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Linux modding Add multimedia features to your Humax Foxsat-HDR September 2011

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TEch project Guide to modding your Foxsat-HDR

Linux modding

A step-by-step guide to upgrading your Foxsat-HD HDR with remote video streaming from anywhere on the network The Humax Foxsat-HDR is a fantastic Freesat receiver that’s capable of recording both SD and HD content to the internal drive, either from the EPG or from the manual tuning options. You can even copy many of those recordings to a USB storage device (the exception being locally encrypted HD content), and add your own content to a shared media partition. With the exception of iPlayer and ITV Player support promised from the start, Humax hasn’t added any major features since the box’s first release. Fortunately, there’s a solution. The Humax users’ community has been able to step up to the mark and provide their own, and completely unofficial, upgrades. They’ve discovered a way of augmenting the default Linux installation on the Foxsat with their own selection of tools and utilities pulled from the vast archive of software available for the Linux platform. Within minutes, you’ll be streaming video to your laptop and games console, copying programmes wirelessly to your hard drive and watching a recording on one device while someone else uses the STB in the living room. What’s even more impressive is that the 2  What Satellite & Digital TV  September 2011

community has been able to produce an almost foolproof installation method, meaning that anyone should be able to add this new functionality to their device, regardless of how little they know about Linux or even computing. All that’s needed is a little patience. But first a word of warning. Even though we’ve never had a problem with these hacks, especially when you follow the instructions, there is a chance that any of these modifications could damage your hardware. Whether that’s because you make a mistake, or because the firmware for your device has changed, this is a very real possibility. You can mitigate this pressure a little by making a copy of your TV recordings before you start. But you should also make sure you’re prepared to take the risk. And while these modifications are tuned specifically for a Humax FoxsatHDR, there’s a good chance that more Linux hacks for other STBs may become available, and the instructions for those are likely to be similar. If you’re feeling adventurous, it may even be possible to create similar packages yourself. But it’s worth remember that, as with most things involving Linux, it’s always an adventure n Graham Morrison

What Satellite & Digital TV accepts no responsibility for loss or damage following any action you may take as a result of reading this article. Always back up your recordings before modifying your satellite receiver.


Guide to modding your Foxsat-HDR TEch project

Project 1: Install the custom bundle onto your Foxsat

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Check your Foxsat version number. The latest bundle for your box requires either version 1.00.13 or 1.00.15 (released 08/12/10) of the Humax firmware. Check your version by entering the System>Diagnostics menu from the remote control. If you’ve not got a compatible version, point a browser at www.humaxdigital. com and navigate through the support pages. Installation is similar to the following steps.

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You now need to get hold of the custom bundle of firmware and its packages. There are several places this can be grabbed from, and several versions of the bundle. But we’ve found the bundle created by AVforums user Raydon to be the easiest to install and the most stable in operation, and it’s from there you can always download the latest version. Here’s a direct link: http://bit.ly/nNaxSj.

The download bundle is packaged as a ‘rar’ archive. This is a common format, but not as common as ‘zip’, which means you’ll probably need to also download a tool to open it. We’d recommend WinRAR for Windows users, UnRarX for OS X and ‘unrar’ on the command line for Linux. The result of processing the file with these packages is that you’ll now have several new folders and files.

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Now find a USB storage device you can use to transfer files from your PC to your STB. We’ve had best results with small thumb drives, less than 1GB, and formatted with the FAT file system. Check these details with your device’s configuration tools, or by using your OS’s System Information view for the connected device. If you need to repartition and reformat, we recommend running GPartEd from a Linux distribution.

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Before installing any of the additional packages, first install the modified BusyBox installation. This is contained within the FOXSAT-HDR_upgrade.hdf file from the rar archive. This is very similar to the official updates from Humax and, like them, it needs to be placed into the root folder of a USB storage device. Do this using File Explorer or Finder, or by dragging the file from your desktop to the USB device.

The USB device should be safely unmounted, usually by right-clicking on its icon (Windows), or dragging the device to the trashcan (OS X). This will ensure that all data is written before it’s safe to remove. After getting this message and removing the device, you should insert it into the front USB port of your Foxsat while it’s in standby – it doesn’t need to be powered off completely.

To update the firmware on your Foxsat you now need to hold down the front power button. This is exactly the same process as for the official firmware, and after a few moments you should see a progress bar appear on your screen. At this point you can release the power button and wait for the update to continue. It will take three or four minutes, after which you’ll be asked to press the power button again.

Your box will now take a little while to shutdown as it saves the necessary changes to its internal storage. When the process is complete the Foxsat will click itself off and go into normal standby mode. It should now be successfully updated, and you can check that everything has worked correctly by turning your machine back on again. Everything should be working exactly as it was before the update.

You can now install extra packages. You need to place one or more of the installer ‘.tar.gz’ files from the bundle’s ‘installers’ folder into the root of your USB stick. This file is a Linux archive and contains both the binaries and a simple installation script, which will be executed when you insert the USB stick and turn your machine back on. But wait for another reboot to ensure the installation has been successful.

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TEch project Guide to modding your Foxsat-HDR

Project 2: Stream video from your STB video playback Remote files on the 1 Foxsat

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2 Only TS files contain video data 3 Change config for smoother playback 4 VLC will stream files 5 Full-screen playback for less CPU work 6 Pause, Play and Rewind work There are various 7 interlace modes 8 Video playback window 9 Date of recording in filename 10 You can also copy files to and from the Foxsat

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When you’ve set up Samba file sharing (see opposite), one of the best features of your new STB is its ability to stream content from the box to your PC, tablet or even phone. As long as you’ve got a media player capable of accessing ‘TS’ files and a device with Windows networking built in, you shouldn’t experience any problems. The only caveat is that most HD material is now encrypted by the STB when saved to the hard drive, which means these files won’t play back on your media player. With Samba installed and running on the Foxsat, and the Foxsat successfully connected to your LAN, use your operating system’s network navigation interface – usually found from the file explorer, to navigate to the FOXSAT-HDR on your LAN. If the device isn’t automatically detected you could enter its location manually as ‘smb://’ followed by its IP address. This can be discovered from your router, or from the Foxsat’s diagnostic menus. When the connection has been made you can browse through all the media files on your device. All your TV recordings can be found within the ‘Video’ folder.

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We’ve found that the best software for streaming video is VLC – the VideoLAN client. This started life as a network streamer but has become far more popular as a general media player. This is because it can play almost any format you throw at it, including the raw TS (MPEG transport

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stream) files saved directly by the DVB grabbing hardware in the STB. VLC is also cross platform and open source, so whether you’re using Windows, OS X or Linux, download and install the latest version for your system. When you launch VLC you will be able to drag TS files from the network file browser onto VLC’s playback panel and the video of the recording will start to play. This file is being streamed so you will need reasonable network performance for playback to be smooth, especially over a wireless connection. You can even stream something from the Foxsat while someone else is watching the TV live. If you run into problems VLC includes plenty of preferences for changing the characteristics of the playback buffer.

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toolkit n A Humax Foxsat-HDR n Wired network connection to Foxsat n Firmware 1.00.15 installed n A FAT-formatted USB stick n OS X, Windows or Linux PC n Raydon’s media bundle: http://bit.ly/osOOwr n Firmware download: http://bit.ly/npJfvd n Open source tools: http://bit.ly/pkQk7m n VLC www.videolan.org


Guide to modding your Foxsat-HDR TEch project

Project 3: Using the bundles

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The media bundle includes 10 different applications you can install on a Foxsat HDR. We recommend adding the files named dropbear, mongoose, samba, telnet, vsftp and twonky. We’ll explain what each does in the following steps, but you can install more than one at a time by dropping the files into the root of your USB stick and turning on your Humax. The modified firmware will install the packages.

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The most useful package is ‘Samba’. This adds a file server to your Humax which is auto-discoverable on Windows, Linux and OS X networks. After installing the package you should see the name ‘FOXSAT-HDR’ appear in your network browser. There’s no need to enter a username or password and you can find your recordings in the ‘Video’ folder, from where you can copy files or stream them to your PC.

Another favourite from the bundle is ‘Mongoose’. This is actually a tiny web server, allowing you to access the same folders you see from Samba through a web browser. The only problem is getting the IP address of your Foxsat, as you’ll need this as the URL for your browser. You can discover this address either from your box’s system menu or from your router’s LAN overview.

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As the name VSFTP implies, this is a package that will give you FTP access to your box. FTP is a rather old-school, but efficient, file transfer protocol which you can use within a browser (with the FTP prefix instead of HTTP) or with a standalone FTP client – try Filezilla on Windows and Cyberduck on OS X. You will need to enter HumaxFTP as the username and 0000 as the password (then change it for security).

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The Twonky media server is a commercial product rather than being open source. You need to buy a licence if you use it for more than 30 days. But it does a good job of turning your Foxsat into a UPnP server. That means you can use any UPnP client, such as a PlayStation 3, to play back your videos. It’s pre-configured, but you can change the settings by pointing a browser at http://ip_addr:9000/config

The best open source alternative to Twonky is Mediatomb. It does the same job, presenting your content to UPnP clients on the same network, but it’s free. It’s also more configurable. You may need to install it separately from Twonky. Add the ‘mediatomb’ package after installing Twonky, and point your browser at http://ip_addr:49152 for the configuration panel where you can add folders and files to stream.

Uninstalling applications is easy. Find the ‘Uninstallers’ folder that came with the bundle, place the ‘uninstall’ version of the package you want to remove into the root of your USB stick. Using the standby button to power on your STB will now perform the reverse operation of the installer, removing the files with a script. If you place both the installer and uninstaller on the USB device, the uninstaller will run first.

The best way to access your box securely is through something called SSH. This is the secure shell, a command-line interface to many of the Linux underpinnings in your STB. Using a client such as Putty on Windows, and the same login credentials as for VSFTP, you can connect to the IP address of your machine and perform almost any task. Forward port 22 on your firewall and you can safely access it from the internet.

For local access, a telnet client will let you access the command-line interface without the burden of security or passwords. The command-line can be a dangerous place – you could delete programmes and mess up your configuration, but it’s also very powerful. You can change the Samba configuration within the ‘/opt/ etc/smb.conf’ file, for example, or change system passwords with the ‘passwd username’ command.

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Project: Add multimedia features to your Humax Foxsat-HDR