Wednesday, 20 January 2010

TVonics DTR-HV250 versus BTVision

How I learned to stop worrying and embraced the penguin.

For my sins, I bought a BTVision box - 90 quid, no contract. OK, OK, so it runs Microsoft Mediaroom and my recordings are trapped on there forever. No recording off the box onto a DVD drive, no sneaking the drive off and mounting the filesystem. No nothing.

Big mistake.

After 2 months of fairly heavy use (digital switchover in Early November, through until last week) we had no problems. Yes, I'd filled the disk up once with kids telly and christmas recordings, but no problems. After the box had been left on all day, I noticed that the picture was stuttering and the box was squeaking at high volume. The picture was all over the place. The kids had to revert to a older pre-recorded Simpsons which worked just fine. We thought, the problem was associated with the Ramsbottom relay being a bit iffy/bad weather then. Oddly, the TV picture was perfect with no breakup.

The next day, I noticed that after the box had been on for two hours, it was squeaking again and the picture was broken up on all channels. Previously it had been fine. How odd. The problem did not right itself through the day and recordings were again shot. I checked the box and the signal strength was at 100% and the signal quality was jumping around between 30 and 80%.

So I rang BT and explained that the picture broke up and that I'd reset the box. They asked me to check the aerial and the coax RF cable. I explained that the TV had a Signal strength of 100% and errors were negligible. They told me I had to check the aerial and coax RF cable and that the BT vision box needs more signal quality "because it has two tuners". I explained that the TV has a fantastic signal strength and negligible errors (pre viteri 10^-4, post viteri 0). They told me I had to check the aerial and coax. Back and forth we went. There is only one way to win this argument, and that is to have a second BT vision box. They said they could send an engineer out after I'd had my cabling and aerial checked and a signal booster put onto the line. If the fault was found to be with my aerial/cabling, I would receive a bill for 100 quid. I was reluctant to waste another 25 quid on getting an aerial check, 20 quid on a booster and 90 quid (or even 45 quid on ebay) on a BT box to prove their first box was shoddy and has heat related failure.
The next step in the 1st line support checklist after an aerial check was a full factory reset of the BT Vision box. This would lose all my recordings (Why, oh why can't it reindex them based on the upload metadata being sent back to BTVision HQ?).

I was unwilling to get one of their engineers out, based on the fact they would point the finger of blame at my aerial or cabling.
The box sits on top of my 50W amplifier, so it gets a little hot, but nothing excessive.

Sure enough, the next day, the BTVision box worked until it got too hot (about 2 hours).

So I decided to buy a TVonics DTR-HV250 after reading the review on the register. Fantastic box, small, designed (and maybe built) in South Wales. Great experience from them buying direct, lovely box. Nice and quiet and noticeably zippy compared to BT vision, gets on with the job well. Fabulous remote as the remote can control our TV too (select input button is so handy). No problem with the signal either even with a (cough) Dual tuner. Signal strength is 100%.
The system allows playlists, which is great for the kids as we can daisy chain recordings together. BT Vision still can't do this, despite the software being nearly 3 years old.
Two HDMI inputs, one output, runs Linux and uses XFS as it filesystem. It uses only 2W in standby compared to 11W for BTvision, so it should save us in the long run. If the unit is left on standby for a minimum of 15 hours / day, saving 7Watts :
15 hours * 7W = 105Watthours = 0.105 kWh.
Over a year, 365.25 * .105 = 38.35 kWh at 10 pence per unit = 3.84 UKP. So it will pay for itself in 70 years too.

I noticed in the manual that the GPL and LGPL were mentioned, but no source code on their website. I contacted them and by return of post, they provided the source for the box on a CD. Fantastic service - they include the following as their README:

TVonics DTR-HV250 LGPL/GPL source code

This source code is for TVonics DTR-HV250 open source releases V1.1.Axxx.M170 to V1.1.Axxx.M172.

All base rpm files are also available from

The source code is divided into a number of areas, see the correponding .txt file for details:

The compiler and toolchain - Toolchain.txt
The Linux Kernel - Kernel.txt
The Libraries - Libraries.txt
Third Party software - ThirdParty.txt

Details of the GPL and LGPL licences can be found in Licences.txt

Please note that TVonics Solutions Ltd does not offer support on building or installing these software sources.
For further queries regarding these sources, including GPL source/LGPL requests please contact us via our website:

Happy Hacking!

I honestly think that it doesn't get much better than this. TVonics: a fantastic service, employing smart UK engineers, all the source available and a well built and though out PVR.

Goodbye BT Vision and your non-logical first line support, DRM, lack of portability and Orwellian reporting.


Adam Durling said...

It's great to hear that TVonics came good on their obligation to provide source code. Have you got source for the later versions? Are we able to share the source code somewhere, I'd really like to take a look.

tng said...

Hello Adam,

Sadly TVonics went into receivership in 2012.

I've got the GPL'd source code/build instructions from Jan 2010, but nothing since.

I've put it onto:
It's 364MB. I can't guarantee that it will be up forever, but feel free to give it a permanent home and I'll link.

Adam Durling said...

Hello - thanks for the link. It'll give me an idea of what I'm up against if nothing else.

I was aware the company went into receivership, but I wonder if the receiver would release the latest source code? I might write to them, but I'm not too hopeful.

It's a real shame to see the company fail - I really think they were on the right track to providing a simple, reliable, good quality experience - unlike most others.

Again, thanks for the file.

Adam Durling said...

I've created a site for hosting TVonics related stuff, and the GPL/LGPL source will be hosted there indefinitely.

Adam Durling said...

tng said...

Hello Adam,

Thanks for that - great site. I think I've removed all my Firmware after I installed it sadly.

I'm back with BT Vision again (why?) - my TVonics box is still going strong, but it is having a well earned break in the garage.

I think the Raspberry Pi is being manufactured very close to where the TVonics boxes used to be manufactured. I like to think the employees at TVonics are now employed at the technology centre.

Good luck playing,