I’m really getting tired of this. I’ve mentioned this before, but I just have to mention it again since I was just burned, again – TiVo Desktop is terribly buggy. Some of the bugs are annoying, but some of the bugs are serious – for example, up and losing all of the TiVo Web Video subscriptions. This has happened to me several times now, on two different computers. I won’t touch TiVo Desktop for weeks, just letting it do its thing, but then I’ll realize I haven’t seen anything from my TiVo Web Video subscriptions for a while – and when I check, the configuration file is wiped.
TiVo Desktop stores the TiVo Web Video subscriptions in files under C:\Documents and Settings\[account name]\Local Settings\Application Data\TiVo Desktop, at least on WinXP. The files concerned are RssFeeds.xml and wspc.xml – with DownloadQueue.xml of lesser concern. What seems to happen to me is every so often TiVo Desktop up and wipes out wspc.xml, which is the main file. I’ll find the file back to its default 1KB state without any subscriptions. Having done my share of development and support I suspect what happens is that when the server is updating the file something goes awry and instead of the updated copy being written it is wiped out. Then the default file is recreated when the server sees it is missing.
This is infuriating and frustrating. And it is a rookie bug. There are ways around this – a simple one is A/B files. Write a ‘B’ file then, only when you confirm the file is correct, remove the ‘A’ file. Then reverse that the next time. Or keep the file in memory until you do a checksum and confirm the file was written to disk successfully, and if not, try again until it is. And considering the subscriptions can only be managed from the cloud, and my TiVo still thinks I’m subscribed to these channels, in the worst case the subscriptions should be reloaded from TiVo’s servers.
I’m a geek, and when it stops working I know where to go looking for answers. But if this happens to an average user I’d expect them to be baffled – their TiVo would still show them subscribed but they wouldn’t be getting any new content. And the resolution isn’t clear – you basically have to delete and re-add the subscriptions so the server recreates them. Or, if you’re a geek and kept a backup copy, recreate the file manually. Of course this means it goes and re-downloads lots of old content.
And that’s not the only serious bug, it also fails to clean up after itself. After downloading content and transferring it to the TiVo, it is supposed to delete the downloaded file – and it does, most of the time. But it misses some and over time they build up. I’ve found multi-gigabytes of orphaned download files left using up space on my drive. If you subscribe to HD versions of content the ‘leaking’ burns space faster. Before Revision3 was added to TiVoCast I used to subscribe to many of their shows via TiVo Web Video, and they were HD versions. Just a few of those left behind can add up to a GB. You can check to see if TiVo Desktop is leaving files behind in C:\Documents and Settings\[account name]\Local Settings\Application Data\TiVo Desktop\Downloads I just removed 746MB of orphaned files from the past couple of months, and that’s after I’d dropped all the Rev3 HD shows.
Bugs happen, I know that, but these have gone unpatched for a while now.
These are hardly the only issues, just the two that really get under my skin. But there are other changes that really need to be made. And why is it that the TiVo Web Video interface on the TiVo itself seems to be stuck in the past, rarely reflecting the current episodes on the feeds? That makes the ‘Download Past Episodes’ feature useless. These are RSS feeds, would it really be so hard to make the server pull in the updated list automatically? And now that HD TiVo models can decode H.264 and VC-1 it would be nice if we could skip the transcoding entirely for compatible downloads.
I love the concept of TiVo Web Video, but it feels more and more like abandonware. All the attention goes to TiVoCast where TiVo can make business deals, and TiVo Web Video just rots on the vine. I know there are third party solutions to replace TiVo Desktop, but the point is this is what most TiVo owners will be aware of and use. TiVo needs to fix this issues if they’re serious about this as a product feature.