HDR-FOX T2 to HDHomeRun, my journey

lc200

New Member
A long time user here of the HDR-FOX T2 from the day it was launched, still going strong but due to finding 2 tuners often caused clashes and the inability to play videos easily elsewhere on other TVs or out of the home (cord cutting) , and the fact it may not last for ever, I thought I'd try a HDHomeRun Quatro along side Plex's DVR software.

The HDHomeRun tuner on Freeview basically did what it said on the box, takes the Freeview single and distributes a given MUX/channel over a network. So any TV or box smart enough could now access live TV without needing an aerial. All good there.

Plex DVR software, not so good. First of all no option for accurate recording which is something we kind of got used to with the Humax. Whilst padding can be used on Plex covering most drifts in the schedule, it quite quickly seemed a backward step to be having to skip forward several minutes to find the start of the program, and within no time at all we had truncated starts and ends, that we didn't have the Humax running concurrently whilst we tested Plex. The main problem though is Plex's guide data, they source this from who knows where and it often is inaccurate and is reliant on correct dates and series/episode numbers to record a series correctly, and these numbers are often wrong causing recording failures. No concept of CRIDs on Plex.

I didn't really want to start paying a subscription for using the HDHomeRun DVR software, sort of defeats the point of Freeview, and I had no idea if it would be any better and it didn't support accurate recording either. I then tried to find something more reliable. NextPVR seemed to fit the bill, recordings could still be dropped into a Plex library to watched anywhere, but again issues with series linking and no accurate recording. Recording a series (season) is more like guess work.

So what I wanted is software that used the over-the-air guide like any PVR with series linking that worked using Ids rather than guesswork, provided an Html EPG that could be accessed by anything on the network to browse and set recordings, and would use accurate recording. Could I find anything, no! Solution, program my own software. I'm a programmer, that is my day job, but I had never done anything so low level that is required with Freeview and DVB, but I downloaded the specs and set to work it out.

The result, I've now got an HTML guide using the over-the-air EPG data, proper series linking using the CRIDS, and full support for accurate recording (using the EIT Now/Next). The software works with all four tuners of the HDHomeRun and so can record 4 things at a time, technically you could record more programs concurrently as it is possible on the HDHomeRun to output multiple programs from the same Mux, you can even recording the whole Mux. So far it's been 100% reliable, and we have now stopped using the Humax.

If anyone is in the same situation with the HDHomeRun tuners and wanting something more PVR software wise to utilise them then let me know if you want to give it a go. It is Windows only though.

So once we've cleared the disc on the Humax, it will have itself a well earned retirement.
 

Black Hole

May contain traces of nut
If anyone is in the same situation with the HDHomeRun tuners and wanting something more PVR software wise to utilise them then let me know if you want to give it a go. It is Windows only though.
Sounds good, but I think it would sound better ported to some form of Linux we could run on a dedicated box built from open-source components... I don't know, how about a Raspberry Pi?

There is an existing discussion thread for potential community HDR-FOX replacements, here: https://hummy.tv/forum/threads/homebrew-solutions-to-hdr-fox-replacement.6871/. I'm going to suggest setting up a new forum section or subsection for this kind of discussion, because I can foresee this becoming a hot topic.
 

MymsMan

Ad detector
I am not yet ready to give up on the Humax but it is good to hear that there are some practical alternatives,

If you store your code on github and post your story on forums more directly related to Homerun and Plex you will probably find many others missing, AR and accurate EPG, interested in using your software and helping with building a user community.
 
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lc200

New Member
As I'm not a Linux developer I just worked with what I know and as I have an always on Windows PC for Plex then its a good fit for me. I think for a Pie it would need to be written in C+ to get the performance required and that's a different thing to writing it in C# and the safety/reliability of managed code that I've used.
 
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lc200

New Member
I am not yet ready to give up on the Humax but it is good to hear that there are some practical alternatives,

If you store your code on github and post your story on forums more directly related to Homerun and Plex you will probably find many others missing, AR and accurate EPG, interested in using your software and helping with building a user community.
This is exactly what led me to have a go and create some software as moving from the Humax to something non-Freeview approved with downloaded XML TV guides with less capable software seemed a backward step. Plex's guide data is hopeless, it has reams of complaints since they changed their EPG data supplier, just around the time I started trying it and had already bought a life-time subscription!

The HDHomeRun with four tuners was too convenient to give up on, hence I came to make my own solution, which was fun learning about all the DVB standards and how the data was organised. As a programmer I'm normally dealing with code that is very far removed from being about bytes and bits, so going back to basics was an enjoyable project.

With Plex we must have been running at around a 80% success rate, i.e. 2 out of ten recordings either had a missed start or end, or an episode never got recorded at all, and that is ignoring all the extra repeated episodes that often got recorded that then needed deleting. The Humax must have been running at 99.9% success rate, we couldn't remember the last time it failed to record something. NextPVR software seemed to be the closest thing to decent DVR software and worked well making use of the over-the-air guide, although it didn't make use of CRIDs to do proper series linking and of course no accurate recording.

I already have posted over in the Plex forum and have a few using the software to test it.
 

prpr

Well-Known Member
So what hardware and software exactly makes up the whole caboodle and how do you connect it all together and where do the recordings go, and how do you watch them?
 

Black Hole

May contain traces of nut
By the sounds of things, a Windows PC and then network-served to media players. Dropping the code onto github (if willing to share) would at least allow others to work on porting it to other hardware/OS, possibly alternative tuners.
 
OP
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lc200

New Member
Not much is required, an HDHomeRun networked tuner, either their 2 tuner or 4 tuner boxes, and an always on Windows based PC. I should be able to tweak the software to work with power management so it turns on/off the PC but mine is always on for Plex music and video playback. For playback then provided all the files are dropped onto say the same PC or a networked drive there are several options for playback. If you have a smart TV or some sort of Android TV type box that can have Kodi installed, the playback UI experience is similar to that of the Humax, you can even do chase playback. Plex server (free for most playback functions) can be used if a TV has Plex already built in, and provides options for re-encoding to lesser bit-rates to stream from out of the home or on lesser devices. From a computer you can use anything that plays video files. Unlike an official Freeview device, nothing is recorded encrypted and is just the standard transport streams as transmitted.

My software runs as a windows service and contains it's own web browser, so to set a recording or browse the guide you can just go to a webpage using the IP address of the machine it is installed on, so reachable from anything with a web browser on your network, or even away from home if you set up port fowarding. See attached thumbnails for an idea of what you would see.

If anyone wants to download and try it then it is on Google drive with some instructions. I haven't had anytime to set up a proper installer so it is a few steps to get the pre-requisites on to a machine and it installed, but only needs to be done once. I've got a newer version I'm testing that also allows recording using padding where a channel might not work with accurate recording, i.e. they just play out the Now/Next based on the scheduled time or don't use program identifiers at all.

Folder on Google Drive
 

Attachments

Brian

Administrator
Staff member

erne

Member
Hi
It looks really impressive and have had the files a while ago but due to the covid thing have not had a chance to play/install etc
Will try and get up and running and test this out
I use Plex but for TV - it is very hit and miss
For films I use TVHeadend which I recorded and convert to HEVC mp4s and then make available on Plex. TVHeadend never misses a beat but is not as user friendly as Plex
DvrOnTime could well be the holy grail I am looking for to replace my ageing freeview boxes
 

prpr

Well-Known Member
an always on Windows based PC
Presumably this would work OK with a VM, as the only interface required is network?
This PC is what does the recording is it? What format are the files?
Unlike an official Freeview device, nothing is recorded encrypted
How did you get round the EPG encryption?
My software runs as a windows service and contains it's own web browser
Presumably you meant "contains its own web server"?
or even away from home if you set up port fowarding
I think you mean: if you set up a VPN. Tell me it uses https and not http at least?
 

Black Hole

May contain traces of nut
How did you get round the EPG encryption?
The EPG isn't so much "encrypted" as compressed using a Huffman table which is proprietary and cannot be used commercially without royalties. I don't think the table is a secret any more though.
 
OP
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lc200

New Member
Presumably this would work OK with a VM, as the only interface required is network?
This PC is what does the recording is it? What format are the files?

How did you get round the EPG encryption?

Presumably you meant "contains its own web server"?

I think you mean: if you set up a VPN. Tell me it uses https and not http at least?
The EPG data as others have said isn't encrypted, it is compressed using a sort of look up table that is optimised for the type of text and how common words are repeated, to decompress the event information you need this table however it's pretty trivial to get that table or work it out and it is readily available now.

Yes will work on a VM, I actually tested the install instructions using a VM. The PC will do the recording, it records the transport stream as is (so you have a .ts), it only records the data required to play back the program, including sub-titles and audio description, with the EPG data and all other services excluded to keep the file size the smallest it can be. Four channels can be recording from a 4 channel tuner using typically around 0.5 to 1% CPU on a Kaby Lake processor, a recent tweak to the code I made and still testing now sees it hardly register anything above 0% whilst recording 4 channels, so it is very light weight and optimised.

It doesn't use https, it could, but I don't see the point really so haven't worried about that as there is no personal information stored, if you are using it on your own network no one else gets to see it anyway. You can reach it from a VPN that joins your local network no problem of course. Hope that helps answer the questions.
 
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