Copying a TiVo drive

About a two and half years ago I put a 2 TB hard drive in our TiVo Premiere (link goes to the recent equivalent of our model TCD746320 Premiere).  Lately it started to show symptoms of hard drive failure: random skips and unplayable portions in recordings, which isn’t especially surprising considering it is running almost all of the time.

I decided to replace it with a WD20EURS drive of the same two gigabyte size.  I found the best price at Amazon.  When I did the original swap I used the linux-based JMFS software, but for some reason it wouldn’t recognize my hard drives this time.  Fortunately after some searching I found the DvrBARS (DVR backup and restore) software which runs under Windows.  It worked pretty much perfectly.  It does ask to store the original drive on an intermediate HD but I didn’t have the space for my recordings.  No matter, as the old drive was substantially unreadable by now, and the software has a “truncate” option to save space by not keeping the recordings.  I wound up using the original drive that came with the Tivo as the source and the truncate option produced a reasonably small backup that worked well to “restore” to the new drive.  Back in business!

Lessons Learned in the Retrieval of Ferromagnetic Objects

First, if you’re going to work on installing a light fixture above the kitchen sink, I suggest that you first cover the drain with a towel, newspaper, etc.

If you disregard that advice, in the alternative I suggest that you run the garbage disposal first to clean out nasty gunk that might be lingering there.

After I dropped a screw into the garbage disposal, I couldn’t initially locate it among all the muck.   I came up with the “clever” solution of fishing around for it with some strong rare-earth magnets (out of old hard drives) stuck on the end of a screwdriver.   It didn’t occur to me that the magnets might be better attracted to the mass of steel comprising the garbage disposal.  So now I had a disposal full of muck, a screw, and a loose bunch of rare earth magnets.

I scooped the nasty stuff out with my fingers and found the screw but the magnets remained elusive.  The final lesson learned was that the screwdriver shaft was a pretty good probe for finding the magnets – there was a spot in the disposal where the tip of the screwdriver was attracted, and the magnets were there.


Updating old Windows XP laptop to SSD

I keep an old tank of an IBM laptop around running Windows XP in order to talk with some legacy hardware.  A spare SSD (solid-state drive) after upgrading a different computer and thought I would install it in the beast to try and eke out a bit more performance.

First I checked the performance of the existing hard drive, a 320 GB, 7200 RPM magnetic disc model.  It should be somewhat fast at 7200 RPM compared to the original 5400 RPM drive the computer came with.

I don’t really follow computer performance, so I wasn’t sure if this was good or bad, but at least it’s a point of comparison.

Moving the information over to the new drive was trickier than I’d expected.  The computer is an IBM (now Lenovo) ThinkPad and the drive has a hidden recovery partition tucked away on it.  Last time I did something like this, I used Clonezilla and it went smoothly, but this time the software complained about the new 80GB SSD being too small.  I shrunk the partition with GParted and tried again but it still complained, possibly because of the Lenovo recovery partition named SERVICEV0001.  I wound up backing up the old hard drive with the Lenovo recovery software and then restoring the backup to the new SSD.

Running the HD benchmark showed a nice improvement.

The old drive was oddly superior in Burst Rate, perhaps because of a built-in cache.  Anyway the computer feels a bit faster.

Repair of faulty flush valve

One of our toilets stopped working reliably – the culprit seemed to be the valve that fills up the top tank (AKA the fill valve or flush valve), as it wouldn’t consistently open to fill the tank after flushing. This water-saving valve seemed like a good choice and it’s inexpensive to boot. Installation was easy, involving just a quick shut off of the water supply to the toilet, unscrewing the old valve and threading in the replacement. The water-saving aspect is interesting – there is a small valve to adjust the rate at which the bowl fills, with the idea to get it filled at the same time as the tank. Apparently with a conventional system, some water is wasted as it overflows the bowl before the float rises in the tank to turn off the valve, It works great so far.