On one of these attempts, the transfer dropped most of the way through (as the TiVo software explained, "Function failed during execution"). It reminded me of trying to download a particularly large file off a file-sharing system -- except most file-swapping programs these days are smart enough to resume a download where it left off. TiVoToGo was not and instead proceeded to download the entire movie from scratch.
Those long transfer times are due in part to the massive size of these files -- about 2 3/4 gigabytes for two hours of footage. Attaching both a TiVo and a computer to a hard-wired Ethernet network would speed up things, but not nearly as much as simply connecting both boxes with a fast FireWire or USB 2.0 cable (both of which can sling out data about four times faster than Ethernet).
But TiVo has never offered that option.
Every time you play any recording on your PC, no matter how often you've viewed the same show before on that computer, you will be asked to type in the playback password you designated at setup. Each time you'll see the same nag on the screen: "Remember that the TiVoToGo feature is provided for your own personal non-commercial use."
This incessant nag bothered me more than I thought it would. I resented getting lectured every time, as if this little sermon was the only thing stopping me from tumbling into a life of crime. The paranoid level of security built into this system is almost comical -- in what universe should an episode of "Desperate Housewives" get more protection than my Quicken financial data?
Transferred TiVo recordings play back in Windows Media Player. They looked and sounded fine when played in full-screen mode, save a rare outbreak of blotchiness caused by TiVo's video-compression routines.
But Windows Media Player is missing two key features. When you scan forward or backward in a recording, you can't see the footage flashing past, as you would on a VHS or DVD recording; you have to guess how far you've moved before resuming playback. And you can't bookmark a spot in a recording to watch later.
TiVoToGo isn't complete just yet; TiVo plans to release software over the coming weeks to copy transferred recordings to DVDs on computers with DVD recorder drives, followed later by an update to move these videos to Portable Media Center handhelds.
But even with those features in place, I can't see who'd bother. If you want to take your TiVo recordings anywhere, you will do far better to buy a TiVo box with a built-in DVD recorder. That will work far more quickly and simply and, better yet, won't treat you like a crook.
Living with technology, or trying to? E-mail Rob Pegoraro at firstname.lastname@example.org.