Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Chasing the Trans-Pacific Express

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  • Aidan, in reply to 3410,

    Mighty ape have the AD185X for $90. I'm really after the DVD/STB combo, to make it easier for me poor old mum.

    You're right that the model numbers are confusing.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH, in reply to Sacha,

    can imagine that being really great, slower, for surfing/boarding, etc too

    And it's often quite amusing with music videos.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Mighty ape have the AD185X for $90.

    This seems a problem:

    Please note: Freeview Compatible = Limited EPG function[. I]nstead of showing all TV programmes in next 7 days, it only lists TV programmes in the next 3 hours.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan, in reply to 3410,

    This seems a problem:

    Please note: Freeview Compatible = Limited EPG function[. I]nstead of showing all TV programmes in next 7 days, it only lists TV programmes in the next 3 hours.

    Potentially. Depends what you want to use it for.

    Maybe it wasn't clear when reading the comments in the thread, but I was lamenting the lack of an unencumbered EPG in NZ. Speculating that this has led to a real lack of competition and hence high prices for digital TV equipment.

    The Akai STB with PVR function is exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of. Cheap and cheerful. Unfortunately the "free" EPG (EIT) only has now/next information, which is probably one of the reasons a box like this is not imported by large retailers.

    This product is fine for me old Mum. She just wants the equivalent of her VCR, to record things that are on right now and she has to go out, or has visitors and can't watch at the time.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    DVB carries EPG information in two different places - current/next is inband (within a channel's stream, which is why you have to tune to get it on other channels) - while normal EITs (longer term EPG) is carried in one, well known, transponder/qam - again you have to tune - but for a PVR which has lots of storage you can do that once a day when no one's watching TV and save it on the hard drive

    Of course DVB's a loose spec, sometimes honoured in the breach so YMMV (just look at sky's channel maps - quite non-standard but easily reverse engineered)

    The freeview EPG stream is probably living in private sections somewhere - maybe we should track down a stream and reverse engineer it ourselves - they can't change it without trashing existing boxes

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan,

    Paul, thanks for contributing. It is rare for internet discussions to include people who actually know what they are talking about.

    In Aus I believe (could be wrong of course) that the EIT info for each broadcaster is localised to their own mux. I have to change to a channel in a mux and it populates the EPG for all the channels from that broadcaster.

    It is entirely feasible for the Govt. to require an unencumbered EPG to broadcast. They have this information already -- there is an unencumbered EPG (EIT) transmitted on the Freeview Satellite feed. It seems quite popular for NZ geeks to use this to populate the EPG in their favourite media centre/PVR apps.

    The freeview EPG stream is probably living in private sections somewhere – maybe we should track down a stream and reverse engineer it ourselves – they can’t change it without trashing existing boxes

    Whilst I think this would be a really valuable thing to do, it would mostly be used by the HTPC (home theatre PC) geeks and of little use to the average consumer.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    The US system (ATSC, which I have implemented), is similar in that lets each broadcaster put up their own mux on their own frequency - it's the way they already do analog TV. In that world having a central EPG on a single qam somewhere makes little sense because not every viewer gets every channel because of geography - there will always be someone who can't receive from any particular transmitter but can from many of the rest.

    (Knowing nothing about Oz I assume the same dynamic has kicked in there)

    But in the US the implementation of real EPG is spotty or non existent - instead people like TIVO provide it as a service (and charge for it) - a provider can buy a nationwide feed from a single central source and parcel it out over the internet.

    NZ is different because we don't have lots of transmitters, each city has one and all the digital content is from one geographical source, either you receive it all or none - so a single EPG makes more sense

    BTW probably the easiest way to reverse engineer the EPG stream is to open a cheap freeview box and dump the roms - who knows maybe there are crypto certs in there .... (security by obscurity is not security even if things are very very obscure)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Knowing nothing about Oz I assume the same dynamic has kicked in there

    Does seem to be the case. It could (rampant wild-arsed speculation alert) be because the TV landscape is an affiliate model, like the states, that has gradually got less and less distinct. It used to be that the local stations would be affiliated with a major broadcaster, but have a quite distinct program. Not now. They ruthlessly cut local current affairs and news a few years back, so there is sweet FA difference between Southern Cross Ten (my local Ten affiliate) and "national" Channel Ten (whatever the hell that is).

    Curiously, the proliferation of digital TV channels has tended to accelerate this process of assimilation. They barely have enough staff to shove local advertising in between the pap, producing any independent TV is basically off the radar.

    BTW probably the easiest way to reverse engineer the EPG stream is to open a cheap freeview box and dump the roms – who knows maybe there are crypto certs in there …. (security by obscurity is not security even if things are very very obscure)

    That would be very cool. EVEN COOLER .. if there was a cheap box that could be modded with custom firmware with the ability to grok the freeview EPG.

    Freeview Aus is being really really really (really!) slow implementing their EPG. For a start they've done a 2-stage release, the first lot of freeview branded boxes did nothing but take features away from PVRs (no skip, max ffwd speed, no transfer of recorded content) and offered precisely NOTHING to compensate. No nice EPG, no series record. Nada.

    Now they're supposedly into stage 2, where boxes have a "Freeview EPG" sticker on them (how confusing is that!) and must be MPEG4/h264 capable. Apparently the much touted CRID tagging (allowing series recording) is not really working. Bit of a dog's breakfast.

    The free EIT EPG will remain. Thank goodness.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Series recording has always been a bitch to implement - at one end of the spectrum someone sits in a cubicle and tags every program that goes into the EPG - at the other you do it yourself in the box.

    The first depends on someone being paid minimum wage, doing a boring job, who can't afford a PVR themselves, actually caring about getting it right. The other results in you running out of disk space after the kids series recorded The Simpsons and a local TV station did a 48 hour all weekend Simpsons marathon - I wrote a bug on our system over that - and another to add an option to allow one to delete ALL the recorded episodes of a program rather than deleting 100+ of them one by one

    Mind you with a little tuning you can do a good job of series recording based on epg data without series tagging provided the stations don't mess with the epg data

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Mind you with a little tuning you can do a good job of series recording based on epg data without series tagging provided the stations don’t mess with the epg data

    Paul, n00b question, but is there some code is attached to the actual programme that alerts the PVR to start recording, or is all the smarts in the EPG and the PVR goes by the time the EPG says the show should start?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2934 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Time I'm afraid - there are specs for embedded codes in streams for ad insertion that could be used - whether these get passed through to you though depends on the broadcaster - you'd think the instream EIT (or in-PMT, depends on the spec) current and next program change could be used but they are usually generated elsewhere so they don't necessarily line up with the start of the program

    In the US the networks have been accused of moving the start times around (by manipulating the lengths of ad breaks) to mess with PVRs - the PVRs solve this by recording a little before the beginning and past the end of a show - this causes problems when all your tuners are busy since if you have 2 tuners and want to record programs A&B that end at 2pm and C&D that start at 2pm the overlap means there are times when you are recording 4 things (you see mysky sometimes burp in this situation).

    Smart PVRs will do the right thing if the back to back channels are on the same channel/qam/transponder - another reason why in general more tuners are a good thing - satellite tuners tend to be far cheaper than broadcast or cable ones (which is why mysky has 4 even though it never uses them all - probably due to peak disk bandwidth reasons - I haven't opened one but many satellite chips come in pairs these days which is probably why they have 4 rather than 3 )

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Thanks. I had come to that conclusion by experience, but wanted to confirm it. Took me a frustrating while to discover "padding" on my T-box

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2934 posts Report Reply

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