business. It's not as if they linked to a 40 MB file on the Dalai Lama's website-in-exile or something.
    • by ovit ( 246181 )
      The nameplate for the guy at the desk is A. Waterman!

      Any other ex tivo employee's laughing at that? :)

    • This is hardly an "easter egg" someone randomly found... this is an advertising campaign.

      When it's been on /. for 12 hours and I'm pulling 5.1Mb/s from their site...it ain't no accident.
  • "TiVo is probably better known for their ad zapping technology then their televison advertisements"

    And then their television advertisements what? Did they do something after that? Oh, hehe, no, you're trying to make a comparison! For that we use "than". I know they've devolved to homophones in certain english dialects but that's still no excuse. This is such a commonly made and silly mistake that it bears pointing out when it appears on the front page of Slashdot, for heaven's sake.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      bears pointing out when it appears on the front page of Slashdot,

      Well, better on Slashdot front page then New York Times.

      • I disagree: if the New York Times subsequently makes the same error, that's certainly no improvement!
      • I agree. It's better to have it on the Slashdot front page first, and then on the New York Times'... Or were you trying to make a comparison? With "than"? Wasn't that what started this whole thread...?
    • by gwiner ( 685297 )
      This must be planned for - This isn't a real FTP link, rather HTML. The images are hosted on akamai, so they're clearly expecting some traffic. Of course, can't wait to see if my guess is right muwahaaaa
    • by x2A ( 858210 )
      You could use 'then' to do it list format, although a comma's probably required for that...

      "is probably better known for their ad zapping technology, then their televison advertisements, then their funny little SOS signals they send out"... ...maybe...

    • Oooh, sarcastic today, aren't we? Seriously, TBFTGO?GI (There but for the grace of (insert whatever) go I.) More power to you, man.
  • Zap Ads? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:15AM (#16029483)
    Does TiVo 'Zap' Ads? Does it actually skip the whole section of ads with one click and no further interaction? I dont have a tivo, but I thought it ony fast fowarded them. I have a mythtv and that can skip the entire ads and detects the end of the advertising segment where the show starts again, but didnt think TiVo did this. - Anyone?
    • Re:Zap Ads? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Aadain2001 ( 684036 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:19AM (#16029497) Journal
      In order to prevent a massive lawsuite storm from all the major networks, TiVo officially only allows you to fast-forward through commercials, not skip them (similar to using a VCR). Unofficially there is a feature you can enable through the remote (hitting a combo of buttons) that allows you to change the 'skip-to-the-end' button into a 30 second skip ahead button. Most of the time you only have to hit it 3-4 times to get through commercial breaks. But that's unofficial ;)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zCyl ( 14362 )
        In order to prevent a massive lawsuite storm from all the major networks, TiVo officially only allows you to fast-forward through commercials, not skip them

        Or you can just use MythTV [mythtv.org], where you can automatically skip them without pressing anything.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Aadain2001 ( 684036 )
          MythTV can do that because they are not an entity that can be sued by TV networks (or at least not view as enough of a threat). I love OSS and Linux, but MythTV is not easy to setup. And don't forget the hardware cost. You don't want to do a sub-par MythTV box. Usually you'd want a very large hardrive (or four), a good TV tuner (or two), and enough processing power to encode a show or two and still watch TV. TiVo is a good option when you don't want to fork over $1k+ and want it to just work. Of cours
          • You don't want to do a sub-par MythTV box. Usually you'd want a very large hardrive (or four), a good TV tuner (or two), and enough processing power to encode a show or two and still watch TV. TiVo is a good option when you don't want to fork over $1k+ and want it to just work.

            Wouldn't a sub-par MythTV box be TiVo?

            I haven't priced it all out, but I'd imagine you could build a MythTV box for under $500 that would still beat TiVo. That's about the cost of 3 years of TiVo prepaid.

            • Re:Zap Ads? (Score:4, Informative)

              by Aadain2001 ( 684036 ) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @09:07AM (#16032317) Journal
              Now that really depends what you mean by 'beat' TiVo. Will it have larger storage? Probably. Will it be able to convert to multiple video codecs? Probably not (not enough CPU power). Record multiple shows at once? Definately not (won't get two good TV cards in a $500 price cap). In the end, if you built a $500 MythTV box you'll get something more on par with TiVo, but with a significantly harder setup, less useful interface, and not many extra features. However, dump $1k+ into a MythTV box, and you get a laundry list of neat features that TiVo just can't touch. But I'll stick with TiVo until then.
        • by Bastian ( 66383 )
          I priced it out. (Years ago, so I'm sure the prices have changed.)

          Tivo + livetime subscription: $500, $400 after rebate

          Computer capable of running MythTV halfway decently: $1000

          I like openness, but not costs-twice-as-much more.
          • by zCyl ( 14362 )

            I priced it out. (Years ago, so I'm sure the prices have changed.)

            Tivo + livetime subscription: $500, $400 after rebate

            Computer capable of running MythTV halfway decently: $1000

            I don't know quite where you got your prices. At least a year ago I picked up a TV card with remote for $50, and a spare 160 GB HD to dedicate to MythTV for around $100, and was able to add MythTV functionality to an existing Linux server for no more cost than this (the prices should now be lower). If you don't have an existing Lin

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Bastian ( 66383 )
              Well, for one, I said years, as in plural. Computer hardware up to the task cost more in 2003.

              Second, I didn't havethe luxury of being able to just upgrade an existing 'puter, I tend to use outdated laptops.

              I didn't realize that Tivo no longer does the lifetime sub. I was just pointing out that for a lot of folks out there MythTV is not the lower-cost option. I'd say if it weren't for that this would still be the case - most folks I know use laptops that they cart around fairly often, and I'd assume that
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        My Dish Network 625, which supposedly, according to TiVo advocates, is nothing more than a poor rip-off of TiVo's totally original wouldn't-have-been-invented-anyway technology does, in fact, have a commercial skip feature, which doesn't require any registry hacks (or secret key presses) to enable.

        I'm kind of baffled by it. Why aren't the networks pissed at Dish Network? How is TiVo way better than Dish as TiVo advocates claim? I wonder if the "secret" commercial skip thing is itself viral marketing (Whe

      • by Phrogz ( 43803 )
        And Dish Network's DVR remote comes with explicit "30 second forward" and "10 second back" buttons. I love it. I used to have a Tivo, and I love having this feature built-in.
      • by Smack ( 977 )
        It was not disabled to prevent being sued. That would be a very difficult lawsuit to win for the networks, as is shown by the Tivo competitors who have the feature.

        The real reason is because originally Tivo had partner agreements with the networks. Like NBC paid Tivo to have a section in the menus (the Tivo Showcase) that highlighted what NBC wanted to promote that week. Also, NBC put markers in their show promos that made it so you could press thumbs up to record the show easily.

        So Tivo had to play nice
    • by 309east ( 778679 )
      Tivo has the ability to do a $minute jump, so if the commerical break was ever exactly that long, you skip them all. It's FF is actually pretty bad compared to most other DVR's, only a slow and less slow speed to choose from. Interestingly, some DVR's have a similar functionality (comcast 2tuner*) but the supplied remote has no buttons for quite alot of their functions. *http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/How_to_use_a_Motoro l a_DVR/Programming_the_Remote On another note, why couldnt they have a summary of the
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dthree ( 458263 )
        My ReplayTV box has a "commercial detection" feature that is pretty good at skipping commercials without any user intervention. They took it out of later models under pressure from the "entertainment" industry but at least they don't use software update to take features away from existing units the way Tivo does. Don't you love having features you bought and paid for disabled?
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by MegaZone ( 684924 )

          Funny, I've had TiVo over 4.5 years and I don't recall ever losing any features in an update. More urban legends. Quite the contrary, my units keep getting new features.

          • Funny, I've had TiVo over 4.5 years and I don't recall ever losing any features in an update. More urban legends. Quite the contrary, my units keep getting new features.

            I can think of three unsupported "hack" features that were removed in TiVo software updates, and one futher from the DirecTV DVR with TiVo.

            The hack features were:
            TeachTiVo: With the backdoor code enabled (unsupported) there was an ability to directly view and modify the Thumbs Up/Down data for programs, show types, actors, directors, etc.

          • by dthree ( 458263 )
            Sure, there are great new "features". Like the one that allows the tv network to determine how long you can keep your shows before they get autodeleted. And the one that prevents you from recording shows that the tv network doesn't think you should record. How about the one that lets the tv network pick which shows you can copy to your tivo-to-go device? Seems like they are giving the networks all the features.
    • Re:Zap Ads? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:24AM (#16029510)
      you can hack it to skip at 30sec increments, but it will NEVER zap commercials.

      tivo's "bosses" (the entity higher up the food chain, that trickles down 'stuff') wouldn't dare allow that, of course. I'm very surprised they even 'allowed' any skipping at all! I consider that a fluke, actually; in the age of 'do not FF' (the icon that appears when you first insert a dvd and are FORCED to watch stuff that you don't want or need).
    • In the biz, zapping refers to a consumer behavior of switching channels in order to effectively skip commercial breaks.

      Perhaps the term is being extended to include the behavior of consumers who fast foreward or skip through commercial breaks using TiVo.
  • Overload (Score:1, Funny)

    by slidersv ( 972720 )
    And the tivo.com goes down in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ...
  • by gwiner ( 685297 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:18AM (#16029493)
    Great spoof - The file timestamp is actually a GIF =). Makes me wonder what this was meant to promote, or perhaps just a good piece of viral marketing. According to some of those rabid Tivo fans, "Bluemoon" was the codename for the original Tivo iteration.
    • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:31AM (#16029531)
      Of course it's viral marketiong -- it costs money and takes talent to make a movie like that, not to mention hosting a 40 MB file. Rather (deliberately) reminsicent of the Dharma Initiative training film found in the show Lost, as well as many other influences.
      • Did anyone else see the single frame flash of the text www.tivo.com/bluemoon in the video (at 3:58)? I'd guess that Tivo will develop the bluemoon site further and then will find some massive way to publicize the video over the web. If I were them I'd start with Slashdot.
  • Mirror to MP4 file (Score:5, Informative)

    by qcs-rf.com ( 952717 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:21AM (#16029502) Homepage
  • Viral Ad (Score:3, Informative)

    by DrKyle ( 818035 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:27AM (#16029515)
    Don't bother discussing any implications or great ramifications, it's just another viral ad.
  • by alienmole ( 15522 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:27AM (#16029519)
    You smell that? Do you smell that? Viral marketing, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of viral marketing in the morning. Smells like - market share.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MustardMan ( 52102 )
      Aren't viral marketing ads supposed to be, you know, entertaining? I watched it on youtube and it wasn't funny at all. If it wasn't for the slashvertisement posting of this video, I would never have seen it - people only send viral videos around to their friends if they are actually enjoyable to watch. This was just stupid, long, drawn-out, and boring.
    • Er... no... that's the smell of burning plastic. It seems to be coming from the server room.
  • 1-frame watermark (Score:2, Interesting)

    by slidersv ( 972720 )
    There is a one frame at 3 minutes 58 seconds that flashes the link www.tivo.com/bluemoon. I think the reel is more of an entertainment than marketing project, that was meant to self-redistribute.
    • I saw that as well - I was watching it, getting bored, and suddenly saw white text reading ".com/bluem" and then reversed and paused it to read the message. If it was just a single frame, damn, my eyes are good ;)
  • Youtube.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kunta Kinte ( 323399 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:36AM (#16029547) Journal
    It's on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsXUPmWAfhY [youtube.com]
  • Are Nixon, as it should be, and what looks like GWB.

    • by CptNerd ( 455084 )

      *Sigh* Kids.

      On the right is Gerald R. Ford, Nixon's VP after Agnew resigned, who became President when Nixon resigned.

      • The trouble with that, of course, is that the device shows the date of July 17, and the calendar on the wall is for 1973, while Ford didn't become Vice President until December 6, 1973.
      • No, I'm pretty sure it's a picture of Agnew.
      • by Nutria ( 679911 )
        *Sigh* Kids.

        I'm old enough to remember watching the Watergate hearings on TV.

        Since this is a viral marketing spoof, I see know reason why they would not put a grainy portrait of W up there as a bit of humor or political satire.

        On the right is Gerald R. Ford, Nixon's VP after Agnew resigned

        I know what Ford looks like. That's not Ford.

    • by TCQuad ( 537187 )
      The 2000/2004 elections were rigged back in 1973 when George HW Bush [wikipedia.org] was head of the Republican National Committee.

      If you need more proof than the picture (which was probably obtained by fast-forwarding the nightly news all the way to the present), Diebold [diebold.com] had just opened their electronic research, testing and development facility in Ohio...

      Ohio! Think about it, people!
    • That's not Bush, it's the Safety is Not Guaranteed [ytmnd.com] guy!
  • Trust? Trust Davis Freeberg to reject corporate viral propaganda...

    Who Is Davis Freeberg? Is he(she?) as phoney as this story? Please, someone, run a D&B or google on this character quick. I for one demand the Truth!

    Where are the /. skeptics when we need them - asleep on a Saturday morning? Do geeks really get Labor Day holidays?

    On, Cowboy Neal, we trusted you to keep our beloved /. pure and uncontaminated by invitations to absorb another 40NB of corporate propaganda.

    Oh, damn. Never mind... it's the Tr
  • At no point in the movie is there any mention of either advertising or what can be done with it. Considering the way you now have to jury-rig the system to enable some sort of 30 s skip, I'm guessing the submitter has yet to come to terms with the fac that TiVo sold out to advertisers a long time ago.
    • Let's get a few things straight.

      First of all, TiVO never sold out to advertisers. They recognized, from the beginning, that TV is not free. Advertisters pay for your TV in order to get hits on you. If you remove their hits, they will come after you, big-time, and your cool little dot-com startup will be just another crash and burn. This is TV, the nature of the business is delivering targetting advertising.

      Second of all, TiVO's future revenue stream is ALL about advertising revenue. Consider they can allow
    • by shaneh0 ( 624603 )
      If by "jury-rig" you mean "pointing the remote at the TIVO and pressing a couple buttons" then yes, you're right, you have to jury-rig your TIVO for a 30 second skip.

      And I bet you could even skip the "pointing the remote" step. Just make sure you're in the same room.
      • by Guppy06 ( 410832 )
        "pointing the remote at the TIVO and pressing a couple buttons"

        That right there is beyond the ken of most TiVo users. Which is exactly why they make you do it to begin with.
        • by shaneh0 ( 624603 )
          No, the reason they make you enter a code to activate a 30-second skip is so they can show they've made concessions for advertisers. At the time this had the benefit of drawing the industries ire towards ReplayTV, which seems in hindsight like a pretty good plan.
  • TiVo's are also known for tivoisatin [wikipedia.org]. They love receiving the freedom to add easter eggs, but are not big fans of passing that freedom on to others (or the freedom to remove their spyware, or the freedom to add features you want).

    RMS gave a good explanation of this in his recent talk on GPLv3 [fsfeurope.org].

  • Did anyone else notice the "My home movies" feature it discussed and showed? I do not think that's a current feature to stream movies-- only music and photos. I wonder if an update is coming soon?
  • so, does that mean that tivo just invalidated their patents? looks like alien prior art to me. good news for dish dvr customers! ;)
  • fake timestamp (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    As another poser pointed out, the timestamp for that file is a gif which is located at: http://a423.g.akamai.net/7/423/1788/00909b5e4f1ead /www.tivo.com/i/timestamp.gif [akamai.net]

  • Did anyone here skip this particular commerical? I feel used. violated.. etc.
  • So TiVo has a great story to tell, obviously intends for it to be seen since it's on their web-site to start with, then hides it as best they can? If this is TiVo Marketing at work, than it's no surprise to me why they can't gain traction in the marketplace except through lawsuits.

    My personal rule is to avoid whenever possible companies who compete via lawsuit, rather than by price and/or quality.

  • by Temsi ( 452609 ) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @01:10PM (#16030014) Journal
    cool idea, but it stopped being funny very quickly... after that it was just more of the same.
    got pretty banal pretty quick.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Linking to a 40 meg file hosted on TiVo's servers on the front page of Slashdot? Not nice."

    TIVO deserves it! Those drm using bums!

    http://www.fsf-europe.org/projects/gplv3/barcelona -rms-transcript.it.html#tivoisation [fsf-europe.org]
  • damnit!

    I'll never understand why people use then for than more then than for then, but than I guess the latter sounds weirder then then for than.

  • I saw a TiVo commercial on real TV once, it was one of the funniest commercials ever and I've never seen it again.

    This was probably five years ago or so, but here's a recap:

    (Three men on golf course, 1 of them T'ing off, we see his back)
    Man A: (Swings and misses shot, shuffles at crotch)
    Man B: What's the matter, Bill? ... Masculine Itch?
    Man A: YES! How did you know??
    Man B (Advertiser voice): Well, let me tell you about men's masculine itch cream!
    (Scene cuts to 'flu-style' graph of man's crotch
  • Rabid fan? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by deblau ( 68023 ) <slashdot.25.flickboy@spamgourmet.com> on Saturday September 02, 2006 @06:58PM (#16030998) Journal
    Is that why he only has 6 posts on the TiVo forums? And joined in September 2006 (i.e., yesterday)?
  • The S3 HD TiVo is set to be released early this month (Sept 12). Est. Price $799.

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.