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Guest Message by DevFuse

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DirecTV interface performance / MIPS SoC limitations? Frame-buffer bottleneck?


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#1 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 03:15 PM

DirecTV's HD UI was a godsend to utilizing the service compared to the old low resolution, low color palette, clunky blue UI. I really like the look of the DirecTV interface and it is very professional, loaded with nice features and easy to learn.

If I had one major complaint, it would be the screen draw performance and apparent lack of OpenGL 2D graphics hardware acceleration. What I mean is if you push menu / info or navigate on screen... many screens do not softly transition and seem to abruptly draw (or exit) after delay.

I know we are not dealing with the sheer power of multi-core ARM processors, like those in our smartphones. From my understanding, DirecTV uses Broadcom based MIPS reference designs. Looking at Broadcom's featureset, they include things like OpenGL 2.0 and DirectFB (Frame Buffer) support. Direct writes to the frame buffer could really speed up the HD user interface and provide that little bit of finesse and polish that your accustomed to seeing when working within the UI of Apple IOS or Android JellyBean (Project Butter optimized 60 fps triple frame buffering). Think of the smooth page swipes and all the crazy smooth effects & graphics in games and applications.

I just think if DirecTV would utilize some of these enhancements, hardware accelerate and better utilize the frame buffer, some of these performance hangups we see would be eliminated thanks to more efficient code and hardware acceleration offloading frame drawing effects from the main core processing.

There is a real good demo of DirectFB running on Broadcom 97425 MIPS based platform here:
http://www.directfb....tor_on_bcm97425

The video was rendered on the Broadcom MIPS SoC at 720p and its smooth as butter. If the DirecTV user interaction / frame draw routines utilized this kind of acceleration, not only would the operating system feel smoother with buttery screen transition effects, it would also optimize processing so the overall experience would be faster and more efficient.

I'm not sure what the actual DMIPS numbers are for currently deployed DirecTV DVR's and HD Set top boxes... but there has to be some headroom for improvement. I do realize that the upcoming HR44 and future STB's will surely have more processing power to accommodate UI enhancements while providing speed and efficiency in accessing DirecTV features on screen. I just look at that new Roku box and envy the nice smooth interface, yet the system itself is smaller than any DirecTV receiver.

- > 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, Ovation, Reelz , 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

 

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#2 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 05:17 AM

The smoothness of sliding back and forth between screens or even how quickly the info bar slides up/down as shown on the Google Fiber TV DVR review would be nice to have:


Also look how smooth the guide and the UI elements scroll around on Xfinity X1:


Why can't DirecTV's beautiful HD guide simply just add this kind of quickness and flow? I think it would feel faster and more complete.

- > 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, Ovation, Reelz , 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

 

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#3 OFFLINE   P Smith

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 09:27 AM

You are should invest your time into all DVR tasks ordinal, not fixating to one small part of its load like GUI.
Sluggish DTV is defined most likely many tasks include CPU hungry DB management and retrieving data from many DB; add to that Java system applets and you'll be close to the analysis.
A lot of info you will find in system logs off the drive. I found DFS Explorer is good for that if you're not Linux, but Windows "addict".

#4 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 11:10 AM

I pay close attention to the GUI because its performance seems lackluster compared to competing providers. Ok it has some smooth scrolling in the all movies poster screen, and once in awhile you can get "more info" to slide down from the banner nicely... But it's missing graphical finesse (flow, fluidity, motion, whatever you want to call it). These types of animation /
Transition graphics libraries can be performed in a very lightweight DirectFB library in modern Broadcom based SoC's.

Also as indicated, not just in devkit, but real world working deployments (such as Xfinity X1 and Google Fiber) it is done.

You do provide a good point and I do have an sata to USB adapter I could connect an HR drive to my laptop without removing it from its cage. It would be interesting to see behind the scenes what causes the hardware to react so slowly. I sometimes speculate that the "one size fits all" approach is partial to blame. Whereas different firmware builds compiled and optimized for each model including low level hardware acceleration drivers would improve things quite a bit. Now that takes longer to build, maintain, troubleshoot and deploy... But maybe they could modularize the I/O and video drivers and maintain it separately vs the guide.

I do wonder how much extra horsepower the HR44 will have for future enhancements like explained in this thread. Newer Broadcom based SoC's support OpenGL and Adobe AIR for TV.

- > 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, Ovation, Reelz , 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

 

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HR24-200
H24-200


#5 OFFLINE   Mike Greer

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 01:58 PM

I’m not sure the new HDGUI was a ‘godsend’. I’d much rather go back to the old GUI and get the speed my HR24s used to have. All we gained was a color change and higher resolution text. No more information on the screen than before and all kinds of trouble that they still seem to be working out since the upgrade to the HDGUI…. Just not worth it if you ask me!

I suspect the trouble is in the inefficient firmware written by DirecTV rather than in the hardware but that’s just a guess. I say that because supposedly DirecTV receivers cost more to build than Dish Network receivers (try to buy an HR24 and compare that cost to a Dish Network 722k purchase) and Dish Network receivers are noticeably quicker at just about everything.

I think the root cause is that whoever is in charge of DirecTV engineering doesn’t consider ‘speed’ to be a priority. Maybe they are correct but I’d give up all but the basic functions and MRV if the speed could be at least doubled..... Or come close to Dish Network speed..

#6 ONLINE   harsh

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 02:33 PM

Not even smart phones use the CPU to do their graphics functions. Most all of them have some sort of GPU that handles painting the display and other graphics oriented tasks.

DIRECTV could tell us what the problem is but they're likely disinclined for competitive reasons. To attempt to reason what the underlying problem is without a lot more detailed information is pointless.

It is also flawed logic to assume that OpenGL is there to do anything other than make code more portable. OpenGL support in and of itself doesn't guarantee fast. Of course this assumes that OpenGL is even utilized and that may or may not be the case.

It is rather likely that trying to get the same software to cover decidedly different platforms is a big part of the issue. Having to write to the least common denominator will always be a drain.

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. -- JFK


#7 OFFLINE   P Smith

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 03:07 PM

Dish is utilizing DFB part of BCM chips.

#8 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 03:55 PM

DirectFB is a thin library that provides hardware graphics acceleration, input device handling and abstraction, integrated windowing system with support for translucent windows and multiple display layers, not only on top of the Linux Framebuffer Device. It is a complete hardware abstraction layer with software fallbacks for every graphics operation that is not supported by the underlying hardware. DirectFB adds graphical power to embedded systems and sets a new standard for graphics under Linux.

My theory is not only would this allow the UI to look nice in operation (it already looks nice in stationary pictures)... I feel that it may take some processing load off of the CPU to free it for other tasks.

These SoC's have some degree of video graphics acceleration. Be it a Roku, TiVo, X1, DirecTV, Dish Network, SmartTV, IP STB, etc. How well it's used greatly varies with how well it's programmed.

With moores law on our side, future stb's should continue to improve with speed, features and effects. Until then I still think there's a little breathing room left, especially on DVRs where extra features can be cached to the hard drive.

- > 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, Ovation, Reelz , 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

 

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HR24-200
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#9 ONLINE   harsh

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 08:17 AM

DirectFB is a Linux Hardware Abstraction Layer (software, comparable in principle to DirectX) so I suppose it is inappropriate to state that it is "part of" the Broadcom chips. Again, HALs don't guarantee swift operation; they exist largely to speed cross-platform software development.

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. -- JFK


#10 OFFLINE   P Smith

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 09:11 AM

perhaps I should rephrase - it's a part of Broadcom HW/SW suite; the company does provide drivers with each new revision of any own chip to OEM like DTV or echostar or cable DVR developers.

#11 OFFLINE   Mike Greer

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 10:36 AM

But what's the bottom line? If Dish Network can make a must faster more responsive DVR for less money why can't DirecTV? I guess I just don't understand?

#12 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 10:50 AM

But what's the bottom line? If Dish Network can make a must faster more responsive DVR for less money why can't DirecTV? I guess I just don't understand?


That's a good question. You'd almost think Dish benefitted from some kind of public beta program where you could opt in and download weekly builds of software. Based on feedback it would be used to improve the system. But I don't think Dish has anything like that.... ;-)

- > 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, Ovation, Reelz , 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

 

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HR24-200
H24-200


#13 OFFLINE   Mike Greer

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 01:26 PM

That's a good question. You'd almost think Dish benefitted from some kind of public beta program where you could opt in and download weekly builds of software. Based on feedback it would be used to improve the system. But I don't think Dish has anything like that.... ;-)


:lol::lol::lol:

#14 ONLINE   harsh

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 11:29 PM

perhaps I should rephrase - it's a part of Broadcom HW/SW suite; the company does provide drivers with each new revision of any own chip to OEM like DTV or echostar or cable DVR developers.

So what is DIRECTV to do about the machines that are based on hardware from manufacturers other than Broadcom and how do they mitigate performance differences in a way that customers aren't likely to rebel?

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. -- JFK


#15 ONLINE   harsh

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 12:34 AM

That's a good question. You'd almost think Dish benefitted from some kind of public beta program where you could opt in and download weekly builds of software. Based on feedback it would be used to improve the system. But I don't think Dish has anything like that.... ;-)

If the Echostar methodology is delivering better software, why add the complication of an approach that hasn't proven to produce an even better product?

Public betas of proprietary products are typically more about showing off technology than identifying and fixing bugs. For Microsoft's part, if something doesn't work well in public beta, it is often jettisoned from the release version.

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. -- JFK


#16 OFFLINE   Rtm

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 05:52 AM

Clunky blue ui? The ui is at least 95+% the same in the HD ui.......

Better aesthetics, slower speed =~= worse aesthetics, faster speed

I know what you're saying though it feels like a java applet.

#17 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 12:57 PM

Well maybe the BCM7346 will add a smooth, liquid like feel to the UI that is not only modern but quick and lag free.

BCM7346 specs here:
http://www.broadcom....lutions/BCM7346

Some key takeaways:
-A broad array of time-to-market web-based connected home STB software applications environments including Adobe Flash® Platform for TV, Webkit HMTL 5.0, Java, Nokia's Qt Framework including QtWebkit, DLNA 1.5, and DirectFB application libraries

-3D graphics engine for an advanced user interface

-High performance and cost effective DDR3 memory providing significant cost and energy savings over DDR2 memory

-Unique HD FastRTV™ channel change acceleration technology that improves channel change speeds by up to 500 percent.

I would like to see the fluid smooth UI on DirecTV that enforces context and speed like XFinity X1

- > 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, Ovation, Reelz , 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

 

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HR24-200
H24-200


#18 OFFLINE   P Smith

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 06:39 PM

probably next decade :)
why invest more money into development/manufacturing of new DVR, if 100% of current models (include old one) play channels just fine;
switching channels slow ? guide is slow ? too many ads ?
well, it's not a main function of the STB ! ;)

relax and enjoy your movie/event not its functionality ...

#19 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 07:12 PM

I dunno... Why does Apple invest money in developing smooth software on the iPad / iPhone? Or why did Google spend so much time in "project butter" to improve android's performance (60fps smooth triple buffering).

Why did Microsoft spend so much development in Aero? Then when they did Windows 8, they still spent a lot of time on the looks and transitioning in and out of screens (live tiles / apps).

It's all about the overall experience. Does a graphic transition make it faster? Maybe not... But it provides a sense of context and makes it "feel" faster by visually executing an action at the push of a button.

See:
http://www.ui-transitions.com/#home

I guess I just take modern day systems for granted.

- > 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, Ovation, Reelz , 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

 

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HR24-200
H24-200


#20 OFFLINE   P Smith

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 09:15 PM

I wouldn't take seriously the examples in the thread about DVR, one purpose device.




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