BeyondTV Follow-up

October 12, 2007 at 10:31 pm Leave a comment

Thanks to the helpful folks at SnapStream, we’ve figured out the problem that I had with the video conversion failure (showsqueeze to H264 format) that I mentioned in my SageTV vs. BeyondTV entry.

Windows Update. Yes, this was completely my fault. I could have sworn that I had previously disabled automatic updates (perhaps another update enabled it?), but the cause of my showsqueeze failure was that Windows decided to reboot to finish the update process. I also admit here that I am prone to procrastination. I shouldn’t have, but I avoided the few clicks needed to stop this problem by making the change to my Windows Update setting. I found out later that my procrastination would catch up with me.

So, I tried the showsqueeze again. My target this time was an episode of Journeyman that I hadn’t watch yet. A few hours into the operation, my wife and I started watching the show. One nice thing about the way BeyondTV does these showsqueeze conversions is that they run at Low priority, so your processor will show pretty much 100% usage, but in reality your machine is still very responsive. Even though it was using all its spare cycles to convert the show, it was still able to record another show and serve up this episode of Journeyman to my upstairs PC.

On to my problem this time… When I was done watching the episode of Journeyman, I absentmindedly hit “Delete” within BeyondTV Link (their app that lets me watch my recordings on another PC). That caused BTV Link to lock up. This is a bug in my eyes. Yes, the end-user started a showsqueeze on an episode, then watched it, and told BeyondTV to delete it before the showsqueeze had completed, but that seems like a reasonable thing that could happen to anyone. In fact, how would one avoid this problem if one has certain shows set to automatically showsqueeze? Anyhow, back to the problem. After giving it a bit of time to recover, I killed the task and restarted BTV Link. This time, it locked up just after selecting the “Recordings” screen. I ended up having to stop BeyondTV on the server (which took probably 3-4 minutes, but eventually worked). Of course, this killed the showsqueeze that had been underway. I restarted BTV and BTV Link and all seemed well again. So, I restarted the showsqueeze operation. By this time, it had ran for over 4 hours and it was now a bit after 11 PM. I figured that I’d just get some sleep and check on it in the morning.

Woops! Windows Update strikes again! Yes, it is true. When I awoke the next morning and checked on the status, it had failed, and it was due to an automatic reboot. My procrastination in making that small configuration change had wasted several more hours of processor time. I hadn’t done it because I figured “Hey – Windows just applied updates a couple of days ago with a reboot. What’s the chance that it will apply more tonight?”. Apparently, the answer is 100%. Anyhow, I restarted the showsqueeze once again and headed out to work.

Finally! Success! When I arrived home that evening, I checked the status and it was done! Now, I found both great news, and terrible news.

Amazing space reduction! The conversion reduced the filesize of the episode from approximately 8.5 GB to just over 500 MB. That’s about 1/17th the size. I was blown away at how tiny the file was compared to the original. What makes it even more amazing is that when I played back the resultant file, it looked awesome. If I had the H264 version playing side-by-side with the original, I don’t know that I’d be able to tell them apart. This was with the AppleTV pre-set profile that comes with BeyondTV.

Now, the terrible news… It took almost 10 hours to convert that one hour show with my 2.4 Ghz P4 machine with 512 MB of ram. Mind you, a few shows were recorded during the conversion process (probably about 2.5 hours worth), but I don’t think this is very practical. Perhaps the iPod setting reduces this time to something a bit more reasonable, but I haven’t made another attempt yet.

More good news: The integrated iTunes support worked. Since I had already clicked on the link in iTunes to subscribe to the RSS feed offered by BeyondTV, the 500+ megabyte file transfered over to iTunes.

More bad news: Playback within iTunes did not work. Snapstream support said that iTunes playback is a bit flaky and suggested that I try watching it on the AppleTV, so I tried. Perhaps this wasn’t a test scenario of theirs, but suffice it to say, I ran into problems. I don’t actually sync content to my AppleTV, but rather stream it from my iMac. I tried going to my iMac (as a Source in AppleTV), but each time it attempted to connect, it waited for some minutes, only to fail to display the list of TV Shows, Podcasts, etc. to watch, returning me to the Source screen of my AppleTV. After trying several times, rebooting the AppleTV and trying again, I finally deleted the “Podcast” that iTunes was subscribed to for BeyondTV content. When I returned to my AppleTV moments later (in another room), it had connected to my iMac. No converted show was there, though, so I knew it didn’t pop up until after that entry had been deleted. I haven’t tried to replicate these results again, as odd as they sound.

In conclusion, I would have to say that BeyondTV is a very good product that is only getting better. The long showsqueeze time would be very suitable to use for a show that you wanted to keep long-term, since the resultant file looks great and ended up being smaller than a single CD.  Perhaps a bit more time will let Snapstream iron out the other odd issues I ran into.

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Entry filed under: General.

SageTV vs. BeyondTV New HD Antenna Arrives

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