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Guest Message by DevFuse

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The DIRECTV HD DVR - Year 6


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#41 OFFLINE   Groundhog45

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 04:09 PM

Fun to see all of that again. Thanks. :D

Richard -- DirecTV since '97
Team SETI.USA

 


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#42 OFFLINE   anopro

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 10:20 AM

Ah yes memories DTV has done a great job with their HR series DVR's in fact I am still running a HR20-700 needed OTA as locals were not available then and it still works great. My favorite DVR was Ultimate TV but now looking back it could not hold a candle to what the HR's can do now.
HR20-700
HR21-700

#43 OFFLINE   Tonedeaf

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 12:13 PM

Remembering back to the days of Instant Cake and having MRV with my DirecTivo's and then moving to all HD-DVR's was a bit painful at first, but now is a pleasure. Still have all of my old DirecTivo's in the attic. As well as an old Samsung 360 receiver and even older RCA model receivers. Just hate to throw those things out.
Equipment
HR22-100(VOD/MRV) SWM/DECA connected via HDMI on Panasonic TC-P58S2
HR24-200(VOD/MRV) SWM/DECA connected via HDMI on Panasonic TH-50PZ85U
HR21-700(VOD/MRV) W/AM21 SWM/DECA connected via HDMI to Sony KDL-46V3000
HR22-100(VOD/MRV) SWM/DECA connected via HDMI to Westinghouse 37"LCD
H24-200 SWM connected via HDMI to Samsung 24" LCD

AU9 Dish , SWM-16, SWS-8 Splitter

#44 OFFLINE   h4b1t

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 04:04 PM

I love DirecTV DVR's but.. FOLDERS FOLDERS FOLDERS!!! =(

#45 OFFLINE   Hoosier205

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 04:15 PM

I love DirecTV DVR's but.. FOLDERS FOLDERS FOLDERS!!! =(


What about folders?
DTV = Digital Television

#46 OFFLINE   TomCat

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:21 PM

Probably has something to do with the fact that the specific hardware plays such a small part in the experience. Creeping featuritis and sloppy programming have all but negated most hardware advances so discussing this chip versus that clock rate is really quite irrelevant if you can't do anything that will positively improve the platform.

Discussing chipsets does little more than support arguments about why brand X's DVR performance compares so poorly with brand Y's.

That is a good point.

The second most stupid move in the history of the HD DVR+ was how not ready for prime time it was when it launched. Maybe it did not make economic sense at the time, but they should have waited another year at least. It was HORRIBLE, and had a direct comparison to installed DTivos with a performance and reliability track record that only underlined that argument. It was hard to have much faith in where it would go, but successful later tweaking makes that one pretty forgivable. Launching it later would have at least masked its early incompetence and prevented having to overcome a bad reputation.

But the most stupid move, which is not forgivable, is what you refer to as "creeping featuritis and sloppy programming", which seems to have become the downfall of the elegance of this platform, which was pretty unbeatable in 2010, and has now devolved to the level of a garden-variety cable DVR.

And speaking of those "chips", those who manufacture DISH DVRs have the same access to the same off-the-shelf component parts as DTV does, which only points out the difference in ability to program a snappy interface. Elegant? Maybe not so much. Reliable? Again, probably not as reliable as the HD DVR+. But using the UI (DISH) is like driving a Lotus up Mulholland drive compared to a Yugo (DTV) with cement blocks in the trunk trying to navigate downtown San Francisco at rush hour; there is a lot of waiting at a lot of invisible stop signs. They really need to fix that, focus on that, instead of on whatever they seem to be focusing.

On the positive side, the most impressive thing about the HD DVR+'s history is how effectively the unit moved from being a disaster in 2007 to being the best DVR imaginable in about 2009 (only to see that wasted by recent developments, sadly). The up rev team, and not without significant help from this community and others, made a Herculean effort that was very successful. For once, those in charge of the DVR's future listened. Too bad they have gone tone deaf since 2010.

Another dead end, at least for me, is the server/client model. I can see how this might be attractive to a lot of customers, but it really only serves a subset of the customer base, plus brings with it the potential for a lot of problems that we do not have with the conventional DVR model. There are a lot of folks who want nothing to do with this technology as it is of no real benefit to them. To us, it is nothing more than a waste of valuable time and energy that could have been spent solving the existing problems this platform has. It is difficult to be happy about that.
It's usually safe to talk honestly and openly with people because they typically are not really listening anyway.

#47 OFFLINE   unixguru

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:13 PM

But using the UI (DISH) is like driving a Lotus up Mulholland drive compared to a Yugo (DTV) with cement blocks in the trunk trying to navigate downtown San Francisco at rush hour; there is a lot of waiting at a lot of invisible stop signs. They really need to fix that, focus on that, instead of on whatever they seem to be focusing.


I suspect this is due to the use of Java. I've never seen a Java application that wasn't slow - on any platform. I used to do software development on Sun (Oracle) Solaris (UNIX) enterprise platform. There are several examples in the administration and developer realms where the GUIs were rewritten in Java. They became slower, bloated, and uglier. The speed has gotten better as the typical CPU and memory size have increased substantially. But that is an enterprise environment; this kind of embedded low-powered set top environment is too underpowered to support this software technology well. On the plus side it's less susceptible to some classes of bugs.

Having committed to that path the only thing DTV can do is throw CPU and memory at the problem. Doesn't seem like a good path given that those are per-unit costs.

Another dead end, at least for me, is the server/client model. I can see how this might be attractive to a lot of customers, but it really only serves a subset of the customer base, plus brings with it the potential for a lot of problems that we do not have with the conventional DVR model. There are a lot of folks who want nothing to do with this technology as it is of no real benefit to them. To us, it is nothing more than a waste of valuable time and energy that could have been spent solving the existing problems this platform has. It is difficult to be happy about that.


Clearly they have work to do with this technology. When you do a simple network layering over an already sluggish technology you get double sluggish.

Despite not being thrilled with the extra level of sluggishness (and more bugs) the model is desirable for my household. My HR34, AM21N, and external RAID storage are at my wiring hub in the basement where they get the best air circulation and nobody hears the fans. We used to have that mess in our living room cabinet. The silence is priceless.

#48 ONLINE   cypherx

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:27 PM

Are you sure it's in Java?


I think some of the delay may be mitigated by triple buffering graphics. Hardware accelerate the GUI rendering and take the load off the CPU. With frames buffered out, it won't choke so much when things are contending for CPU cycles in a particular moment. Break out the video layer and also buffer transitions (like cross fades or slide on / off screen ) to make the user feel as if a button press DID go through. The transition effect produced by video hardware acceleration hides or masks the fact that the CPU is processing the command. In essence it makes the UI "feel" more responsive because things on screen begin to happen at the push of a button. Look at any modern day operating system and see they all do it. Vista, win 7, win 8, OSX, iOS, Android and others. Xfinity X1 even accomplishes it which is a testament to the possibility of such an enhancement in a set top box (not to mention others like BOXEE). I mean if my iPhone can produce smooth rendered graphics in the palm of my hand using mere milliwatts of power on a tiny battery pack... Why can't a big honkin, power hungry set top box do the same thing?

In the end it's all about overall experience. I hope that there's enough headroom left where DirecTV can focus on finishing the polish on the HD-GUI and make the UI complete. Give it a little personality instead of push... wait... Screen disappear.... Screen redraw...

- > Link to my setup thread< -

My  DirecTV HD WISHLIST:  NickJR, Nicktoons, Revolt.TV, FXM, We, Oxygen, The Hub, Fuse, GSN, Sprout, GAC, Esquire, MTV2, BBC World News, Sundance, Up, Music Choice Play HD (formerly SWRV), Al Jazeera America, Military Channel, NASA

My DirecTV SD WISHLIST: MTV Hits, MTV Jams, Music Choice, Youtoo TV

 

---

HR44-500
HR24-200

 


#49 OFFLINE   unixguru

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 03:04 PM

Are you sure it's in Java?


No, I'm not sure.

I don't recall the details but the last time I upgraded storage and moved the contents I did see evidence of Java in the file system.

I can't imagine why they would use Java for some things and not the UI. JavaFX fits. It's an obvious platform for loadable apps too.

As for hardware graphic acceleration... depends on hardware capability at a minimum. I doubt they would tune for each box; probably using the lowest common denominator method across all boxes so it will be very low-end. Note that new iOS releases cause obsolete hardware a lot faster than DTV does.

For clients, RVU sends "bitmaps" (compressed one would hope) to the client for the UI. There isn't much hardware acceleration possible with dumb data like that. I doubt RVU is any better than VNC or the like which isn't saying much (heck, X11 used to be far better than VNC).

#50 OFFLINE   P Smith

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 03:39 PM

there are a lot of info from Java modules in system logs ... you as proficient in it and could look into these and tell us how it goes ... take your original drive to your Unix station for the analysis

#51 ONLINE   cypherx

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:33 PM

No, I'm not sure.

I don't recall the details but the last time I upgraded storage and moved the contents I did see evidence of Java in the file system.

I can't imagine why they would use Java for some things and not the UI. JavaFX fits. It's an obvious platform for loadable apps too.

As for hardware graphic acceleration... depends on hardware capability at a minimum. I doubt they would tune for each box; probably using the lowest common denominator method across all boxes so it will be very low-end. Note that new iOS releases cause obsolete hardware a lot faster than DTV does.

For clients, RVU sends "bitmaps" (compressed one would hope) to the client for the UI. There isn't much hardware acceleration possible with dumb data like that. I doubt RVU is any better than VNC or the like which isn't saying much (heck, X11 used to be far better than VNC).


As far as remote display of polished UI transitions (like crossfade in and out of menu or guide)... I can get Aero and GUI effects with UltraVNC and or Dameware mirror drivers. Or Microsofts new RemoteFX in Server 2008 R2 and later.
It would be nice to see things cross fade in and out like Passport guide on Cisco set tops. Or things like the banner slide down and slide off when invoked / dismissed. Or a caller ID notification slide into the screen from the lower right, then briskly slide off screen when dismissed. Or the mini guide slide up when initiated and slide down out of view when exited. It just masks loading. Like the CPU can be preparing the next screen while the video is "transitioning" to that screen. Makes it feel more responsive because it starts to enact a visual change at the press of a button. Video processing would have to be double or triple buffered. I know Java can execute such things as the Xfinity X1 platform is based on Java in the Tru2Way specification. It's running Intel CE4100 CPU, however their Pace RNG150 HD set tops are the usual Broadcom based variety which state "accelerated 3D graphics" in their spec sheets.

Quite honestly I don't get why providers don't move to the ARM platform. A good 1.5 Ghz quad core ARM has more oomph than any cable or satellite providers equipment. Plus they can dynamically disable unused cores and go into ultra low power states. I can decode H.264 HD video in the palm of my hand on my iPhone or my wife's Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Yet that is battery powered device connected to a WAN, wifi and Bluetooth all running, alongside listening for phone calls, txt, push email, etc. Just amazes me what a difference in computing power a $200 + 2 year contract cell phone has compared to again a few hundred dollar + 2 year contract DirecTV (or competitor) DVR.

- > Link to my setup thread< -

My  DirecTV HD WISHLIST:  NickJR, Nicktoons, Revolt.TV, FXM, We, Oxygen, The Hub, Fuse, GSN, Sprout, GAC, Esquire, MTV2, BBC World News, Sundance, Up, Music Choice Play HD (formerly SWRV), Al Jazeera America, Military Channel, NASA

My DirecTV SD WISHLIST: MTV Hits, MTV Jams, Music Choice, Youtoo TV

 

---

HR44-500
HR24-200

 


#52 OFFLINE   P Smith

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:52 PM

There are much more specialized components of DVR/STB "CPU" then you mentioned in ARM.
Very specific for sat providers, like decryption. And not all of them has clear description in one page booklets. Take a look to block diagrams, perhaps you'll find more unique parts.

#53 ONLINE   cypherx

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 09:20 PM

Ok well I found a SoC from ST microelectronics based on ARM Cortex A9 (dual core). While not an A15 quad core, it has the graphics processing power to do all kinds of fancy 3D and 2D accelerated GUi's like this: http://www.wyplay.com/?page=customers

- > Link to my setup thread< -

My  DirecTV HD WISHLIST:  NickJR, Nicktoons, Revolt.TV, FXM, We, Oxygen, The Hub, Fuse, GSN, Sprout, GAC, Esquire, MTV2, BBC World News, Sundance, Up, Music Choice Play HD (formerly SWRV), Al Jazeera America, Military Channel, NASA

My DirecTV SD WISHLIST: MTV Hits, MTV Jams, Music Choice, Youtoo TV

 

---

HR44-500
HR24-200

 


#54 ONLINE   cypherx

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 09:50 PM

The ARM1176 is at the heart of the NXP CX24500 which is used in the HR24-500.

If it is configured with Mali-200, they should be able to fine tune the interface behavior to do the kind of things an iPhone 3G accomplishes (smooth scrolling, scaling, cross fading and more)

http://www.arm.com/p...tcookie=classic

Look, dual SATA. Now how about a software change where an external drive ADDS not replaces to overall storage.
http://html.alldatas.../1/CX24500.html

- > Link to my setup thread< -

My  DirecTV HD WISHLIST:  NickJR, Nicktoons, Revolt.TV, FXM, We, Oxygen, The Hub, Fuse, GSN, Sprout, GAC, Esquire, MTV2, BBC World News, Sundance, Up, Music Choice Play HD (formerly SWRV), Al Jazeera America, Military Channel, NASA

My DirecTV SD WISHLIST: MTV Hits, MTV Jams, Music Choice, Youtoo TV

 

---

HR44-500
HR24-200

 


#55 OFFLINE   P Smith

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 11:57 PM

ARM inside, but the CPU is way to complicate - see BCM7420 and 7425 using in Hpper and hopper2

#56 OFFLINE   unixguru

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:25 AM

As far as remote display of polished UI transitions (like crossfade in and out of menu or guide)... I can get Aero and GUI effects with UltraVNC and or Dameware mirror drivers. Or Microsofts new RemoteFX in Server 2008 R2 and later.


Yes, but think about what hardware you are using on both the server and client. Compare raw CPU power, memory, and network to a set top box. The set top box is FAR less in all regards. Sure, the DVR could do this but there would be no free hardware from DTV. Many people already complain about the cost of DTV hardware.

It would be nice to see things cross fade in and out like Passport guide on Cisco set tops. Or things like the banner slide down and slide off when invoked / dismissed. Or a caller ID notification slide into the screen from the lower right, then briskly slide off screen when dismissed. Or the mini guide slide up when initiated and slide down out of view when exited. It just masks loading. Like the CPU can be preparing the next screen while the video is "transitioning" to that screen. Makes it feel more responsive because it starts to enact a visual change at the press of a button. Video processing would have to be double or triple buffered. I know Java can execute such things as the Xfinity X1 platform is based on Java in the Tru2Way specification. It's running Intel CE4100 CPU, however their Pace RNG150 HD set tops are the usual Broadcom based variety which state "accelerated 3D graphics" in their spec sheets.


The presence of graphics acceleration in hardware doesn't mean it's being used in software. Given the capability range (age) of DTV hardware they have two choices: 1) tweak software in each platform to use maximum hardware capability or 2) use lowest common denominator. I suspect the are doing #2 and frankly agree with it since there are many more important flaws in their product at the moment. What does Apple do when confronting this kind of issue? They simply drop support for the outdated hardware.

To make use of hardware acceleration the software has to use something like OpenGL that I will loosely call "vector based" graphics (more abstract higher level primitives). Since RVU (and VNC, etc) clearly state they are "bitmap" based there would be no way for the C31/C41 to do any kind of graphics acceleration. Even if the HR34/HR44 were doing OpenGL they would need to apply it to a virtual screen internally and then that would be converted to compressed bitmaps to send to the clients. You simply wouldn't want to do the kinds of flashy graphics you describe as that would do nothing but generate far more changes to the virtual screen which would overload the amount of bitmap data needing to be sent to the client. I'm not saying this desirable, just the way it is. The Unix world has a "vector based" technology designed to be more efficient over a network (it's called X11; it's only 2D) but it's essentially dead as there is no work going on to advance it. I'm not aware of any attempts to do something like OpenGL over a network (which is unfortunate).

Of course this could be addressed if DTV chose to split their client/server model in a different place (instead of at the top graphics plane level). That would require a lot more software on the client which in turn would increase the client hardware requirements and ... again ... the cost. While I like the best stuff as much as anyone, nothing is really free and I realize that TV is a more cost sensitive area than others.

Quite honestly I don't get why providers don't move to the ARM platform. A good 1.5 Ghz quad core ARM has more oomph than any cable or satellite providers equipment. Plus they can dynamically disable unused cores and go into ultra low power states. I can decode H.264 HD video in the palm of my hand on my iPhone or my wife's Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Yet that is battery powered device connected to a WAN, wifi and Bluetooth all running, alongside listening for phone calls, txt, push email, etc. Just amazes me what a difference in computing power a $200 + 2 year contract cell phone has compared to again a few hundred dollar + 2 year contract DirecTV (or competitor) DVR.


The portable devices have no disk drive nor the larger power supply needed to support it. No satellite receivers. They don't support recording 5 streams of video and 3+ streams of playback (3 separate users). The volume of phones is much higher so cost is lower. The HR34 is free to new customers. A 16GB iPhone 4S is still $100 at AT&T. It's an apples to oranges comparison.

#57 OFFLINE   kaminar

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 11:47 PM

Since you cannot post a tease of upcoming goodies, can I? :D

-=K=-

#58 ONLINE   cypherx

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 09:35 AM

BCM7425 is actually not a bad processor. Its a SoC solution that does include 3D video graphics acceleration. Things like you see on the Xfinity X1 (how UI moves about - YouTube) would be possible.

I'm not so sure DirecTV uses Broadcom. That's more of a Dish Network / Cable Operator thing.

Some providers overseas use more ARM based, but yet those are mainly IPTV providers. They can run things like NDS Snowflake (YouTube link)

I just look at whats available today (Xfinity X1) and see how smooth the UI moves about in those real life YouTube videos. Then I look at the concept videos like NDS Snowflake and I am just floored on the smoothness of it as well.

I'm in no way knocking DirecTV's UI. I think the UI is functional and pleasing to look at. I just thing some graphics acceleration would speed it up. If it takes 2 seconds to bring up the guide when you push the button, those 2 seconds won't "feel" like 2 seconds if the system does a cross fade or a slide up / scrunch live tv into the corner animation in those same 2 seconds.

I know the least common denominator is cheaper and faster. But could they develop core drivers once per model, then the main code would just detect those core drivers and enable or disable features based on what hardware is available to it? Think of Windows 7 or Vista. If it detects your video card can run Aero, you get aero. If it can't, well then you don't have fancy aero transparency. Or switch gears.. if Mac OS detects a capable video card and driver, it will enable Quartz Extreme. On a mac this is always... on a "hackintosh" this may or may not be enabled.

Another thing I would love to see in the next 6 years from DirecTV DVR, is the ability to tap into the live streaming channels. Those same live streaming channels you can get on your ipad or iphone should be available to the DVR if its on your network. Why is this important? What if you have a 2 tuner DVR and both tuners are being used? Maybe stream a 3rd program from the internet? What if a storm or snow obstructs your satellite signal? Well maybe you could stream a few channels using your working internet connection? It's all on the network, so it be cool to be available.

- > Link to my setup thread< -

My  DirecTV HD WISHLIST:  NickJR, Nicktoons, Revolt.TV, FXM, We, Oxygen, The Hub, Fuse, GSN, Sprout, GAC, Esquire, MTV2, BBC World News, Sundance, Up, Music Choice Play HD (formerly SWRV), Al Jazeera America, Military Channel, NASA

My DirecTV SD WISHLIST: MTV Hits, MTV Jams, Music Choice, Youtoo TV

 

---

HR44-500
HR24-200

 


#59 OFFLINE   unixguru

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:18 PM

Another thing I would love to see in the next 6 years from DirecTV DVR, is the ability to tap into the live streaming channels. Those same live streaming channels you can get on your ipad or iphone should be available to the DVR if its on your network. Why is this important? What if you have a 2 tuner DVR and both tuners are being used? Maybe stream a 3rd program from the internet? What if a storm or snow obstructs your satellite signal? Well maybe you could stream a few channels using your working internet connection? It's all on the network, so it be cool to be available.


Why would they do that? Enable a competitor where they don't make a dime? Sure it would be nice but it ain't gonna happen.

We will never see Vudu, Hulu, Netflix, etc on anything from DTV. I'm a bit surprised that Pandora is there since it competes with DTV's music (which no doubt is an afterthought service with no revenue impact). The whole DTV "apps" thing is a joke - almost no content and little of value.

It's actually odd that they support OTA. I suspect they regret having made that decision long ago with the HR20. At the time I suppose they had to. Now they have most the locals in HD. But they can't get rid of OTA because of the demand. I wonder if this will remain their policy if cord cutting increases. I'd like to see the capability to fallback to OTA if sat is interrupted - never gonna happen.

I think we are stuck with some degree of vendor lock-in (and lock-out) for a long time. Multiple devices (DVR, SmartTV, Blu-Ray player, HTPC, etc) with lots of overlap but no single complete solution.

#60 OFFLINE   RAD

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:27 PM

I'm not so sure DirecTV uses Broadcom. That's more of a Dish Network / Cable Operator thing.


IIRC DIRECTV used Broadcom in most of their STB's the HR24-500 being the most notable exception when they went with a NXP chip.

See post My Setup for configuration info.





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