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Speaker: The Freeviewer Diaries (1)

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  • Brent Jackson,

    Pauline Dawson wrote:

    So far, the only thing I am having difficulty with is the time slip functionality. Maybe I am doing something wrong but it resets when you change channel. Also only being able to put it on fast forward or jumping in 5 second units is a pain. However I've just this minute found out how to tweak it.

    Could you please explain these two limitations in a bit more detail. Ta muchly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 615 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    So far, the only thing I am having difficulty with is the time slip functionality. Maybe I am doing something wrong but it resets when you change channel.

    It's the same with the MySky -- the live-pause style buffer only works while you're on the same channel. The way around it is to press the record button, rather than pause of time-slip -- then you can go back to it when you want.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    3 News (but oh how angry it makes me!)

    Hell, yes! I can barely believe it that was only two or three years ago that I was defending them, on these very pages, as endearingly sloppy to One News' outright corrupt.

    At that time their ratings (in key demo's, at least) were roaring ahead of the competition. I confess to not having checked lately, but I expect the ratings differential has crashed heavily back into the negative for 3 News. If so, the reason is this: While One News is talking about Supercity machinations, you're talking about a nudist up a tree or a cat that plays tennis on Trademe, proceeded, of course, by Today's Favourite Murder*.

    It's like going out to a restaurant and being served pan-fried kitten followed by a dessert of hundreds and thousands.

    *Yeah, I know One does that too, but you can't win 'em all.

    </rant>

    PVRs

    So, what do these units cost?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    It's like going out to a restaurant and being served pan-fried kitten followed by a dessert of hundreds and thousands.

    Damn, now you've made me hungry!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    On thing about those "simple red white and yellow" cords - don't use them if you possibly can - at the very least look for an "S-video" input on your TV and output from your settop/pvr/whatever (it's a round connector with pins inside that replaces the yellow cable) - the video results are much much better especially with digital video (and settop graphics) - you'll see a marked reduction in the 'crawlies'.

    Even better, if your TV supports "component video" or "YPrPb" use that - look for 3 round connectors like the ones used by the old red/white/yellow but coloured red/green/blue - they also replace the yellow cabe - don't be tempted to use an old red/white/yellow cable (many, even cheap ones, have low pass filters in the red/white audio cables).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    It's the same with the MySky -- the live-pause style buffer only works while you're on the same channel. The way around it is to press the record button, rather than pause of time-slip -- then you can go back to it when you want.

    MySky annoys me a lot - it does this when you want to look at the guide - it has a copy of the guide on disk why should the guide care what the video is doing - I guess I've been spoiled by better things ....

    One thing I'd like to see the reviewers comment on is what sort of advert/program skip is supported - MySky allows you to fast forward over ads but is missing the 30 second forward skip (and the much much more important 10 second "what did he say" back skip) that more useful PVRs provide

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas,

    As an aside, I've been using Windows 7 RC on a PC for the past few months, and the bundled media centre works very well with Freeview. My only complaints are that the programme guide only updates when you are watching that particular channel, and the recorded HDTV programmes quickly fill up the hard drive (file sizes of up to 6GB per hour). There doesn't seem to be an easy way to compress the video files (h264 within a *.wtv container file).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Pauline Dawson,

    Brent - as Russell pointed out, the only way around losing the live-pause buffer when you change channels is to record. Th HDD is big enough to do this if you remember to clean up after yourself at some point.

    The fast forward is ok (I am talking advert skipping purposes) but is fiddly. The 'arrow' buttons on the remote seem set to make 5 second jumps but i discovered that you can alter this setting to a % of a recorded programme. I used to have a DVD recorder that had a 10sec jump and a 3 minute jump. The latter was almost perfect for skipping ads.

    I guess no advertiser wants to hear this BUT its what people with DVRs do I imagine. I have found myself going back too look at an ad that has sparked my interest with skipping forward once or twice.

    Mosgiel • Since Feb 2008 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    (puts on old worn out PVR designer's hat ...) skip forward and back is an issue of who really owns the PVR - the network (ie Sky or maybe freeview as an arm of the broadcasters) or the customer - I paid up full for my MySky, I ought to be able to choose how my PVR behaves. Freeview ought to be, well, free.

    Back when I was a PVR designer (for the US market) we added both types of skip (ff and real skip) and enabled them depending on who we were selling to - some cable companies in competition with satellite would enable add skip anyway and boast about it.

    On a technical note long skips forward and shorter backwards ones seems to make UI sense - making them non integral is actually more useful (so 30 forward and 7 back or such) - there are technical issues about how well they work on different stream (you need at least 1 i-frame to get started - I haven't looked at the mp4 streams freeview is using to see how often they are sent)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Mark - are you just getting "current and next" programming (which is always in-band) or week at a time programming? (which I believe in NZ Freeview uses a non-standard format that Windows may not know about)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • Joanna,

    Even better, if your TV supports "component video" or "YPrPb" use that - look for 3 round connectors like the ones used by the old red/white/yellow but coloured red/green/blue - they also replace the yellow cabe - don't be tempted to use an old red/white/yellow cable (many, even cheap ones, have low pass filters in the red/white audio cables).

    I suspect it would make little difference with my total bottom of the line TV. In fact, the best thing I could do, probably, would be to clean my glasses more often. But that's not going to happen...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 746 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Where is Battlestar Galactica up to in the reruns? And could you start from here and still "get it"?
    Never saw it either...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Where is Battlestar Galactica up to in the reruns? And could you start from here and still "get it"?

    A few eps into the first season (which was preceded by a miniseries). You could start from here and get it, but of course, it's better not to. But it does mean you don't have to borrow that many DVDs before you can start watching it at an episode a week :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Stuff n Things,

    It'll be really interesting to hear how you guys work out with you're fancy new equipment. I thought it was particularly cool that Joanna was getting some benefit out of the box without having to have the latest and greatest TV.

    We recently picked up a cheap-as-it gets solution to recording Freeview. We found that this 'JC Matthews' freeview HD tuner box (no, I've never heard of them either) can record high-def freeview on to an external hard drive through a standard USB plug.* You need to be a teeny bit tech-savy (download a software update file on to a thumb-drive, stick it in the box's USB slot and then search through a few menus), but it finally means that we can actually record freeview shows. It's very much in the style of the old VCR (you have to manually set the time and date) but the high-definition picture is woooooonderful on a LCD TV.

    (slightly off-topic: CSI is v gross the first time you see it in high-def)

    The interface is not perfect, and the manual does not give any advice about how to record a show, but I only paid about $200 for it - which was the winner for me at the end of the day (I can't justify payin $900 for a recorder anytime soon). I wouldn't recommend it to my grandparents, but for anyone slightly tech-savy it is an option...

    *I'm not afilliated with this product or company ... just want to mention cheaper recording options.

    Wellywood • Since Apr 2007 • 50 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    We recently picked up a cheap-as-it gets solution to recording Freeview. We found that this 'JC Matthews' freeview HD tuner box

    Wow. You don't get all the fancy DVR features, but given the ubiquity of USB drives these days, that's quite a neat solution.

    And you're saying it records your HD programmes in HD?

    That would mean it bypasses HDMI, which is mean to stop you recording HDTV in any kind of takeaway format.

    What's the file format it uses on the hard drive?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas,

    Mark - are you just getting "current and next" programming (which is always in-band) or week at a time programming? (which I believe in NZ Freeview uses a non-standard format that Windows may not know about)

    I am just getting "current and next". That is, my guide only updates the TVNZ programmes when I'm watching a TVNZ channel, and TV3 for TV3, etc. And when it updates, it updates about a day in advance.

    Media centre didn't seem to be able to set up the week in advance thing (it asked for my country and postcode when I first installed Windows 7). The icon in the notification tray shows that it is trying to find the updates though. There are geeks on geekzone.co.nz who do geeky things to make it work, but I haven't been bothered to try.

    This also means when I want to set media centre to record programmes more than a day in advance, I have to set the time, date and channel. But that's no biggie.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Graeme, cheers for that. A few eps into a four-seasoner I can handle and might even (gasp) walk up to the (quelle horreur!) rental store for the first season.

    Cause torrenting kills Americans-without-health-insurance apparently...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Joanna: actually it's on the particularly crappy TVs (without really fancy comb filters) where S-video and component, which ever the TV and settop both support help the most.

    The thing they particularly fix are the thin vertical 1-pixel lines or edges (or small characters) that seem to 'crawl'.

    The tacky way that PAL (and NTSC) added colour to their black and white signals is the reason for this - it resulted in a change in fashion - TV stopped showing people dressed in things that aggravated it - stuff with fine detail: plaid or herringbone suits, checked ties, paisley (OK maybe that went away by itself), stripes - and replaced them with people wearing things with large solid colours - it's not that people weren't wearing stuff like that - they just weren't doing that on TV

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • jeremy gray,

    I have a diginet dvb t901 I got from 1-day for ~$140. It uses the same firmware as the JCMatthew system from above and can record to USB (I use a flash drive).

    The PVR is not EPG based, works like and oldstyle VCR. It only has one tuner so you can't watch and record. It saves the files as .TRP files which appear to be in the same resolution as broadcast, and can be transferred to a PC and converted/played with SUPER and MPlayer classic. From what I gather this is because it is set up for Hong Kong which uses the same standards as us, without the need for copy protection needed for official freeview.

    It is a bit buggy - the aspect ratio doesn't like to stay where it is set and it will crash and need reset every couple of days, but for the price it is a winner.

    On the PVRs- isn't the price for most of them a bit ridiculous? I could buy a PC with wireless and a DVB card for about $800 and have a networked media centre that can play TV,stuff off other PCs as well as games/internet etc.

    point chev • Since Apr 2008 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • anth,

    It doesn't strip out HDMI or any other form of encryption, it just doesn't add it. The signal is broadcast unencrypted, but to get Freeview certification the receiver has to prevent copies being made. If that label isn't required then there is a little less software development required for the device.

    There has been quite a bit of discussion in forums such as geekzone about trying to get full use of the hardware, eg the Zinwell box has ethernet and USB ports that can't be used. Some users are doing things like installing alternative firmware to gain extra features.

    The people who are investigating such things have noticed that some of these boxes are running Linux and other GPL software, and breaching copyright by not distributing the source code. The distributors of these devices don't seem to be making any effort to stop breaking the law.

    Since Nov 2006 • 77 posts Report Reply

  • Stuff n Things,

    @Russell: What Jeremey said - yes to recording in high def (I think it goes up to 1080i). It connects to the TV via an HDMI cable, but doesn't use that for recording because it has it has its own tuner.

    We actually have a new TV with a Freeview tuner in it, but it was only AFTER I bought the TV that I found out I couldn't use an old VCR or DVD recorder to record TV off it (well, you could ... but you have to leave the TV on and switched to whatever channel you want to record).

    The JC Matthews box has it's own FreeviewHD tuner in it, so I just attached a 500GB drive to it (that's over 100 hours of recording time easy) and it chugs away nicely. I think it uses a Linux file system, so you would probably have to reformat a hard drive that you've been using with your computer ... but your computer should be able to read the files. I think recordings are about 3GB per hour.

    I haven't had as many problems as Jeremey (aspect ratio is fine for me), but I have had to reboot once or twice since I bought it a couple of months ago. One big advantage is that there are devoted buttons on the bottom of the remote for the PVR functions, so you don't have to sort through too many menus to start a recording or go to your list of recordings. One nice feature is that, if you start a recording manually, it automatically grabs the name of the TV program off the EPG. Unfortunately, it doesn't do this for scheduled recordings.

    As Jeremey says, there is an EPG, but you can't use it directly for recording. I think this is the standout feature that differentiates this cheap box from the fancier (pricier) PVRs.

    It can do the timeshifting recording, but I don't see much use for this and it's probably not great for the hard drive to have it chugging away 24/7. Oh, and you can plug a USB drive into it to play pictures or music.

    Right, there ends my advertising speal for the day - and I didn't even get the box for free! What a gip... ;-)

    Wellywood • Since Apr 2007 • 50 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    I've been using GB-PVR since freeview went to air and apart from a steep learning curve with all the config. options it works flawlessly. It can also transcode (DivX Xvid etc. thus saving HD space) while you sleep (you can choose that option when setting up record) it also does series record and offers the option of how many episodes to keep, this is handy for recording the news where you only want to save the last couple of days or so. It does auto comskip (cutting out adds on either record or playback) you can record in 1080i to your hard drive and add as many tuners as you have slots in your comp.
    A bit geeky I know, but that's half the fun.
    :-)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    I must add that I output all this digital goodness via HDMI to the 32inch LCD in the living room rather than sit and watch it on the 15inch desktop monitors in the office.
    :-)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Wain,

    To fast forward ads easily with MySky: 4 minutes in primetime, maybe 3 minutes other times. It's always 4 minutes in primetime, all channels. Those are looooooong adbreaks. Nice to think they may be doomed, hopefully we'll still get the programmes, teehee.

    Now is it possible to simply output from a Freeview/MySky setup into a PVR/DVR whatever to burn programmes? Perhaps route the signal via your recorder then into the TV?

    Takeaway surely can't be stopped! And one shouldn't have to be a geek to do so... who cares what happens to the programme once it airs, that's the whole point of our digital universe surely? Graze at will, however, whenever.

    Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report Reply

  • anth,

    I think it uses a Linux file system

    I'd thought it used VFAT, ie an old Windows file system that can be used by just about everything but limits file sizes to 2GB. Some of the boxes with built in hard drives use EXT2, which is Linux native and has size limits big enough to ignore but which will require extra drivers if you want to also use it with Windows. There is no reason for them not to automatically recognise and use a variety of file systems.

    Since Nov 2006 • 77 posts Report Reply

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