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EMJB
Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:00 pm Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 08 Jul 2005 Posts: 3620 Location: Maldon Essex
I prepared some notes arising from trying to set up an Xtrend PVR (running very similar software to MiracleBox etc) so as to be ready as a replacement for my Toppy should it die, or should it prove better than the Toppy, and have published a tidied up version here . As is often the case, just the act of producing an explanation for others has helped me clarify a quite a few issues in my own mind.

If you are aware of any significant factual errors, can answer any questions, or can fill in any gaps (particularly pointers to sources of information and manuals), I would be grateful for your input, if only for my benefit.

If you feel this is a worthwhile document to keep up-to-date and possibly expand, please say so and let me have any suggestions for improvement.

EMJB

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YorkshireJumbo
Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:48 pm Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 16 Sep 2005 Posts: 682
Thanks for that - it looks interesting. I'm currently using a Toppy and a youview box. Since I (recently) bought an HD TV, I've been changing how I record things, with the Toppy/MS used more for its search capabilities, and watching more HD recordings on the YV box or via catchup.

I can't believe I've been using the Toppy for 11 years! I guess I'll need to move on sometime...

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juwlz
Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 5:31 pm Reply with quote
MyStuff Team Joined: 12 Aug 2005 Posts: 10810 Location: Wokingham, Berkshire (Hannington transmitter)
I've been considering moving to a MiracleBox or similar for a while, so I am definitely interested in your experience. I'll have a read through. I may start with the Appendix, as I definitely need to get my head around the terminology just to decide what to get.

In fact, a real "where to start"t section might be a useful addition - i.e. how to decide what variant to buy. Although you may not be in a position to advise on that, at least the thought processes for your own decision might be illuminating.

Julie

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EMJB
Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 6:43 pm Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 08 Jul 2005 Posts: 3620 Location: Maldon Essex
juwlz wrote:
In fact, a real "where to start"t section might be a useful addition - i.e. how to decide what variant to buy. Although you may not be in a position to advise on that, at least the thought processes for your own decision might be illuminating.


As they all run essentially the same software, it seems to be much easier than choosing between say Toppy & Humax a few years ago. The significant factors in my choice were:

(a) Maximum No of built in tuners - I'm not very keen on USB ones hanging out the back.
(b) Front panel capability - some have colour displays that can actually show the video, but unless you sit close that seems to have little merit.
(c) CPU power & memory sizes - best possible seems to be a good choice if you expect to keep the machine for 10 years!
(d) "4k" version or not. The 4k versions are now becoming available - difficult to know how long it will be before there are enough 4k services available to make this worthwhile, I felt not.
(e) Price!

It is difficult to get any real idea of relative hardware quality, but I suppose the makes which have been stocked by WoS for some time are a safer bet.

Would be interested to hear what drove ccs & birdman to their choices.

EMJB

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alan_m
Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 7:44 pm Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 18 Oct 2006 Posts: 3455
juwlz wrote:
I've been considering moving to a MiracleBox or similar for a while, so I am definitely interested in your experience. I'll have a read through. I may start with the Appendix, as I definitely need to get my head around the terminology just to decide what to get.

In fact, a real "where to start"t section might be a useful addition - i.e. how to decide what variant to buy. Although you may not be in a position to advise on that, at least the thought processes for your own decision might be illuminating.

Julie


Ask which is the best box and you will get a dozen different recommendations. You need to define what you want from the box and probably your price point.

These boxes at not necessarily aimed at the UK market - although there is a lot of inbuilt support for UK Freeview/Freesat reception. Note: The VIX developers still require information for _some_ UK (Freeview) transmitters from the box users so that they can make tuning/scanning more fool-proof.

At the bottom of the range there are cheap boxes, perhaps with only one or two non-interchangeable tuners. Having fixed tuners may not be a disadvantage as I guess that 99.99% of users are unlikely to want to change them once purchased. At the top end of the range there are boxes that can take 4 off interchangeable tuners. And, some plug in tuners are dual tuners. Some boxes/tuners support multiple satellite LNBs down a single cable.

At the lower end of the range the processor will will be something like a "751MHz Broadcom CPU (BCM7362)" and at the top "4x 1,500 MHz ARM QuadCore processor" Although a faster processor may not make much practical difference for day to day TV reception/PVR use the speed of the processor may/will make some difference when using plug ins etc.

Lower specified boxes will have smaller flash memory and a smaller amount of RAM. You can use flash memory to store things such as the picons (channel logos) etc. or even the EPG so having a larger amount may be beneficial. More RAM may speed up menu responses etc. but as my two boxes have been towards the mid to top range I cannot comment on this first hand.

Factor in the cost of a hard disk. Some boxes only take 2.5" dives, some take 3.5" or 2.5" drives and some of the physically smaller boxes only an external USB disk. As with a Toppy, a slow 'green' hard disk is OK for PVR functionality, you don't need a high performance hard disk. For boxes that can be fitted with a hard disk it will be as simple as screwing the disk to the mount and attaching two cables. At least one box has a hard disk cradle that just slides into the side of the box.

Some boxes have in-built wi-fi but many require an USB wi-fi dongle. If you you want to transfer a lot the recommendation seems to be to wire your box via Ethernet to your router. If you router will be positioned close to your box a cabled Ethernet connection is possibly the best option

Possible you are better off making a short list and asking on the VIX forum. Some of the administrators and those connected with the VIX images (software) seem to have multiple boxes and could offer advice.

Also consider that some of the boxes we have and have been mentioned in this thread may no longer be available as models are withdrawn/replaced on a yearly basis. Some manufactures may have dropped their top end boxes and the newer models may at the lower end where the market may be different.


Last edited by alan_m on Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:51 pm; edited 1 time in total

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alan_m
Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:48 pm Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 18 Oct 2006 Posts: 3455
EMJB wrote:

If you feel this is a worthwhile document to keep up-to-date and possibly expand, please say so and let me have any suggestions for improvement.


Comment:

Fonts

On the on-screen pages used most, such as EPG, the font size can be adjusted from the menu. If the font size is too small it can be increased, but the number of entries in the EPG may have to be decreased to accommodate larger text.


PICONS (channel LOGOS)

The UK Picons are no longer available as per the video (or from the plugin menus). I believe the person creating them and/or hosting was not willing to absorbs the large costs of bandwidth required. They can still be downloaded from the site to a PC and then loaded onto the box (via FTP for instance). I agree that it is not obvious which set to select and there are some very large icons in the list which IMO are totally inappropriate for most users - but that is what you get with open software and hobbyists who think photographic quality icons are kool. Not so cool unless you want 99% of your EPG screen to be the channel icons. [some of the large icons are meant for the few boxes that can display them on a front panel TV LCD screen - IMO a gimmick]

AUTO FILING

I have used FTP for creating new folders in which to put recording. FTP to the box, navigate to the recording folder (usually called movies) and in FTP, create new folder/directory.

Screenshots

The easiest way is to open the Web Interface (Webif)
From the remote menu item tick the 'grab screenshot' option
Grab the screenshot in high resolution
On a widows machine right click on the image and "save as"
The screen shots include any on screen graphics (if selected)

Log Files
These may be saved automatically BUT ONLY if the user menu option has been set to save them. There is also a menu option to make sure that they don't take too much disk space.


You may want to add that the EPG is saved to disk/flash/USB stick (user selected) so a copy is available on next switch on. Something that happened with Mystuff and a few other TAPs but not in the Toppy native interface.
For Freeview/Freesat the 7 day EPG is available over air so you don't have to set up the embedded EPG plugin (crossepg) to get the EPG over the Internet.

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juwlz
Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:25 am Reply with quote
MyStuff Team Joined: 12 Aug 2005 Posts: 10810 Location: Wokingham, Berkshire (Hannington transmitter)
alan_m wrote:
Ask which is the best box and you will get a dozen different recommendations. You need to define what you want from the box and probably your price point.
Of course. But so far, I don't know what's important in defining what I want. Price point is a bit chicken and egg - I have no idea of prices, so haven't really started out with a budget in mind. I imagine (or at least hope) that there will be some point at which suitable specs intersect with what feels like reasonable value for money. Knowing me, that'll be somewhere towards the upper end of the range (unless prices are really scary).

Quote:
These boxes at not necessarily aimed at the UK market - although there is a lot of inbuilt support for UK Freeview/Freesat reception. Note: The VIX developers still require information for _some_ UK (Freeview) transmitters from the box users so that they can make tuning/scanning more fool-proof.

At the bottom of the range there are cheap boxes, perhaps with only one or two non-interchangeable tuners. Having fixed tuners may not be a disadvantage as I guess that 99.99% of users are unlikely to want to change them once purchased. At the top end of the range there are boxes that can take 4 off interchangeable tuners. And, some plug in tuners are dual tuners. Some boxes/tuners support multiple satellite LNBs down a single cable.

At the lower end of the range the processor will will be something like a "751MHz Broadcom CPU (BCM7362)" and at the top "4x 1,500 MHz ARM QuadCore processor" Although a faster processor may not make much practical difference for day to day TV reception/PVR use the speed of the processor may/will make some difference when using plug ins etc.

Lower specified boxes will have smaller flash memory and a smaller amount of RAM. You can use flash memory to store things such as the picons (channel logos) etc. or even the EPG so having a larger amount may be beneficial. More RAM may speed up menu responses etc. but as my two boxes have been towards the mid to top range I cannot comment on this first hand.

Factor in the cost of a hard disk. Some boxes only take 2.5" dives, some take 3.5" or 2.5" drives and some of the physically smaller boxes only an external USB disk. As with a Toppy, a slow 'green' hard disk is OK for PVR functionality, you don't need a high performance hard disk. For boxes that can be fitted with a hard disk it will be as simple as screwing the disk to the mount and attaching two cables. At least one box has a hard disk cradle that just slides into the side of the box.

Some boxes have in-built wi-fi but many require an USB wi-fi dongle. If you you want to transfer a lot the recommendation seems to be to wire your box via Ethernet to your router. If you router will be positioned close to your box a cabled Ethernet connection is possibly the best option

Possible you are better off making a short list and asking on the VIX forum. Some of the administrators and those connected with the VIX images (software) seem to have multiple boxes and could offer advice.

Also consider that some of the boxes we have and have been mentioned in this thread may no longer be available as models are withdrawn/replaced on a yearly basis. Some manufactures may have dropped their top end boxes and the newer models may at the lower end where the market may be different.

All useful information, thanks.

Our TV is less than 2' from the router, so at least WiFi will be one of the things we probably don't have to worry about.

Julie

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alan_m
Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 1:28 am Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 18 Oct 2006 Posts: 3455
juwlz wrote:
Of course. But so far, I don't know what's important in defining what I want. Price point is a bit chicken and egg - I have no idea of prices, so haven't really started out with a budget in mind. I imagine (or at least hope) that there will be some point at which suitable specs intersect with what feels like reasonable value for money. Knowing me, that'll be somewhere towards the upper end of the range (unless prices are really scary).


Ignoring the newer 4K TV boxes, I guess most of the 4 tuner boxes (populated with 4 tuners) mentioned in this thread are towards the mid/top end specification (Dual 1.3 GHz CPU, 1G byte RAM) for what was available at the time and are around 300 including a 1T byte hard disk. Drop a tuner and you may save between 30 and 40. World of Satellite (WOS) prices which include the fitting of a hard disk and free flashing the VIX image. The Miraclebox model that started this thread is/was a two tuner box and was closer to 200.

If you already have a hard disk (SATA) of the right size for the box (3.5 or 2.5") you could save approx. 60 on those prices. I personally would not fit a disk of a lower capacity.

From what you have written you shouldn't need any of the other costed extras that offered on the WOS pages.

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Bizman
Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 8:24 am Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 06 Apr 2010 Posts: 1707
Somewhat off-topic, but relevant to the people on here: I would consider expanding 'Pick of the Week(s)' to include some COM7/8 channels if there was sufficient interest, namely:
LCN63 Community Channel
LCN71 CBS Drama
LCN81 Talking Pictures TV
LCN82 Vintage TV
LCN87 Keep It Country
LCN91 Front Runner TV

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juwlz
Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 10:17 am Reply with quote
MyStuff Team Joined: 12 Aug 2005 Posts: 10810 Location: Wokingham, Berkshire (Hannington transmitter)
alan_m wrote:
Ignoring the newer 4K TV boxes, I guess most of the 4 tuner boxes (populated with 4 tuners) mentioned in this thread are towards the mid/top end specification (Dual 1.3 GHz CPU, 1G byte RAM) for what was available at the time and are around 300 including a 1T byte hard disk.
Well that doesn't sound scary. But it does raise the other question I'd forgotten to ask. I currently have a 1TB drive in my Toppy, which obviously only records SD. And it's typically 80-90% full.

How much space do HD recordings take up, relative to HD?
Given that these boxes will be properly networked, obviously it would be much easier to transfer recordings elsewhere (such as a NAS) than it is with the Toppy, but would all the programme details be saved with the recording?

And is it easy (for "inconsequential") recordings to choose to record the SD version, rather than HD to save on disk space?

In fact, does the software regard HD and SD channels as being equivalent / related in any way when setting recordings? We'd be using FreeSat combined with FreeView, I guess, as we currently have a (rarely-used-due-to-the-awful-UI) Humax box that's hooked up to FreeSat.

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EMJB
Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 10:24 am Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 08 Jul 2005 Posts: 3620 Location: Maldon Essex
With regards to memory, mine reports (at Main menu -> Information -> Memory):

RAM: 1155388 kB free / 1245108 kB total
Flash: 821.9M Free / 891.6M total

rather indicating that spending money on an up-market model just to get large amounts of memory is a waste.

Edit: If anyone knows of anything activity etc that dramatically changes these figures, I would be glad to hear.

EMJB

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EMJB
Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 10:42 am Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 08 Jul 2005 Posts: 3620 Location: Maldon Essex
@ alan_m: Thanks for your inputs.

alan_m wrote:
Fonts

On the on-screen pages used most, such as EPG, the font size can be adjusted from the menu. If the font size is too small it can be increased, but the number of entries in the EPG may have to be decreased to accommodate larger text.
Unfortunately you cannot increase the size of the programme description text in the recordings list (with the default skin at least).


alan_m wrote:
PICONS (channel LOGOS)

The UK Picons are no longer available as per the video (or from the plugin menus). I believe the person creating them and/or hosting was not willing to absorbs the large costs of bandwidth required. They can still be downloaded from the site to a PC and then loaded onto the box (via FTP for instance).
Thanks - that must have changed since I started.

alan_m wrote:
AUTO FILING

I have used FTP for creating new folders in which to put recording. FTP to the box, navigate to the recording folder (usually called movies) and in FTP, create new folder/directory.
You can also create them via Samba, but as far as I can see either way still leaves the problem that you need to create a bookmark for the new directory to be selected when creating timers & auto-timers.

Will probably do an update late next week to give time for more comments.

EMJB

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ccs
Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 11:05 am Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 30 Oct 2007 Posts: 2407
juwlz wrote:
Well that doesn't sound scary. But it does raise the other question I'd forgotten to ask. I currently have a 1TB drive in my Toppy, which obviously only records SD. And it's typically 80-90% full.

How much space do HD recordings take up, relative to HD?
Given that these boxes will be properly networked, obviously it would be much easier to transfer recordings elsewhere (such as a NAS) than it is with the Toppy, but would all the programme details be saved with the recording?

And is it easy (for "inconsequential") recordings to choose to record the SD version, rather than HD to save on disk space?

In fact, does the software regard HD and SD channels as being equivalent / related in any way when setting recordings? We'd be using FreeSat combined with FreeView, I guess, as we currently have a (rarely-used-due-to-the-awful-UI) Humax box that's hooked up to FreeSat.
Recording sizes vary quite a bit from channel to channel.
SD around 800Mb for a 1 hour programme, HD between 2 and 2.5GB.

You can easily choose to record either SD or HD.

.... and the "learning curve" really isn't that steep (based on freeview only experience).


Last edited by ccs on Sat Feb 18, 2017 11:07 am; edited 1 time in total

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juwlz
Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 11:06 am Reply with quote
MyStuff Team Joined: 12 Aug 2005 Posts: 10810 Location: Wokingham, Berkshire (Hannington transmitter)
EMJB wrote:
The significant factors in my choice were:

(a) Maximum No of built in tuners - I'm not very keen on USB ones hanging out the back.
(b) Front panel capability - some have colour displays that can actually show the video, but unless you sit close that seems to have little merit.
(c) CPU power & memory sizes - best possible seems to be a good choice if you expect to keep the machine for 10 years!
(d) "4k" version or not. The 4k versions are now becoming available - difficult to know how long it will be before there are enough 4k services available to make this worthwhile, I felt not.
(e) Price!

EMJB
Thanks. I missed that earlier.

Just reading through your document, I'm delighted to see that it's possible to specify a destination for recordings, as every single one of our MyStuff searches AutoFile to somewhere, and we also have some "Julie only" and "Andy only" folders, with their own sub-folders which are really useful for the way we use it. In fact, for Andy, we may choose to record to NAS rather than the built-in hard drive (it sounds as though that's possible), and he can watch from his home office. Is it possible for one user to be streaming one recording to a PC/Tablet, while another watches something else on the TV?

Is it possible to have a standalone UI for PC (or web browser) to create an archive + WebUI on a portable drive to take away and watch on holiday? I assume VLC et al would be perfectly capable of playing the recordings, but some sort of UI showing the programme descriptions, recording dates, and allow deletion of watched recordings, etc. (mimicking the "Archive" in MyStuff) would be friendlier.

I see from your documentation that all that meta data is saved in <programme name>.<other extensions>, so I guess such a thing is theoretically possible.

Of course, a lot of this isn't necessarily part of the decision-making process, but it's sparking all sorts of ideas for things that aren't possible with the Toppy.

Another question, related to things that ARE possible with the Toppy: Given that these machines don't use CRID at all, and presumably not the "Accurate" recording signals either, I assume there's a facility for automatic pre- and post-padding? I guess there can't be any provision for "your programme has moved to BBC2 because the tennis is overrunning on BBC1" or "everything's running 18 minutes late because the <insert live event here> finished later than expected.

Is there any QuickJump-like functionality? I much prefer jumping for most things than FF / REW.

I'll report back separately about some typos and some sentences that obviously started off one way and didn't quite make it to being phrased differently Laughing

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ccs
Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 11:09 am Reply with quote
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.... I think the simple answer to your last post is "yes".

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