TiVo Hacks Roundup (with Caller ID Hack)

TiVo CallerID

SatelliteSweeper has a great roundup of 23 TiVo hacks to turbocharge your DVR:

Learn to modify your Tivo or DVR to show Caller ID on your TV when you get a phone call, store over 5 times more recordings than a standard DVR, transfer files to and from your PC and more…

They’re all great, but we’re a little embarrassed that one of the best of the bunch (and one of the two highlighted in the original lead-in to the roundup, shown above) is a dead link (a result of starting this blog and redirecting all links from to to an online sample hack from our own TiVo Hacks.

To rectify the situation, we’re posting that entire hack after the jump in this post. Just click Read full story to check out “Caller ID on Your TiVo,” Hack #43 from TiVo Hacks.



Hack #43: Caller ID on Your TV

Only a chosen few are allowed to interrupt your favorite television show, TiVo or no. Find out who’s calling without averting your eyes from the tube.

The hero and the heroine are about to kiss.
The identity of the spy is mere seconds from being revealed. The fate
of a major character on the show hangs in the balance. And the
blasted phone rings. You could pause the program, but this is a
seminal moment in television history. You could ignore the phone, but
you are expecting a call about that job you were after. What to do?

you have caller ID from your phone company and a DirecTiVo
(combination DirecTV satellite and TiVo system), then you have just
the combination you need to determine whether or not to reach for
that phone.


I’m afraid this hack isn’t going to magically give you caller ID if you haven’t requested and paid your phone company for it. We’re assuming you’ve caller ID on the phone line into which your DirecTiVo unit is plugged.

Greg Gardner’s elseed displays caller ID information—recognized by your DirecTiVo through its connection to the phone line—and puts it up on your television screen for you to see. Figure 1 shows elseed in action.

Figure 1. Caller ID on an incoming call, captured by elseed on TiVo and displayed on a television screen

TiVo CallerID

Download the archive, extract the elseed binary,
copy it to
/var/hack/bin on your DirecTiVo, and set it as

bash-2.02# chmod 755 /var/hack/bin/elseed

Give it a whirl by invoking it on the command line by hand:

bash-2.02# elseed -e

This will wait until the first phone call with caller ID comes in,
pop the number up on the television, and then exit. So, pick up that
cell phone, dial the line to which your DirecTiVo is hooked, and
watch for your number to appear on the television screen.

Assuming that worked as expected, set up elseed
to run automatically whenever your DirecTiVo boots. Transfer the script from the
elseed archive on your PC over to
/var/hack/bin, and use the vi to append the
following lines to your /etc/rc.d/rc.sysinit

sleep 200
/var/hack/bin/ &

Or, use the echo
command, like so:

bash-2.02# remount -o remount,rw /
bash-2.02# echo "sleep 20; /var/hack/bin/ &">> /.profile
bash-2.02# remount -o remount,ro /

However you choose to edit /.profile, remount
the / partition read-write, then read-only again
when you are finished, as shown in the preceding command.

Now this works just fine, displaying the telephone number and
available caller information with each incoming call, but what if you
want to override the information that comes from the phone company?
What if, instead of her actual name, a call from your significant
other could show up as "Teddy Bear"
or whatever cute nickname you use? What if the phone company has
nothing useful on record associated with your best
friend’s number?

elseed is
configurable via an elseed.conf file. containing
lines like these:

6175555555 A BOGUS NUMBER
5105555432 Teddy Bear
7075551234 Mom

Each of these lines associates a particular phone number—it
must be a 10-digit number—with a name or
bit of arbitrary text to display.

Make yourself
a /var/hack/etc directory in which to save the
elseed.conf configuration file:

bash-2.02# mkdir /var/hack/etc

To have
elseed pay attention to the configuration file,
it has to be invoked slightly differently. Reedit your
rc.sysinit file, changing the line:

/var/hack/bin/ &


/var/hack/bin/ -c /var/hack/etc/elseed.conf

Turn your TiVo off and back on again for TiVo to launch
elseed automatically, or start it by hand (if
it’s not already running) by typing the following
invocation on the command line:

bash-2.02# -c /var/hack/etc/elseed.conf &