Thursday, August 10, 2006

TiVo wireless & WEP problems (and solutions)

So, you have TiVo and you have a wireless home network. Congratulations, you have a terrific entertainment system that will keep you out of the sunlight for many hours. I salute you.

It goes without saying that you've enabled security (WEP) on your wireless network to keep the neighbor kid from looking at naked pictures by glomming onto your DSL connection. However, you're having trouble getting TiVo to synch up with your newly secure wireless network. You aren't alone.

I recently purchased my second TiVo box - the one with the dual tuners that will save my marriage ("You're recording what while I'm trying to watch HGTV? Haven't you already seen all of the episodes of Firefly?"). I also have a new wireless router, as my last one was fried in a recent lightning storm.

(Fortunately, the new TiVo boxes no longer require a telephone line to start up, so no more Vonage problems.)

From the start, I could not get my new TiVo to synch up with the wireless router. When WEP was turned off, all was fine and dandy, but when WEP was turned on there was no joy in Mudville. Occasionally, I could see that the TiVo was registering on the router, but it never got an IP address. And if I kept fiddling with the TiVo setup, it eventually stopped being able to see any wireless networks. That's a disturbing sight - "no wireless networks detected".

Here's what worked for me. Feel free to try it out and don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

  1. When the wireless networks disappear, the failsafe is to reboot the TiVo. Rebooting always brought back the full list of wireless networks. However, I sometimes got lucky by going out of the TiVo menus altogether (back to live TV) and then restarting the menu procedures. That takes less time than a lengthy reboot, and I sugest you try it first.

  2. In my case, TiVo seemed to have problems with the "ASCII" version of a WEP key. You have a choice of a short ASCII (letters and numbers) key or a longer HEX (1-9 and A-E) key. The ASCII key never synced up. The HEX one did - eventually. I suggest using the HEX key.

  3. Have a little patience. Although it doesn't seem to make sense technically, sometimes it just takes a few minutes for TiVo to sync up. Once you get the security key set up in TiVo and you've answered the other questions (yes I use DHCP, no I don't need a login for the client), wait a few minutes before doing more fiddling. On one occasion, it took my TiVo about 2 minutes to clear up all of the problems.

  4. FYI, the 128-bit security key is indeed more secure than 64-bit key, but it makes your network slightly slower and really, how much super-sensitive information do you send around your home network? With the 64-bit security enabled, my network was fast enough to watch a program ("Kim Possible") in real time as it was transferring from one TiVo to another.

Good luck, and enjoy your couch potatoeing.

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