Moving

I hope you enjoyed this blog. It was a catchall for my ideas and experiences as I transitioned from cable to broadcast tv. I’ve organized all of my thoughts in a new blog which is from the perspective of one who has been there. Take a look…

http://freetvforme.wordpress.com/

This is the last post to Simple TV for Dummies.

By Len Mullen

STV2 Simple TV DVR

It’s no secret that I am a fan of the Simple TV DVR.  I own five of the single tuner models.  Three of these are collecting shows to attached 2t disks for playback via Plex and my Simple DVR Roku app.  One is ‘on loan’ to an out-of-market friend.  I’m hoping to use the last one to swap antennas with someone in the UK.

I also have a two tuner model.  This is the model with the ventilated top.  And this is the model I want to talk about today.  While it is officially called the STV2-2ATSC, I am going to refer to it as the STV2.  Throughout this review, I will refer to the STV-1000 as an STV1.  I deliberately used my STV1 review as the basis for this review.  I wanted to make it very easy for a reader to decide between the two models since the STV1 is still available and there are very good reasons why the STV1 could be a better choice for you.

The Simple.TV DVR is a whole house Tuner/DVR for broadcast television.  According to the manufacturer, “Simple.TV is the first personal DVR that streams live and recorded TV to your favorite devices, wherever you are. Get all your broadcast TV favorites on your iPad, PC, Mac or Roku box.”  It plugs in to your antenna, ethernet, and usb drive, but not your television.  To watch the Simple DVR on your television, you need a Roku.  Up to five devices can access live or recorded programming concurrently, but there is only one tuner, so all people watching live programming must watch the same channel.

wholehouse_wide

What Does This Do?  In the most common configuration, you attach the DVR to your antenna and LAN and use a Roku to access the DVR from your television.  You can use the tuner to watch live television from your antenna or play files already stored on the DVR.  You can pause, rewind, or fast forward the programming, delete files from the DVR, and schedule recordings (one episode or all episodes) with the Roku.  If you have more than one DVR, you can switch from one DVR to another.

Remote access is excellent.  Image quality and buffer management are good enough to enjoy live and recorded programming via public wireless networks.  My mother can use my antenna to watch broadcast television via a Roku at her home which has poor reception.  There are iOS, Android/Kindle Fire, Windows 8, and Plex apps for the Simple DVR.  I cannot speak for the iOS app, but the Android app is amazing.  The Plex app only supports playback (no live tv or file management), but you can use it to watch your recordings on many devices including the Amazon Fire TV.

What Doesn’t This Do?  With the current software, you cannot watch the video as you rewind and fast forward and there is no slow motion or frame by frame review.  You cannot do time based recordings (record channel 38 from 3pm to 8pm weeknights).  I’d really like to see a ‘Play All’ and/or Play List option for recordings and it would be great if the Premier software managed all DVRs as one — choosing the next available tuner, showing all programs in a single browse window, etc.  Finally, and this is a big deal for me, it doesn’t work at all when you have no internet connection.  It will record scheduled shows, but you cannot watch live tv or your recordings.

This is NOT for cable TV.  While the STV1 officially supports Clear QAM, the STV2 does not.

A Poor Man’s TiVo  This isn’t a TiVo.  The TiVo provides more sophisticated search capability, a better rewind/fast forward experience, plus internet apps.  A lot of people are going to be very happy to buy a TiVo Premier, pay for the lifetime service, and watch television.  A two tuner Premier with 75 hours of storage with a lifetime service contract will set you back $550.  If you want to share the two tuners with another room, you can buy a Tivo Mini ($250 with lifetime) and if you want to watch your Tivo away from home, you can add a Tivo Stream for $130.  So, living room, bedroom, remote use, with 75 hours of storage for $930.

Alternatively, one could purchase a pair of Simple DVRs ($185), a pair of usb disks ($200), and two Roku 1’s ($80) for $465.  This would give you two tuners, 800 hours of storage, remote access, plus thousands of streaming media channels for 1/2 the cost of a basic TiVo installation.

For the $930 you did not spend on a TiVo, you could purchase four Simple DVRs, four Rokus, a Channel Master DVR+ for the living room, and two years subscription to Netflix.

Support I have been very disappointed with Simple support.  The documentation is sparse, the support site is inaccurate, and email support is sporadic.  Worse, they don’t seem to know any more about the product than I do.  The best help has come from the user community.  I hope this changes.  It’s easy to see how nontechnical users could become frustrated.

Installation The setup process is very straightforward.  In this area, the STV2 is much improved over the STV1.  You have to use specific browsers to configure the device.  I have used Chrome and Firefox.  Internet Explorer does not work.  It seems that security software can interfere with the process as well.

  1. Plug DVR into your network, a usb disk, and your antenna
  2. Open your browser to http://simple.tv, sign into your account (or create an account)
  3. Activate your lifetime subscription
  4. Click Activate Your DVR
  5. Select the DVR to register
  6. Prepare your disk
  7. Scan for channels

You Will Love the Simple DVR If…

  • Your home is situated such that television signals come from multiple directions.  Instead of using a rotor or combiner, you can install one or more DVRs for each market and access the antennas via a Roku.
  • Your home is not pre-wired with coax.  Run coax from the antenna to your router and install the Simple DVR(s) next to the router.
  • You have to have a television where no one thought to install coax.  A Roku brings live tv to your remote television.
  • You want to watch tv by the pool or on the deck.  Simple can stream to a laptop, a tablet, or a wireless Roku by the pool.
  • Your remote vacation home does not have television but does have internet access.
  • You travel a lot and hate infomercials.
  • All your favorite shows air when you are at work.
  • You want to share antennas with a friend in a different market

You May Not Love the Simple DVR If…

  • You have poor broadcast reception
  • You need visual cues when fast forwarding or rewinding a program
  • You have a poor network in your home

I love the Simple DVRs.  After two months with the dual tuner Simple DVR, I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up.

STV2 va STV1

Generally, the STV2 is a better device than the STV1.  It has a faster processor, two tuners, and more features.  The firmware supports bigger disks, recognizes more disks, does a better job scanning for channels.  It also changes channels faster when you are watching live television.

The STV2 runs hotter.  So hot, in fact. that the it has a fan that can be heard in a quiet room during normal operation.  Of course, there is no reason for the Simple DVR to be in a room where the sound of the fan would be an issue.

I have concerns about two tuners writing to one disk at the same time. Seems to me that is a recipe for fragmentation and all the performance issues that come with it. I harvest programs for my on-demand library using STV1s.

More STVs means support more antennas. I have two markets plus a station that is just in the wrong direction. I can point an antenna at these stations and watch them with my Roku. I can leave my market altogether by swapping one of my STVs for one one in another market. I would like to swap STVs with someone in Canada, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, or Britain.

Recommendation

Everyone should get a single tuner Simple DVR with lifetime premier subscription.  This combo is still ten bucks less than the subscription alone.  If you plan to watch live television using the Simple DVR, get a dual tuner DVR.  If you want to harvest broadcasts for on-demand viewing, get more single tuner DVRs.  If you want to share your antenna with others, get more single tuner DVRs with additional lifetime subscriptions.

 

By Len Mullen

Bookmarklet Download Method

Here’s another slick trick to download files from your STVs — including the STV1.  Open Ben Alman’s  Bookmarklet Generator in the browser you use for Simple.  Paste this code…

downloadURL=videoPlayer._url;
regex=/tv.main.hls-(\1\d).m3u8/;
newURLsubstr=”tv.4500000.10\$1″;
downloadURL=downloadURL.replace(regex, newURLsubstr);
var newWin = open(downloadURL,’windowName’,’height=300,width=300′);
download_html=”<a download=\”video.mp4\” href=\”” + downloadURL + “\”>Download Video File”;
newWin.document.write(download_html);

into the box at the bottom of the page and click the generate button.  Left click down on the RunjQueryCode button and drag it to your bookmarks bar.

Open a Simple.tv in a browser tab.  Navigate to My Shows and start a show.  Click the RunjQueryCode bookmark.  A window will pop up with a ‘Download Video File’ link.  Right click this link and select ‘Save Link As’ from the popup menu.  Navigate to your downloads directory and save your file with any name you choose as long as it has the extension .MP4.

That’s it!

from http://community.simple.tv/index.php?/topic/953-download-video-files-with-this-new-bookmarklet

By Len Mullen

AdBlock Plus Workaround

Per Watcher on the Simple Community Forums

I found the issue that was making the WebUI wrongly believe my STV was remote. The “EasyPrivacy” filter set for AdBlockPlus was blocking the “/ping.gif” element on the STV web interface. Adding an exception rule to the AdBlockPlus filters resolves the problem. I’m not sure if this is a newly added rule to EasyPrivacy, or if the STV WebUI changed.

Here’s the exception rule I’ve used. This will disable AdBlockPlus on all simple.tv webpages. Hopefully this will be helpful for other users.
@@||simple.tv^$document

Technical Summary:
Every few seconds, the WebGUI fetches the file “ping.gig” from the IP address of your locally connected STV. If the transfer succeeds, you see the Home Icon. If it fails, you get the round remote ICON.

To the original posted rowbert: If an STV box on both your local and remote networks have the same IP address, it’s possible that this could confuse the WebUI into wrongly believing a remote STV is local. Let’s say that both have an IP address of 192.168.1.101, the UI will try to fetch “http://192.168.1.101…tic/ping.gif?_=(Number Goes here)”. This would normally fail, but if both networks have a box at that IP address answering the response it may wrongly believe it to be on the local network.

By Len Mullen

Simple Gets Windows 8 App and Plex Channel!

This week, Really Simple Software (aka Simple.tv) released a Windows 8 App and a Plex Channel for their Simple DVR.  Both apps work for all versions of the Simple DVR.  I evaluated the apps using V1 DVRs, a Roku 2 XS, and an Amazon Fire TV.  The Windows 8 App can be found here.

The Windows 8 app is pretty and supports live TV, but it strikes me as a work in progress…

  • I only see ten episodes of a program in my library
  • I can’t figure out how to switch from one DVR to another
  • No DVR setup or library management tools either

I guess this is for viewing shows on a PC that doesn’t have Chrome or Firefox installed.  Or maybe a way for RSS to distance itself from relentless browser security changes.  Regardless, it’s pretty and it works and I appreciate the effort.

I’m MUCH more excited about the Plex channel.  No live TV with the Plex app, but I can easily navigate my fleet of Simple DVRs using any device that supports Plex.  That adds a lot  of value to my Fire TV streamers.  To add the Simple channel to Plex, select Channels, click INSTALL CHANNELS, and click on Simple.TV.

If you are streaming with a Roku, you already have a Simple app that does a lot more than this Plex channel.  The Simple Roku channel supports live streaming from the Simple DVR tuners as well as record/delete functions.  The Plex channel includes continuous play and manual setting of stream quality.  RARFlix is a free Plex alternative that allows the user to easily set default stream quality and continuous play preferences.  Right now, RARFlix is the best way to watch Simple recordings.  Get RARFlix here.

 

By Len Mullen

Fixing Downloaded Files

Here is a tip for people who want to play Simple DVR recordings with a Roku or Chromecast without aid of a server program.  Install ffmpeg and run this script in the folder with your Simple DVR downloads…

REM Convert from mpeg stream to mp4, move the moov atom, and change the audio for chromecast
for %%i in (*.mp4) do (
move “%%i” tempfile.m4v
ffmpeg -i tempfile.m4v -vcodec copy -bsf:a aac_adtstoasc -acodec copy -movflags faststart “%%i”)
del tempfile.m4v

To run the script, create a text file in the folder with your Simple DVR downloads, paste the above text into the file, save the file, rename the file to fixmpegs.bat, and double click the file.  It will fix the files that can be fixed and delete the rest.

The original script and other helpful information can be found here.

By Len Mullen

STVDownload

Here’s another great utility for pulling media off your Simple TV DVR (V1).  Download the zip file, extract to a directory on your PC, and run \stvdownload-master\dist\windows\simpletv.exe.  Then…

  1. Enter your Simple Account’s User Name (email address) and Password
  2. Select Show, Episode, and Quality
  3. Click the Download button

Your files will be downloaded to \users\your_windows_username.

Project link…

https://github.com/brendonanderson/stvdownload/releases

By Len Mullen

Welcome!

Welcome to the Simple TV DVR for Dummies blog.  Now that there I know a little bit about these devices, I thought I would spin pertinent information off into a separate blog.  To get things started, I have reposted my review of the Simple TV DVR, a script that downloads media from the Simple TV DVR to a PC, and a list of disks I have tested with the Simple TV DVR.

Enjoy!

By Len Mullen

Simple TV DVR

I had hoped to post a follow-up to my initial review of the Simple DVR within a few weeks, but, frankly, after two weeks my enthusiasm for the device was on the wane.  This morning, I awoke to a Roku channel update, a device update, and, finally, support for multiple DVRs on the same account.  The Simple V1 is far from perfect, but, once again, I am wildly enthusiastic about this whole house DVR.  And once again, you can Woot! this DVR plus a lifetime subscription to their Premier service for less than $100.  I recommend you get three!

The Simple.TV DVR is a whole house Tuner/DVR for broadcast television.  According to the manufacturer, “Simple.TV is the first personal DVR that streams live and recorded TV to your favorite devices, wherever you are. Get all your broadcast TV favorites on your iPad, PC, Mac or Roku box.”  It plugs in to your antenna, ethernet, and usb drive, but not your television.  To watch the Simple DVR on your television, you need a Roku.  Up to five devices can access live or recorded programming concurrently, but there is only one tuner, so all people watching live programming must watch the same channel.

wholehouse_wide

What Does This Do?  In the most common configuration, you attach the DVR to your antenna and LAN and use a Roku to access the DVR from your television.  You can use the tuner to watch live television from your antenna or play files already stored on the DVR.  You can pause, rewind, or fast forward the programming, delete files from the DVR, and schedule recordings (one episode or all episodes) with the Roku.  If you have more than one DVR (I have four), you can switch from one DVR to another.

Remote access is excellent.  Image quality and buffer management are good enough to enjoy live and recorded programming via public wireless networks.  My mother can use my antenna to watch broadcast television via a Roku at her home which has poor reception.  There are iOS and Android apps for the Simple DVR.  I cannot speak for the iOS app, but the Android app is amazing.  I was able to side load it to a Fire HD and a Fire HDX and enjoy television on those tablets.

What Doesn’t This Do?  With the current software, you cannot watch the video as you rewind and fast forward and there is no slow motion or frame by frame review.  You cannot do time based recordings (record channel 38 from 3pm to 8pm weeknights).  I’d really like to see a ‘Play All’ and/or Play List option for recordings and it would be great if the Premier software managed all DVRs as one — choosing the next available tuner, showing all programs in a single browse window, etc.  Finally, and this is a big deal for me, it doesn’t work at all when you have no internet connection.  It will record scheduled shows, but you cannot watch live tv or your recordings.

This is NOT for cable TV.  While it tunes clear QAM, the cable companies are in the process of encrypting all channels.  Unless you have or plan to cut the cable, this is not the DVR for you.

A Poor Man’s TiVo  This isn’t a TiVo.  The TiVo provides more sophisticated search capability, a better rewind/fast forward experience, plus internet apps.  A lot of people are going to be very happy to buy a TiVo Premier, pay for the lifetime service, and watch television.  A two tuner Premier with 75 hours of storage will set you back $550.  If you want to share the two tuners with another room, you can buy a Tivo Mini ($250 with lifetime) and if you want to watch your Tivo away from home, you can add a Tivo Stream for $130.  So, living room, bedroom, remote use, with 75 hours of storage for $930.

Alternatively, one could purchase a pair of Simple DVRs ($185), a pair of usb disks ($200), and two Roku 1’s ($100) for $485.  This would give you two tuners, 800 hours of storage, remote access, plus thousands of streaming media channels for 1/2 the cost of a basic TiVo installation.

For the $930 you did not spend on a TiVo, you could purchase four Simple DVRs, four Rokus, a Channel Master DVR+ for the living room, and two years subscription to Netflix.

Support I have been very disappointed with Simple support.  The documentation is sparse, the support site is inaccurate, and email support is sporadic.  Worse, they don’t seem to know any more about the product than I do.  The best help has come from the user community.  I hope this changes.  It’s easy to see how nontechnical users could become frustrated.

Installation The setup process is very frustrating and almost counter intuitive.  You have to use specific browsers to configure the device.  I have used Chrome and Firefox.  Internet Explorer does not work.  It seems that security software can interfere with the process as well.  A lot of USB disks do not work with this DVR.    The documentation states that ‘virtually any’ USB disk will work, but that is not true.  Firmware only supports disks to 2t at this time.  Larger disks may format, but only to just over 2t.  Some disks will stop working after a couple days.  Attache these to a computer and they work fine.  Some disks won’t format at all.  Don’t count on the installation disk to let you know your disk is not compatible.  If the installation process detects an incompatible disk, it simply says there is no disk present.  Also, when you attach a compatible disk, it may not format unless you run the installation process from scratch.  Here is a list of disks I know to work with this DVR…

  • Iomega 1t (ldhd-up): formatted and performed perfectly. No issues to date.
  • Seagate 1t (9zc2ag-501): formatted and performed perfectly. No issues to date.
  • Western Digital 500g (WD5000H1U-00): formatted and performed perfectly. No issues to date.
  • Western Digital 2t (WDBFJK0020HBK-04): formatted and performed perfectly. No issues to date.

That 2t WD drive is routinely available at Staples for less than $100 and I recommend you go with that.  Mine has been working for more than a month and has recorded more than 200 programs.

You Will Love the Simple DVR If…

  • Your home is situated such that television signals come from multiple directions.  Instead of using a rotor or combiner, you can install one or more DVRs for each market and access the antennas via a Roku.
  • Your home is not pre-wired with coax.  Run coax from the antenna to your router and install the Simple DVR(s) next to the router.
  • You have to have a television where no one thought to install coax.  A Roku brings live tv to your remote television.
  • You want to watch tv by the pool or on the deck.  Simple can stream to a laptop, a tablet, or a wireless Roku by the pool.
  • Your remote vacation home does not have television but does have internet access.
  • You travel a lot and hate infomercials.
  • All your favorite shows air when you are at work.
By Len Mullen

simple-tv-api

Simple TV DVR owner tdickman has crafted a python script that copies files from the Simple TV DVR’s USB disk to a personal computer.  The files are saved a MP4 files that can be streamed via Plex or played directly on a PC.  This is a work in progress, but work has progressed to the point that I encourage you to take a look.  The project repository is…

https://github.com/tdickman/simple-tv-api

The script is being discussed on the simple.tv community…

http://community.simple.tv/index.php?/topic/605-api-transferring-recordings-to-local-computer/

The setup process is very simple.

Ubuntu (I don’t speak Ubuntu)

  1. Dependencies: sudo apt-get install python python-beautifulsoup python-requests git
  2. Run the following command:
  3. cd simple-tv-api
  4. python download.py

Windows

  1. Install python: Download here, version 2.7.6 (not 3.3.3) should work, choose the msi installer, x86-64 if you have 64 bit.
  2. Download this and extract the .zip file. Open the resulting folder.
  3. Download this and place the contents (Beautifulsoup.py and /requests) in the directory with .py files in step 2.
  4. Double click on download.py

When you double click download.py, you will be prompted for your email address associated and password used to logon to your Simple account.  Then the script will logon to the Simple DVR and list the shows on the disk.  Choose a show by entering the associated number.  The script will list all the episodes of the show.  Choose an episode by entering the associated number.  The episode will download into the folder you ran the download script from.  Once the download is complete, the script will close.  To download another episode, repeat this process.

If you are the only person with access to the computer you are running the script on, you may want to hard code your username and password.  Just right click download.py and select edit with IDLE, then edit the lines that prompt for username and password as follows (add the red text, changing the email address and password)…

import getpass
import api
import sys
import urllib
username = "youremail@yourprovider.com" #raw_input("Enter email: ")
password = "yourpassword" #getpass.getpass("Enter password: ")

Thank you tdickman!

By Len Mullen