TiVo CTO James Barton Admits He Modded his DVR


TiVo co-founder, CTO and SVP James Barton is a hardware hacker who has modded his TiVo, according to a Fortune interview published today on CNN Money (see the complete interview embedded below). Barton made the confession when asked what kind of shows he records on his TiVo. He answered with a long list of titles and genres, then apparently felt the need to explain himself to users who are still stuck with the usual 40-hour recording limit by saying, “I actually modified my TiVo to have extra capacity, so I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff saved there.”

Exchanging your TiVo’s hard drive for one with a higher capacity is a fairly simple procedure, and a number of third-party vendors actually sell hard drives that are pre-formatted for this very purpose. However, TiVo doesn’t actually sanction the practice and would prefer for users to buy a “DVR expander,” which is essentially an external hard drive selling for about twice the price of a regular drive with the same capacity.

Getting users to buy external drives also helps the company to sell more boxes, since new internal drives can potentially lengthen the life time of a TiVo, something especially crucial for those users that bought a lifetime service plan.

The Fortune interview also featured an interesting answer to the question of how Barton survives without his TiVo at hand. Turns out, he resorts to old media:

“When I travel for business, and I end up in a hotel room, and almost all hotel rooms don’t have DVRs in them today, I don’t watch TV anymore… I usually turn it off and read a book.”

Nothing against books, but can someone get this man a Slingbox? Or maybe an iPad with Hulu Plus, for that matter? But I guess this explains why it took TiVo so long to catch up on over-the-top video…

Related content on GigaOm Pro: The Paradox of Thinking Outside the (Set-Top) Box (subscription required)


Dave Zatz

“the company doesn’t actually sanction it”

I disagree. The Weaknees and DVR Upgrade folks are at the big events like CES meeting with TiVo and regularly communicate with the company as sales partners as far as I can tell.

Janko Roettgers

But you’ll find no mention of any of this in TiVo’s official customer support section… all they steer you towards are these ridiculously expensive WD DVR extenders.


TiVo had over-the-top in YouTube, Netflix, Amazon VOD and several other niche video outlets long before the Premiere came out.

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