What follows is an interview that I had with Will Wagner the creator of AutoPilot. Will was kind enough to take some time out of his day and answer the following questions. If you haven’t tried out AutoPilot yet, you really should. The software is able to do some amazing things with your TiVo recordings.
Can You Give Us A Little Information About Yourself?
Well, there are three of us contributing more or less on the evenings and weekends. We all live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have all worked together in the past at one point or another.
What’s Your Favorite TiVo Feature?
I’m a “wishlist”-aholic to be honest. Every time I run across an interesting actor or director, I’ll create a new wishlist and on a regular basis, I’ll use that feature to find and record shows I wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Why Did You Create AutoPilot?
It started out while I was trying to find an easy way to get children’s shows off the TiVo so my 2 and 4 year old daughters could watch them in the car. I found a couple of solutions, all of which unfortunately meant spending an inordinate amount of time watching progress dialogs, so I started toying with ideas to write our own software. Some arm twisting and few beers later, I got a couple of old friends to help out and we’ve been working on it since.
How Has The Response Been?
The response has been great so far. We’ve been getting good coverage from websites like TiVoBlog.com and slashdot.org and that has given us a good number of users. Most important, the people using it have been positive on the product and have been giving us great feedback on features we never would have thought of on our own.
Having worked professionally on software products since the early 90’s, the ability these days to set up an online forum and have instant feedback from a community of users is really an improvement on the software development process. It’s help getting feedback on what’s working well and what’s not, and it will undoubtedly make it a better product over time.
Why Do You Distribute The Utilities Separate From AutoPilot?
That will probably go away in the future. We initially thought some people would want to use TiVo Desktop to download their TiVo files and would just want a small downoad to convert them into the proper format. At this pointthough, the download size between a single converter and the full package (e.g. TiVo2Palm vs the full install) isn’t worth all the effort. Hopefully in the near future, we’ll just have a better single installer that will allow users to pick and choose the components they want to install. In the longer term, hopefully we’ll get even smarter and download components as needed when the user sets up their download rules and actions, rather than always downloading everything.
What Additional Features Or Plugins Do You Expect To Implement?
Well, we are actively working on the next release we’re revamping our download rules so users can have better control over what shows get downloaded automatically. TiVo gives us a lot of information that we can use to determine what shows should get downloaded and we’re going to augment our rules to take advantage of that. You’ll be able to specify a rule like
“download all shows that have the term ‘SF Giants’ in the program summary” or “download all children’s shows” etc. One of our users suggested having a sync option such that when a show is removed off of the TiVo, it will also delete it off the computer. In that way, you always have your PSP or iPod formatted shows available to take on the road without having to worry about AutoPilot eating up all your hard drive space.
Longer term, we have a long list of features we’d like to add from support for other devices to being able to access AutoPilot from a TiVo through an HME plug-in. While I think automatic download and conversion eliminates some of the steps, it still isn’t as easy and as automated as it could be. I’d like to be able to sit on my couch in the evening in front of my television and from my TiVo, select the shows I want to have on my mobile device the next morning and just let the TiVo and my home computer handle the rest.
How About A Mac Version?
We’ve been getting a lot of requests for it, and it’s something we’d like to do. Combined, we have a lot of development experience on the Mac so it shouldn’t be too difficult to make the transition, but there are a couple of minor technical hurdles we’d have to cross to get a Mac solution working properly. We definitely want to get what we have working well before we move on to the next thing though, so it won’t be until next spring at the earliest.
Is There Anything Else You Want To Mention?
I just want to thank you for giving us the opportunity to get the word out about our product with this and your other blog posts. It’s great seeing a product I have worked on getting mentioned on one of my favorite sites.