Understanding store and forward technology …

[UPDATE:  I published this article in March of 2013, and had already been using this method for a year.  Today is December 8, 2014, and my wife still watches USA tv using this method!  The computer running the software for the Hauppauge PVR still has to be rebooted every few days, but other than that, we have had no issues.]

Store and forward is a fancy name for a simple process.  A piece of equipment (called HAUPPAUGE PVR — NOT Slingbox) records the shows you want.  Once fully recorded, your home computer “pushes” the file (the show you recorded) to a storage location “in the cloud”.  After the cloud storage receives the full file (your show), it “pushes” or “forwards” the show to you.  This all happens automatically without your involvement.

Advantages of Store and Forward:
1.  High speed internet connection is NOT required on both sides.
2.  Your shows are delivered as a FILE.  That file can be moved to your phone, tablet or computer to watch anywhere you want because NO internet connection is required to watch the movie file you have recorded.   You can archive that file; keep it for later; watch it again and again; or whatever else you want. (YES, watch your favorite TV shows on your smartphone or tablet on the airplane!)
3.  Although locally broadcasted commercials are recorded with your shows, you can skip the commercials at high speed because the file is located ON your computer hard drive.  Rewind, fast forward, etc., commands are performed immediately and without delays often caused by internet slowdown.
4.  Shows can be recorded and delivered to you in HD quality!
5.  Since your movies are stored in the cloud, you can access them from other computers; or trusted friends with your password can access your movies.
6.  The shows you want to record can be programmed remotely.
7.

 

Negatives of Store and Forward:
1.  You must subscribe to a cloud service provider (about $99 per year).
2. To program remotely, you must setup remote access to your computer either through Remote Desktop or a free remote access service like logmein.
3. You must program the unit to record the shows you want, and if your interests change, you must re-program your recording criteria.
4.

WARNING:  In 2012, cable subscribers around the USA began to complain that an update to their cable box firmware was causing their cable box to “go to sleep” every few hours if the channel wasn’t changed.  Although there are user settings to prevent the box from going to sleep, these user settings were ignored by the firmware.  Some cable companies updated again, and removed this forced sleep mode, but others (such as SuddenLink) did NOT.  This can have an effect on your programming.

In my instance, I programmed my recorder to come on and record something every three hours (the set attempted to sleep betweeen 3 and 4 hours of no channel change).  Since my cable provider wasn’t willing to update their boxes, this was the only solution I could find.

 

Lets talk about SLINGBOX first.  There is a company called Jaksta that makes a software that allegedly records shows onto your computer for use as a store and forward system.  THE SOFTWARE IS JUNK.  Slingbox will *ONLY* allow recording at 320×240, so *if* the flaky software actually worked, you would have a recording that is substantially less quality than a youtube recording!

(My favorite place of information on the subject is a forum called placeshiftingenthusiasts.  Some of the discussions get highly technical, and way over my head.  Here is their review of the jaksta crap software which they think is ok.  http://placeshiftingenthusiasts.com/jaksta-recorder-for-slingbox-slingplayer-review/)

Although I like Slingbox, and when it comes to STREAMING shows and videos, it does a great job, Slingbox is NOT the solution if you do not have VERY FAST internet bandwidth on both sides of the connection.  When I am in the USA and want to watch my sling from a friend’s house or a hotel with high speed internet, the sling works great.  Change channels, look at the directory of shows … crisp, clean TV in real time.  Especially in the larger cities where the offerings are as much as 50Mbps!

But when I am NOT in the USA, using Slingbox is no longer feasible.  One of the drawbacks that most people don’ t realize is that the “bandwidth” they have subscribed to does not guarantee the same speed for international access.  For example, here in Southeast Asia, we subscribe to “12Mbps down” internet service.  However, that speed is domestic – within the country we are in.  International speeds drop to less than 1Mbps and can sometimes be just slightly better than dial-up. :(  Although my Sling is still connected and accessible, I stopped trying to access my USA Slingbox from my international location and sought new solutions.

 

That is when I found the HAUPPAUGE 1212 PVR.  Let’s try an easy explanation.  Although you can watch shows Live and in Real time with the Hauppauge, that is not what it is designed for, and it would lose in a competition if this were the only criteria.

But the Hauppauge excels when it comes to capturing and STORING shows and movies onto your computer as files.  It does not have its own hard drive and does not store anything inside the unit.  In effect, it PASSES the signal from your cable box through the Hauppauge and to your computer hard drive.  All of the recording and storing occurs on your attached computer.  Yes, just like the Sling, you must have a dedicated computer attached to the unit and your TV.

Installation of the controlling software on your computer and the controlling codes for the IR channel changer were easy as long as you have patience and read the quick start guide.  Naturally, I didn’t start with patience and was frustrated quickly.  Second time around, relax, read the instructions, and everything installed without a hitch.

Connecting the unit is easy – but my setup was already complicated as I also have a Sling connected.  Again with a little patience, I was able to connect the unit without interfering with or removing my Sling.  Since I already own both units, I wanted to keep both units fully accessible.

I mentioned previously that to remotely program the unit, you need to either set up Remote Desktop application or use a free service like logmein.  Since I don’t have a fixed (dedicated IP), and my cable provider forces a disconnection at midnight of each night to change my IP, I needed a way to be able to “find” my TV remotely.  (Sling has a built in system to handle this problem, but Hauppauge does not).  Logmein is the simplest solution.  However, I wanted both a logmein solution and a secondary system using Remote Desktop.

The methods I chose are both free – and simple.  I downloaded and installed the update client of no-ip.com.  Every few minutes, the update client verifies the IP address of my computer and “tells” the no-ip service so I can always connect to my computer, no matter how many times they force my IP to change.  I also signed up and installed logmein.

The final step before programming, was to sign up for a cloud service provider.  The easy way to do this is to sign up for a free account.  If you like it and it all works the way you wanted, then upgrade and pay for a much larger storage account.  For 100g of storage, I paid $99.  With the settings I am using, every 1 hour show takes 1/2 gig (500megs) of storage. More information on cloud storage is HERE.

And now we are ready to go!  It is time to program the Haupauge  to record the shows I want.  Click on the on-screen directory-of-shows, change the setting to reflect MY cable company, click on a show, tell it to record, and we are done.  You can tell it to record daily, weekly, only some days, or only the one time.

SUPER WEAKNESS #1 OF THE HAUPPAUGE:  You can’t tell the guide/recorder to schedule itself for every episode of a particular show.  For example, on my cable-dvr box, I can tell it to record “World’s Dumbest Criminals” for example, and to record every time that the show plays REGARDLESS of what time or day it plays.

This is not possible on the Hauppauge.  You can only tell it to record a specific TIME of day, and whether to repeat that daily, weekly, etc.  For most networks and regular shows, it works fine.  But if you are trying to record from networks like Animal Planet or TruTV, you find it becomes difficult because these networks do NOT maintain the same schedule from week to week.  They run shows whenever they feel like it with no rhyme or reason.

If you enjoy setting and playing with your show selection every 10 days or so, then it won’t matter as you will be able to choose and record any shows you want.  If you are like me, and are exceptionally lazy, you will find yourself with shows that you don’t watch – you simply delete because you didn’t want them.  That also means that I don’t always get all of the shows I wanted, but I do get enough TV shows to watch and keep me entertained and that is the real benefit.

In terms of operations, that is it!  My shows are “stored” and “forwarded” to me every day.  They continue to build until I feel like watching.  If I don’t like what was recorded, I delete … “no harm no foul”.

Previously I mentioned the issue with the cable-dvr box “going to sleep”.  It is because of this issue that I give Hauppauge it’s next main weakness that I have discovered.

SUPER WEAKNESS #2 OF THE HAUPPAUGE PVR:  Even though the IR remote control *CAN* turn the dvr on and off (it does this to test its’ settings), it WILL NOT DO THIS as part of the programming to record a show.

In other words, if the programmers included the “turn dvr on” command as part of the recording sequence (just before the command to change channels and record), then the entire “going to sleep” issue would be a moot point.  But they didn’t, and it doesn’t turn the unit on.  A huge and glaring weakness – since the ability already exists in the unit’s programming.

There are other solutions out there but these are the two that were most common, most available, and the ones I have experience with.  When you begin researching, you need more than sales data and press releases.  You need someone to tell you about their experience with the unit, and most importantly, what they DISLIKED about the unit.  That is the real test of a unit’s suitability.

 

Finally, I want to address TORRENTS again.  Lets mention what everyone hears when it comes to torrents and have accepted these to be fact without documentation to support them.  And let me clarify that this is MY opinion — I am not asking you to agree, disagree, or care.  You are reading this website for my experiences, opinions and suggestions for improving your life through technology.  Unless you are interested in torrents specifically, you can skip this entire section.

1.  “Torrents are illegal”.  WRONG.  Torrents and the networks that work with them are not illegal.  Illegal Torrents are illegal.

2.  “Torrents deprive the original producer of hard-earned revenue”.  WRONG.  Sorry, I don’t believe this one, even though it is the most common excuse, and has been the basis for USA lawsuits.  Here is why I don’t agree:

I subscribe to cable TV service in the USA, even though I am not physically in the USA to watch it, and there is no one at my apartment to watch it either. If I was there, I could watch anything I wanted anytime day or night.  (Yes, I could use Sling, but that is not what we are talking about since some people even think that is illegal!).

I download a torrent containing the TV Show “Castle”.  As soon as it is finished downloading, I remove it from my torrent program and watch it.  After watching it, I delete it.

SO HOW DID I DEPRIVE THE NETWORK OF REVENUE????  I had the right to watch it at the original time of broadcast as I pay for Cable TV; I had the right to watch it delayed by storing in my Cable-tv-dvr, which also allows me to skip commercials; So, NO!  I do not feel I am depriving anyone of anything.

I will only agree that torrents MAY deprive movie theatre revenue when someone records with a hand-cam and has a brand new movie released as a torrent immediately upon release.  I’ll concede that may have a small affect on revenue but not by much.  WHY?  The people who are willing to watch a POOR COPY of a movie made by a hand held camera would have NEVER paid $10-20 per person to attend a movie theathre presentation.

3.  “All torrents have viruses and spyware”.  WRONG.  There is a HUGE movement among torrent users to only upload and download videos/movies/tv shows in their original movie format.   The most likely source of viruses would be uploads that have been zipped or rarred.  Avoid those, and you eliminate 99% of risk.  To this day, I have never picked up a virus from torrents — but my friends get viruses all the time just from going to strange websites!

So I get asked:  “You have Sling and you have Hauppauge.  Why would you risk using torrents at all?  Don’t you have access to everything without having to expose yourself to the risk?”

NO.  Torrents give me the opportunity to download an entire season at a time, as well as previous seasons so I can begin a show when it began.  Torrents give the opportunity to download older shows as well, as they are not being broadcast.  I can’t tell you how many shows from 10 years ago I watched and enjoyed.  Good examples were Boston Public and Wiseguy … shows that I enjoyed when they were released in 2000+ but that no long play on tv.  If not for torrents, I wouldn’t watch them again.

Critics argue that the example I just gave is where producers lose money – because I am not paying for the DVD sets of those old series.  But guess what?  I am not going to buy those dvd sets!  So if I download them and watch them, great.  But if I don’t, I am not paying to buy old series that I already have watched.  So again I ask, how did the producers lose money????

I consider TORRENTS to be a form of store and forward technology although there is no true forwarding mechanism.  However, in the true sense of the word, the person who uploaded the files, has in effect, “forwarded” them to a location where I can get them.

 

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