Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Bye Bye Max Mosley

Shame. No more Christmas cards...



From the very funny Sniff Petrol of course - http://www.sniffpetrol.com/ - Having a tantrum about rule changes, every month.

Next issue out last Friday... Late again.

- Chris

Monday, 1 June 2009

Freeview Firmware Upgrade

The Digihome DTR160 - Just like mine!

The Digihome DTR160 PVR (Personal Video Recorder) - Based on the Vestel T825. Great unit, shame about some of the stupidities in its firmware (sometimes called software). Our PVR is located in the bedroom (Mrs H did say she needed more entertainment in the bedroom!!!). Consequently, the subtitles are used more than normal due to one or the other of us being asleep (lol see previous comment re bedroom entertainment).

Gripes
Say you are watching TV with the subtitles on. You press the up or down buttons to see what else is on on other channels. You finish looking and (perhaps unsurprisingly) there is nothing else on. You leave the remote buttons alone expecting the now and next Electronic Program Guide (EPG) bar to disappear… it doesn’t… ever.

So you press the “Back” key to get rid of the bar, the following message is shown every time:

"Interactive services are not available while subtitles are on. Would you like to turn subtitles off now? YES / NO”

I'm not entering interactive services, I'm only closing the now / next EPG display bar!!! grrrr

Also the EPG suffers from random slowdowns, lockups etc.

What to do?
According to http://www.futaura.co.uk/vestel.html

“Vestel T825 based PVRs first surfaced in December 2007 in limited quantities under the guise of the Wharfedale DTR160 HDMI and DTR250 HDMI units from Argos. The T825 offers Freeview Playback Group 2 compliant software, and hardware is an evolution of the T816 hardware bringing new configuration options such as HDMI, CI slot, low power and USB. In late January 2008, non-HDMI T825 units were made available, with the T816 model being phased out.

Currently known variations include (alphabetical order): Alba ALDTR160 (Argos) • Digihome DTR80 and DTR160 (Argos) [WA-HEY!!] • Hitachi HDR082, HDR162, HDR163 & HDR253 (Argos) • Logik LPVR168 (Currys/Dixons) • ONN DTR80 and DTR160 (Asda) • Sharp TU-R162H & TU-R252H • Wharfedale DTR160 HDMI and DTR250 HDMI (Argos) • Wharfedale LP160DTRHDMI and LP250DTRHDMI (Argos)”

Firmware versions available:
Version - Build date
1.7 - 2007-??-??
2.7 - 2007-11-13
4.8 - 2008-01-29
4.9 - 2008-??-??
7.2 - 2008-03-20
10.2 - 2008-06-11
11.2 - 2008-07-30
11.3 - 2008-07-28
(yes that's right v11.3 is dated BEFORE v11.2!)

My unit is running v2.7 firmware. Could one of these later firmware versions fix these problems?

Download
As I purchased my unit from Argos, there wasn’t going to be any support there. Also, there is nothing of much value on Vestel’s website.

So, after much googling, visiting various forums etc, I managed to find a site were the webmaster had been in contact with Vestel and managed to get them to send him some updated “factory fresh” firmware. The website is http://newtownsaints.co.uk/freestuff

As can be seen from his site, he has managed to get his hands on v10.2 and v4.9. He has also managed to get a backup copy of v2.7 should you ever want to go back.

The Flash Process
Requirements
  • Copies of the firmware from site above
  • A 9-pin male to female 'straight through' RS232 Cable:
RS232 9 pin 'Straight through'
  • PC / Laptop with a COM port (not all laptops have COM ports these days!)
  • Ms Hyper Terminal program
My Laptop with a built-in COM port is currently running Windows 7. Unfortunately there is no Hyper Terminal in Windows 7 (that I could find anyway) so the work around is to find a windows XP CD and expand HYPERTRM.DL_ and HYPERTRM.EX_ files into a folder on the Windows 7 machine.

The flash process is as follows:
1. Connect the serial communication cable between the RS232 port of the receiver and the serial communication port (COM1 or COM2 or COM3 or COM4 etc.,) of the laptop.
2. Run Hyper Terminal program
3. Choose File--> New connection
4. Give a name and choose an icon for the connection. (You do not need to make a new connection every time. You can use this name for the future connections.)
5. Choose communication port in the new coming window (COM1 or COM2) whichever you have used in Step 1.
6. Port settings should be as follows:
  • Bits per second : 115200
  • Data Bits : 8
  • Parity : None
  • Stop bits : 1
  • Flow control : None
7. Now Hyper Terminal connection is established. From “Transfer” menu, choose “Send File”.
8. Enter file name to be sent (the file you choose should have *.bin as extension).
9. Choose Xmodem1K as protocol type.
10. Press Send button. To activate the Software Upgrade function of the receiver, power off and then on the receiver.
11. You will see the progress on the PC screen.
12. Wait for the transfer to be completed.
13. You should see something like this in the hyper-terminal box : “WAIT…OK… cabot bootloader version: aurora-3-1-freeback-br-2007-11-12-22-06-09 C$BB0”

Flash all done

14. Wait until the led on the front panel turns green
15. Power off and then on, then receiver will automatically start to operate on the new software.

Mixed Results
Now, one of the things I do like about the Digihome EPG is that once the now and next bar is enabled you can press the “ < “ key to get programme info about the current program or the “ > “ button to get info about the next programme. Neat – not even Sky EPG (which I generally regard to be one of the better EPG’s I've used) does this.

However this feature is broken, or at least it doesn’t work in either firmware versions 4.9 or 10.2… oh no!!

v4.9 enables low power mode, where the unit will pretty much switch everything off, including the clock display on the front to save power. This feature is carried through to v10.2.
Excellent I thought. However (there's that H word again...) this is all well and good, but it appears to turn the remote control infrared receiver off too!!
The only way to power on the receiver is push and hold the power button on the front. Not much good when you are tucked up in bed on a cold evening…

Also, when coming out of low power standby, the unit takes up to 2 minutes to “wake up”. Again, not very good for those that are impatient like me!

OK you could choose not to use low power standby thus avoiding that problem.

The final nail in both v4.9 and v10.2 respective coffins are that the annoying "Interactive services are not available while subtitles are on. Would you like to turn subtitles off now? YES / NO” problem is not fixed – in either version!!!

Couple that with the lack of now & next programme info (it’s amazing how often you use a function when you don’t have it) means that unfortunately at this point I gave up and reverted back to v2.7.

Ho hum. It was worth a try. Sometimes newer isn’t always better...

- Chris

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