Posts Tagged ‘freeview’
After the untimely death of my Topfield box, and less than stellar performance of the 3view box, I ended up sending that back & buying the Humax HDR-Fox T2. Since I bought it over a year ago there’s been a huge amount of progress on a custom firmware which enables you to install ‘packages‘ that add a whole bunch of new features, including;
- Web-based interface for controlling the box, searching the EPG, etc.
- Smartphone optimised web interface
- Auto-filing script for placing series linked programs in designated sub-folders
- Remote scheduling interface for setting timers on the box remotely
- Recording trimming to cut off unwanted segments of recordings
- Custom TV portal (offering Sky Player support)
- And loads more!
There are some videos on YouTube that show a lot of these features in action, together with a guide showing exactly how to install it onto your box. It’s a simple, and reversible process & the guys that have worked on it have helped improve the features on the box no end!
Last week I put in my order for a new Freeview HD box from 3view.. the box is due to be shipped on the 27th May 2010. Apart from the official 3view Facebook group, there were no forums or news sites to speak of, so I’ve set up a site called 3viewer which is hosted on some free space with x10hosting.
Site performance isn’t going to blow anyone away (it seems especially poor when the US is awake), but it’s got full PHP support, MySQL databases and everything I needed to set up Joomla and phpBB. Other free hosting (such as Zymic) runs into problems with Joomla extensions because it doesn’t support unzipping of files, which is a bit rubbish.
If you’re in the market for a new Freeview HD box then check out the coverage of the 3view box over at 3viewer.. it looks as though it’ll be a decent box with some interesting Internet-connected features. I’ll be posting independent reviews and videos as time permits.
This year Freeview goes HD.. but as yet there isn’t any hardware available to consumers. I’ve been keeping my eye on 2 boxes, the Humax DVB-T2 HD and one by a new British company called 3view.
3view has peeked my interest because of some of the more innovative features they’re including, like the support for VOD, apps (e.g. Facebook), and web-browser that allows you to view sites like Channel 4′s 4oD.
There’s a feature list on their site, but I also emailed them to clarify a few things. What I asked may be of interest to others, so here’s what they said;
Q: Now that the BBC intends to restrict the EPG data, is that something that won’t be available on the 3view box?
A: We are currently in discussions with BBC about this. There shouldn’t be any problems and the EPG data will be available on the 3view box.
Q: Is the box able to play back DivX/Xvid?
A: DivX5 or higher – no problem but the older version codec hasn’t been tested. We have tested Xvid and that’s fine too.
Q: With the H264 support, I’m assuming these can be in an MKV container? Will it play back 1080p video without a problem? And how about support for pass-through on DTS soundtracks? Oh, and embedded subtitles?
A: There won’t be any problems with playing back 1080p videos. Embedded subtitles tracks will not work in the current version, once recorded. We may add that in the future.
Q: Is there any way for users to customise the software on the box? I love the Topfield TF5800 because you can add user-written apps to plug gaps in functionality and generally make the box so much better.
A: Not yet- once we have a solid code base we may allow some customer tinkering – but not from launch, as bug tracking will become too complex for a V1.0.
Q: Is the remote control IR, or Wireless?
A: It is IR – BUT we have zwave installed and may offer zwave remotes in the future for extra web interoperability
Q: Are you able to record 2 programs, and watch 1 other (as long as it’s on the same multiplex as one of the recorded programs)?
A: Not at the moment – it’s record one and watch one. We will be adding that in a future upgrade.
Q: Do you think the box will be firmware upgradable to include support for the BBC’s Canvas project when that starts to get finalised & implemented?
A: We anticipate a YES but we cannot be sure as it is not a reality yet.
After owning the Topfield TF5800 freeview PVR for about 15 months I’m still bowled over by the functionality it offers. The latest features I’ve just found useful are to move series linked programs into a specific folder, plus a setting that allows you to only keep the last X number of episodes.. deleting the oldest.
Another feature I never thought I’d use was the ability to copy off the recorded files to a PC. It’s allowed me to take some episodes and (with the help of a script) burn them off onto a DVD.
At first I thought the process for putting the .rec files onto DVD was going to be a case of using Super(c) to convert them into something that DVDFlick could deal with. However, there’s a fantastic script called rec2dvd which deals with multiple files & requires no transcoding (so therefore doesn’t take long to create the DVD).
Before I let rec2dvd do it’s magic, I used MPEG Streamclip to clip any unwanted video from the file. Perfect!
The Netgem iPlayer I’ve had for watching Freeview doesn’t provide any PVR functionality, so I’ve been looking for a replacement that does everything I want. It was between the Humax 9600 and the Topfield TF5800. After a lot of research I went for the Topfield.
The thing that swung it for is that the Toppy is extremely configurable due to 1) the custom firmwares 2) the user-built applications (TAPs) that are available.
Between the firmwares and the TAPs you can customise almost anything! For example, on the standard box the display on the front will show the time when in standby, and the channel number when it’s switched on. That’s not something I care for.. I can see the channel I’m watching and the time is more useful to me. Someone else obviously thought the same, and they’ve created a TAP (TF5000Display) to completely customise the display to your needs, doing way more than what I needed.
First Things First
Setting the box up wasn’t as arduous as I thought it was going to be. After rigging it up to the TV and making sure everything worked, I fired up my laptop and installed the Topfield Tools suite, together with the USB Driver for Windows XP. Easy so far.
Next I downloaded the firmware I wanted to install. This was from Toppy.org.uk and required me to sign up for their forums, and that gave me a login for the main site that brings up a new menu where you can download new (and beta) firmwares. I chose the 5.13.65 release which was recommended by the site.
The firmware can then be (optionally) patched with extra fixes which have been community-written. To work out which ones I wanted to integrate into the firmware I read this topic and downloaded FWPatcher & PatchPackV2 which contained everything I needed.
The patches I chose were:
- [C0] NoCYR
- [Cy] NotCYR_02
- [H] HDDPatch_03
- [I] PBSiS
- [P] PowerRestore_05
- [R] RecRoundel
- [S] StartupPatch_03
- [T2] TimerPatchT2b
- [Ts] TimerSetting_02
- [T] TimerPatch_04b
- [Wf] WindFaster_02
- [Xp] PlayNoCYR_04
- [Xw] WatchNoCYR_03
- [Z] Disable0AspectSwitching
After integrating the patches the next step was to blow it onto the Toppy using the firmware utility in Topfield Tools.
The process was surprisingly easy and the online documentation is good if you get lost.
There’s only so much you can stuff into 1.5mb of firmware, and Topfield were considerate enough to allow people to program applications, a bit like plug-ins, which have access to an API provided by the company. That allows these programs to access things like EPG data or write out to the screen.
The standard EPG that ships with the box isn’t great.. but add the MyStuff TAP and the unit is completely transformed with a highly customisable, and skinnable EPG. There’s even a 71-page PDF manual for MyStuff! Here are 3 things you can customise (out of a list of maybe a hundred):
- Show/hide channel logos
- Choose how many hours to display in the EPG window (3hrs seems sensible)
- How many channels to display per EPG page (8 suits me!)
The TAPs I added on day 1 were:
- MyStuff (which adds a few of it’s own, including one that scrapes EPG data)
The standard Topfield box is okay. And it’ll probably be a lot better with the new firmware that will be released shortly that features in the new TF5810 and conforms to the Freeplay standard. However, with the custom firmware and TAPs (especially MyStuff) the box is awesome and I’m having a great time configuring it to be exactly what I want from a Freeview PVR box. Kudos to the user-community who put so much time into developing the patches and TAPs!! And thanks to Topfield for being forward-thinking enough to open it up enough to allow these mods to be written.. if only more manufacturers did this!!!
Quick Video Demo
This is a demo showing what the Topfield PVR looks like once the MyStuff application has replaced the standard UI.
At the start of the video you’ll see the default Toppy UI, then I fire up MyStuff where you’ll see the difference straight away.
After viewing the EPG I navigate around a bit, then show a MyStuff settings page to give you an idea of how many things you can configure.
I go on to show a few more things including setting series link (via a Search), and a some of the standard Topfield things like pausing live TV, PiP, etc.
Near the end I dip into TAPCommander which helps you configure any user-written apps you’ve got loaded into memory.
This covers only a small portion of what the box is capable of and is only meant as a taster :)