Banana Stew

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Using TiVO with Vonage (or any VoIP service)

TiVo has this one little technical problem that they need to solve. It works great with broadband, but requires a standard telephone line for initial startup. The box actually has a modem built in for downloading configuration information. How archaic.

For those of us who no longer have a standard telephone line, this is a problem. Vonage (or any other VoIP service) converts analog voice signals into packets that are routed over the Internet (or a private intranet). A modem expects a nailed-up connection between two endpoints. VoIP may have slight delays or gaps that the human ear doesn't notice. A modem gets totally freaked out by those gaps or delays.

According to the on-line forums, many TiVo/Vonage users could never get any connection. I was a bit more fotunate. I could connect, but the call wouldn't stay up for more than 1 or 2 minutes. So, my TiVo box could make the first setup call (a short one), but always died during the second setup call (the 10-20 minute one).

Several solutions are suggested in a variety of on-line forums. They include using codes to slow down the modem, setting TiVo to dial a New York number, setting up a PPP connection to your computer, and taking the TiVo box over to a neighbor's house and setting it up for a few hours.

For me, the solution that worked was to use the ",#401" prefix before the telephone number and hook up the USB connection on the back to my home network. That prefix forces the call to go over the internet instead of a phone line.

The hardware that I used on the back of my TiVo box (it's a Series 2, by the way) was a USB-to-Ethernet converter plugged into a wireless access point. It should work just as well if you put a USB-to-Ethernet converter to a wired (Ethernet) connection to either your cable/DSL modem or home router.

I have heard anectdotal evidence that plugging a wireless USB dongle into the TiVo will not work for initial setup. Something about needing to download the software to turn the dongle on. I don't have any real proof of that, and those supposedly work in the long term. One solution (not that I recommend it) is to buy a dongle for long-term use and buy-and-return a USB-to-Ethernet converter for initial setup (bring it home, get the TiVo set up, then return it and use the dongle instead).

Good luck. Vonage is worth it and so is TiVo. Once they're set up, they work beautifully together and will greatly enhance your life, make you more attactive to the opposite sex, and significantly increase your stamina.

[Update 8/10/2006] Welcome MacObserver Poscasters. You'll be pleased to know that the latest TiVo boxes no longer have this problem. Click on "TiVo" below for all other TiVo-related posts. Click on "Vonage" ... well, you get the drill.



  • When I was stuck and unable to get my software updated though my VOIP line. I have ATT CallVantage VOIP service. It will not work though their system. I did not use my HD TIVO for months until I finally sent it to and they updated my software so I could use the USB Wifi system to run over broadband.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:42 AM  

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