The TiVo AltEPG Project

In early 2000 TiVo launched their revolutionary Linux based PVR in the UK in partnership with Sky TV and it soon picked up a loyal fanbase. Unfortunately due to a lack of marketing it never took off as it should have and TiVo pulled out of the UK in January 2003 and Sky later went on to develop their own PVR with Sky+ but it was a poor substitute for a TiVo. The UK TiVo, manufactured by Thomson was originally launched at £300 plus a monthly or lifetime subscription, I picked mine up in November 2002 for £99 as Curry’s were clearing the remaining stock out and went for the £199 lifetime subscription which turned out to be a good move saving me over £800 in the 8.5 years I’ve had it.

Late last year Virgin Media announced they would be partnering with TiVo for their new PVR, nice to have new TiVo hardware in the UK after all these years but not everyone wants or can get Virgin cable. Still, we had our old series 1 boxes still didn’t we… but not for much longer if TiVo had their way, in a spectacular show of disregard for their loyal fanbase they made the unfortunate decision to cut off all existing monthly and lifetime subscribers, rewarding them for their loyalty by effectively leaving them with a useless box.

The King is dead. Long live the King.

Step forward the AltEPG project. A team of people from the tivoland forum decided this wasn’t going to be the end of our beloved series 1 TiVo so they got together to set up their own EPG service, gathering data from free sources around the net and compiling it into a compatible format. Getting modified TiVo boxes to connect to the new service would be easy but what about all those unmodified boxes out there that could only dial up to the preconfigured TiVo number? Well fortunately the TiVo software allows the entry of a dial prefix, eg. a number the box might have to dial to get an outside line, this prefix will take enough digits to allow a full phone number to be entered, the TiVo then dials the prefix and connects to the new number with the original number being dialled afterwards but ignored by the phone system. A nice trick. With only one line available during testing it was hard to get connected but since then several individuals who run their own companies have stepped forward to provide lines for use with the AltEPG project with one recent number having 60 lines meaning you should no longer struggle to get a connection.

To connect your unmodified TiVo to AltEPG follow these steps.

1. Register your TiVo to use the AltEPG service here.
2. In “Messages & Setup” on the TiVo go to “System Reset” and select “Repeat Guided Setup” and follow the prompts.
3. Proceed through Guided Setup as normal, except you must use 01000 as the Post Code.
4. TiVo needs to make two calls to the AltEPG server, before the first call, you will get a chance to change the Dialling Options.
5. Change the “Set Dial Prefix” to 08450800300
6. Complete Guided Setup as normal.

The only downside is that all your old season passes will no longer work but that’s a small price to pay for continued use of this great box. Before doing the above it would be worth clearing all that old unusable data out to give you a clean start, it will probably make your box a bit faster too if it has never been cleared. To do this go to “Messages & Setup” then “System Reset” and select “Clear Programme Data & To Do List”, follow the prompts and the box will reboot to a message saying it is clearing the data and “This will take an hour” but be warned that this actually took over 5 hours on mine.  Doing this will clear your old unusable season passes and the to do list but will not delete any recordings you still have on the TiVo.

Also note that unlike the original TiVo number the 0845 number above is not a free call, a new 0161 number will also be coming online soon which may be cheaper to call depending on your phone plan, check the tivoland forum for more updates on that.  For users of modified boxes wishing to connect over the network instructions for that are here.

Over the years used TiVos have still commanded a high price, especially when they had a lifetime sub, but these days you can pick up a basic unmodified box on eBay for as little as £20 including delivery and as subscriptions are no longer an issue there has never been a better time to buy one. In fact I’ve just snapped up another modified box complete with Cache Card and 512MB RAM as a spare.

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