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davidmorr

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Reply with quote  #1 

Probably the biggest thing that set Topfield apart from the rest was TAPs, the ability to customise and enhance the functionality of the box. Probably hundreds of thousands of hours have been spent in writing and enhancing TAPs over the years.

With Topfield hardware unlikely to reappear, where do we go next? Is the idea of recording broadcast TV past its time? Won't Netflix or a catch-up service (iView, SBS on Demand) provide all the stuff we used to record?

Well, no. ABC has mostly its own programs on iView. Very few of its bought-in programs are on iView. And Netflix has little current material like news, sport.

Do any of the other PVR manufacturers provide an experience like a Topfield loaded with TAPs? Do any of them have provision for modifying the functionality like TAPs?

So if we want to have this experience, we are going to have to have our own hardware and software. There is a precedent for this. One of Netgear's early routers used some open source software. People realised that they could modify the software and load it into the router to replace the original software. This has now grown to be an extremely powerful software package, far beyond what Netgear originally made it do.

For the software, maybe there is already something open source out there. Hopefully all the energy being spent on TAP development could be harnessed to enhance what it currently does. If there is nothing like this already, maybe it is a case of making a bunch of independent packages work together to make a coherent whole.

The hardware is more challenging. A general purpose linux machine might provide a good starting point. Or an Android platform. Tuner cards already exist, so could perhaps be harnessed.

But it would be nice to have a small box to sit under the TV. I heard the other day that the cheapest Raspberry Pi costs about $5. This is the processor card only. All the other stuff would add to the cost, but if it was powerful enough to run the software, a small box computer could cost less than $200.

Is any of this feasible?

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DeltaMikeCharlie

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Reply with quote  #2 
For open source PVR firmware, there is Enigma2.  In Australia, the Beyonwiz range of PVRs use this firmware.  Enigma2 supports plugins, a very similar concept to TAPs.  You can literally compile the whole firmware from scratch and do whatever you like should you be so inclined.

For DYI, you could get a small PC, like an Intel NUC or similar, and then install any number of open source DVR packages.  I have used Kodi (when it was called XBMC) but that was a while ago.  You will then need to buy compatible DVB tuners.  Depending upon un the PC you buy, these could be internal (PCI, etc) or external (USB) devices with as few or as many tuners as you like and/or the software could support.

Select your favourite search engine and type in "open source PVR" (or DVR).
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davidmorr

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Reply with quote  #3 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeltaMikeCharlie
For open source PVR firmware, there is Enigma2.  In Australia, the Beyonwiz range of PVRs use this firmware.  Enigma2 supports plugins, a very similar concept to TAPs.  You can literally compile the whole firmware from scratch and do whatever you like should you be so inclined.
Thanks DMC.

I just had a look at Beyonwiz for the first time, and it seems almost as if it is better than Topfield. It even has phone apps for setting up and configuring it. I suppose it comes down to how easy it is to use on a daily basis. Certainly easier than making up my own box.
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IanL-S

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Reply with quote  #4 
I have 2 x T2 and they work well for me as backup recorders. I am used to the Toppy interface so I use Toppys for playback; I use JKit's windows App to create inf and nav files.

Ian
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keith_leitch

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Reply with quote  #5 
I do feel David's angst; I've actually "stocked up" on Backup Topfields, hoping I can just swap one in should another fail. All going well, that will buy me a few years, until a time that F2A recording may truly be passe; at the moment, though, there is no more economical or convenient way to get content, especially in HD.

Yes, when I first went Topfield, my original plan was BeyonWiz (without the crippling Freeview stamp on it). My research showed that it was the most customisable purpose-built platform. I opted for Topfield, frankly, because of this community. However, the way things are going, I can't see BeyonWiz lasting much longer, either. I am one of the very few people I know who still records F2A rather than forking out for some streaming service, or at least for Foxtel or similar.
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davidmorr

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Reply with quote  #6 

Some interesting points Keith. I never actually considered anything but Topfield. Someone mentioned it to me and that it had TAPs to modify behaviour, so I bought one. I paid close to $1000 for it from memory. That old 5000 was more reliable and easier to use than my 2400.

The community was definitely a good selling point. Amongst Topfield's many bad business decisions, letting the forums die for extended periods was a significant one.

I do not really feel like stocking up on old Topfields, partly because I don't have the space to store them, and partly because they seem to need a lot of work to get going and keep going. I just want something that works. (I only record the odd movie or documentary, mostly ones that ICE-TV brings to my attention.)


One question about Beyonwiz: Can it skip ads like toppies do? If it is Freeview, I guess not, but maybe buttons to go forward or back? Or maybe automatic ad skipping?

(And digressing slightly, it is possible to download items on iView and SBS on Demand directly without ads. Some other channels are being worked on. Look up SBSRipper and iViewRipper on Facebook.)

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IanL-S

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Reply with quote  #7 
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidmorr
One question about Beyonwiz: Can it skip ads like toppies do? If it is Freeview, I guess not, but maybe buttons to go forward or back? Or maybe automatic ad skipping?


Yes, it has skip keys, but no autodetection of ads (as far as I am aware). The IceTV support is much better than for Toppys, as it uses a much newer IceTV API.

Ian
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keith_leitch

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Reply with quote  #8 
Beyonwiz has a Freeview-branded version, and a version that is not. My guess it that the one with the Freeview logo would lack the customisability, and may not offer satisfactory skip keys.

Come on... stick with the Toppies! We have to band together.

[smile]
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IanL-S

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Reply with quote  #9 
The hardware used by the Beyonwiz, like that used by the TRF-8800 supports the open-standard that FreviewPlus uses. Even the IceTV Skippa had FreeView Plus (which allows access to catchup services).

Ian
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davidmorr

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Reply with quote  #10 
Quote:
Originally Posted by keith_leitch
Come on... stick with the Toppies! We have to band together.
I am not leaving yet, but when my 2400 eventually dies, I would like to know what to look for.

And yes, the community is certainly valuable. Maybe Beyonwiz is almost as good?

Maybe we should make a pact to all move to Beyonwiz when we are over our Topfield infatuation? :-)
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2460user

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Reply with quote  #11 
Interesting discussion.  There is still a lot of great viewing on FTA TV.  All of the catchup services that I have seen have awful picture quality IMHO, so for the forseeable future I am going to use a PVR.  My main 7160 does everything I need and has plenty of life left in it.  I also have a few "spare" Toppies, including a brand new TRF-5300 I bought 2 weeks ago for $90.

In the worst case, if all of my spares are used up and/or they cease to work because of a lack of firmware updates, I will go to Beyonwiz.

At the same time I'm often dabbling with several Raspberry Pis, a Sony twin tuner module, USB tuners plugged into my NAS etc.

Plenty of options!  Oh, and the dreaded Foxtel doesn't figure in my universe, at least in their current form.
Cheers

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davidmorr

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2460user
Interesting discussion.  There is still a lot of great viewing on FTA TV.  All of the catchup services that I have seen have awful picture quality IMHO, so for the forseeable future I am going to use a PVR.

You are right about picture quality on catchup services, but hardly surprising when they are tuned to the old 1500kbps ADSL speed.

Just looking at my Topfield recordings, I see that 1 hour occupies about 2.6GB and has a bitrate of around 47Mbps. By contrast, things downloaded from iView occupy 660MB and have a bitrate of 1.49Mbps.

However, broadcast recordings are subject to all sorts of aberrations which sometimes result in quality even lower than the catch up services. Disrupted signal due to weather, loss of signal, and squeezing of the bandwidth available, as happens with SBS a lot, yielding pixelation to the extent of 1cm squares at times.

Add to that the ads and other crap stuck on the screen during programs, and catchup does not look too bad. Downloading is even better.

I must admit that if it was not for Ice TV, I would miss most of what is broadcast. I am just not tuned in to reading program guides any more. I guess I probably miss a lot of programs that Ice does not highlight.

Revisiting this thread comes about because my 2400 is getting sicker. I have done the abundant caution reset, and while it solved one problem (no Ice recordings), it created another. Whenever I change the channel, it briefly starts to play it, then the screen goes black for 1-2 seconds, then it resumes.

Beyonwiz is getting closer.....

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2460user

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Reply with quote  #13 
David
Since my comment above re iView quality, I must update my opinion.  The latest iView Android app seems to produce a very acceptable TV picture via Chromecast.  We mainly still record on the Toppy but iView is now a viable backup if you miss something IMHO.

I haven't checked the SBS app lately, but from memory it was reasonable last time I looked.  I have no need for the commercial stations streaming apps.  I did relent and subscribe to Foxtel Now for F1 and AFL coverage.  It works pretty well via Chromecast too.
Cheers
Geoff
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IanL-S

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Reply with quote  #14 
I used SBS App (on my LG Smart TV) and it worked very well - presumably the LG App is not optimised for 4K, but whatever the settings it looks good on the 4K TV. I have unlimited cable internet (Telstra 100/2) and we (well, more correctly the other member of the household) use Telstra TV (easier to access Stan, Foxtel Now and Netflix), sometimes Apple TV.

I suspect many of us will be moving to Beyonwiz as our Toppys fail. Both my 7160 and 2470 are currently out of service, and my pre-production 7260 is being difficult. I am having trouble motivating myself to work out what is wrong with them.

Being retired I am from time to time away for extended periods, and Toppys have always been a little unreliable when left to their own devices for extended periods. So some time back I invested in two Beyonwiz T2 and they make an excellent backup - never could get used to using them as primary PVR. Recently I lashed out and got a Beyonwiz U4 and I am increasingly using it (got in mainly base it support 4K input and output via HDMI). 

Ian
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davidmorr

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Posts: 178
Reply with quote  #15 
Where did you buy the Beyonwiz? No-one on Staticice.com.au seems to sell them and most mail order electronics dealers are on it. Harvey Norman and Good Guys online stores do not have them. The only place I have seen them is Ice TV.

Edit: Never mind. I see Beyonwiz only sell them directly and through Ice-TV.

Did you get the extra external tuner? I cannot quite imagine needing to record simultaneously on four different networks. Most of the time I struggle to find anything to watch on any channel.

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