BTV 3.52 with Firefly Remote by a Tivo Fan

I bought this pair of popular PVR goods because of all the good comments from other users. More importanly, I read nothing bad on either.
The system I built to attempt to do the unthinkable, replace my Tivo brigade, yes 4 Tivo’s, goes like this:

Motherboard = Gigabyte GA-81915G-MF

Processor = P4 2.8 Ghz with HT

OS = XP Media 2005 (I think that Windows 2000 Pro would have done a great job)

Memory = 512 MB DDR 2 x 256

PVR = PVR-500MCE – Duel Tuner with FM

Sound = For now, it comes from the motherboard and is very good, SPDIF Out

Video = ATI X700 , 256 MB DDR3, using Component cable from Svideo Out

TV = Sony wide screen, HD ready

Then there is the BTV 3.52, and Firefly remote.

To start, the BTV came to me as 3.51, but had a update on install to 3.52. The Firefly software got an update as well, can’t say what version it is, but the firts version worked well for the short time I used it.
The installtion goes very smooth and easy, I couldn’t ask for it to be easier. The main thing that I didn’t understand was that the software that installs for the Firefly is the front end for the PVR. What I mean was that on installing BTV, I didn’t notice anything different until I realized that I was not seeing the BTV software until I selected TV from the FireFly basic media control program. They keep showing you the word BASIC because they want to you know that there is a muc better program that you can purchase to replace it. I did purchase it and it will be here tommorow. Snapstream had a Valentines Day speacial , pay $49 for the deluxe media software and add $10 for a new Firefly to come with it. I took the extra Firefly, so that already tells you how much I like it.

The program guide that comes to the screen is very sharp and easy to follow. There is a Time line that shows the current time, so it moves as time progresses. You can see that a show is half over by where the line appears. As you progress into later times, the line is gone as you would expect.

Selecting shows to record is as easy, or easier than my Tivo. It has many of the same options as Tivo. So let me point out some Tivo features that are enhanced on BTV. If you ever used padding to add that extra minute at the end of a show like Friends, only to find that it conflicted with the next show that said it started right on the hour. well, BTV has padding as well, but it has a rule that says that it will be ignored if it conflicts with another recording. One other nice improvment over Tivo is in the TV guide. You can bring up the standard TV guide that blocks out video, or you can hit a button on the Firefly that brings up a see-thru program listing. It looks very good and is my prefered way to see the channel program lineup while watching something.

The real TivoKiller (Name for my PVR) is the Smartskip for commecials. You can turn this feature off (after you turn it on, the default is off) , but you would only care if you didn’t have the horse power to spare at any time. You can schedule the processing to occur directly after a recording is made, or during the night, whenever activity of the PVR falls off. BTV processes the video and inserts markers at the beggining and end of every commecial break. Not at every commecial, but at every period of commercials. The first time I tried it, I was searching for the correct Firefly key to activate it, when I hit the right buttion, BINGO, instant show, nothing left to say, it works so well, you will either be speechless, or yelling for the family to come watch you skip the next commercial. So it would go like this, commercail starts, hit button, show starts instanly, no delay, no flash, nothing but instant show. I ran it through one entire show to be sure it worked correctly every time, and it did.

The Firefly remote is great, even the mouse emulation fuction it somewhat useful and sometimes needed if you venture into your OS, outside of BTV. My wireless keyboard and mouse appeared to interfere with the Firefly, but not the other way around. I removed it from the system and then the Firefly worked much better for a while. Then I had another problem with getting more than 7 feet from the wireless receiver. I relocated the receiver lower dow, on top of one of my Tivo boxes, then it worked like a champ, and still does. I have the PVR case open because it generates massive amounts of heat that can not be flushed from the case fasterthan it comes. This is one of the problems with building a high-end PVR. All that speed and performence comes at the price of heat.

I will try the Wireless keyboard and mouse one more time to se if relocating the receiver for the Firefly fixes it all.

My picture is flawless. The sound out of the mother board is very good stereo, but I wanted 5.1, so I may insert the Audigy2 ZS and see if I can get all channlels to work. i feed the stereo line out to the TV speaker input and that makes it work well when the stereo is not on.

The BTV menu’s move fast under the control of the Firefly. There is a backup button, a select button, like Tivo, and arrow buttons , like Tivo. The Firefly remote is almost as handy as the Tivo remote. What Firefly won’t do, is turn on your TV, or let you toggle video sources on the TV. It will control volume.

BTV comes with some nice added features, like music, and pay per view movie jackets and movie info, along with plenty of notice prior to asking you if you want to order the movie. My guess is that it will be sent to you over your internet connection.
The web Admin feature can be accessed from anywhere on your intranet. This is where I found my second tuner and some other settings that are only found in Web Admin. You can program recordings via the internet, or via the web admin interface. Tivo Series 2 can do the same.

lastly, there are features to let you compress a show so it tkaes up less space. It can be compressed into a format that will play on your Windows CE media player. The more I use my new PVR with BTV and Firefly, the more I like it.