still spending $thousands to make a $40 box work
The tuner went out on my Sony TV again a few months ago, so I dragged my iView 3500STB out of the junk electronics box so I could watch HD TV in my living room again (got to hand it to Sony for selling TVs with tuners that suddenly quit working, then just as mysteriously, start working again, then fail again, then work again, ad nauseum).
So I'm back to struggling with all the quirks of the iView, which actually has an excuse for being a piece of junk (low price, though you could argue that's now Sony's problem too). This time around, I've found a few things to make it work better than before, some mentioned here, some not, so I'll just pass them along:
1. Recording media. Despite iView documentation and this forum, it seems you CAN use USB flash drives, you just have to get the right one, and if you do, it seems to be the best solution. The real problem with flash drives is the manufacturers do just about everything to hide the actual gating factor for this use, which is the write speed of the drive. For reliable US ASTC TV recording, you need a flash drive with a write speed north of 20 Mbps, since each 6Mhz TV channel provides a total of 19.2 Mbps of streaming data. 1080i DD 5.1 video/audio typically is currently allocated somewhere around 9-12 Mbps of that 19.2 Mbps, so a 20 Mbps write speed should be able to record even the worst case where the station allocates the entire 19.2 Mbps to a single "sub-channel".
The jerks at the flash drive makers generally won't say what their write speeds are, leaving that up to individuals and organizations to test their products for them. Almost all flash drive makers wave their hands and say their USB 3.0 flash drives have 10 times the speed of a 2.0 drive, but that's irrelevant, it's the speed and other characteristics of the recording media that's critical, not the speed of the port. And in some cases, 3.0 USB flash drives actually have the same OR WORSE write speeds as the cheapest 2.0 drives, so you can't just buy a 3.0 drive and be done with it. So I wound up wasting a lot of Internet time researching this topic and wound up buying a USB 3.0 Toshiba "TransMemory ID" flash drive with a write speed around 20.47 Mbps (through either a 2.0 or 3.0 port, which is almost always the case, but another fact the flash drive makers don't want you to know).
Bottom line is, it's working flawlessly for recording FHD DD5.1 video. You do want to format the drive as NTFS with as big a partition as available. The flash drive and the iView stay nice and cool using this media. I couldn't say the same thing for a 1TB Seagate USB-powered HDD, that worked, but heated up the iView uncomfortably, and responded MUCH more slowly to asynchronous recordings, and just generally acted weirdly in that use. A 2TB USB-powered Seagate drive generated a lot less heat (must be a later generation thing), but was still slower to respond than a flash drive. I also suspect that certain characteristics of the Toshiba flash drive (hint: it's NOT super-fast) will make it a more durable drive to shuttle around video files back and forth to my PC, but we'll see.
2. New firmware. I went ahead and got the latest firmware for my particular iView 3500STB from the iView web-site, and it made a world of difference in many different areas of functionality. Now it is ALMOST a usable piece of consumer electronics, although maybe it just seems that way by comparison...I do know that although the tuner in my living room TV is working again, I haven't yet thrown the iView back in the junk box; I may be able to use it for some things...
3. Comparison with WMC (RIP long live WMC). I was forced by the evil empire to upgrade to a new Windows 10 system with a ton of horsepower but no Windows Media Center. As it turns out, Microsoft stopped really supporting WMC about the time I got my last computer. Despite some silly quirks, it worked pretty good as a DVR, and I kind of built an entire bootlegged video production capability around it.
Thing is, my last computer works just fine, and I am continuing to use WMC on it for the bulk of my DVR uses. As a matter of fact, I will be locating it in the entertainment center vicinity, since I will only be using it as a DVR in the future. But I have made several recordings on the iView, because as bad as the iView and the iView remote are, they are better than my non-existent remote for WMC. I may actually use the iView preferentially for most OTA guide and DVR purposes, in conjunction with WMC.
4. Disjointed audio on MPEG-2 files played on the iView. I was disappointed to note something that I've never seen discussed here or anywhere. When I play MPEG-2 files with DD5.1 sound the audio becomes increasingly disjointed from the video as the playback progresses. It seems to be related somewhat to any recording glitches caused by small transitory OTA interference. It can be fixed temporarily by stopping playback, then resuming it, but it immediately begins to increasingly drift again over time. It may be related to how I typically created the MPEG-2 files from the original dvr-ms files in WMC. I don't see the same problem with playback in any other devices (TV, Blu-Ray, etc.), just the iView.
Well, for right now, I'll just stop after wasting another $50+ of my time typing this message complaining about a $40 box...everybody's got to have a hobby, right?