"Hacking" a TiVo Series 2

Let me warn you up front - this is not about a legitimate hack that lets you use the TiVo as a general-purpose DVR - that's too hard for this analog guy!

The other day I was at the Goodwill store and I spotted a clean Series 2 TiVo for only $10! How could I go wrong? For one thing, there's always a chance that the particular TiVo has a lifetime subscription worth quite a bit. But my real hope was to use it as a single-channel security camera recorder using the timed recording function.

Well, guess what; one can't easily (or possibly at all) get to the timed recording function unless the TiVo has a paid-up subscription! Boy, that's jerky of them in my humble opinion.

To make a long story short, I decided to really hack the Series 2 TiVo. To pieces, that is. Maybe there are parts that will be worth more than my $10 outlay:

First, the hard drive. Well that's a bust. It's only 80 GB and that's tiny these days. To make matters worse, it's a Maxtor "Quickview" which is designed for video recording, not paying attention to small errors in the data stream. That's fine for video, but not so hot for computer programs. It will serve as an emergency backup for my lifetime subscription TiVo -  that's worth $10, I suppose. It might be useful in an older security system. My really old system has a drive three times that size!

Next, the PCB. Well, there's not much that is worth unsoldering. The tuner looks interesting, but I can't think of a use. I'd say that's a bust, too. Oh, a free button battery!

Now the chassis/power supply. I think there's a little value here:

The supply provides these approximate currents:

5 volts, 3.25 amps ("2.52 amps" on board plus 750 mA estimated for hard drive)
12 volts, 2.6 amps ("1.16 amps" on board plus 1.4 amps estimated for hard drive)
3.3 volts, "3.32 amps"
32 volts, "5 mA"        (The values in quotes are printed by the connector that went to the PCB.)

There's a 5 and 12 volt cable for the IDE hard drive and I used the drive's current requirements to calculate the total available power.

That makes it about a 50 watt supply, plenty for all sorts of projects. Because the transformer is small, it measures only .005 uF coupling from the line voltage side to the DC side. The line cord doesn't have a ground pin, but with such a small capacitance, it really doesn't need one. This supply is more like a beefy 2-prong molded supply! There's a fan, but you will need to reconnect it to power since the motherboard connector is gone. I'd try the 3.3 volts.

The TiVo bezel comes off easily, leaving a flat surface with only a few slots near the top and bottom, so it should be easy to drill holes for various panel components, dodging those slots. A paper or plastic front panel label will hide the unused holes. There's a large 10" x 8" space for the project (with almost 3" height, not counting some mounting "humps"). There's also the mounting cage for the hard drive near the front of the case that could hold something or simply be removed for more space. Your project might take advantage of the nice rounded plastic bezel, too.

The rear panel is full of holes and there's plenty of room for more. Again, a label could cover the unused holes.

The cover slips on nicely, with grounding fingers along the front edge. The rubber feet are quite nice. This project-waiting-to-happen is definitely worth the $10!