Tag Archive: ReplayTV

Nov 07

SageTV Tip #3: All About My SageTV HTPC

I decided to build a Home Theater PC (HTPC), and with SageTV at its core, it is proving to be an excellent choice. Read on to learn why I decided to build a HTPC, what componets I chose, the issues I had, and my plans for the future….

Why did I build an HTPC?
I’ve been a long-time DVR user, having used several ReplayTV models and a Moxi HD DVR. Each of these "standalone" DVR’s have excellent features, are very capable, and have stood the test of time (I purchased the first ReplayTV box very shortly after its initial release.) That said, there are three issues that were bugging me that caused me to decide to build an HTPC to replace them:

1. None of my ReplayTV boxes could reliably control our Motorola DCT-2000 Cable box. Unfortunately, cable companies don’t give you a lot of choice in Digital Cable boxes, so the DCT-2000 is what I have. My ReplayTV 2xxx series boxes worked fairly well, but my 5xxx box wouldn’t control reliably. Yes, I read the workarounds. Yes, I searched Google and the AVS Forum, and followed countless instructions on getting it to work, but it was never unstable. The setup required an IR blaster, and the remote control codes were repeatably unreliable. Despite the fact that both ReplayTV and the DCT-2000 had serial connectors, ReplayTV couldn’t control the Cable box via the serial port. It could control several DirecTV Satellite receivers just fine, but not the DCT-2000. Apparantly, it wasn’t a priority to ReplayTV. So, we ended up switching to a Moxi DVR through our Cable company–which leads me to my next gripe….

2. Moxi is an EXCELLENT DVR offering many great features. I loved it. My wife loved it. My in-laws all loved it enough that they got them too. But the problem was that Moxi was becoming cost-prohibitive. Like most cable companies, initially, we had a great subscription package, but after the homeymoon as a new cable customer was over, the overall price of cable went up…way up. Every month, we had to shell out multiple fees that included such things as "Digital Receiver", "Digital Access", and "Moxi PVR service", all of which added up to just under $20.00 per month just for the privilege of using a Moxi DVR that we did not own. And that was before any actual programming was added it. My brother-in-law has two Moxi boxes, so for him, the Moxi-specific cost was doubled.

3. Both ReplayTV and Moxi imposed limitations that they simply wouldn’t lift. I was very active on several ReplayTV and Moxi forums, and I even did beta testing for both, so I was intimately familiar with the functions and features available. I feel that I could also objectively reveal excellent features as will as the shortcomings and lacking features of both. Specific to ReplayTV, users asked and asked for various features, but more often than not, it fell on deaf ears. Specific to Moxi, while it is an amazingly feature-rich product, the entire Moxi feature set is completely controlled by the cable company. Though Moxi itself offers excellent features and functions, the availability and configuration of these features and functions is controlled exclusively by the Cable company. If they decide it’s not profitable for them to enable existing functionality, or to configure a certain function in a specific way, then they won’t. The user is at the mercy of the cable company’s decisions.

So, determined that I wanted reliability, extendable features, and full control, I decided to roll my own.

The components
I worked with an experienced colleague at work who helped me pick out the components best suited for the task and within my price range, and settled on the following setup:

ASUS M2N-E Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce 570 Ultra MCP ATX AMD Motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Orleans 2.0GHz Socket AM2 Processor
1GB Kingston RAM
NEC ND-3550A 16X DVD±R DVD Burner
Seagate Barracuda 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
Antec Overture II Piano-black/Silver Steel ATX Desktop Computer Case
2 x Hauppauge WINTV-PVR-150
Windows XP Pro SP2
SageTV v6 Beta

I purchased everything through NewEgg.com. Unfortunatly, the Seagate Hard Drive was damaged with lots of bad sector errors, and the front of the Antec case had three broken clips, but RMA’s to both Antec and NewEgg.com yielded quick replacements. Both Newegg and Antec provided great customer service, and I highly recommend them both.

While waiting for the new hard drive, I decided to install an older IDE Hard Drive to serve as the "OS Drive". I later added the 320GB Sata drive as a "media storage" drive. I did this to physically separate out the application from the data, improving performance and reliability. I’ll probably replace the IDE OS drive with a small SATA drive in the future.

Setup was pretty straight forward. I installed Windows XP Pro, installed all the required drivers, and connected to the Internet to update to the latest drivers and download the latest apps. Next, I installed the two Hauppauge PVR-150 tuner cards, and the installed SageTV following the setup instructions. In short order, I was watching live TV and scheduling recordings.

OK, I have admit that it wasn’t really that easy. I did have to content with a hard disk crash, and I messed things up in SageTV’s configuration way beyond repair, so I did end up re-installing a couple times, but the truth is that setting up a SageTV system really is not a difficult process. It’s not a newbie task, but you certainly don’t need to be a computer expert.

Video quality
One thing that bugged me was that I was quite disappointed with the S-video output quality on my TV. I tweaked and tweaked and tweaked my nVIDIA and SageTV settings, and it just wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. Watching shows like Fox News or CNN Headline News seemed jerky and choppy. It was mostly noticable while watching the "crawl" at the bottom of both of these shows. After some advice from the SageTV forums, I purchased nVIDIA’s PureVideo drivers, and the results on my S-video TV were worth every penny. It’s still not as quality a picture as our Moxi DVR, but it does look good. Down the road, I’m planning on purchasing a new LCD tv, so that should significantly improve the picture quality over my old tube TV.

Plugins
I next visited the SageTV Customizations forum and found several excellent "plugins" that extended and improved some of SageTV’s core functions. For example, I can now search the Internet Movie Database right from within SageTV with the results integrated very nicely. I next installed an enhancement to the "Stop" button function that adds much needed features. I also installed a Plugin that lets you customize all of the menus letting you order them as you wish, and add and remove entries. Finally, I installed a plugin that provides remote Web access that lets me manage SageTV’s recording functions from anywhere I have Web access. It’s so nice to be able to schedule a recording without having to be sitting in fornt of the TV. These plugins are excellent examples of how SageTV lets users tailor things to their specific needs.

Clients
I next installed the Hauppauge MediaMVP box. This is a small hardware device that connects to the network and any TV. It looks on the network for a SageTV server, and if it finds one, it downloads and runs a SageTV client application. It comes with a remote, so you can control all SageTV functions frmo another TV in your house. It was really cool to be able to start watching a recording in our living room, and then stop it and resume watching where we left off in our bedroom. And the MVP lets you also listen to MP3′s and watch ripped DVD’s.

I then installed the PlaceShifter client on my laptop. This client lets me remotely access SageTV from anywhere I have an Internet connection. We went on a vacation, and I was able to watch both live TV and recorded shows remotely. The quality was not great, but it was watchable.

What I now have
So I now have a Home Theater PC that provides two tuners (one analog cable, and one digital cable) for programming content, and I can add more tuners later if needed. We view everything through an older 27" tube TV, and it looks pretty good. The user interface is clean, and I have tweaked it to make it more intuitive for us. we can listen to my MP3 collection, and we can watch favorite DVD’s. Every morning, we can check the latest weather conditions through SageTV. I was able to (fairly) easily burn to DVD a show that my parents had missed.

All of this was very seamless (except the DVD burning, but that’s for another article) and all from a single box. For me, SageTV is what ReplayTV could have been…

The future
Our setup works very will, but like everything else, I have to look to the future. I am considering the following additions and upgrades:

  • Add additional storage to accommodate more ripped DVD’s. We have a sizable collection of DVD’s, but it’s s much easier to manage them and watch them if they are ripped.
  • Move lots of other digital pictures over to SageTV.
  • Organize and move lots of other MP3′s over to SageTV.
  • Upgrade our old tube TV to an LCD TV. I have been looking at a Westinghouse 42" LCD HD monitor, and it looks very, very nice for the money.
  • Add a UPS to the mix for protection.
  • Improve and simplify the DVD burning process.
  • Investigate RAID or other backup method.
  • Look into a Universal Remote to consolidate remotes.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/sagetv-tips/sagetv-tip-3-all-about-my-sagetv-htpc

Nov 07

SageTV Tip #2: Why did I choose SageTV?

After reviewing the major Personal Video Recorder (PVR) software offerings, I decided that SageTV was my application of choice. Its feature set and price point made it very attractive, and there were several other "features" that swayed my decision. Read on to see why I chose SageTV over the competition….

There are several excellent PVR offerings to choose from, and they all have their benefits. These range from free applications like GB-PVR and MythTV to commercial applications like BeyondTV and SageTV. These applications are all excellent, offer feature sets that are surprisingly complete (although, some are more complete than others), and have excellent user and developer support.

The free offerings are amazingly robust. I found that GB-PVR and MythTV to be very interesting solutions. There are other free offerings, but these two were the "biggies" that caught my eye.

GB-PVR
GB-PVR is clean, and feature-rich, and has a close user following. It runs on Windows, and offers some nice functions in a slick UI. But from what I understand, GB-PVR is a closed-source application with limited development resources. It also fell short in a couple areas that I was looking for.

MythTV

MythTV is an Open Source PVR application that runs on Linux. It really is the benchmark for most PVR software offerings. It has a huge user community, and offers many features found nowhere else. Its Linux dependence, however, is both a blessing and a curse. Linux is an wonderfully stable, robust, and powerful free Open Source operating system that can very easily handle all the tasks of a PVR. But it also comes with the baggage of administering a Linux system. To its credit, Linux is now a lot easier to setup and manage these days, but to be used effectively, it still requires a lot of technical knowhow.

As much as I respect and like the free offerings, two things swayed me toward commercial products: First, I wanted to keep things Windows-centric. My home PC’s are all Windows XP boxes, so I wanted to keep things consistent. Second, I felt that if I was going to invest the money into an HTPC, I also wanted to invest in a PVR company that provides good support and continued R&D. That brought me to two other excellent choices:

BeyondTV
I next looked at BeyondTV, and it looked very solid and feature-rich. As a PVR, it really packs a punch. It’s feature set is very complete, and its user interface is simple and slick. But unfortunately, it fell short in other areas, notably in its integration of photo viewing, MP3 management, and video playing capabilities. These were integrated as an add-on to the core package that lacked the seamless integration I was looking for. If you want a solid PVR, BeyondTV is an excellent choice. But if you want to manage other media, you may want to check other options.

SageTV
When I tried SageTV, I was immediately hooked. SageTV integrated everything I was looking for: PVR, MP3, Photos, Video, and DVD Playback–all in one slick UI. The integration of the media functions is very tight, making the overall user experience consistent, easy, and pleasing to use. SageTV also integrates other goodies like Weather forecasts into its UI, and as of the latest beta version (v6), includes two other Online capabilities: Google Video, and TV Editorials. SageTV, the company, seems to be very solid and innovative, and their support is very responsive. In fact, not more than a week after I purchased version 5, they came out with a much-improved, beta release! And for a beta, it is very, very stable.

SageTV also has a very active user community of very dedicated users. The users are knowledgeable, kind, and have a real passion for making SageTV a success. You can find solid and reliable answers to any SageTV-related question in the user forums.

Another thing that hooked me on SageTV is in how its architecture was designed. It has an open API that enables developers to create third-party "plugins" and enhancements that extend and improve upon the core product. In fact, several of these plugins are, in my opinion, so well written that they really should be part of the core! All registered users gain easy access to SageTV’s Studio application that allows complete customization of the product. While it’s not for the faint of heart, it’s also not rocket science. I was able to make a couple tweaks without too much hassle.

One point of note: You may notice that I excluded Windows Media Center edition 2005 (MCE). While MCE is an excellent, mature, and feature-rich product, it also comes with the baggage imposed by Microsoft that I simply didn’t want to deal with. Overall, MCE is an excellent product, and if you are fully Microsoft-centric, the go for it. But if you want total control over your PVR, you have to look elsewhere.

So, is SageTV perfect? No. But it is maturing into a very powerful media center application. And with its varied client applications, and its extendibility through third-party plugins, it is not a limited product. Coming from the "standalone" DVR world having used ReplayTV and Moxi DVR’s for years, I can say that SageTV is very refreshing. It really packs a lot in, and works very, very will as a home theater PVR solution.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/sagetv-tips/sagetv-tip-2-why-did-i-choose-sagetv

Dec 13

Moxi Tip #11: How To Find The Shows You Want

With hundreds of Cable channels to choose from, it can be very overwhelming to try to find what you want to watch. Moxi, like most DVR’s has some excellent features that let you not only find the shows you are specifically looking for, but find other shows that might be of interest to you. Read on for some information on searching as well as some “deeper” functions that you may not be aware of…

Hopefully, you are familiar with Moxi’s “navigation” controls. You should be able to bring up the Moxi menu, scroll left and right through the different categories, and scroll up and down through the different category choices. In addition to the “Channels” list, you should see several categories like “Sports”, “Movies”, “Kids”, etc. These are the groupings that Moxi uses to give you quick access browse through these basic categories of shows. Like the “Channels” list, these categories show you what is currently airing now using a format similar to the “Channels” list including the “On Next” pane. Because these screens are more for “browsing”, it can be tedious to find a specific show, especially if it is not airing now. To do more targeted searching, Moxi offers three simple, yet powerful tools: “Find By Title”, “Find By Keyword”, and “Find By Category”. Each has its specific use, so here’s a brief rundown of Moxi’s various search tools:

The first thing you need to do is to navigate to moxi’s “Find & Record” section. Press the Moxi button to bring up the Moxi menu. Scroll left or right until the “Find & Record” category is highlighted. From there, scroll up or down to highlight any of the following choices:

Find By Title
This first method of searching is pretty simple. Say you know the title you are looking for, but just don’t know when it’s airing. Selecting “Find By Title” brings up an on-screen keyboard on the left side of the screen. You use the remote to enter the letters either by moving around the keyboard with the arrows and pressing OK on each letter, or you can use the remote number pad to enter the letters directly “phone pad” style. (Pressing “0″ (zero) twice adds a space, and pressing “1″ and “OK” backspaces.) Don’t worry about case.

As you enter the letters of the title, Moxi displays the search results in the pane on the left of the screen, narrowing down the list as each letter is typed. If the show you are looking for is in the current channel guide data, which holds about two weeks of upcoming shows, the show will display in the left pane. Press the left arrow to move over to the left pane and scroll up or down to highlight the desired show. Pressing OK will bring up the standard controls to either watch the show if it’s currently airing, or record the current or upcoming shows.

“Find By Title” is an excellent way to find a specific show or to select a bunch of episodes to record without having to set up a series recording.

Find By Keyword
This second method of searching takes the “Find By Title” concept a bit farther by letting you search through not only the titles, but the cast members, and words in the show’s descriptions. For example, say you can’t remember the title of a movie, but you remembered that “HARRISON FORD” was in it. Just select “Find By Keyword” and like the “Find By Title” screen, a keyboard will display on the right side of the screen. Enter the keywords you want to search for, in this case, HARRISON FORD. When finished, press the left arrow to close the keyboard and highlight the results pane. Unlike “Find By Title”, this is not an “as-you-type” search. There will be a brief pause as Moxi searches through all its data for your keywords. Once the search is complete, you can scroll through any results and view or schedule upcoming shows to record.

One small caveat about “Find By Keyword” is that you cannot save the search results nor can you schedule recordings based on keywords. You can only record shows that display in the results pane. For most users, this is a non-issue, but if you are ReplayTV (and possibly TiVo) user, this is a missed feature. None-the-less, “Find By Keyword” searching can be very powerful.

Find By Category
This last search method is for those times when you are looking for something to record, but don’t specifically know the title or show details. It’s similar to the Category browsing described above, but it goes much deeper. Selecting “Find By Category” brings up a horizontal group of major categories like “Movies”, Sports”, etc. with the individual shows displayed vertically under the highlighted category. Again, this is similar to Categories described above, but with two main differences:

First, the shows that are listed are not just those shows airing now, but all shows in that particular category airing in the next two weeks listed alphabetically. Again, this is designed so that you really don’t need to be concerned with when the show is airing, just that it is airing. Select the show to record, and when it airs, it will record.

The second difference is that in each vertical list, there is an entry labeled “More”. Select this, and Moxi displays more detailed sub-categories on the horizontal. You can drill down into these very specific categories to further narrow down those shows to browse.

ReplayTV “Zones” users will be at home here, but again, be aware that you cannot set up recordings based on these categories like you could with Zones, just record the individual shows or show series.

I hope that you find these search tools useful. Moxi, like most DVR’s, offers pwerful tools that the casual user may not know exist. So have fun and start finding shows!!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/moxi-tips/moxi-tip-11-how-to-find-the-shows-you-want

Dec 07

Moxi Tip #9: Some DVR Basics

Many prople on this and other forums are long-time Digital Video Recorder (DVR) users, but what about those of you who are new to the DVR world? Read on for some “DVR Basics” that will help you get the most out of your DVR experience…

What’s a DVR and how does it differ from a VCR?
A DVR, or Digital Video Recorder, is a consumer device that lets you record and play back TV show recordings. But wait, isn’t that a VCR? Like a VCR, a DVD lets you record, play back, and Rewind, Fast Forward, and Pause while you are playing back the recordings. But there are some significant differences between the two that make then very unique.

Analog vs Digital
The first concept you need to understand is the distinction between analog signals and digital data. The input to a VCR is an analog audio/video signal. This signal typically originates from an Over The Air (OTA) antenna, a cable, or the output of a Cable box or Satellite box. The VCR records this anlalog signal to tape, and when you play it back, it is the recorded analog signal that plays back through your analog TV input.

DVR’s are very similar in concept except that DVR’s record the show digitally to a large-capacity hard disk. A DVR’s hard disk can only store digital information, so how does it record the TV signal? “Standalone” DVR’s like most TiVo and ReplayTV models, have analog inputs like VCR’s whose signals originate from an Over The Air (OTA) antenna, a cable, or the output of a Cable box or Satellite box. This analog signal is converted internally to a digital data stream which is then recorded to the hard disk. When you want to play back the recording, the digital data is read back from the hard disk, converted back to an analog signal, and output to the TV. From the viewer’s perspective, the DVR viewing experience is almost identical in concept to the VCR.

Some DVR’s, however, are “integrated” into Digital Cable or Satellite boxes, so the signal they receive as input is already digital eliminating the need to convert from analog to digital. This digital data is written directly to the hard disk. Upon playback, the digital data is read from the hard disk, converted to an analog signal, and output to the TV. Because the analog to digital conversion is done at the Cable or Satellite company with high-quality equipment, the resulting picture is typically better than the analog to digital conversion done on a “standalone” box. Moxi in particular does offer HD recording and digital output, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

Linear Vs Direct Access
Now that you know what is being recorded, you next need to understand how it is recorded. VCR’s record to tape “linearly” (sequencially, serially, etc.) This means that the beginning of the recording starts at the beginning of the tape and as you watch the recording, the VCR is reading the tape sequentially toward the end of the tape. When you “go back”, you Rewind the tape, and when you want to “go ahead” you Fast Forward. One affect of this is if you want to begin viewing 15 minutes into a show, you have to Fast Forward 15 minutes.

With a DVR, the hard disk that it uses is “random access” meaning that the data can be written to and read from any part of the disk as needed (the hard disk hardware controls where to find the data) Using our example above, this means that if you want to begin viewing 15 minutes into a show, you simply “jump” to the point 15 minutes into the show.

It is important to note that how this “navigation” is implemented varies greatly from DVR to DVR. ReplayTV boxes have the most sophistocated navigation controls, letting you jump to specific places within the show, jump forward or backward any number of minutes, skip ahead 30 seconds, or jump back (replay) abotu 7 seconds. Moxi currently only provides about an 8 second Replay jump and either a 30 second or 15 minute forward jump. Sources say that better navigation features are coming….

Another difference between linear and random access is when you want to erase a show. With a VCR, say you record three shows, one after another. Again, they are stored sequentially, so in order to “erase” the second show, you would have rewind or fast forward to the beginning of the second show and “overwrite” it with a new show. But if the new show is longer than the second show, it will record over the third show. Things can get messy, gaps can form in the tape, and finding and keeping track of shows becomes a major headache. You end up just shuffling tapes. With a DVR, because the shows are stored “randomly”, accessing one show is as simple as selecting it. Erasing or deleting a show is as simple as telling the DVR to delete it. The “gaps” created by deleting are simply used to record other shows, and if the show requires more space, as long as there is available free space on the hard disk, you will get your recording without overwriting other shows. The details is well hidden from the user, but the underlying technology provides a seamless viewing experience.

Transportability
One other point of difference is that a VCR’s tape is removable and very transportable. If you want to record something and take it to your friend’s house for them to see, it’s a simple task. Not so with a DVR. The DVR’s hard disk is integrated into the box and is not meant to be removable. While there are some network solutions, and some attempts at portable solutions, by and large, DVR recordings are “fixed” to the location at which they were recorded. For this reason, VCR’s are still excellent solutions to “backing up” or transporting DVR recordings.

But what can you do with a DVR?
Typically, DVR functions fall within two main categories: “Live TV control” and “Recording and Playback.”

“Live TV control” refers to what you can do while watching a live TV show. When you watch a live TV show through a DVR, you technically aren’t watching it “live”. The show signal comes into the DVR, if necessary is converted to digital, and written to the hard drive to a “buffer” space. It then reads back from this buffer and outputs it to your TV for you to watch. Depending on the kind of DVR you are using, you may actually watching TV at a slight 1/2 to 3 second or so delay from “live”. The fact that you are actually watching a slightly delayed recorded “playback” of live is where the true power of the DVD is revealed.

You can “pause” the show and the DVR will continue to record the show into its buffer. You can “rewind” back into the buffer and watch what was recorded, and you can “fast forward” through the buffer back to the point of live TV. Obviously, you can’t fast forward ahead of live because it hasn’t recorded yet.

There are many practical uses for controlling live TV. For example, say you missed a play in a sports show or you missed some dialog in a movie. Just rewind and watch it again..and again…and again. Or say you want to get a snack or answer the phone. Normally, you would miss what’s on or you would have to wait for a commercial break. With a DVR, just press Pause and go do your stuff. The DVR will continue to record live TV into the buffer while it is paused. When you return, press Play and you resume from where you paused. You didn’t miss a thing. Then, when you reach a commercial break or a part in the show that you don’t want to watch, just press Fast Forward, and you sill move past the content to live.

“Recording and Playback” refers to how shows are recorded and what you can do with those recorded shows. The first thing to understand is the differences between how shows are scheduled to record.

A VCR typically has some “interface” for you to enter a “recording event”. You select a channel, a recording start date, a recording start time, and an end time. You can also tell it to “repeat” these settings on a daily or weekly basis for series shows.

DVR’s on the other hand, remove the idea “events” and get you to focus more on the shows themselves. A DVR includes a “channel guide” that presents in one form or another what shows are currently airing and what shows are scheduled to air in the future, usually up to one or two weeks out. (How this information is presented differs from one DVR to another, but the general concept is similar.) You “browse” this channel guide, and it provides detailed information about the shows. When you see a show that you want to record, you select it from the channel guide and tell the DVR to record it. No messing with start times, dates, etc. Just select and it’s scheduled to record. And most DVR’s have some sort of “intelligence” to update the schedule should a network move a show from one time slot to another. Like a VCR, you can also set up a “series” or “repeating” recording.

Once a show is recorded to a VCR, you have to either remember what you recorded or you have to label the tape. When you want to watch a recording, you have to select the proper tape, rewind or fast forward to the proper place on the tape, and watch the show.

With a DVR, you call up a “Recorded shows” screen that displays a list of all the shows you have recorded. Just select the show you want to watch, press play, and you are immediatly watching the show. No shuffling tapes, rewinding, or fast forwarding.

As mentioned above, playback control is similar on VCR’s and DVR’s with the DVR typically having more navigation controls. One “big feature” that really sets a DVR apart from a VCR is the capability of watching a show at any point while it is recording or while it is recording another show. With a VCR, if you are recording a show, you either have to watch it live as it records or you have to wait for it to finish recording, rewind, and watch the recording. If you want to record second show, you have to wait for that recording to finish before you can rewind the tape and watch the shows. With a DVR, you can watch a recording at any time, even while that show is recording or while another show is recording.

How can I find shows to record?
As mentioned above, unlike VCR’s, DVR’s provide some sort of channel guide from which you can select shows to record. It’s basically an electronic version of your local TV listings. With your VCR, you just flip through the local TV listings and set up the recording events. DVR’s on the other hand offer a power unavailable to VCR’s. The channel guide data is stored on the hard disk in the DVR, so all the data is available to search. DVR’s offer functions to do keyword searches, topic searches, title searches, etc. Implementations vary from model to model, but generally speaking, if you want to find a show, a DVR gives you unrivaled capabilities to find it.

Say you know that Tom Hanks is starring in an upcoming show but you can’t remember the show’s title. Just do a keyword search on “Tom Hanks” and the DVR will give you a list of all shows starring Tom Hanks. From the resulting list, just hit record, and the show is scheduled. Depending on the DVR, you can search on keywords in the show descriptions, title, stars, directors, and producers.

Some DVR’s even offer “topical” searches so you can find shows that fall within specific topics like “Kids” shows or “4-star movies”. Some of these DVR’s will let you schedule recordings based on these topics (ie: record all “Archery Sporting events” whenever they air) while other DVR’s show the results of the topic search letting you pick and choose the shows you want.

What else can a DVR do?
In addition to the above functions and features, different DVD’s offer different capabilities. For example, some offer networking capabilities letting you “offload” the recordings to a PC for editing and archival. Some will stream MP3 audio letting you listen to your music collection through your home theater. Some DVR’s will find digital pictures on shared computers on your network and display a “slideshow” on your TV. Some will let you connect remotely from the Web to manage scheduled. Some DVR’s even let you play games.

Not all DVR’s have the same functions. Standalone DVR’s that you buy at retail are all consistent within their models. Those “integrated” boxes deployed through Cable companies can have varying feature sets depending on the Cable company and market. Be sure to check with your local Cable company for specific details.

The key point to understand is at its core, a DVR is really just a computer designed to work with your TV to provide an enhanced viewing experience. DVR developers are continually coming up with new DVR features to enhance that experiance, so keep your eyes open for new features and models.

If you are currently using a DVR, be sure to take the time to learn its features and functions. There may be some features you may not know about that might be useful to you.

If you aren’t vurrently using a DVR, what are you waiting for?!? By all means, take advantage of the trial periods many Cable-provided DVR’s offer as well as the 30-day money back guarantees found on most standalone DVR’s. Once you use a DVR, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. Whether you watch a lot of TV or just a little, a DVR can let you watch what you want to watch, when you want to watch it. It’s all about putting some control in the hands of the viewer.

I tried to keep this basic for those who may be new the DVR concept. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please let me know. I’ll be adding more Moxi Tips & Tricks here soon!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/moxi-tips/moxi-tip-9-some-dvr-basics

Dec 02

Moxi Tip #7: Moxi Vs ReplayTV

As a long-time ReplayTV DVR owner, comparisons are inevitable, so here are my rather lengthy impressions of Moxi in comaprison with ReplayTV. This comparison is an enhancement to a posting I made over on the AVS Forum. I have refined it a bit and added some more information, so read on for all you never wanted to know…

BACKGROUND
Before I get into the review and comparison, I want to provide a bit of background and perspective. I have been a long-time proponent of ReplayTV boxes and I have participated on AVS Forum’s ReplayTV forum for a number of years. I have owned three ReplayTV boxes over the past four years, and I run a personal hobby site, JimsTips.com, where I have been providing Tips & Tricks related to several topics that interest me (including ReplayTV), so to say that I’ve had some experience and interest in DVR’s would be an understatement!

As for ReplayTV boxes, I currently own an “upgraded” model 2001, an “upgraded” model 2020, and a “stock” model 5040. For me, the 2xxx models are simply “tanks” that just work. They are solid, reliable, very responsive to the remote, and have proven to be exceptional in their reliability and function. The only downside of them is that they are not “networkable” and require a phone connection to retrieve Channel Guide data and software updates. The model 5040 on the other hand has more bells and whistles, but at the same time, it seems “forced” in many of its design points. Its remote is less responsive, and it has an overall more sluggish feel when compared to the 2xxx series. For a while, it was more prone to lockups than the 2xxx series, but to ReplayTV’s credit, recent software updates have corrected this and a number of other issues.

The one real plus to the ReplayTV 5040 is its networkability: All program data can be received via broadband as opposed to dialup on the 2xxx boxes, and any show that is recorded can be “offloaded” to a PC for playback, editing, and burning to a DVD. This is excellent for building a personal library of favorite shows. You do have to jump through number of hoops to accommodate ReplayTV’s picky MPEG-2 format, but the results are quite good. (See my “ReplayTV to DVD HOWTO” on my Web site JimsTips.com for more details.)

Finally, please don’t think that I am ignoring TiVo here. I think TiVo is very innovative and an excellent product. It’s just that several years ago, I chose ReplayTV, because at the time its interface was more familiar and solid, and it provided a logical and simple transition from DirecTV’s interface. TiVo’s interface was just too different to make an easy transition. Also, ReplayTV just had a “feel” about it that seemed less intrusive. Over the years, though, TiVo has significantly improved things, and they are certainly a fine choice. So much so that if I was starting from scratch, I would seriously consider a TiVo box. I just won’t be covering TiVo here because I have no real experience with it like I do with ReplayTV.

OK, enough background. First off, I’m going to give you my Pros and Cons list about Moxi. These are based on playing around with Moxi, reading data sheets, and my experience with ReplayTV. There may be some bias, and I’m trying to be objective, but when you’ve used ReplayTV for over four years… Also note that I am not focusing at all on the HDTV features of Moxi. While this aspect is huge for many, unfortunatly, I do not have an HDTV nor do I subscribe to any HD channels. I’m focusing here primarily on the “SD” experience.

MOXI PROS:

Low Cost
Charter Cable charges a monthly charge of $9.99, and there are no initial equipment costs. This cost varies from market to market and ranges a couple bucks more or less. Over the course of a few years, ReplayTV would be more cost-effective, but if a new model becomes available, typically Cable companies let you swap them out for little or no cost whereas ReplayTV would require a new purchase and sale of the old box.

Player Bar
AKA, a Status Bar. This is pretty cool. This is something that I wish ReplayTV optionally had that TiVo has had from day-one. It gives you a quick and easy visual cue to “where you are” in a show, live or recorded. It’s clean and slick looking, and at-a-glance, I can really get a good sense of where I am in the show without having to do mental time calculations like I do with ReplayTV.

Buffer Recording
If you decide to record a show AFTER it started, Moxi can record the entire show back to the beginning as long as it is buffered. This is a very nice feature that I wish ReplayTV had.

“Skip” Button
Like ReplayTV, Moxi has a “Skip” button, but depending on the Cable company’s settings (more on that later) how far ahead it skips may vary. Initially, Charter had this configured to skip ahead 30 seconds, similar to ReplayTV. However, they recently changed it to a 15-minute skip. While at first thought this seems like a joke, it means that all “small” navigation forward is done by Fast Forwardin, and “large” navigation can be done with the 15-minute skip. For example, say you record a four hour football game and want to go to halftime. Prior to the 15-minute skip, you woult either hit Skip a couple hundred times or you would have to Fast Forward all the way to the middle. With the 15-minute skip, just a few button presses takes you forward to where you want to be. My only complaint is that you cannot skip back (reportedly, this will be addded in a future software release.

Flexible “Find” Capabilities
Like ReplayTV, you can search by keyword and category (ReplayTV “Zones”), but Moxi has some additional “advanced” search functionality. The ability to search for a show is essential and a very often-used ReplayTV feature, and Moxi doesn’t disappoint here.

Cool User Interface
Moxi’s (award winning) UI is very slick and modern. It reminds me a bit of Media Center PC’s which have very slick UI’s. Navigation is a snap, the response is quick, and the animation is smooth and pleasing to the eye. Just about everything can be accessed with just the arrow and OK keys. I have always considered ReplayTV’s UI to be more “functional” die to its unobtrusive design. Moxi seems to strike a nice balance. I’m ery happy with it, partly because it is so intuitive.

Integrated Cable Box
This is an excellent feature and most welcome. Obviously, this eliminates the Satellite and OTA markets, but consideing that we switched to Cable, it’s an excellent silution for us. It completely eliminates the need for serial connections or IR blasters required of “standalone” boxes resulting in almost instantaneous channel changes. In addition, Pay-per-view and Video On Demand channels are available.

Dual Tuners
This is another huge feature! This virtually eliminates scheduling conflicts, and the ability to record one show while watching another is something ReplayTV could not do.

MOXI CONS:

No “Grid” Guide
I really like the ReplayTV Grid Guide because it really gives you an “at-a-glance” view, especially when you want to visually look for shows. Moxi’s “dual-axis” navigation guide is novel, and I will no doubt get used to it, but I do wish it had an optional Grid Guide. Rumors indicate that an “improved” method of displaying what’s coming up is forthcoming, but it probably won’t be a “grid” guide.

No “Keyword” Themes
ReplayTV lets you create recordings based on keywords, something Moxi doesn’t do. This is nice when you don’t remember the exact name of the show or you don’t know when the show will be on. If a show matches, it will record it. This has proven to be very useful in recording shows that we know get aired occasionally but are not currently in the current channel guide data. I haven’t found a way to do this in Moxi.

“Cumbersome” Interface
While Moxi’s UI is very slick and modern, it is a bit kludgy here and there requireing extra button presses for certain tasks. ReplayTV has some “extra” buttons the let you bypass menus and jump right to specific key functions.

FEATURE-BY-FEATURE COMPARISON
OK, so how does the Moxi compare to the ReplayTV box on a feature-by-feature comparison? I will compare the Moxi to ReplayTV in general while pointing out any differences between the 2xxx and 5xxx series ReplayTV boxes. Note that 3xxx series boxes are similar to the 2xxx boxes and 4xxx boxes are similar to th 5xxx boxes. My intent is not to present a “which is better” review, but more a list of side-by-side features from which you can choose a device based on your needs and wants. As of today, I am running version “3″ of Moxi’s software. Note that software revisions can change these features and specs in a heartbeat, so if things have changed let me know and I’ll update this review.

Recording Buffer
A recording buffer is space allocated by the system where live TV is stored letting you pause, rewind, and resume watching paused TV.

MOXI
Originally, Moxi had a fixed 30 minute buffer, but it now appears that its buffer can grow much larger. The only real “idiosyncracy” to their implementation is that if you are paused for more than 30 minutes, Moxi will resume playback from where it is paused. Initiating a Recording of the current show will also record back to the beginning of the show assuming that the channel was tuned to that channel at the time of the start of the show. This is VERY handy if you missed the beginning of a show and want to retain it for later viewing.

REPLAYTV
ReplayTV’s buffer has a minimum buffer allocation of 20 minutes, with the maximum being the amount of free hard disk space. I know of no real limitations save for the amount of free disk space. I have paused and succcessfully rewound back over 12 hours or more of buffer without issue (tedious, but without issue!) Initiating a Recording of the current show will flush the buffer and begin the recording at live TV. ReplayTV does not back up in the buffer to record the beginning of the show.

Recording Quality
This refers to the quality at which the show is recorded. If you are coming from the VCR world of video tape recording, you will be stunned by either system. No more tracking problems. No more video noise. Just decent to excellent digital quality. There are two types of DVR’s available today: Standalone and Integrated. Standalone boxes have inputs that accept signals from any video source. Integrated DVD’s have Cable or Satellite decodes integrated. These typically cannot record external video sources.

MOXI
Moxi is an Integrated box and records the raw bit stream right from the Digital Cable Box, so how you see it “live” is how you see it recorded. For Digital channels, Moxi does not compress or convert between Digital and Analog because compression is done at the head-end, so the user has no control over recording quality. Overall picture quality is excellent and comparable to “normal” Digital Cable reception. Basically, what you view live is what you see recorded. For Analog cable signals are still received by Moxi and converted to Digital on-the-fly for storage and playback. Users have reported that HD viewing and recording is excellent, Digital Cable viewing and recording is very good, and analog viewing and recording is marginal–worse than ReplayTV or TiVo. Unlike ReplayTV and TiVo, Moxi has no recording quality settings.

REPLAYTV
ReplayTV, unlike Moxi, are Standalone boxes that record any analog signal as input, for example, the analog output from raw Analog Cable or Digital Cable boxes. It records the analog source signal by converting it from analog to digital on-the-fly, compressing it based on one of three recording qualities: Standard, Medium, and High.

Standard Quality rivals VCR quality. I personally think it is better, but it is also somewhat prone to digital artifacting depending on the source content. The reality is that it could be better, but over time, you just don’t notice the artifacting.

Medium Quality is decent quality and is a great compromise between quality and disk capacity. It is, in my opinion, the most “compatible” quality when offloading shows to a PC for burning to a DVD. (See my “ReplayTV to DVD HOWTO” on my Web site JimsTips.com I tend to record everything at Medium Quality for this reason.

High Quality is excellent for sporting events and fast-action movies. If you have a larger TV (and can thus more easily see artifacting) then High Quality is almost essential.

Note that on series 2xxx ReplayTV boxes, audio records at varying levels directly related to the various video recording qualities resulting in better or worse audio quality. On 5xxx boxes, audio is always recorded at the same high quality regardless of video recording quality.

Recording Capacity
Recording capacity refers to the maximum number of hours of show content that you can record. This greatly varies depending on the model of the box and the recording quality used.

MOXI
Currently, Moxi only offers one capacity: 80GB. This lets you record about 50 hours of Standard Definition content and about 10-12 hours of High Definition content. These numbers are rough estimates, but should give you a ballpark idea of total capacity. There are rumored plans for expansion capabilities. As mentioned above, there is no recording quality setting.

REPLAYTV
ReplayTV storage capacity can be approximated by considering the size of the installed hard drive and the recording quality setting. For example, a ReplayTV box with a 60GB drive can record about 60 hours at Standard Quality, 30 hours at Medium Quality, and 20 hours at High quality. Other drive capacities have the same recording capacity ratios. Note that ReplayTV boxes cannot record High Definition recordings, only Standard Definition recordings.

Channel Guide
The Channel Guide is the method by which the system organizes and presents show information on channels over time. This is the way you typically select shows to watch and record.

MOXI
Moxi uses a novel “dual-axis” navigation system. Along the horizontal is a list of “categories” like Channels, HDTV, Favorites, Settings, etc. When you scroll left and right, the available options in each category appear in a vertical scrollable column. For example, if you bring “Channels” into “focus”, all channels and the current show airing on those channels appear in a list running vertically. You just scroll or page up and down to the desired channel. The highlighted channel also displays additional information about the program and pressing the “Info” button brings up yet more detailed information. It also displays the next three shows airing on that channel in an “On Next” section. Pressing the right arrow moves you to that “On Next” section where you can scroll through that sub-list out to 14 days ahead. On any highlighted show, you can record and search for upcoming shows.

If you are used to a typical Grid Guide, Moxi will disappoint. It definitely requires a change in mindset or perspective, BUT it does work well, and is quite effective. The more I use it, the more it works for me. Two quirks: First, the sort order of the channel list is “descending” as opposed to the typical “ascending” list. Not sure why they decided to break with tradition, but this seemed anti-intuitive to me. Second, there are no channel numbers listed in the channel listing, only network logo icons. The channel DOES display on the highlighted item, and I do realize that screen real estate is at a premium, but it seems strange that they would omit channel numbers. I guess a resonable explanation could be that you may be more likely to recognize an icon than a number. If the Cable company changes the lineup, you could still quickly “recognize” the channel. Time will tell if these really are issues.

Moxi provides two weeks of show data.

REPLAYTV
ReplayTV uses a “classic” Grid Guide. If you are used to looking at a paper TV listing, then you will be right at home with ReplayTV. Channels are listed on the left of the screen, half-hour time blocks are listed on the top, and corresponding shows fill the grid. You use the arrow keys to simply move around the grid to view and select available shows. The show that is currently highlighted displays brief information at the top of the screen.

ReplayTV 2xxx boxes store one week of programming data, and 5xxx boxes provide two weeks of programming data.

Info Display
While watching a show, you often want to more information about the show such as description, actors, etc. Both systems offer program information in various forms.

MOXI
When viewing the Channel Menu, a brief show description is displayed next to the highlighted show. Pressing the Info button brings up an extended description screen with full show description, and an extensive cast list. Depending on the amount of data, this can be a multi-page screen providing excellent information. Pressing the Clear button dismisses the screen. While watching live TV, pressing the Info button brings up this screen as well.

Moxi also has a “Flip Bar” that is a small status bar that appears on the bottom of the screen when you press an arrow button. It displays information about the current show and also shows the next three shows airing next on that channel. Pressing the right arrow moves you to the “On Next” section where you can scroll through 14 days of data. Selecting one of these shows brings up options to record. Scrolling up or down in the main part of the Flip Bar will also display the corresponding show information on other channels without actually changing the channel. “On Next” information is also displayed as well. Pressing the Info buton will bring up the extended info screen as well. Pressing Clear or waiting a few seconds will dismiss the Flip Bar.

REPLAYTV
While scrolling around the Channel Guide, the highlighted show’s information displays in a banner at the top of the screen. The number of lines is is adequate, but it is limited, so if there is extended information, it gets cut off. There is no way to view any additional information.

While watching live TV, pressing the ReplayTv’s “Info” button brings up a banner at the top of the screen containing information about the current show. Series 2xxx boxes have “static” info banners while 5xxx boxes have arrow-navigable banners letting you see current and future show information on other channels without tuning to that channel.

User Interface And System Responsiveness
How quickly a DVR responds to remote button presses, and how quickly it processes requests is very important to the overall user experience. If the system is too slow or sluggish, it will turn people off very quickly. Tech saavy people sometimes have more tolerance because they understand what’s going on in the background, but to Joe Sixpack, these are appliances that should respond and operate quickly. You never had to watch an hourglass while programming a VCR, so they won’t expect delays or lags in a DVR either.

MOXI
Version 3 of Moxi’s software improves the interface performance over past revisions. Moxi responds to remote button presses very quickly, and overall, the interface is smooth, nicely animated, and pleaseing to use. Rarely do you see a delay. The only real annoyance I had was that it is painfully S-L-O-W to add and remove channels in the Channel Listing section of Settings. (This is where you can optionally “select” and “unselect” channels to be displayed, for example those channels to which you do not subscribe.) Fortunatly, this is a one-time deal, but unselecting literally a couple hundred channels was less than pleasant. It would be nice if Moxi either had an “auto-unselect” for known, unassigned channels, or at least a faster inerface.

In some cases, Moxie does require some extra button presses to get to “core” functions, but it’s not too bad. Other than that, the overall interface is excellent–probably why it recently won an Emmy award.

REPLAYTV
As mentioned above, the 2xxx series is very snappy and quick to respond. The only time things slow down is during a long search, but there is screen feedback telling you how it is searching. The 5xxx series is more sluggish, but recent software updates have improved the UI overall. It still has the occasional “lag” or “squishy” feel because things just don’t respond as snappy as the 2xxx series, but the added features and capabilities of the 5xxx box typically outweigh any response issues.

ReplayTV has several extra buttons that take you right to core functions with one button press, for example, “Channel Guide” and “Replay Guide” (recorded shows.) While not essential, this is a nice convenience.

Remote
DVRs typically require a remote to do even the most basic functions. Without one, you really can’t do anything, so the decent remote is essential.

MOXI
Moxi’s provides a number of controls on the front of the box itself that you can pretty much control most, if not all functions. This is pretty typical of most cable boxes. Should you lose or break your remote, you are not stuck.

Moxi’s remote is solid, nicely weighted, and has a rubbery backing that gives a good grip. It feels good, and the layout of the buttons is pretty decent. And, because it’s a Cable Company product, if the remote breaks, the Cable Company typically will provide a replacement as needed. I’ve grown to really like the remote.

REPLAYTV
ReplayTV’s boxes have one, yes, one button on the front: Power. All other functions are controlled by the remote. Lose the remote? You better get a new one, because nothing, and I mean NOTHING is controllable without the remote.

ReplayTV remotes have gone through three radical incarnations over the years. While all have their idiosyncracies, they are all are effective. I personally like the most recent version because it fits my hand well, it is compact, and the buttons are in a logical placement. My only issue with most ReplayTV remotes is that over time, the “most often used” buttons do wear out, and I have had to buy several replacements over the years–an added cost I wasn’t anticipating.

Conflict And Space Management
So what happens when two shows you want to record air at the same time? What happens when the networks change the time slot or extend a show (like the “Must Miss..er See TV” shows where they start them 1 minute early or extend them 10 minutes later possibly overlapping another recording.) How a DVR handles these conflicts determines if your show gets recorded or not.

MOXI
Moxi has a huge advantage in that it includes two tuners, so conflicts should be GREATLY reduced. Most conflicts occur typically occur between two shows. Yes, because you now have two tuners, you may have other conflicts, but it’s much less likely with two tuners.

For those times when you have conflicts, particularly with Series recordings, Moxi provides a “piority” method that lets you determine the priority order of selecting series to record. I don’t know how it prioritizes single-show recordings.

Moxi also provides the ability to extend the start or end times of recordings. In fact, once a show has started, you can extend the end time while it is recording–something sports fans of overtime-prone games will like.

Additionally, Moxi provides not only a “Sheduled to Record” listing, but a “Deleted and Cancelled” listing. The first displays everything that is scheduled to record–individual shows and shows associated with a series recording. The nice thing about this is that you can selectively remove shows that you may not want to record–shows that are not repeats (to Moxi) but shows for which you ahve no interest or have already seen.

The second list displays all shows that were deleted, or did not or will not record. More importantly, id shows why the show did or will not record. For future cancelld recordings, you can optionally record them or find upcoming shows. This is very handy and makes recording management a snap.

REPLAYTV
ReplayTV has a single tuner meaning it can record only one show at a time, so conflict management is much more important. For “Single” and “Recurring” show recordings, if the show moves more than two time slots from its originally scheduled time, it will not get recorded. If it is a “Theme” recording, it will still record because Themes are not limited to channels or time slots.

Further, ReplayTV uses a somewhat complex but effective system of “Guaranteed” and “Non-Guaranteed” recordings. Basically, if you flag a recording as Guaranteed, space is “hard-allocated” on the disk. Non-Guaranteed recordings will record if disk space is available. Guaranteed recordings are great for those shows you “can’t miss” and want high assurance that they will record. Non-Guaranteed recordings are great for setting up recurring “filler” shows that you don’t care if you miss an episode or two.

If you want to record two shows that air at the same time, simply put, you are out of luck, but there are several functions to let you find other occurrences of the show. There are a number of other factors that I won’t get into in this review, but ReplayTV’s conflict management isn’t too bad. And the 5xxx series has added several other features to help better manage conflicts. The only major downside is that there is no “ToDo List” showing what ReplayTV actually has scheduled to record. Recordings are listed in the “Replay Guide” but because of the varied nature of different recording types (single-show, recurring, and Themes) Specifics may or may not be available. This is a long-time shortcoming of ReplayTV.

Connections
Like Neo said in The Matrix, “Guns…lots of guns” a DVR needs “connections…lots of connections” to be compatible with the myriad of TV’s and, if applicable, input sources. Both ReplayTV and Moxi offer very comprehensive connectivity options.

MOXI
Moxi’s input is simple. It has a single input: Coax. Given that it has an integrated digital cable decoder, this makes sense. It is not a “standalone” box, so a single input is expected.

Outputs, on the other hand, are numerous. Video options include: Coax, RCA, S-video, Component (YPrPb), and DVI connections providing full SD and HDTV compatibility. For audio, there are standard stereo Left & Right RCA jacks as well as both coax and optical digital S/PDIF connectors. Depending on your cable company’s deployment, some of these outputs may or may not be active, and some may not be active while others are active (for example, if Component or DVI video is active, composite and S-Video are not active.)

Moxi passes Dolby 5.1 through the Digital audio outputs if it is available on the channel.

REPLAYTV
Because ReplayTV is a standalone box, it needs to accommodate several input sources. It has standard coax, RCA, and S-video inputs. You can configure it to utilize all or any combination of these inputs.

For output, all ReplaYTV boxes have multiple S-Video outputs and RCA outputs. The 5xxx series, adds coax output, progressive (YPrPb) video output, and an Optical audio connector. As a side note, though there is no digital audio INPUT, ReplayTV decided that providing optical audio OUTPUT would help provide the best available audio. You will not get Dolby 5.1 audio.

Playback Control
A signature feature of DVR’s is the ability to “pause live TV”. In addition, you can typically rewind back through the buffer, pause, and fast forward through the buffer back to live. Other controls may also be available.

MOXI
Moxi has basic playback functions: Pause, Play, Rewind, Fast Forward. You can also “Replay” which skips you back 7 seconds (useful for replaying a scene) and “Skip” which skips you ahead by a Cable company-determined amount of time. By that, I mean that the Cable COmpany can control the function of this button, and currently it is set to do nothing, skip ahead 30-seconds (useful for skipping past commer…um…I mean unwanted content), or skip ahead 15 minutes (useful to jump forward in large chunks, sat to quickly get to halftime in a football game recording.) You still have full Fast Forward and Rewind control, so how this is set really shouldn’t affect your viewing experience.

There is currently no (or very poor) “Overshoot Correction” so if you hit Play while Fast Forwarding, it stops exactly when you press play, so you may have to rewind or hit Replay to correct if you overshoot. I suspect that this will be correctd in a later software revision.

Missing are “specialty” features like stepping forward or backward one frame at a time and slow motion playback. I am not a sports fan, but I do find this useful with movies, especially the credits. Again, I suspect that these functions may surface in a later software revision.

REPLAYTV
Playback control is a real strength of ReplayTV. Like Moxi, it also has the basics as well as the Replay and Skip buttons. For recorded shows (and live shows on the 5xxx series) you can also skip forward or backward by number. For example pressing “5″ and then “Skip” jumps you forward 5 minutes. Pressing “15″ and “Replay” jumps you back 15 minutes. Pressing “8″ and the “Jump” button jumps you the point 8 minutes into the show. This is very handy for handling long shows like the Olympic coverage.

ReplayTV also lets you step forward frame-by-frame after pressing Pause, and pressing the “Play” button during playback plays in slow motion in variable speeds. ReplayTV’s Fast Forward and Rewind have “Overshoot Correction” where it jumps back (or forward if rewinding) a few seconds to compensate for your hand-eye coordination delay. It works very well.

Parental Control
I do not use Parental Controls, so I cannot speak to them, but suffice it to say both Moxie and ReplayTV provide fairly comprehensive channel and rating controls.

Other Features
In addition, there are other features that are uniquie to each box. Here are some examples of some of these unique features…

MOXI
For an entertainment diversion, Moxi has the capability of providing Games like Blackjack, Solitaire, etc. using the remote. They look great and are quite fun.

For the you information addicts, Moxi has the capability to provide an optional “ticker”. This is a small, user-controllable scrolling banner at the bottom of the screen that can display things like news headlines, weather conditions, stock quote, and sports scores. The TV picture shrinks slightly so you do not miss any content.

If available, Moxi has the capability of providing access to Video On Demand content with full playback control.

Notice that I say, “has the capability.” Moxi, in an effort to attract Cable Companies as customers, offers a very flexible feature set that can be tailored by each Cable company depending on their technical capabilities, economics, and market. For example, one market may enable Video On Demand while other markets may not. As I understand it, these features are typically consistent within a market, but can vary from market to market. However, I could see no real technical reason why specific features could not be offered as “premium” services.

It is important to understand that this effectively means that if you read about a new Moxi feature, that doesn’t mean you will automatically get it. You may need to contact your Cable company to request those features. While that’s a certainly a negative for the viewer, it also helps promote Cable company market share.

REPLAYTV
With some minor exceptions, the ReplayTV 5xxx series pretty much has all the features of the 2xxx series, but it does have some added features.

One significant feature is Networkability. Connect your ReplayTV 5xxx box to a broadband connection or an Internet-connected home LAN, and you can receive all Channel Guide content and software updates over a high-speed connection. In addition, by running some third-party software like DVArchive, you can transfer the shows you recorded on your ReplayTV box to a LAN-connected PC in all its full, digital glory. This is useful not only for archiving to DVD, but if you ahve a capable laptop, you can watch the shows on your commute or travels. Unfortunately, “the industry” doesn’t like this too much, so don’t expect to see this available on Moxi any time soon.

Another extra is “Commercial Advance” that auto-skips commercials. This is technology pioneered on VCR’s except that instead of auto-fast forwarding through the commercials, ReplayTV can “skip” them completely. Again, it’s a controvercial feature that works surprisingly well.

Internet Sharing is another feature that has brought ReplayTV under fire from “the industry”, so much so, that this feature was removed from newer 5xxx models. This feature lets you (in a very controlled and limited way) transfer recorded shows to other ReplayTV users over the Internet. This has proven useful on a number of occasions, but understand that due to current residential bandwidth limitations, it can take many hours, if not days to transfer a movie, so its usefulness is subjective.

The Future
In addition, there are other features that are uniquie to each box. Here are some examples of some of these unique features…

MOXI
Moxi, being a new kid on the block, has had the luxury of learning from the mistakes of its competition. Instead of going after the retail market, they are going after the Cable market. There is a staggering Cable customer base that is ripe for simple, inexpensive, and snazzy innovation, and Moxi may just be the ticket.

In addition to the current box, Digeo is working on a new “remote” version called “Moxi Mate” that provides a second “thin client” box that can be used to control viewing, recording, and playback of the main box from another room of the house. Say you are watching a movie in your living room and it’s getting late. Just pause it, go to the bedroom, and resume playback on your bedroom’s TV–while someone else watches a different program in the living room.

Digeo is also working on the “Moxi Plus” box which is a subscriber-installable box providing additional DVR Hard Disk storage space, and other optional features from card ports for importing photos to audio music streaming to CD and DVD playback and recording.

REPLAYTV
As for ReplayTV’s future, I believe that it is uncertain. ReplayTV has created some very innovative technology, but its financial struggles and failure to capture a larger market share of the DVR market has hurt its innovation. Over the years, ReplayTV boxes end up on retailer shelves, get pulled from retailer shelves, and end up on them again. ReplayTV is currently on its third owner, and it looks like “consumer grade” (read $200-$300 range) offerings will be either limited or non-existent. Dennon, ReplayTV’s current owner, has said that the Program Guide service will continue, but it looks like they are focusing on more higher-end (read $1,000+) offerings. Their technology is ambitious, but not much has surfaced. They are also trying to woo third parties to license their technology.

CONCLUSION
In my opinion, your choice of DVR is a very subjective one. Different people have different needs, so a simple feature list may or may not provide the information you need to make a choice. For example, we have been using ReplayTV boxes for years with DirecTV with excellent results. When we moved to South Carolina, we decided to go with Charter Digital Cable because of the cost savings, but because there is no serial port control capability on Charter’s Digital Cable box, we have to use an “IR Blaster” to control channel changing. Unfortunatly, while this has proven to be about 99% reliable on the 2xxx series, it is virtually useless on the 5xxx series–not something neither my wife or I like. So one of my goals of evaluating Moxi is to provide a less complex and more reliable solution. Having a DVR integrated into the cable box is certainly a step forward.

My recommendation is to give the various boxes a “test drive” and see what features you like and what features “feel good” to you. Be sure to take advantage of free trials–Charter offers the first month for free, and both ReplayTV and TiVo offer 30-day money back guarantees, so you are free to compare as you see fit.

One thing is for sure: Once you get hooked on the DVR concept, the specific make model really becomes almost irrelevent–you just have to have SOMETHING!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/moxi-tips/moxi-tip-7-moxi-vs-replaytv

Dec 01

Moxi Tip #1: What The Heck Is Moxi?

OK, so I’m providing Moxi information. I’m going to add some Moxi Tips. I’ll be comparing Moxi to some comparable products. So you ask, “What the heck is Moxi?” Read on to find out…

“Moxi” is a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) from Digeo (www.digeo.com) similar in concept to ReplayTV and TiVo, but it goes way beyond them in many ways. Moxi has all the “typical” DVR functions: pausing and rewinding live TV, recording shows, an interactive channel guide to find shows, Parental Controls, and a host of other functions. Its interface is very slick, very fast, and quite intuitive.

But what sets Moxi apart? Well, the “big feature” is true HDTV recording. Yes, that’s right, HDTV. If you have an HDTV and your Cable provider provides HDTV channels and a Moxi box, you can display and record them in all their stunning brilliance! A comparable HDTiVo box costs upwards of $1000.00, while Moxi only costs $10.00 or so extra per month on your cable bill.

But you don’t have an HDTV? I don’t either, nor do I subscribe to the HD channels, but Moxi still provides excellent “standard definition” functionality. And for you “connection freaks” Moxi provides just about any connection you could need to properly hook things up including Composite, RCA, Component, DVI, as well as analog and digital (coax and TOSLink) audio connections.

Another welcome feature is its “dual tuners”. Anyone coming from the standalone ReplayTV or TiVo world will love this one. You can record a show and be watching another show live. You can record two shows at once and be watching something you previously recorded at the same time. It significantly reduces scheduling conflicts and makes the whole viewing experience easier.

And because Moxi is integrated with a Digital Cable box, there is no messing with unreliable “IR Blasters” for connectivity, and channel changes are fast. Because of its integration, it also provides seamless selection and viewing of Pay-per-view shows. A new model is even in the works that will let you “network” a second “thin client” box to remotely watch and control all DVR functions from another room in the house.

Moxi also has the capability of displaying an “information ticker” at the bottom of the screen to help you keep current with things like news, weather, sports scores, stock prices, etc. It also has the capability of providing interactive Games like Video Poker, Solitaire, and a number of others. Finally, it has the capability of managing Video On Demand channels.

OK, that sounds great, but what are the negatives?

First off, it’s not available everywhere. Moxi is being deployed by a number of Cable providers around the United States, and is still in a “Pilot” status in many markets. I’ll be providing more details on how to see if it is available in another tip.

Next, as I mentioned above, unlike RelayTV and TiVo, Moxi is not a “standalone” DVR, but is integrated with a digital cable box. While this has its technical advantages, this means that it is not available for retail purchase, but is being sold as an “add-on” service by the Cable company. The up-side of this is that instead of paying an large up-front equipment cost and subscription fee, you just pay a small “extra” charge on your cable bill. Obviously, this eliminates the Satellite and OTA markets, but for those with cable in serviced areas, this is a God send.

Notice that in some of the above function descriptions, I said that Moxi “has the capability.” To make the Moxi box more desirable to Cable companies, Digeo provides the flexibility for Cable companies to customize many of the functions and determine which functions they will offer to the customer. The consequence of this is that all features may not be available in all markets. For example, you may have Games enabled but not Video On Demand. For the average viewer, this is not a big deal, but for those who “keep up” with the technology, the absence of certain features (or at least the knowledge of the absense) can be frustrating.

Finally, another negative is that it does not provide any facility to “offload” the digital recordings like the later ReplayTV and “hacked” TiVo boxes do. I have been using ReplayTV to record shows and occasionally transfer them to my PC for “archival” to DVD. (See my “ReplayTV to DVD HOWTO” article on this site for more details.) This feature is not available, and my guess is that it never will be. You can certainly capture from the video and audio outputs, but you will not be capturing the true digital recording. Though I am still keeping one of my ReplayTV boxes around for that purpose, but it’s really turning out to be a lesser-used feature.

To say I am impressed is an understatement. I’ve been a huge ReplayTV proponent for many years, and still am, but Moxi has managed to replace our ReplayTV box as our main DVR. And that wasn’t an easy task because we simply love ReplayTV.

Well, hopefully, you now have at least a small understanding of what is Moxi. In my next tip, I’ll provide some additional information and links for you to get the facts, so stay tuned!

Oh, and if there is any question, no, I am not affiliated with Moxi other than just being a very satisfied user.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/moxi-tips/moxi-tip-1-what-the-heck-is-moxi

Aug 24

Vonage Tip #2: Get your ReplayTV to connect over Vonage!

One major concern in selecting Vonage is its compatibility with “dial-up” devices such as my ReplayTV boxes. If you have a ReplayTV box that dials out over the phone line, read on to learn how to get a reliable connection over Vonage every time…

When I initially tried to connect my ReplayTV box over a Vonage line, the connection consistently failed. The explanation is that Vonage isn’t necessarily capable of transmitting all of the signals required in a high-speed modem connection. So, the solution is to lower the modem’s connect speed do a speed that Vonage can handle. The 2xxx series boxes (and I believe the 3xxx series) have a default and maximum connect speed of 33.6K. On the 5xxx boxes, it’s 56K (I don’t know about the 4xxx boxes.) Unfortunatly, these speeds tend to be too high for Vonage to handle. By throttling the connection down to 19.2K, I am able to successfully connect every time. Your experience may vary, so trying different speeds may produce different results for you.

Yes, it does take longer to make the nightly call but the compatibility with Vonage is definitely worth it. Just be aware that because the session is slower, (it seems to now take around 20 minutes or so) if you only have Vonage’s 500 minute plan, ALL minutes will be eaten up within 25 days! So you will HAVE to go with another plan that provides unlimited minutes to your dialup number.

How to change the ReplayTV’s Modem speed settings:

Press the “Menu” button on the remote and select “Setup” then “Network and Input Settings”. Go through the modem setup again and when you get to the dialing prefixes screen, press the “Zones” button on the remote. This brings up several other user-definable options, one of which lets you manually set the modem speed. Lower the speed so a slower setting and try connecting. If that works, great! If not, continue lowering the setting until you get a consistent connection. Again, for me, 19.2K is solid and reliable over Vonage.

As a side note, while it may seem obvious, don’t overlook the fact that the 4xxx and 5xxx boxes have Ethernet connectivity, so if you have a 4xxx or 5xxx series box, don’t even mess with the dial-up connection if you are using Vonage–just use the Ethernet connection!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/vonage-tips/vonage-tip-2-get-your-replaytv-to-connect-over-vonage

Jul 26

ReplayTV Tip #7: UPDATE: Belkin F5D7230-4 Router

I purchased a used HP EN5000 Digital Media Receiver off of eBay. The EN5000 is a "Media Receiver" that lets me play (through my stereo and TV) MP3 files loacated on local network servers. It's not the most feature-rich device, but for a low eBay proce of $27.00…. Anyway, it requires an Ethernet connection, so I decided that an additional Belkin F5D7230-4 Router would be the most economical connectivity solution.

In a prior article found here, I discussed how I set up my wireless network by leveraging the high configurability of the absurdly inexpensive Belkin F5D7230-4 Routers. I described how I configured three of these suckers to provide full-house coverage for all my networking needs. Read on to see what I did to improve my home network…

I purchased a fourth Belkin F5D7230-4 router to provide additional connectivity in another room. The wireless coverage was absolutely fine, but I didn't have any Ethernet jacks in the room, so adding the additional F5D7230-4 would provide the needed ports while seamlessly fitting in with the wireless network (more on "seemless" later.) One thing I am REALLY liking about the F5D7230-4 is that because it has 4 switched ports, it's basically like adding a wireless "hub" in the room. Wired Ethernet devices that connect via the switched ports simply see a 100MB Ethernet connection on the network. The reality of course is that the overall throughput is at 54MB 802.11G speeds, not the full 100MB, but for my devices, this is perfectly acceptable. In fact, after surveying everything I have connected, it turns out that the only "real" wireless device in my house other than the F5D7230-4 routers is a laptop. All other devices are standard 10/100 Ethernet, so I just use the F5D7230-4's to provide the ports to 54MB wireless connectivity instead of stringing wires everywhere.

ADDITIONAL TWEAKS:
After living with my wireless network as described in my other article, I decided to alter some of the settings to help improve performance and to secure the network. Here are the changes I made:

1. Configure Routers as "Access Point Only":
With the exception of the F5D7230-4 that's connected to the Cable Modem (I left that configured as a Router), I configured all routers as "Access Point Only". This way, they are only set to "do one thing". My idea is to simplify the settings and reduce the number of factors I have to handle during troubleshooting. Further, I only have one of the routers set to "allow client connections". This means that router is the only one that will accept connection from other wireless devices (ie: my laptop.) All the routers still act as wireless bridges, so basically this means that the routers are really nothing more than WEP-secured, wirelessly-connected, 4-port switched hubs, one of which allows for WEP-secured 802.11G connections. The end result is actually pretty slick.

2. Setting the IP Address:
By default, when you configure the F5D7230-4 as an Access Point only device, the configuration page defaults the Access Point to a new IP of "192.168.2.254". Obviously, I couldn't have three of the routers configured to the same IP, so I just changed the defaulted IP to an IP address that made more sense. In my situation, I have the F5D7230-4's configured with IP's ranging from 192.168.2.1 to 192.168.2.4–makes troubleshooting a bit easier. 192.168.2.1 is the router connected to the Cable Modem, and it also is the address used as the "Gateway" and "DNS" for any connected devices.

3. Configure Wireless Bridging:
Next, I configured wireless bridging as needed. I won't detail the specifics, but as an example, I configured wireless bridging on the router to which my ReplayTV box is connected, to bridge directly and exclusivly to the router where my "Video PC" is connected. That router, in turn, is configured to wirelessly bridge to the router that connects to the Cable Modem, and ultimately to the Internet. So, when my ReplayTV box does a "net connect", it finds the Internet and does a "moderate-speed" connection, hopping across a couple wireless routers. This is not a high-bandwidth transfer, so speed really isn't important. On the other hand, when I want to stream or transfer video between the ReplayTV box and my PC, it has high-bandwidth requirements, so it only has to go between one router-to-router wireless connection.

4. Security:
I next enabled WEP on all wireless devices. My network is now more secure. The nice thing is that WEP only concerns the wireless connections, so it's completely transparant to devices connected via the switched ports.

5. Labeled everything:
I used my wife's P-Touch labeler to create IP labels for any device that uses an IP address in the house. This way, I don't have to remember what is what, I just look at the label. They can be applied in inconspicuous places, and for those that aren't, they give the devices a nice "geek-look"!

Now to address that "seamless" comment above. OK, I have to confess one thing: It took me almost TWO HOURS to get that fourth F5D7230-4 configured and "talking" to the rest of the network! Once again, one of those "5-minute projects" escallated into a very frustrating evening. It turns out that I simply mistook the "WAN" MAC address stamped on the bottom of device for its "WLAN" MAC address which is only discovered through the Configuration Home page. Once I inserted the proper "WLAN" MAC address into the bridging tables (initially, I was using the "WAN" MAC address), things "lit up" properly and I was good to go. So the tip is this: The "WLAN" MAC address is ONLY viewable in the configuration page, NOT on the device itself. It can't hurt to just label everything or at least write everything down for later reference.

CONCLUSION:
I have four WEP-secured wireless routers scattered around my house; all sharing a channel that's not being used by other Access Points in my area; all visible to each other; all routed to the Cable Modem. As my needs grow, it'll be a simple matter of just purchasing another F5D7230-4 and configuring it into the mix.

So now, my wife and I can finally relax and listen to music in the comfort of our living room as it was meant, instead of huddling around the PC!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/replaytv-tips/replaytv-tip-7-update-belkin-f5d7230-4-router

Jun 22

ReplayTV Tip #6-Multiple Belkin F5D7230-4 Setup HOWTO

After purchasing a new house, I needed to set up a network. An 802.11g wireless solution seemed to be the best choice, so after lots of research and planning, I purchased three Belkin F5D7230-4 routers and configured them to provide wireless routing, bridging, and access. Read on for what I did, how I did it, and how it has worked…

Multiple Belkin F5D7230-4 Router/Bridge/AP Setup HOWTO:

A Guide to Setting Up Multiple Belkin F5D7230-4 Router/Bridge/AP’s

By Jim Barr

Introduction

BACKGROUND:
My wife and I were fortunate enough to purchase a new-construction house. Unfortunatly, we purchased it just after all the walls were installed, so I was unable to have network cabling installed throughout the house. Bummer! The house certainly has ample attic and crawl space, but the notion of later installing whole-house wiring, though doable, was not too appealing. I tried installing an 802.11b network using some old Linksys equipment I had, but the throughput was simply too slow to stream ReplayTV shows, and for some reason, it wasn’t that stable. Also, thhough I’m in a relativly low traffic area, there are two other 802.11b accesspoints within range of the house, so I decided to go with an 802.11g network. The challenge was to determine how just what equipment I needed.

After pouring over countless posts on the AVS Forum, I decided to purchase three Belkin F5D7230-4 routers. There are many other router solutions on the market, and some offer higher speeds, but the one important feature of the Belkin F5D7230-4 router is that it can be configured as any combination of router, wireless access point, and wireless bridge. As of this writing, most comparable routers either don’t offer the same flexibility or they are priced much higher.

PURCHASING:
Initially, I decided to purchase three Belkin F5D7230-4 routers from CDW because my wife’s company gets an employee discount through them. I figured that $56.00 each was a fair price, so I ordered three. Their site, as well as an account manager, said that they were in stock and would be shipping in 1-2 business days. After about a week of my order status simply saying "Processing", I called them and they said that the Belkin F5D7230-4′s were backordered and would arrive in about a week or two. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy, so I canceled my order with them and placed an order with J&R Music and Computers (www.jr.com) The routers arrived just 4 days later, and they cost under $50 each (and I’ll even be getting a $20 rebate on one–very nice!) I have ordered several products from J&R, and I highly recommend them. They haven’t let me down yet. (CDW, however, is another story–at least they are consistent in their poor service.) OK, OK, this isn’t a "consumer report", so on to the good stuff…

BASIC SETUP:
Setup wasn’t as tough as I expected, but there are some idiosyncracies to work through, so patience is required. Within about an hour, I had everything in place and working wonderfully. Here is a simple block diagram of my setup:

[ISP] <-Coax Cable-> [Cable Modem] <-Patch Cable-> [Router 1] <-WiFi-> [Router 2] <-WiFi-> [Router 3]

DETAILS:

[Router 1]
-IP: Static 192.168.2.1
-DHCP Server: Enabled, range 192.168.2.101 – 192.168.2.120
-Configured as router and bridge
-Set up to bridge, accepting MAC address of [Router 2] only
-Set up WLAN as "56G-Only" and NOT allow Wireless Client access
-Set SSID to NOT broadcast -My wife’s Work VPN PC is connected via cable on a LAN port and gets its IP via DHCP from [router 1]

[Router 2]
-IP: Static 192.168.2.2
-DHCP Server: Disabled
-Set up as bridge only, accepting MAC addresses of [Router 1] and [Router 3] only
-Set up WLAN as "56G-Only" and NOT allow Wireless Client access
-Set SSID to NOT broadcast -My home office PC is connected via cable on a LAN port and gets its IP via DHCP from [router 1]
-My video editing PC is connected via cable on a LAN port and gets its IP via DHCP from [router 1]

[Router 3]
-IP: Static 192.168.2.3
-DHCP Server: Disabled
-Set up as bridge only, accepting MAC addresses of [Router 2] only
-Set up WLAN as "56G-Only" and allows Wireless Client access
-Set SSID to NOT broadcast -My ReplayTV 5040 is connected via cable to a LAN port and gets its IP via DHCP from [router 1]
-My 801.11g laptop connectes via WiFi and gets its IP via DHCP from [router 1]

All routers have the following in common:
-Version on box: 1444
-Firmware version: 4.x
-SSID is set to the same on all routers
-SSID Broadcast is turned OFF on all routers
-Channel was set to a channel not being used in my neighborhood
-I do not have WEP enabled yet, but I will in the near future.

THE SETUP PROCESS:
First off, I used my laptop to configure each F5D7230-4. I connected it with a cable through the F5D7230-4′s LAN port eliminating any need for wireless configuration on the laptop. This significantly simplified the setup. Because the F5D7230-4′s are so portable, if you don’t have a laptop, just use any PC and a network cable.

Setup of the first F5D7230-4 consisted of running the included setup disk on [router 1]. As mentioned above, I connected my Laptop through the LAN port, and the setup was a simple, 2-3 minute process. The end result was that I could connect my laptop to the Internet as well as connect to the Web-based configuration screen on [router 1]. I logged into the Web Configuration screen and set up the IP address, DHCP Server, and WLAN settings. (Note that when you change the IP address, you have to re-connect to the Web Configuration screen with the new IP address. I then enabled bridging and entered the MAC address of [router 2].

Next, I powered down my laptop and disconnected it from [router 1], connected it to [router 2] via cable to the LAN port, and powered on [router 2] and then my laptop. Note that [router 2] was NOT connected to anything else other than my laptop. Specifically, the WAN port was NOT connected. I then opened the Web Configuration screen on [router 2] and set the up the IP address, disabled the DHCP Server, and set the WLAN settings. I enabled bridging and entered the MAC addresses of [router 1] and [router 3] and I disabled wireless client access. I then rebooted [router 2] and the laptop. The end result was I was able to connect to the Internet through [router 2] and access the Web Configuration screens for both [router 1] and [router 2]. OK, I know it’s "just technology", but I have to admit that I found it very cool accessing the Internet connection and seeing no wires connecting the routers!

Setting up [router 3] was basically the same as setting up [router 2] with the exception of setting a unique IP address. Once set up, I rebooted everything for good measure, and was able to connect to the Internet through all three routers.

The only idiosyncracy to be aware of is that DHCP Server is enabled by default on the F5D7230-4, so there may be initial conflicts until you can disable the DHCP Server on all except one router (or wherever you want it set up, if at all.)

FULL SYSTEM RESTART:
At some point, I know I’ll have to do a complete "system" restart. This could be due to a power failure, a system glitch, or something entirely different. A full system restart would consist of: Power everything down. Power up in order, the cable modem, wait for it to sync. Completely power up [router 1]. I can then power up any device that directly connects to [router 1], specifically, my wife’s PC and [router 2]. Once [router 2] is completely powered up, I can then power up any device that directly connects to it, specifically, our home office PC and [router 3]. Once [router 3] is completely powered up, I can then power up any device that connects to [router 3], specifically, my video editing PC (and eventually, my ReplayTV.) If you think about it, the order really makes sense–you just have to look at things logically and understand the dependencies.

(Edit: I noticed after a month or so of use that powering on or off just about ANY device in ANY order "just works". The only exception is that [router 1] has to be on before anything else because it’s my DHCP server. Otherwise, it’s a very simple network to maintain.)

CONCLUSION:
So, what does this give me? Devices connected to LAN ports on each router can access any other device connected to any other LAN port on any other router including the Internet. 802.11g devices can connect via [router 3] and can access any other device on the network including the Internet. 802.11b devices can NOT connect to the network. I did this purposly to help reduce conflicts with neighboring 802.11b access points, to improve my network throughput, and to simplify the overall setup.

Note that I could set up wireless client access to go through [router 1] instead of [router 3] eliminating two hops, but due to the physical location of the routers, [router 3] gives me the best connectivity. Surprisingly, throughput, especially to the Internet, is excellent.

After working with this setup for about a month, I simply couldn’t be happier. Wireless access throughout my house with my laptop is very good, and throughput on all devices is excellent. Devices like my PC and the ReplayTV box simply "think" they are connected to a wired LAN (technically, they are) so there’s no special setups. Further, because I have my two PC’s connected to the same F5D7230-4, the F5D7230-4 is effectivly a 100MB switch which gives me high-speed throughput between the two PC’s.

The F5D7230-4 so far has proven to be an all-in-one workhorse that once configured, just works and works well. The design is excellent, and the configuration is pretty intuitive. Network novices may have some difficulty, but only because they may not be familiar with "routing" and "bridging" concepts. If you have any networking experience, it’s a snap. My only real recommendation is that you spend some time thinking through exactly what you are trying to accomplish before you start configuring. Overall, I highly recommend the F5D7230-4 and J & R Music and Computers as a source.

THANKS:
Thanks to those who assisted me with this setup. For once, a simple project in theory turned out to actually be a simple project in reality! That certainly is not typical! I want to thank "sfhub", "SpaceCadet", and "GooberedUp" on the ReplayTV Forum on the AVS Forum site in this thread for their excellent help.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/replaytv-tips/replaytv-tip-6-multiple-belkin-f5d7230-4-setup-howto

Sep 30

ReplayTV Tip #5-Access an Airing Shows Pop-up Menu

If you bring up the Program Guide by pressing the Program Guide button, you can press the Select button to bring up a pop-up menu for the selected show. The problem is that if you try to do this on a show that’s currently airing, ReplayTV will switch to that channel and dismiss the Program Guide. Here’s how to avoid tuning to the channel and instead, bring up the pop-up menu…

Bring up the Program Guide by pressing the Program Guide button on your ReplayTV remote. Navigate to a selected channel and highlight a show that is currently airing. Now, instead of pressing the Select button on the remote, try pressing the Enter button. This pops up the expected menu with all available recording and “Find All episodes” options!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/replaytv-tips/replaytv-tip-5-access-an-airing-shows-pop-up-menu

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