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My TiVo CacheCard Upgrade Diary

Here are the steps I took to upgrade my UK Thompson Tivo PVR to work with the CacheCard networking card.

Introduction.

For those of you who do not know, Cachecard is a piece of hardware that connects onto the interface inside Tivo.

Silicondust's Cachecard

It then allows Tivo to connect to Tivo central via the web as opposed to using the telephone line. Thus daily downloads are faster, they do not block your phone line and, of course, it will now not cost Tivo anything (call charge wise). Cachecard is a wired connection meaning you need to be able to connect it up to your net word via a physical piece of wire. Whether this is done via a hub or not, is up to you. You can still have a 'wireless' cachecard by using a ethernet bridge and by connecting the Cachecard to the ethernet bridge instead.



As well as the daily updates, you will now have access to Tivo from your PC, allowing you to Telnet to Tivo and use FTP too. This will make upgrading software (i.e. hacks) easier next time since you needn't remove the hard drive from the pc to send it software anymore.

Cachecard also uses additional memory to store information that is being written to your tivo drive. Once cached, this information is much faster to retrieve from the additional memory than it is from Tivo's drive, thus making menu operations a lot faster. You can find out more about these additional features at the Silicondust forums.

Finally, and the main reason I upgraded, is that you can add TivoWeb to the system - allowing remote access to Tivo itself, either from your Lan or from the Internet itself.

You can now set that program you want to record from work!

Cachecard

As you can see from the above image, cachecard is a little different from Silicon Dust's previous interfaces (cachecard and Turbonet). It still has the main interface slot (1) but it also sports a second slot (2). In this slot you can (it's not required to make the interface work, but without it you only get half of the card's functionality! ) plug in some PC133 memory. This memory will be used to cache the tivo database, thus making access to this database (searching the Now Playing Screen, reordering the Season Pass Manager etc.) a lot faster since the information is taken from the memory chip instead of the tivo drive. Point (3) is where you plug in the CAT5 network cable to allow connection to your LAN. Finally, point (4) is a smart little set of lights (something missing on the earlier cachecard card) that will light up if there's power, network access and cache access thus giving you instant feedback as to the status of your cachecard.

My machine is an upgraded 120G single drive model number 6023, but this install guide will work for all the UK models.


Here's how I did it...

What I had at the start.

  • TiVo!
  • The Cachecard, ordered from 9thTee. Click here for more information. This piece of kit took about 2 weeks to arrive here from the US. I did not pay anything further on import duty or Tax.
  • A 1 metre length of CAT5 networking cable with plugs at both ends.
  • 512Mb of PC133 memory.
  • A multi bit screwdriver , preferably magnetic.
  • Torx screwdriver bit size T10. (six pointed star shaped)
  • A spare PC with cables for Primary and Secondary IDE ports and a CDROM drive.
  • An cachecard drivers boot CD.
  • A pair of needle nose pliers
  • A sharp knife


Web links I used.





Part 1 : Things to know before you start.

This guide does not cover taking a backup of your Tivo drive before you start. If you wish to do this beforehand - then please check out the cachecard install diary for instructions on how to do it.

OK, lets get on with the upgrade!




Part 2 : Things to set up first.

Check your CD Rom images.

One last thing to do is to check that on the PC you are going to use the BIOS has been changed to allow booting from the CDROM drive. One of my older PCs did not allow this!
What must not happen is for the machine to suddenly boot into Windows when the Tivo drive is attached to it. If you run Windows2000 or XP you could damage the Tivo drive.
I simply changed the BIOS on the PC I was to use, placed the CDROM into the CD Drive detached the main PC hard drives. On rebooting, my machine booted into Linux. I tested this a couple of times before I connected my Tivo drive - just to be safe!




Part 3 : Removing the Tivo drive.

The next job was to open the Tivo and remove the hard drive. This will invalidate your warranty. This was still a difficult part of the process.

First I checked it was no longer plugged into the mains! Then undid the three screws at the back of the Tivo. I needed the T10 screwdriver bit for this.
Once they were clear I had to slide the top of the casing backwards a short way (about an inch) and then lift it upwards. However, the casing was very tight and I needed to place a flat-sided screwdriver under the top edge of the casing at the back and carefully lever it forward. Eventually, it came clear and the full layout of the Tivo was shown as below:

Tivo's Innards

You should be careful of the power supply unit in the lower left hand side of the machine (as shown in the picture) since it could still contain an electrical charge, even when unplugged - and there were many exposed points.

However, the design of the 6023 machine has been improved in that I did not actually need to get too close to the power unit at all , something which was not the case in older models which had to remove an extra screw very close to the power supply!

As you can see , the hard drive is situated above the power supply on the left of the picture. The actual drive is connected to a housing that is itself fixed to the Tivo chassis. The connection for the cachecard is situated to the top right of the motherboard - the gold strip at the edge. We will come back to this later...

I disconnected the IDE cable and power supply from the back of the hard drive and then unscrewed the housing from the chassis. There are two screw holes, at the top of the hard drive near the front of Tivo. Both are size T10.

Once undone, the housing needs to be slid downward slightly to get it clear of the holding tabs at the bottom of the drive. Then it could be lifted clear.

I did not bother to remove the drive from the housing, since it will be going back inside later on.

The next stage was to connect the drive up to a PC to allow transfer of the drivers. I set up as follows:

  • Primary Master IDE cable - empty
  • Primary Slave IDE cable - empty
  • Secondary Master IDE cable - Tivo drive (jumper should already be on Master).
  • Secondary Slave IDE cable - CDROM drive (jumper set to Slave).
Once everything was connected, I put the CDROM of the turbonet / Airnet drivers into the CD drive and turned on the machine.

The PC booted into Linux from the CD, you need to press Enter a few times to get to the bash prompt - /#





Part 4 : Installing the Cachecard Drivers.

This part moves the required drivers for cachecard from the floppy disk to the Tivo Drive.

You should already have downloaded the latest drivers from the Silicondust forum and have written them to a blank 1.44Mb floppy disk.

At the bash prompt I entered the following commands :

This connected the floppy drive to the Linux system so that you can access it.

Once you enter the last command, the prompt changes to the following:

The next commands then access and run the drivers from the floppy drive.

At this point I found my experiences diverted a little from the Silicondust instructions.

Once I'd entered the first command:   chmod +x nic_install   (which tells the system to allow nic_install to be executable) I found that the command seemed to take quite a while to execute. I could see the floppy drive light was on, so the disk was being accessed, but only after around 30 seconds did the /mnt/fd0# prompt return.
Now the silicondust instructions then say to enter   ./nic_install cachecard   this I did but was rewarded with a message 'Cannot execute binary file'.

I decided to reboot the system and try again. This time, when I entered the first command   chmod +x nic_install   the prompt returned straight away.

I then entered a slightly different version of the above command :   nic_install cachecard  

This is almost the same as the original command, but minus the ./
Anyway, this time the system kicked into life and the drivers were copied over to the Tivo drive.






Part 5 : Setting up Network Information.


Now you have a chance to set up your networking information. If your Tivo already has network information such as from a previous install of Airnet or Turbonet, then this information will be retained. If, however, this is a new install then simply enter the IP information that you want to set up for Tivo by choosing option 2 and entering your required details. If you want to make Tivo connect to get it's daily data from the Internet, then ensure option 4 is set to Network.

 




Part 6 : Saving The Configuration.

Now I needed to save the new configuration.

I selected option 0 on the main menu and saw the following :

I was then asked whether I wanted to clear the log files. I answered Y to this and saw the screen shown below:

As you can see, the process is now complete. So I ejected the CD and Floppy and turned off the PC.




Part 7 : Reattaching the Drive.

A small step this...

I disconnected the Tivo drive from the PC and reattached the hard drive to the IDE cable on Tivo.

I then plugged in the hard drive power cable.

Finally I slid the hard drive back into place on the Tivo housing and screwed the housing back down using the T10 screwdriver.




Part 8 : Adding the Cachecard Hardware.

Finally I get to the part where I could add the actual hardware.

Firstly I needed to make sure that there was enough room to fit the card. The cachecard fits on to the connector on the top right (as you look from the back of the machine) of the motherboard. There is a strip of gold connectors onto which the cachecard will fit.

Unfortunately, there isn't quite enough room to fit the card without a slight modification of Tivo.

I turned Tivo onto it's side, with the power socket at the bottom. Underneath Tivo there are 4 rubber feet - with one of these feet right under where the cachecard will sit. This rubber foot is a little too and blocked the cachecard from going onto the connectors. I simply slid a blade into the centre of the rubber foot where there is a plastic retaining pin. I levered this pin out and once it was free, the rubber foot could be pulled out easily.

I then sliced off around 5mm from both the pin and the part of the rubber foot that goes inside Tivo. I then replaced the foot and re-inserted the pin. There is now enough room to get the cachecard onto it's connectors.

Before attaching the card, I first attached the memory stick. The memory I used was normal PC133 memory as shown below:

I first placed the cachecard on a flat surface with the memory connectors unclasped and placed the chip in the slot as shown below:

I then pushed the memory chip firmly down until the chip was embedded in the slot and the clasps had been pushed shut to fix the memory in it's place.

Once done, I then pushed the cachecard onto the Tivo connectors.

I won't deny that it was difficult to push the card onto the connectors, especially if you have large fingers. However, the card eventually slid fully onto the connectors as shown:

You should ensure that the cachecard is firmly seated on the connectors before continuing.

The next stage was to get the wire into the cachecard.

If you look beside the fan at the back of Tivo, there a hole there that is just about large enough to fit a CAT5 cable and plug through.

You can pass the cable through this hole but you will not be able to fully fit the centre screw back onto the case afterwards.

Once I'd passed the cable through the hole, I made a loose knot in the cable that is inside Tivo. This is to try to avoid someone pulling on the cable my mistake and yanking the cable out of the cachecard or possibly breaking the cachecard itself.

This should give the card some protection.

 

NOTE:
If you don't like the thought of having a cable sticking out the back of Tivo, you could have a look over on John Driver's site where he has a neat device to give Tivo it's own ethernet port !

 

Now I simply plugged the cable into the cachecard itself.

 




Part 9 : Testing The Connection.

It was best to test the connection before closing the lid etc. Just to make sure everything is set up correctly.

So I plugged the Tivo back in.

There are three lights on the left of the cachecard.

These give an indication of whether there is power to Cachecard - the top light should be on all the time Tivo has power. The middle light will light up only when there is network access through the cachecard. The bottom light will glow red when Cachecard is accessing the memory chip. You should see the top and bottom lights as soon as you power up Tivo.

I had a SCART lead plugged into Tivo to watch what was happening on the TV at the time Tivo was booting up.

Cachecard affects the time Tivo takes to boot up since it takes over the boot process for a while, to allow it time to build up the database cache. You will see three new screens on the TV whilst the cache is being built.

Firstly, the database is written to the memory stick.

Then this is verified.

Finally the database is cached. - Notice that I've been given a warning at this process that is saying my Hard Drive may possibly be close to failure... Time for a new drive soon then I think!

Once this process is complete, the Tivo on a slide video is played and the Tivo user interface starts up.

By this time, you should have seen some activity on the Link light on the cachecard.

I then tested to see whether other machines on the network could see the Tivo now.

note: for the next part I will use the IP of Tivo (as set up in part 5 - IP address, the first IP address entered on that section) as 192.168.0.99 - you should obviously use the address which you entered

I started up a Dos Command window on my PC and typed in the following command:

PING 192.168.0.99

I was looking for a response which showed that the ping command has connected to Tivo's IP address and that a response was coming back.

This was successful, so I progressed to stage 2, testing Telnet.

To test Telnet, I typed the following into the dos screen (remember to use your own IP address) :

Telnet 192.168.0.99

This responded with a Bash prompt, similar to when I was installing the drivers.

I typed Exit to close the bash prompt.



Finally, I checked to see whether FTP was working.

On my Internet browser, (IE 6 in this case) I typed the following into the address bar:

ftp://192.168.0.99

After a few seconds the display showed me the folder structure on the Tivo. This showed that FTP was working.






Part 10 : Finishing Off.

At this point, you could decide to install TivoWeb to allow access the Tivo functionality from over the network. See this page for the instructions on installing Tivoweb.

Once that was complete, I unplugged Tivo again.

The final task was to replace the Tivo lid.

With the cable now in place it wan now difficult to fully close the lid up - the centre screw fixing was now blocked by the cat5 cable. To solve this, I simply used some pliers and moved the screw tab out and away from the cable as shown below.



I returned Tivo to it's place under the TV and reconnected all the leads and plugged Tivo back into the mains . Once it had booted up, the Cache building process starts again. Cached information held on the memory chip is lost each time Tivo loses power, but is automatically rebuild once power is restored.

I then returned upstairs to the PC and went through Part 9 (above) again to see whether Tivo was still responding to LAN access.

Finally, I tested the daily call function on Tivo. I had deliberately not re-connected the phone line to Tivo.
In the set-up menu on Tivo I forced a call ... After a few seconds, the 'call' was made and new information was downloaded - I watched the network traffic whilst this was going on and could see information being sent to the Tivo via the LAN hub.


Part 11 : Bridging the Gap.

If having a wired connection to Tivo is not possible, you might still be wanting to use a wireless solution. Cachecard is not a wireless card, however it can be used with a wireless bridge.



To set my Cachecard up to wireless access, I used the following two items on my pre-existing LAN.

  • Belkin F5D7130UK 802.11G wireless access point. This give me wireless capability (at the faster G speeds) on my wired LAN. I simply plugged this into a lan cable on a Hub and configured it using the supplied instructions.
  • Belkin F5D7330UK 802.11G Ethernet bridge. This device will talk to the 7130 wireless access point and has a wired CAT5 slot to allow a single wired device to be plugged into it. The device plugged in (Tivo) then has the ability to talk to the wireless access point and so on to the rest of the LAN.
Other manufacturers such as Netgear sell similar devices.

Note - to expand the system a little, I actually plugged a network switch into the 7330 ethernet bridge, this giving me the chance to plug other devices into the same bridge at a later date. I've since managed to run successfully, a Pinnacle Mediacenter from the same switch without any noticable problems.


SUCCESS!

Written Nov 2004.


Written by SteveC