I’ve had a TIVO Series 2 for 5 years now and, like most cult members, I love it. So when Nero had a deal on the Liquid PC version of TIVO I took the plunge. Not only does it come with excellent hardware but it also includes a 1 year subscription to the TIVO service – an inclusion worth well over $100. Overall, I’d have to say the experience was very disappointing but not a total loss.
The Liquid PC hardware that comes in the package is top notch. The TV tuner is a USB Hauppauge 950Q. It’s a hybrid tuner that features three types of inputs – coax (RF), composite, and S-Video and accepts both analog and digital signals. The remote is a Hauppauge remote but with standard TIVO buttons. There is an IR repeater that can control a cable box so that the system would function just like a “real” TIVO. It even comes with an over the air antenna that attaches to the RF connector.
This is where the package falls apart badly. My PC is old but it more than meets the minimum criteria for video, RAM, CPU, and disk space. Basically, I could not get anything to work.
The first task is to load the tuner’s driver. That was no problem. The second task is to install the Liquid TV software – a task that requires undying patience and a lot of stubbornness. I know – I spent about 12 hours unsuccessfully trying to get it to work.
As the install proceeds, it asks you the same types of questions that my TIVO did when I set it up the first time. The screens look almost identical. They’re very user-friendly and take you through everything step-by-step. What country do I live in? What’s my ZIP or Postal code – so far so good. What’s the TIVO service number on my software CD case so that I could get my year of included service? Not so good. The program number on the case was invalid. So instead I chose the option to accept a 1 month free trial of the TIVO service just so I could proceed with the install. I figured I’d eventually get it sorted out.
Next it asked me which of the 3 connections (RF, Composite, S-Video) I was using and whether I could actually see video on the screen. Basically, I had connected all 3 ways one-by-one because I never did see video. Even with multiple attempts at troubleshooting the best I could do is hear static and some scratchy sound once or twice but that was it. I lied and said that I did see video thinking that I would go back and fix that part later a well.
Based on my postal code, it then asked me who my cable provider was from a short list and whether I had a cable box (which I did). There was my next problem. Although it had my cable provider, it would not let me set it up with the cable box. What it told me to do instead was to select “None of the above” as my cable provider and then I was able to select my Scientific Atlanta box as my cable box. The only problem with doing that was that it meant my guide information would be invalid. Again, I intended to go back and fix that later.
Next was to setup the IR repeater. To do that, it would change the channel and ask if the channel changed or not. For the most part, the answer was not.
To summarize, nothing worked and I’ve given up getting it to work. That’s the bad news.
The Good News
Hauppauge makes great hardware so I went to their website and downloaded their basic WinTV software. What I found was that although it is a bit dated in terms of style the install worked perfectly and the TV window works beautifully.
Next will be to find other open source Media-PVR software to work with the tuner. So far, MediaPortal and GBPVR look pretty good – but that’s for another day.