Black Hole's Trail Guide to HDR-FOX T2 Hacking

'Scuse me if I feel a little smug: I just bought one of the last HD-FOX T2's available from Maplin on clearance at £49.99, with a £3 voucher as well so that's £46.99!

I don't actually have anything to use it for at present (need another HomePlug and a HDMI monitor - I'm thinking projector), so it can be used as a testbed for the time being.
As readers may have noted elsewhere, I have now acquired my Qumi (1280x800 DLP+LED 300 lumen projector) and it's lovely! As this write-up is somewhat off the primary thrust of the main story in this blog, I'm putting it in a sub-post rather than adding it to the posts at the top.

Here's the plan: Stream from HDR-FOX T2 - HomePlug - HomePlug - O2 WiFi router - Edimax 7711 WiFi adapter - HD-FOX T2 - Qumi (via HDMI).

To get a quick feel of it I went router - HD-FOX by Cat5 (the router is in the same room) and had the HD-FOX and Qumi on a table, everything worked straight off so I moved on to a lash-up approximating my aim: TV watching in bed.

The Qumi is so small and light (a real surprise when I opened the box, even having read the forums for several weeks), close to a 3.5" hard drive, it was easy and not at all worrying to bodge a shelf for it with a couple of clamps. Then came the problem of hooking up the HD-FOX by HDMI. The Qumi has a mini-HDMI socket, so the only means I had to hand was the HDMI to mini-HDMI lead that came in the box - and that is only 18" long! (Note to self: go shopping today.) That meant also suspending the HD-FOX over my head - a little more worrying!

OK, next job get the WiFi adapter running. Unfortunately I have a long complicated WiFi password from a random key generator. A couple of times I set out to enter it into the setup screen on the HD-FOX, and it kept timing out before I got to the end and clearing everything I had done so far. Then I spotted my password has a "%" symbol in it - and no % on the Humax's input! That means to get the WiFi connection working I will have to change my password - and configure all my other WiFi devices to suit (sigh). Needless to say I stuck with the Cat5 for the time being.

As far as the HD-FOX is concerned - nothing unexpected. I streamed StDef and HiDef absolutely fine, but although I'm on 1.02.20 I couldn't get through to the TV portal - I will take that up in the relevant forum. As I am writing this however, I have a HiDef steam running and it has bombed out at 55 minutes. I tried again several times and it keeps bombing out at the same place - I must now investigate whether it does the same when played locally.

Now first impressions of the Qumi. The only bad thing I have to say is the sound. The forums said it was weak but I wasn't prepared for how weak. At first I thought there wasn't any (over the noise of the fan), but then I went into the menus and found the volume was set to 4 (goes up to 8), so I set it to max and set the volume on the Humax to max and I could just about hear it. I plugged in a set of headphones, and at max it is just about OK - not good enough at all. I will dig out a set of powered PC speakers for the audio.

The next most disappointing thing is the remote control. It uses a coin cell, it works but the UI is a bit fiddly, but there is no on/off. However, it is only needed for fine-tuning the setup, so it could be fit-and-forget. On the subject of on/off, being LED with no warm-up/cool-down cycles, it's just a case of fitting a remote power switch at the plug (I might use a master-slave socket switched by the Humax going on and off).

The picture was, I thought, a little dim in low room lighting at about 48" diagonal, but then I found the factory preset was for eco mode, so I set it to "normal" and the brightness was much better - but the fan became louder too. I have a white wall opposite the bed which is the projection surface, and as long as the lighting isn't actually straight at the wall the picture is good enough with the lights on. With the lights off, I could switch down to eco mode again and get a lot less noise from the fan. It's not the sort of thing you could watch in the day without thick curtains, but then we knew that didn't we.

With my jury-rigged projection shelf and the Qumi angled up a bit to get the 105% offset (or there abouts), I was projecting 66" and getting an image from a HiDef stream equivalent to a 47" diagonal TV. Because my viewing angle (from the bed) is quite low, I used keystone correction to make the image appear rectangular. All good. I've not been critical with focussing yet, but the warm-up focussing shift is evident. I will probably put up with a soft focus during the warm-up rather than fiddle with it. I was worried about the throw ratio, but it's fine in my situation. If and when I travel with it, a zoom might be nice - I'm wondering what might be possible as an adapter lens or a mod, but I don't need to go that far for normal service.

Having cycled through all the video settings I found the best compromise (as others have done) is Gamma set to PC and colour temperature set to cool. Out of the box the colours are a bit saturated. Clarity is great, even though I have not refined the focus. I might have more to say re picture quality when I do have a critical focus. As has been noted there is some light bleed most notably to the lower left, but it is not troublesome and only noticed when the image is dark. Proper screens have a black surround though, so that over-spray is absorbed (in fact, it was the black surround of the screen which defined the frame for cine projection, rather than have the ragged edge of the projected fluff in the gate)!

Something to note: there is a control which cycles through image rotate and image reverse - all four combinations. This means you can mount the Qumi either way up or even rear-projection or via a mirror, and there is a mode which will cope (and I will be investigating using the tripod thread to mount it upside down).

Summary: Am I happy? You bet. Is it worth £500? That's a hard one. For big-screen TV in a darkened room it's a lot cheaper than a TV. For viewing in daylight, you need a TV or a bulb projector - but you can't just bung a TV or a bulb projector in a bag and use it almost anywhere. For what I want (and having prepared myself what to expect), it's brilliant.

PS: I've not read the manual yet. Everything is intuitive or by what I've gleaned by reading forums.
Interesting device. I like the size, weight, resolution and bulb life but for the application I have in mind 300 lumens is not enough; must wait and see what else comes along.
Gradual progress towards a permanent installation:

I bodged a thread mount into a piece of shelving, the idea is that the Qumi can hang unside-down under the shelf (there is a reason for it not being on or above the shelf) with the HD-FOX and anything else sitting on the shelf (which will actually be concealed - never mind why/how, but that's why the Qumi can't be on top). The first thing to notice is that the mounting hole is not at the centre of balance. This means there is a torque applied to the mount, and I bodged a camera ball-joint mount so the clamp has to be inconveniently tight to stop the Qumi drooping. I think a better long-term solution will be to decide the exact angle required for the mount, and then have a dovetail quick-release mount for portability fitting into something permanently angled as desired.

Having fitted the Qumi upside-down though (and adjusted the picture rotation in the menus), the 105% offset became a problem. My shelf has to be only half way up the wall. The picture offset puts the projected image "above" the plane of the Qumi (from the Qumi's point-of-view), so this has put the image low down on the wall opposite, not too bad but more of a strain on the neck. With the Qumi the other way up the picture was too high up the wall if anything, and the bulk of the light was reflecting up to the ceiling instead of down to me (unless you are using retro-reflective screen material, it makes sense to project down from the ceiling rather than up from the floor, if you see what I mean). Annoying. I will have to re-think whether I can get the Qumi higher up, or if I want to make a mount that puts the Qumi under the shelf but the right way up.

I have solved the issue of short HDMI leads and mini sockets by getting a HDMI switch box (manual switching). This has standard HDMI sockets, so with the HDMI-miniHDMI cable that came with the Qumi, I have standard sockets for three sources - one permanently HD-FOX, and an easy connection available to plug in my notebook if I want to. I had kittens though: the first time I booted up with this arrangement I could not get any sound! Had I killed the Qumi's sound output yesterday? How could a modified HDMI routing (giving perfect pictures) not be sending sound? I eliminated theh switch box and there was still no sound, I went through all the Qumi and Humax menus, and mute and volume controls, to no avail. What's more, touching the Qumi's contact-sensitive controls (almost impossible not to when adjusting it) produced bleeps I turned the Humax to standby and back on again a few times, but it wasn't until I did a cold start that I got sound back. Phew!

On the subject of sound, I dug out a disused set of powered PC speakers and plugged them into the Qumi's audio out. Works a treat (I'm not interested in 5.1)! I might get some nicer ones.

On the subject of fan noise, since somebody was asking, bearing in mind that the Qumi is 30" above my head, in eco mode the fan noise competes with my notebook. It's not bothersome when there is a sound track (even played quietly), but you wouldn't want it there for no purpose. In "normal" (ie non-eco) mode, the fan is considerably louder and there is a distinct advantage to using eco mode if the room lighting conditions permit.

That said, particularly with respect to eco mode, I think the bulk of the noise is the rush of air rather than the fan itself. If the Qumi had been made a bit bigger instead of as small as possible, I think it could have been a lot quieter. However, as I said before, as long as there is a sound track I don't notice the fan.

Still not read the manual (the next job I think).
A footnote about focus. There was a lot of grumbling on the forum I was using as my main reference about non-uniform focus. It's true the focus shifts during warm-up, but after warm-up, even with my temporary set-up projecting non-orthogonally onto a white wall to a 55" diagonal, I can see a diamond texture to a still image (when viewed close up). The diamond texture is of course the pixels in the DLP, and I reckon that's good enough focus for anybody.

Maybe the early production units had a few duff ones, or I'm lucky to have a good one.

Frankly, I don't even notice the warm-up soft focus with a normal TV picture.

As this is purely about the Qumi I shall continue any further remarks on AVForums HERE (click), and confine further comment on this forum about the interaction between the Qumi and the HD-FOX driving it.
I had a total sound loss again, cured by pressing the reset button under the flap of the HD-FOX. I need to check whether it is only HDMI sound that is affected, or all the sound outputs (SCART, phono).
IE can also use the form ftp://humaxftp:0000@<ipaddress>; yes, username/password are sent in the clear (they are anyway unless you use SFTP), but if you're using cabled ethernet or powerlan, or WPA/2 Wifi, it may not matter to you. When you drill down the directory structure in IE to a file and click on that, you will be given a variant of the Windows Open/Save dialogue. Not the friendliest, but it does work to copy things.

Like Black Hole says, this can be 'integrated' into Windows Explorer, where it become noticeably friendlier. The easiest way to do this is to create a new 'Network Place' to represent the FTP connected directory on the Humax; but to do this on XP SP3, you'll first need to do Tools->Folder Options->Use Windows Classic Folders in Windows Explorer. This will then allow you to see the 'Add Network Place' wizard icon in 'Network Places'.

Running the wizard it will prompt you to 'specify the address of ... an FTP site' ->Next->Internet or network address in the form ftp://humaxftp:0000@<ipaddress> ->Next->Type a name for this Network Place e.g. Humax HDR->Successfully created/Open this network place when I finish. Leaving the latter checkbox set, Windows explorer will open a new window showing you the 3 My Videos/Photos/Music directories (and also drive1 if you happen to have a USB drive plugged in as well).

Thereafter there will be a Network Place folder called e.g. Humax HDR in the Network Places in Windows Explorer. Expanding that directory will connect FTP behind the scenes and show you the above directories. As Black Hole suggested you can then do 'that drag'n'drop stuff' directly (causing the corresponding push/pull FTP transfer behind the scenes).

For those poor unfortunates like me, who are trying to get to grips with Windows 7, the Windows Explorer route can still be used, but with a few mods, as "My Network Places" has been moved to the "Computer" folder:-

Open Windows Explorer, click on "Computer" in the left-hand pane, then right-click anywhere in the blank space in the right-hand pane.

Pick "Add a Network Location" from the menu and then in the next window, double-click on "Choose a custom network location" to open the dialog box as before, into which you can type the ftp://humaxftp:0000@<ipaddress> text.
To pick up on Wile E's point - if anyone knows of a search program and file explorer for Win7/Vista that looks and works just
like the one on Win98 - PLEASE tell me where to get it !!!
Thanks for the suggestions - I'll check them out.
I'm getting so irritated I may end up writing this myself (if I ever get the time)