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The Rat who is made of Stainless Steel


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stainsteelrat
It's been a fortnight since I've owned the Western Digital Live TV and initially reviewed it, and I thought it was worth a follow up review.

Generally speaking it's excellent. I did wonder whether I would still use the 360 and PS3 to watch videos, but despite the slow start up time of the Live TV I've not used the 360 or PS3 the whole time.

It's not all gravy though, as there are still some frustrations while using it:

1. Buffering - if the LAN is being used to copy data then the Live TV is unusable. I'm not sure why, but it doesn't seem to buffer files at all. If I play the same files on VLC on my laptop they work without issue. This is in reference to SD files, so the bandwidth is clearly there, with some buffering. File under minor frustration, as it's rare I use the LAN to copy files.

2. Bookmarks - the 360 will remember for any file you've been playing where you last played it, and then offer to restart at that point. This works even when the 360 has been turned off and on again. Initially I thought the Live TV was doing this, but the function is erratic to say the least. I thought that the bookmarks were lost when I turned off the device, which is a bit useless if you're halfway through watching a film. But then sometimes it does seem to remember. There are many times where it hasn't worked though. File under major frustration.

3. Chapter Skip - again the 360 has a feature where you can skip to around 10 evenly distributed points through a video file. This is great for skipping parts you've already seen, or simply don't want to see. As far as I can tell the Live TV doesn't have this. Using the Chapter Skip equivalent jumps to the next file in the folder. There's still fast forward and rewind, which go up to 16x. Still slow if you're trying to get to the middle of say a film. File under minor frustration.

4. Erratic Authorisation - typically when I browse to my media folder on the network I am told it cannot access it. Initially I thought this was a problem with the PC, so would reboot it. Then I thought it was a problem with the Live TV, so I rebooted that. I should have just persisted on the device itself though, as pressing the button to access the folder again works 100% of the time *facepalm* My laptop can always access folders on the desktop, so my suspicions are that the Live TV is at fault here. File under minor frustration.

There's a continued frustration mentioned in the previous review, albeit more of a wishlist item. Inevitably I find myself navigating to the same root folder, which involves going through the same process every time the Live TV starts up. A "remember where I was" or "automatically navigate to this folder" feature would be useful.

Would I buy it again with hindsight? Most definitely. It's a much simpler way of accessing media files. The niggles are likely to keep it step away from mass market.

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Do you have Windows live sign in assistant installed? That can break shares as I found out with my asus o! Play air

Not that I know of. I do have the latest version of Messenger Live, not sure if that requires it?

Sharing isn't broken per se, as my two Windows machines see each other without issue. It's just the Live TV that requires two attempts to see a share. I wonder whether it's timing out too quickly.

The VMP has the same chapter/bookmark issues. IIRC if you play media from a locally connected USB drive, the bookmarking is more reliable, and it will index the drive and provide thumbnail images; something which isn't possible over the network. Lack of chapter skip (or the ability to at least skip sections of material or jump to a timestamp) is a bit annoying, since we're used to watching stuff on the laptop via VLC where you can just click on the progress bar and jump anywhere in the file. ISTR that chapter skip is implemented when playing DVD rip ISO images, but I haven't tested it myself.

For the buffering thing, is the WD wired or wireless at the moment? If the former, is it plugged into a hub or a switch? If the latter, is your access point plugged into a hub or a switch?

The frustrating thing is that all of these various media players miss fundamental features. A chapter skip is really basic, and the 360 at least has it. Although the 360 is awful at other things.

Bookmarks are completely erratic on the Live TV. I'm sure I have turned it off, returned to a film, and the bookmark is still there! Other times it doesn't even seen to remember them in the same session.

The Live TV is wired into the hub, but the PC serving the media is wireless (n). VLC can buffer SD material absolutely fine though. It would perhaps be understandable with 1080p videos, which have bandwidth requirements of around 2MB/s, but the SD stuff is only down around 300kB/s. This again seems like a basic feature, and the 360 can do it as well as VLC.

Your laptop and the XBox will have a lot more resources to call on than these streamer boxes, but you you'd expect it to have a reasonable buffer anyway. Mine's on 802.11n and doesn't buffer or skip at all, unless I put it on the other side of the TV so the TV sits between it and the router, when the steamer will occasionally drop off the network altogether. The TV is a big source of electrical noise, so that's fair enough.

You say the WD is wired into the hub.. is that the wifi box, or a separate network hub? And is it definitely a hub and not a switch or "switching hub"?

It's the wireless hub - basically the only hub I have, connected to the cable modem.

Have you tried using yours while copying files across the network? Curious to know it performs.

I'm tempted to get another for upstairs, but not for the moment.

Ah OK, I see. I was going to say, if you're using a hub, that will cause problems when copying stuff over the network, due to the way that hubs (as opposed to switches) work. But I'll assume that your wireless box doesn't do the same thing. Mind you, what make/model is it?

I will give it a good thrashing tonight and let you know what happens.

TWSS

Ah OK. I vaguely remember the hub/switcher/router thing at some IT training or other. I'm using what Virgin gave me, which is the D-LINK DIR-615.

Nope, no problems here. Copying a couple of GB to the NAS either via wi-fi or wired (while plugged into the router, with the NAS also plugged into the router), and no skipping on the VMP.

I'm wondering if the ports on your D-Link are in a hub arrangement (layer 1) or a switch (layer 2). If hub, then any data going into one port will get broadcast out to all the other ports, getting in the way of data being sent by other devices plugged into the same hub.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_switch#Layer-specific_functionality

I just discovered by accident that I can type in a percentage figure during playback to skip to that point in a file. So type 5, 0, OK to jump to halfway through the current file. Nifty!

Oooh, useful! I wonder if the Live TV does that? Maybe some RFTM required.

TFM occasionally holds useful nuggets of information, or so I'm told. Just try mashing the remote during playback like I did :)

Heh, I tried that, but IIRC it doesn't have number keys on the original remote.

Let me see if I can find a PDF...

Hmmm. It turns out that you have to first use FF or RW, then press Next or Previous and it will skip 10 minutes. Not the most logical thing in the world, but c'est la vie.

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