I’m a bit of a home theater and audio/video hobbyist. I used to be a “pro” in that I made my living in the professional video post production industry (as well as the hardware/software industry that supported that world), but have left that existence behind long ago for greener pastures.
I’ve never lost my appreciation for being able to enjoy media in my own home. I’m not a big fan of going out unless it’s a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’d rather set my home up in the most comfortable and flexible way possible so that I can enjoy movies, TV shows, internet content, or anything else I want, any time I want, from wherever I want.
The internet explosion over the last decade has obviously been instrumental in this, and TiVo was one of the first “smart” devices I ever bought for my home (outside of various computers of course). It was a truly mind-blowing experience, that first series-1 unit. Suddenly, I was no longer a slave to TV scheduling, or trying to record stuff on VHS tapes (or even DVDRs – yes, I even have a tabletop DVD recorder) so that I could watch stuff when I actually had time in my life. I’ve been a raving TiVo fanboy ever since, having turned countless people onto the brilliance that is the TiVo. Especially back before the word “DVR” was even in the common vocabulary.
Now of course, we have devices like the iPhone and iPad, and TiVo has done a decent job of jumping onto that ship before it sailed completely away. Their iPad app is pretty damn useful… doesn’t do everything I would want it to, but it’s pretty close. And in typical TiVo fashion, it’s simple enough to use that even my better half, who is not the techie in the household, has no trouble using it on her own iDevices.
So when I noticed a couple hours ago that there was an update to the TiVo app on my iPad, I thought – cool! They’re still adding stuff!
I promptly installed the update, launched it, and was greeted with a dialog stating:“Unauthorized Modifications Detected
This app may not run if unauthorized modifications have been made to iOS.”
It then promptly quit after about 5 seconds.
Can you say – WTF!??!?!?!
You see, like many more advanced users of technology, I like to get the absolute most out of every device that I buy. Sometimes, that means modifying the device to allow me to do things that either were never intended, or were deliberately prevented from being used for whatever reason.
Most anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock the past few years, knows that this has been absolutely positively declared as legal for the owner of the device to do. So what the hell is TiVo trying to pull here??
Do they not understand that in the world of home theater technology and DVRs, the most advanced customers generally either build their own HTPCs (Home Theater PC), or use a TiVo? It’s been my experience that those who use cable-company-issued “DVRs” are the least sophisticated users, and are not ones who will want to push the envelope of what their technology can do.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the notion of not supporting the software on a jailbroken device. After all, that’s how Skype handles it. They tell you they only support the app on unmodified iOS devices, and then let you use the software at your own risk. This is as it should be. But for TiVo to step in and police its users – especially when it’s exactly the most advanced customers who will use the app in the first place and thus, probably have a jailbroken device – is a huge mistake IMO.
If I have spent $500 to $800 on a device then I am the owner of that device and am free to do whatever I could possibly want to do with it, under the knowledge that doing so may void my warranty or get me in legal trouble if it was something illegal (which again, jailbreaking is not). If I then want to run a free piece of software on said device, then it is not that software’s place to decide that I am not allowed to run it simply because of said modifications (since we all know that jailbreaking does not in any way interfere with the functionality of the TiVo app).
Jailbreaking is perfectly legal regardless of the fact that some people choose to do illegal things with their newfound functionality. TiVo’s behavior here, is like saying that because cars that go fast are often used as getaway vehicles in robberies, the new car you bought will restrict itself to the speed limit at all times. Or that because bullets are often used to cause harm, you should be allowed to purchase any gun you like, but ammunition won’t work in it.
I even contacted TiVo support about this via live chat, and was told by the representative that he believed this was “unintentional”. Of course that’s absurd, since as a software developer myself I am all too aware that someone had to develop some code to detect that status of the operating system, display the dialog if a jailbreak was detected, and then quit the app. There is absolutely, positively, no possible way this was an error, mistake, or unintended consequence of some other aspect of the update.
It’s this sort of behavior that makes me not want to use a company’s products. But the fact is that I do love my TiVos. They are the nerve center of my household media entertainment system, and by adding several free open source projects (PyTivoX, kmttg, handbrake) to a spare computer I had laying around, I’m able to watch any content, from anywhere, on either of the large screen TVs in the house. I’m also able to pull content off the TiVos for use on my iPad or iPhone when I’m on the road, or can even simply stream any content from our home network via any device, from anywhere in the world… again, all for free, and the TiVos are an important part of this media ecosystem.
But what do YOU think? Personally right now… I have a very bad taste in my mouth, especially since there is no easy way for the average user to downgrade an app, once they have updated it. Good thing I’m not an average user!