Humax can be difficult to use

Ron347

New Member
OK, I confess, I'm a Topfield man! Love it (with Mystuff), when it works. Bought a cheap Fox HDR against the day the Topfield finally died. Recently it did, so I have been getting to grips with Humax.

I expected to have difficulty with a new interface, and I did. Most of it is the inevitable problem of getting used to something different, some of it is missing much-loved facilities (like those in Mystuff and Quickjump - configurable jumping forward/backwards by a variety of times), but some of it is the sheer unergonomics of the Humax UI.

For example, why is it considered sensible to delete media by pressing Opt then selecting delete, especially when you delete reservations by pressing the blue button. Physically, who decided it was wise to hide away the Play and Pause buttons (two of the most characteristic actions in a PVR) in rows of small buttons.

But there are many things to love about it - especially the HD and general picture quality. And, of course, the native Topfield UI (without taps like Mystuff etc) is also rubbish.

So, tell me, has anyone produced a replacement UI (like Mystuff) to make life easier for the lazy user? Also what experience do people have of alternative remotes? I tried looking at the list of add-ons, but failed

I'll now lay back and wait to be burnt by the wrath of Hummy lovers...please be gentle with me....

Ron
 

Wallace

Traveler 34122
Welcome to the forum. Not many people like change. But one way or another it happens!

Unfortunately the native UI cannot be changed, however you can install the Custom Firmware (CF) which will add a plethora of features and a WebIF (Web interface) that is accessed via a PC, tablet or what have you.

I would wholeheartedly recommend the CF.

Personally I use a Logitech Harmony 785 remote. Works like a charm, once set up correctly.

HTH.
 

Ezra Pound

Well-Known Member
Hi Ron347, I wasn't sure which Humax product you have, is it the Freeview HDR-Fox T2 or the Satellite Foxsat HDR?, There is Custom Firmware available for both these products, details for the HDR Fox T2 Custom firmware can be found HERE and details for the Foxsat HDW Custom Firmware can be found HERE
 
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Ron347

New Member
Thanks both - CF seems the way to go. My stupidity - it is the HDR-Fox T2. Is it possible to move posts?
 

Mike2

Forum Supporter
I agree that the UI isn't too intuitive. A Delete button to delete things is more intuitive. The custom firmware web UI makes things a whole lot easier though. Why not click OK and choose Delete?

The Favourites are ill conceived too, only sticky on the channel list.
 
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Ron347

New Member
I'll give it a go. I love the flexibility a web ui offers (cf remote) but my Remote is always near the TV, whereas my phone/tablet could be anywhere
 

TonyC

Member
I'm also a recent Toppy -> Humax convert, so I sympathise.

The Custom Firmware does massively increase the capabilities of the machine, and the Web interface lets you do a lot of things (browsing / moving recordings, setting timers, adjusting settings, etc) easily through your PC, that are a complete pain through the normal UI and remote control.

Unfortunately there is (as I understand it) no equivalent of the Toppy's TAP mechanism and no way for any add-on code to display anything on the screen, or to play recordings. It's therefore impossible to write anything to replace the standard UI in the way that MyStuff does on the Toppy.
 

Black Hole

May contain traces of nut
Correct. Topfield published the API (in other words the programming specifications) for their software, enabling enthusiasts to extend the functionality of the entire user interface and functionality. The operation of the HDR-FOX, including all the driver details for the video and audio systems, is hidden away inside a single undocumented executable, the only "weakness" being that they used a Linux operating system to handle standard disk I/O and networking, and therefore had to release details of that under the requirements of the licence.

The consequence is that, with only one or two exceptions, the custom firmware (under discussion in its own section of this forum) adds utilities which operate alongside the Humax executable and interact with the contents of the disk and network traffic by using the time-sharing facilities of the Linux operating system. The areas of the hardware which are controlled directly by the Humax executable (a lot easier for Humax to develop that way than to develop standard drivers for the operating system, and more efficient when fast operation is essential) - ie the video and audio systems, also the tuner hardware - are effectively out of bounds to us.

Neither did Humax make it easy to insert code. Only once a firmware update download had been analysed and the brainboxes (af123) worked out how to spoof one was it then possible to add execution threads to the processing queue and branch it to user code on hard disk rather than confined to the EPROM. In short, we're bloody lucky to have what we have, and it is going to be a lot more difficult to spoof a download for the HDR-2000T.

The exceptions are that the interfaces to the remote control handset and the front panel display have been intercepted, so the way in which the front panel VFD and LED ring present information can be customised, and the IR command stream manipulated. Thus we have the facility to inject remote control commands from a web interface virtual RC and to create macros and remap the real RC buttons, although macros are limited by the dead-reckoning required to navigate menus and not knowing where you are starting from.

Thus you should think of the HD- & HDR-FOX custom firmware as adding new facilities mostly confined to management via a web browser (as the only I/O we have ready access to) and running alongside the Humax code despite Humax's lock-down, than integrated into the existing facilities with the co-operation of Humax (as is the case with Topfield TAPs). See Quick Guide to Custom Firmware (click).

I disagree that the HDR-FOX is difficult to use. It might be difficult to adapt to a different UI when accustomed to another one, just as it takes a while to get comfortable driving a different car (particularly when switching manufacturer), but the HDR-FOX is not difficult per se, and came top in ease of use comparisons. I have seen a lot worse.
 
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Ron347

New Member
Thank you TonyC and BlackHole for two interesting posts. I have put my network extender in place and am loading the cf etc today.

Your comment on drivers explains why the Humax is blindingly fast on resuming after a playback jump cf the high latency of the topfield.

It is interesting to ponder why Humax took the lockdown approach. Topfield demonstrated that if you take a poor bit of hardware (certainly power supplies), with lousy software and open it up to external development, it can make the product more attractive to purchasers and increase sales (mind you I confess I have no data to back this up). Certainly this approach made the original IBM PC the success it was, way back. Open standards always seem to trump (hidden) technical superiority in this business.

However, Black Hole, I lean towards Tony on the poor remote - even accepting your point about change My point about two different delete actions is a fundamental transgression...there are others. Incidentally I have two Fords with radically different operator designs - they are merely different (and a pain in the ...) - but neither is better than the other. However, the Humax remote/UI are not merely different to the Topfield, they are worse. Have you used a topfield extensively? Anyway let's not fall out on this, I look forward to enjoying the cf/web approach.
 

Black Hole

May contain traces of nut
One reason for the "lock down" is for Humax to satisfy contractual requirements for the licensing of the EPG data and the FreeviewHD+ logo.

As to the rest - it depends how you look at it. The schedule entries are not entities being "deleted" as such, they are being removed from the list in an edit operation. The recording manipulations are all unified under the OPT+ (options) button (using the OK button is a confusing red-herring). These have never bothered me. OK, so the layout of the Humax handset is not the best, but if you really don't like it switch to a Harmony or something.

No, I have never used a Topfield, but I am still convinced it is only a question of acclimatisation. Having taught a couple of elderly self-proclaimed technophobe people to use the HDR-FOX, I have found it is only a case of presenting the information in the right way (although I admit the CF and a Harmony helped).
 

Owen Smith

Active Member
I used several Pace Twins before switching to the HDR Fox T2. I found the transition easy, because the user interfaces are so similar. The only pain was the remote control, the Pace Twin one was much better laid out with Pause, rewind/ffwd etc much more prominent.
 

TonyC

Member
I guess one of the key advantages of the Toppy with its various optional add-ons was that the UI was much more customisable. Everyone has their own idea about how the UI should behave; while I agree that some of the Humax's ways of doing things do seem just plain wrong, a lot of other "niggles" are just down to personal preference. With a customisable UI, there's a much higher chance of being able to set it up to what you personally view as being "correct". As BH says, I think the Humax is at the very least no worse than average among PVRs in terms of usability, and quite possibly above average.

As BH mentions, officially opening up a PVR to "user tinkering" allows the box to do things that may be forbidden by the rules of Freeview. Manufacturers probably also feel that there is a high risk of increased support costs if users "brick" their devices or otherwise cause them to behave in unexpected ways. There must also be a fairly large effort required in coding and documenting a decent API - I suspect much of the Humax code does not look very "pretty" internally...

There are a few PVRs on the market now that do allow plug-ins and customisation - for example Miraclebox - but most of them seem to be for technically competent users only. This is probably a relatively small market.
 

Owen Smith

Active Member
I have a different view. It drives me mad at work when I sit down at someone else's PC to try to help them, and they've recustomised the UI so much that I can't actual operate their damned computer! Personally I prefer it if I can look at the bit of kit, go "aha that's an xyz", and that alone tells me exactly how it operates and I know that I can drive it because I know that UI. Excessive customisation of UIs is a bane of the modern world. I have to bite my tongue to avoid ranting whenever someone tells me how much they love their Android phone because they can completely customise the UI to be unlike anyone else's setup.
 

dragon-it

Member
The web-if makes an amazing difference to the Humax and managing all the recordings that will never be watched (220+ Home & Away's, dozens of Neighbours together with the thousands of kids programs etc...

So silly question but is there any technical reason why a fake MHEG based "channel" couldn't be added by the web-if into the system but used to point to local data rather than broadcast, or the "TV portal" could present some or all of the functions from the web-if, e.g. the mobile site type layout, and access the EPG or media data etc alongside the other custom portal changes?
 

Black Hole

May contain traces of nut
I have a different view. It drives me mad at work when I sit down at someone else's PC to try to help them, and they've recustomised the UI so much that I can't actual operate their damned computer!
I whole-heatedly agree.

So silly question but is there any technical reason why a fake MHEG based "channel" couldn't be added by the web-if into the system but used to point to local data rather than broadcast,
Bearing in mind the HDR-FOX cannot handle MHEG?

or the "TV portal" could present some or all of the functions from the web-if, e.g. the mobile site type layout, and access the EPG or media data etc alongside the other custom portal changes?
I thought of this too, and it might be practical now the internal web browser has settled.
 

Owen Smith

Active Member
The web-if makes an amazing difference to the Humax and managing all the recordings that will never be watched (220+ Home & Away's, dozens of Neighbours together with the thousands of kids programs etc...

I never use the web-if for managing recordings or schedules. I use it for managing the features of the custom firmware I use eg, RedRing, Fan, Disable-OTA, and for diagnostics on the hard disc.
 

dragon-it

Member
I whole-heatedly agree.
Bearing in mind the HDR-FOX cannot handle MHEG?

I have no idea whether it is or would be possible to "fake" a channel that is isn't broadcast but accessed locally but not sure what you are saying about MHEG, unless you mean the extensions for supporting internet sourced video - I just meant the text/graphic based pages.

But yes access to some of the webif gadgets through a TV portal based web facility would be good.

Such a shame that the TV side of the UI is a black-box as otherwise frankly the likes of af123 would no doubt have done Humax job for them, fixed the EPG and Media speeds, made MHEG-IC? channels work etc..
 

rowanmoor

Member
As another ex-Topfield user (well, I use both side-by-side still) I have to agree with Ron and TonyC. I'm sure the Humax user interface is one of the best that has ever been on the market, but to me that is like saying the user interface is the best badly designed UI around. The native Topfield interface is certainly far, far worse.

The difference with a Toppy running mystuff is that the users designed the UI based on a starting point of 'what actions do I do all the time - make them easy/quick/intuitive'. So, for example, when you watch a recording and stop it at the end of the program (but not if you are only part way through) then it prompts to delete the recording, defaulting to yes, but with the option of no. Therefore deleting something you have just watched becomes a single OK click in response to an obvious on-screen prompt rather than 4 key presses after stopping it. Or showing twice as much info in less space on the File List rather than taking it up with a thumbnail that always shows an advert or the channel ident. It is about making everything quick and transparent to use. The options come about because everyone uses things in different ways.

Good UI design is VERY difficult, and people who are good at it have very complex test studios where they track users eye movements and precise timings of what they are doing to work out where they expect things to be and how to show them what to do at each stage so they aren't left wondering how to do it or take longer to do it than is absolutely necessary.

I'm afraid I have a different opinion from Owen and BH - on UI customisation. The UI is there to help me to do what I want to do, not to get in the way. If I can make it do what I want quicker (and I know that what I want to do is often not the same as the next user) then that is a good thing. There is a reason that I and some others in my company are far more productive than some other people doing the same thing - we set up our PCs so that they work for us rather than the UI getting on the way of what we want to do. When I connect to someone else's PC to support them, if I can't do what I need to because of how they have set up their PC then I view that as my failing - when I am supporting people I should know how to use the PC at the simplest level (keyboard and commandline) so that their setup does not matter. If I look at 2 phones and what I use my phone for 50 times a day takes 5 taps on one and 1 tap on another, I know which I will prefer.

We are all different though, and liking a UI is a very personal thing. As BH says, you can very easily get used to the Humax UI after a relatively short time.
 

MartinLiddle

Super Moderator
Staff member
The difference with a Toppy running mystuff is that the users designed the UI based on a starting point of 'what actions do I do all the time - make them easy/quick/intuitive'.
I have never used a Topfield but certainly the MyStuff user interface does seem to be well regarded. As a matter of interest do you know if MyStuff infringes any of the patents on PVR UI design (many held by Tivio)? I suspect that will have been a constraint on the Humax designers.
 

rowanmoor

Member
I have never used a Topfield but certainly the MyStuff user interface does seem to be well regarded. As a matter of interest do you know if MyStuff infringes any of the patents on PVR UI design (many held by Tivio)? I suspect that will have been a constraint on the Humax designers.
That is a very good question!

I haven't looked into it so I have no idea based on facts, but my suspicion would be that it does infringe them. That is purely based on my knowledge of what companies have managed to patent in other sectors and that Tivo have quite a few patents around PVRs. It would also explain why no PVRs seem to do what most users would regard as obvious things.

If it is true then it will be another case of a single company in a market using patents to make sure that the competition has to be worse than its own products and little to do with real innovation.

As MyStuff is a community product it will have fallen under the radar of Tivo and so not had problems with patents. I'm sure many would say that is a positive reason for a manufacturer to have an extendible UI like Topfield did - let the community do what patents prevent the manufacturer from doing ;)

Having said all that - Topfield do not make PVRs for the UK freeview market any more so it clearly was not a profitable enough product for them to jump through the certification hurdles to do a replacement product for the mass UK market. There is a small interest in the boxes like the Miraclebox, but they are not Freeview+ certified so I don't think they can have any access to the freeview HD epg which may give issues with things like accurate recording.

The T2 certainly seems to be the best HD option out there whether individuals like the UI or not.
 
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