As many of you know, I’m an avid user of TiVo. The time has come for me to begin converting some of my saved videos to other formats that can be used with my other devices like the iPad, iPhone and Apple TV.
Although I found several methods that could technically work, I decided to use the “fully supported” method that is recommended by TiVo– to use Roxio Toast Titanium 11 to perform the conversion and the TiVo Transfer utility that comes bundled with it to transfer my media files from the TiVo HD directly to my Mac. I had already purchased Toast Titanium 9 which offered the TiVo Transfer functionality which would allow me to watch my content on my Mac, but to convert to other supported formats, I would have to upgrade. I did.
I actually purchased a bundled version called Toast 11 Titanium Pro which included Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and several plug-ins also. With a coupon and tax, the total came to just over $130, delivered electronically.
As mentioned earlier, since I had a previous version of Toast, I had already transferred about 100 GB of data to my Mac for viewing there. Since the documentation doesn’t say that you must remove previous versions, I didn’t. I installed Toast 11 Titanium along side of the previous version on a Core i7 Macbook Pro with 8 GB of memory. When I fired up the new application, Titanium took over one full processor and wouldn’t let it go, pegged at 100% utilization. This went on indefinitely. I rebooted my machine and restarted the application several times, always fully utilizing one processor and never releasing it.
After several attempts, I called Roxio support and was told that I needed to remove Toast 9 and reinstall Toast 11. Apparently this fine gentlemen I spoke with has worked predominantly in a Windows world since he didn’t realize that the only dependency that could possibly exist would be configuration files and preferences. I removed these files and reinstalled the Toast 11. The problem persisted just as I told him it would.
Upon closer examination, it appears as though Toast 11 attempts to decrypt all of the files that have been transferred to the Mac upon loading the application. Here is screen capture of an inspection of the Toast process. Notice it is spending 100% of it’s time in MpegProgramStreamDecrypt, apparently decrypting content that has been transferred. Funny, I didn’t ask it to do anything yet! Digging even deeper, it turns out that this startup action of Toast was completely baffled by a TiVo file transfer that did not complete successfully. It would never move on and it produced no status or log messages saying it was having difficulty. It was just hung. When I removed and re-transferred this damaged file, Toast 11 eventually loaded the user interface. Be prepared to wait a LONG time for the interface to become usable if you have any significant amount of content available.
Unfortunately, each time you open the application, it attempts this same decryption action of each of the transferred elements which can take several minutes. As it is performing this action, the scrolling window which contains your content becomes unresponsive or jumpy and you get the spinning beach ball while you wait. It appears to reset to the top of the list after each thumbnail has been created. This application was obviously never tested with any significant number of HD quality videos. I understand that the application must perform some of this processing, but how about if you only do it once and you tell me what you are doing while it is happening?
This tool had apparently not been tested on a machine that did not have iMovie content loaded either. It got similarly baffled by a request to convert iMovie data where there wasn’t any. Once I killed the application and created a bogus iMovie project, it was able to continue.
To make matters even worse, the application “quits unexpectedly” often. It occurred three times while converting about 15 videos over a two day period.
Another very strange part of the user interface can be found in the lower left hand corner. It is a size indicator that displays the total size of the videos you have selected to convert. I really don’t know why this is even there. You either want the files you selected converted or you don’t. The drop down has selections that range from 128 MB to 8 GB. If you get close or go over the size you have selected in the drop down box, it turns the area red which normally means an error has occurred. It can and does continue to convert the files, it just leaves the impression that something bad is happening. I just don’t understand the motivation for providing this type of feedback to the user. Why do I have to set this to any value?
Dear TiVo: I realize that you have worked with Roxio and Sonic for a number of years to provide desktop solutions for your products. Please either have them designed and tested properly in the future or pick a better software vendor to work with. Hopefully they have done a better job on the conversion of the files than they have on the user interface.
I’m pretty unhappy with this product. I may return it for a refund and use one of the more creative methods for converting my videos.