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TiVo/iTunes Media Center System

Tech Life789 words4 minutes to read

I think I’ve discovered a great concoction for building your own makeshift Media Center System. TiVo is already pretty great at managing your TV shows, but the method I’m about to discuss add a viable music option to the mix. Luckily, I had nearly everything already, and just didn’t know it until this morning.

What do we need?

Before we get started, we need to make sure that we have everything we need:

  1. Either a Windows 2000/XP PC or a Mac running OSX
  2. A TV (which I think just about everyone has)
  3. A Networked TiVo Series2 with system software 7.1 or better
  4. iTunes
  5. TiVo2Go Software (Mac or PC)
  6. iSee iTunes software (Mac or PC)
  7. Airport Express
  8. Speakers of some sort that are connected to your Airport Expres

This next part is the initial setup that you’ll need for the method that I’m about to explain.

Prepping your TiVo

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to begin by connecting your TiVo to your home network. You can get started by going over the TiVo Network Setup Instructions. This will involve purchasing either a wired or wireless (11 Mbps; 802.11b) network adapter for your TiVo. If you’re going wireless, remember to allow 802.11b devices on your network, and understand that TiVo only understands WEP security — not the newer WPA. I was ready to rip my hair out over this before I figured out what the problem was.

Next you’ll need to get system software version 7.1 (or newer) installed. Assuming you know how to work a TiVo, go into the System Settings screen and check what software version you have. If it’s older than v7.1, you’ll have to request the update. It can take up to 3 days for your TiVo to receive the software update.

After you’ve got version 7.1 or newer installed, you have to enable a hidden mode called the HME mode (which I think stands for Home Media Entertainment, although I could be completely wrong). Instructions taken from this page are as follows:

You can tell that HME is activated if on the Main TiVo Screen the “Music & Photos” menu option is now called “Music, Photos & More”.

You will need to re-enable HME every time your TiVo Reboots.

If HME isn’t already enabled on your Tivo running Software verson 7.x or above go all the way into the System Infomation screen and enter CLEAR-CLEAR-0-0 on your remote (there will be no direct feedback that it did anything).

Return to the Main TiVo Screen and you should see “Music, Photos & More” listed.

Prepping your computer

Go ahead and connect the Airport Express to your home network, if you haven’t already. The instructions for that are outside the scope of this posting. Connect your speakers (home stereo or surround sound system, preferably) to your Airport Express.

Launch the iSee iTunes application and allow it to start up. On Mac OS X, I had to open a port to make it all work properly. Open up the “Sharing” System Preference, and go to the “Firewall” tab. Create a new entry called “iSee iTunes” (or whatever you want to name it), and set the port value to 7288. Hopefully it’s the same on your system. If not, you can run Rendezvous Browser (OSX-only) to find what port iSee iTunes is wanting to run on.

Bringing It All Home

Launch iTunes, and start playing the music through your Airport Express to your home stereo (or whatever you’re using to play the audio through). I assume that it will be in the same room as your TiVo’d TV (since that would make the most sense).

Turn on your TV, and bring up the TiVo main menu. Choose “Music, Photos & More”, and then “iSee iTunes on <server name>“. When the iSee iTunes menu comes up, choose the ”Now Playing” option, and iSee iTunes will display the track name, artist, rating, and album art on your TV. The forward and back buttons work the Next/Previous track in iTunes. You can even pause as necessary.

There! You now have your music playing on your home stereo and a visual layout of the track info and album art all together. (Almost-)instant Home Media Center!

Alternate Method

An alternative method that I’ve tried out worked well since I have a PC and TiVo’d TV in my bedroom, and I have some 5.1 Surround speakers connected to my Windows XP machine. I launched iTunes, iSee iTunes, and Nicecast on my Powerbook. I broadcast a signal (via Nicecast) to iTunes on my PC, and had the audio play through my fancy speakers. Meanwhile, I used iSee iTunes to display the cool music info on my TV screen. Not quite as fancy, but still works well.

Ryan Parman

is an engineering manager with over 20 years of experience across software development, site reliability engineering, and security. He is the creator of SimplePie and AWS SDK for PHP, patented multifactor-authentication-as-a-service at WePay, defined much of the CI/CD and SRE disciplines at McGraw-Hill Education, and came up with the idea of “serverless, event-driven, responsive functions in the cloud” while at Amazon Web Services in 2010. Ryan's aptly-named blog, , is where he writes about ideas longer than . Ambivert. Curious. Not a coffee drinker.