A fall software update from TiVo damaged a popular feature on the company's DVR, and months later the change remains unfixed for a number of customers.
As part of the TiVoToGo feature, software from Roxio called Toast 8 allows users to transfer recorded shows from TiVo to mobile devices, like laptops and iPods, or put the shows on DVDs. The recording and transferring functions stopped working late last year for some customers using Toast.
Users began to complain starting in early October that they were unable to transfer, or burn, any TiVo'd shows at all.
"Right after my TiVo box informed me that it had received the 'Fall Update,' the problems started," TiVo and Roxio customer Fred Jacobs said.
Roxio said the TiVo fall software update changed the way recorded video files were saved, which introduced technical problems into Roxio's own software.
Roxio issued its own software updates to address the problem in November, but it wasn't a complete fix for everyone. Though the file transfer feature began to function again, hiccups remain for a number of users, like Jacobs.
"When I tried to burn a new episode, the result was a DVD with constant audio breaks and skips, like someone was turning the sound on and off every half-second. Worthless," Jacobs told CNET News.com. "Also, I now have no way to archive my own shows on DVD. I just have to delete them, sometimes before I even have time to watch them. After five months of this, I just feel like a sucker."
Doug Gordon, who initially reported the problem on TiVoCommunity.com, the popular message board for TiVo customers, said he's experiencing the same syncing problem, and the November update from Roxio didn't solve the problem.
"The audio delay is variable, from barely noticeable to (more often) a second or two of delay between the audio and the video," Gordon told News.com. " I've more or less given up on burning programs to DVD now, as most of the ones I've made using Toast since the last 8.0.3 update are unwatchable due to the lack of synchronization."
Roxio admits there are problems with its Toast and Popcorn software. Roxio product manager Patrick Nugent says the company has been working on fixing the syncing issue with TiVo. Nugent said he believes it affects "a small number of users."
The reason the problem is not consistent among all Roxio Toast and Popcorn users, he said, is unclear. There "are many factors that cause recordings to be different from one another, such as fluctuating variable frame rate in HD broadcasts, especially around titles and commercial breaks and even differences from channel to channel."
But customers are demanding to know why it has taken so long to address the issue. Roxio says it's because the company had trouble replicating the problem its customers are experiencing.
"It doesn't happen on every file, which made it a little difficult to try and fix," Nugent said. He said Roxio was able to contact a few customers to show them examples of the audio and video being out of sync last fall.
Without any additional updates from Roxio, frustrated customers say they turned to TiVo, starting an e-mail campaign to the DVR maker's CEO, but say they got little to no response.
When contacted for this article, TiVo said the problem is something they are working on together with Roxio to fix.
"It is important to us that all TiVo subscribers using TiVoToGo receive the same great TiVo experience whether they are utilizing a PC or Mac," the company said in a statement to News.com. "It has been brought to our attention that a small subset of customers using Toast 8 have experienced a problem when trying to transfer their shows. We have been working with our partner Roxio and currently have a fix in beta."
When CNET News.com inquired about the issue Thursday, Roxio said that starting that day it would be .
"We're currently testing a solution with a number of customers and plan to release a free update broadly through our automatic update notification as soon as it's ready," Nugent said.
When asked why such a delay, a spokesman for Sonic Solutions, Roxio's parent company, intimated that the problem arose at a bad time: the company had to update 9 of its Mac OS X products to be compatible with Apple's November release of its Leopard operating system.
"Generally (customers) are--and should be--frustrated with us that some of their issues persisted," said the spokesman. "But it is a subset of users. We did address a good portion of users' issues. There are some additional issues that we recognize as being an issue, and we're working on (that)."
Users want a fix sooner, rather than later. One TiVo owner of five years who asked not to be identified said the feature provided by Roxio's Toast software is no longer usable, but that TiVo and TiVoToGo are such an integral part of his and his family's routine, he's not interested in simply changing DVR companies.
"Trouble is, the company still advertises the features on their website as though they are still supporting these features," the TiVo user said. "Most of us don't want a rebate. We want our program to work the way it's supposed to."