Category Archives: Techfo

Posts about Information, reviews and tips regarding technology, Internet, gadgets and more

Blogging from my ipod touch

How usefull is this mobile blogging? Since I have an itouch and a wordpress blog, I tought I’d give it a try,

So I downloaded the wordpress app for iPhone and ipod touch… simple straight forward setup, and here we go. You can edit current posts or create new ones and even include photos, either from the iPhone camera (snapshot) or your photo library

photo

*** From my Macbook – I have to admit bloggin’ from the ipod is cool, but i came back to my laptop and did some editing, much easier because of cut and paste, (what are you waiting for Apple). still for a quick post, while sitting on the couch or out and about, it’s pretty awesome. ***

Control your universe on a budget – Remotely

Remote ControlIn a world of converging entertainment devices, who hasn’t been faced with a coffee table full of remotes? Most of which are badly designed, unintuitive, and just a pain to learn.

When shopping for a universal remote, one can spend hundreds of dollars. Boasting features like an LCD touch screen, USB interface, and an online database of downloadable codes.

But what if I don’t want to spend $500.00, $200.00, or even $50.00 on one of these marvels? Isn’t there a "budget" remote that does what I need?

My main concern was to find one that could replace my current favorite (PVR remote). Now that’s a well designed remote.

The issue was those extra features that your typical universal remote doesn’t have (page up, page down, back , skip, search, and other pvr functions). Most  "budget" remotes (sub $15), not only lack these features, but their layouts are pretty lousy. And to top it all off, they only contain a short list of device codes.

The day I stumbled upon the Philips P6DSS Universal Satellite Remote , as I was browsing through the  electronics department, at Zellers. I noticed it had a similar button layout as my PVR remote "woohoo". Upon closer inspection, I also noticed  the relevant buttons (skip, scan, FF, RW, Play, Pause,and Stop).

This is when I  said to myself, "snap out of it dummy, these are typical VCR functions"… But!, right above the navigation buttons, there laid the (pg up/pg down). That’s what got my hopes up, once again.

The Second criteria it had to meet, was being able to control my XboX console (it’s been my media center since the day I modded it), Anyhow, according to the package, it supports XboX. AWESOME :) , as soon as I saw that, I went ahead and picked it up.

Programming was a cinch, all the codes (TV, VCR, and PVR) worked fine. As for the XboX, I had to use the learning feature. It took a few extra minutes, but in the end, it was a snap. Now I can access all the features from my original remotes, and in the case of my tv remote even more than the original.

This slick baby is lightweight, intuitive, and without any compromise in function. And with a price tag of only CA $18, you just can’t go wrong. The only negative thing I could say about it, would be the buttons feeling a little hard to press, and doesn’t seem to have the quickness of the originals. For a guy with hot dog fingers like mine, it’s barely noticeable, and merrits my two thumbs up. 

The Hard Drive on my PVR died – What do I do?

So the hard drive on your PVR dies, what do you do? Do you go out and drop $299 on a new PVR or… Hey wait I’m a techie, I’ll just buy a $60 HD, pop open the lid and just replace it, right? unfortunately it’s not that easy, after days of trial and error, I finally got it to work, it took , lots of reading, lots of patience and of course lots of Diet Coke, I will share the steps I took to finally make it work.

First a brief explanation of the inner workings, of the Bell Expressvu 5100. When you get a factory new PVR, and plug it in, the built-in software lets call this "firmware", is "virgin"… The firmware initializes the HD with the receiver serial number and smart card number, this procedure is called marrying the hard drive with the receiver. Once that’s done, the firmware gets updated through the satellite signal, and is no longer "virgin". All this is seamless and fairly quick, it just looks/sounds like the receiver is booting up.

Now since the hard drive is "married" to the receiver, you can’t just buy a new HD and just plop it in, on top of that, the receiver only works with a handful of specific hard drives. But when I bought mine, the clerk at the PC store convinced me he’s done this before and sold me a Western Digital HD promising it would work. the 5100 PVR only supports some models of Maxtors and Seagate drive, Luckily a good buddy of mine had an 80Gb Maxtor Drive he was willing to swap with me, although it was not on the list as one of the supported drives, I think it made the job easier, because the many attempts of getting the western digital to work were unsuccessful.

Alright, enough with all this blabbing and lets get to: "how I replaced my HD"… Here is what I used, you can find out more info on the following, by using google, and there’s also a great yahoo group called dishmod loaded with information.

  • New Hard Drive – the one I used was an 80Gb Maxtor 6Y080L0
  • Jtag – a piece of hardware that allows you to connect your PC to your receiver, in order to upload/download firmware
  • Original Smart Card – because the new card is incompatible with virgin firmware
  • Jkeys 2.9.11 – software that allows you to upload/download firmware to/from receiver
  • Flash Edit 2.1 – software that allows you to edit firmware information
  • Hex Workshop – software which allows you to edit any file "will use it to add HD serial number"
  • IRDr 3.16 – software which "fixes" CRC errors "caused by editing the files" and generates EEPROM files
  • Virgin Firmware – I used P087 with DCKA build … do a google search for "tsop banks"
  • PowerMax – Maxtor HD utility – used to low level format the HD "zero-ing the HD"
  • Caffeine -  I use Diet Coke, some prefer Coffee… required to stay awake when things go wrong

Make sure you have all the above things before you begin:

  1. The first thing you’ll want to do is "zero fill" your hard drive also known as low-level format, I used PowerMax boot disk. Make sure you choose the correct HD, and select full format not quick. This may take a while 90 min or so for my 80gb, while that’s working "assuming you have a second PC" goto step 2
  2. Backup your current firmware by connecting your Jtag to the receiver and using Jkeys. You will need to  save flash1, flash2 and EEPROM, keep them in a safe place (also make a few backups). These files contain important info (following bullet points) make note of them because you will need them at a later time to restore your system.
    • Boxkeys like: 11 22 33 44 55 66 77 88
    • IRD # like: R 00 1234 5678-123
    • Build Cfg mine was DCKA
  3. Once you find your Virgin TSOP… the one I used was P087 build DCKA, (you must find a build matching the one from your backup). At that point you can open it up in FlashEdit, and paste in the values you got from the backup (boxkeys, IRD, Build), check the "fix CRC" box and save as.
  4. Now you can open that updated virgin file in Hex workshop, I searched for ST380020ACE and typed over it with Maxtor 6Y080L0 "it IS case sensitive", this shows up twice in the file, so do a second search/replace… and finally save the updated file, to make it easier for the next step use a simple name, like u7.bin
  5. The edit in the previous step causes a CRC error, so you have to run it through the IRDr.exe application. Open up a DOS prompt, goto the irdr <dir> and type "irdr u7.bin" it will ask you if you want to rename the file, "choose yes", it will also ask you if you want to save a new file, "choose yes", you will have a file with .UPD.bin at the end
  6. You’re now ready to upload the edited virgin firmware, fireup jkeys, connect the jtag, start by erasing flash1 then flash2, you can then program the firmware onto flash 2. there was also a virgin eeprom that came with the P087 virgin flash, upload the virgin eeprom and your done.
  7. You can now connect your receiver , your HD, insert your smart card (I forgot to mention, Expressvu sent out new smartcards a year or so ago, because the virgin firmware is older you will need your original card) and power up the unit, at this point , if all is well there will be a nice marriage between the receiver and the hard drive, if you don’t get any error messages it’s a good sign, but you won’t be able to tell, only channel 198 will work , no PVR functions.
  8. Remember the backup in step 2? We will need to do Steps 4-6 to your backup firmware, which is edit to add Maxtor drive, fix CRC with IRDr then Use Jkeys to upload the edited file and your EEPROM Backup.
  9. Reconnect everything. Power up… And if you’re lucky, you will see "Hard Drive is spinning up" Message, followed by "aquiring signal", and finally be able to record your favorite shows.

The drawback of this procedure is: every time your receiver gets an update you will have to download/edit your firmware to include the "unsupported" drive, I strongly recommend getting a supported drive, it will save you lots of headaches

I hope my experience sheds some light on the procedure or can at least point you in the right direction, I know I haven’t gone into much detail, but if you already have some experience in this hobby , it can be a huge help for some of us, especially as a reminder to jog our memory, months down the road.