Author Archive: Iain Miller

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By August 20, 2008 Read More →

D-Link DSM-330 DivX Connected HD Media Player Review

D-Link is well known for their networking products, and this device is certainly an extension of that.

As you can see from the images the DSM-330 looks a lot like a router and in lots of ways that’s exactly what it is.

It allows you to view you digital media without having to be in front of your PC. You can view movies, photos and play MP3’s remotely.

The quick explanation of how it works is that you install software on a PC with your media on it and then that is shared over the network (either wired or wireless) to the DSM-330, which in turn is connected to your TV.

d-link_angled

D-Link DSM-330

D-Link DSM-330 Specification:

Supported Media Formats

  • DivX
  • Xvid with MP3 or PCM audio
  • WMV9 (transcoded on PC)
  • MP3 (up to 320kbps)
  • MP3 Playlist
  • WMA (transcoded on PC)
  • JPEG (grayscale, RGB & YCbCy only)
  • JPEG 2000
  • BMP (non-compressed)

 

Because the box uses a PC as a source for the media itself, there are specifications for that PC.

Minimum System Requirements
(for Standard Definition) May require a graphics driver update

  • 1.6 GHz processor
  • Windows Vista® or Windows® XP
  • 60 MB HDD space
  • 512 MB system RAM
  • OpenGL-enabled video card

Recommended System Requirements
(for High Definition) May require a graphics driver update

  • 2.6 GHz processor
  • Windows Vista® or Windows® XP
  • 60 MB HDD space
  • 1 GB system RAM
  • Hardware-accelerated OpenGL-enabled video card

 

A Wired or 802.11g wireless network (Wired connection recommended)

And for the internet video functionality you will need a broadband connection.

What’s in the box?

  • The DSM-330 box itself
  • A/V composite cable
  • SCART to SCART cable
  • HDMI cable
  • CAT-5 ethernet cable
  • Software CD
  • Power cord with AC adapter
  • Wireless antenna
  • Remote control
  • 2 AAA batteries for the remote
  • Quick Setup guides in English, French and German

The main manual is on the CD along with the software

GENERAL

First let’s have a quick rundown of how it all works.

The DSM-330 box is a client that displays on the attached TV.

So the first thing you do is install the included server software on the PC. Once installed, you tell the software which folders you want to share for your videos, mp3’s and photos. You can even add PIN codes for folders if you want some of them to be protected. This server software then sits as a tray icon and runs in the background.

This PC needs to be connected to your local network (either with a direct cable or else wirelessly). It should be noted that as you are going to be pushing your media over the network that the speed of the network will directly affect the results you are going to get.

The DSM-330 box itself connects to your TV. There are quite a few connections on the back so you should be able to find a connector to suit your needs 😀

d-link_back

D-Link DSM-330 back view (click to enlarge)

From left to right

  • wireless aerial connector
  • HDMI
  • S/PDIF (Coax and Optical)
  • S-Video
  • Component Video
  • Audio Left/Right
  • SCART
  • CAT-5 connector
  • Power connector

d-link_remote

D-Link DSM-330 remote

Now to connect the box to the network.

If you are going to be using the box over your wired network, then obviously you connect it with the CAT-5 connector – if you are connecting wirelessly, just screw on the antenna.

So now you power up the box.

It will take you through some first setup screens – these will tell the box the type of TV you are connecting to and allow you to resize and shift the screen location. It will also take you through the setup of any wireless network keys.

At this point if you are running a firewall on your PC, you need to make sure that it allows the connection from the DSM-330.

Assuming that the connections are all correct, the server software on the PC will show the box is connected, and the box itself will show it’s interface to your shared media.

If everything has gone smoothly then you are all done – all the controls you need are on the supplied remote control.

REVIEW

In the interest of full disclosure I’ve actually ended up doing two reviews of this product.

The first review

The box was connected to a Sony Bravia TV with the supplied HDMI cable, and everything was setup and installed on the PC side. The box correctly detected the HDMI settings and everything appeared to be fine with the setup.

After the initial setup the box dropped into it’s main menu and it was here that things were a little strange. It appeared that everything was being displayed in just 256 colours. Video playback appeared to be fine, but then with a moving picture it’s kind of hard to tell, but when viewing photos or the menus it was obvious things were a little strange.

I went through the setup menus again looking for what I’d done wrong, and here is where things started to get a little strange – the menus went green :S, and despite resets I couldn’t get things to work properly.

So I went onto the D-Link support site and there was mention of this very problem. So I downloaded the latest firmware patch (A procedure which seems the only reason for the ugly USB connection on the front of the box), installed the firmware and reset the box.

d_link_front

D-Link DSM-330 front view

Things were back in colour again, but still with the reduced palette – and now no sound through the HDMI connection.

Urghh.

After various resets and full setups I was no better off. So I decided to use a different connection to the TV, figuring that the HDMI bug would probably be fixed in a future firmware release (though I’d obviously still have mentioned it here).

And here is where I found some other quirks with the DSM-330.

SCART seemed the next easiest option with the connections I had on the TV. So I connected the cable up and went into the TV setup on the box again.

I told it I was using a standard TV and it detected as 576i (correct here in the UK) but as 4:3 ratio ( the TV is widescreen ) and I can’t find a way to alter this.

And on top of this the colours were still with a limited palette and the image was centered in the middle of the widescreen. (Yes I can tell the TV to stretch this up to fill the screen for widescreen movies, this does however lower the resolution of the image, and also means that you can’t see the menus fully with scaling on. So you’d need to be forever changing the settings on the TV).

On top of this the menu’s were very, very sluggish – adding even more frustration.

So at this point I had less than glowing things to say about the DSM-330, it didn’t actually seem to do anything very well.

The second review

Because I’m stubborn I wasn’t going to give up there, and the following day I started from scratch with a different PC as the server – and reconnected the DSM-330 with an HDMI connection.

Things were a lot different this time around.

I suddenly had full colours and everything was moving a lot faster – it was like I had a completely different box in front of me.

So I had a curiosity here. On one PC things were perfect and on the other, things were lousy (and yes both PC’s are of a high enough specification to run the server software).

On a read of the manual (I really was that stuck) I saw that they suggested the updating of graphics card drivers. Now lots of software suggests this, and it is rarely needed. But in this case it made the difference.

On the original problem PC, but with new drivers installed, I had full colours from this machine as well, but things were still very sluggish, and then I realised why – I had this PC connecting to my network wirelessly and the DSM-330 was also using wireless – the result being that the lag was purely down to using wireless connections in both directions. A direct cable connection on either one fixed the problem. Though this obviously does bring up the reality that the setup is network speed dependant.

I’d just like to say that this was entirely my fault for not believing the manual on both counts.

So not only read the manual, but believe the manual 😀

Once things were up and running properly, the box did exactly what it is designed to do – videos were upscaled and played back smoothly, photos were scaled down and MP3’s were streamed perfectly. Internet videos were smooth, though this is obviously dependant on your connection speed.

In general the box has all the functions that you’d expect.

Videos playback can the fast forwarded, rewound, paused etc. You can quick jump to what D-Link call it a ‘virtual chapter’ with the numbers on the remote. You can tell it to play all videos in a folder.

One really useful feature of the video playback is that if you come out of a video then you can resume it from the same point later on, even if you’ve played back other videos since.

Photo’s can be zoomed and scrolled around, and you can setup a slideshow with the contents of a folder.

MP3 playback is basic and there are no visualisations, but it does allow you to set some MP3’s playing, and then setup a slideshow with the music continuing in the background.

If your server PC is connected to the internet then you can use the plugin ability of the DSM-330. These are relatively simple little web widgets that can do things like viewing google earth, show online comics, a flickr browser, etc. And obviously with a firmware updatable box such as this, these plugins may become even more complex in their functionality.

The DSM-330 box also supports interface themes. This allows people to design new icons and backgrounds for the interface. There are several on the DIVX site already, and the kit and instructions are there for people to make their own.

The remote itself came to frustrate me a little as I didn’t think that it’s layout was particularly well thought out. The actual software on the box didn’t help this and I sometimes found myself guessing the functionality of a button as it would do different things according to where I was in the menus or what playback I was using.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • the ability to browse your videos and photos from the lounge is very nice
  • extendibility could offer some interesting possibilities in the future

LOWLIGHTS

  • dependant on the setup of your server PC and your network speeds
  • non HDMI connections don’t appear to support widescreen televisions [may be fixed in future firmware – see update below]
  • remote could do with a rethink to be truly ‘invisible’ to the user

 

CONCLUSION

I think it would be fair to say that this is something of a niche market product. For starters in order to use it at all you have to have a windows PC that you can run the server software and you need to have a network setup in your house – be it wired or wireless. You also really need to understand your network setup, your firewall setup and your PC graphics drivers. This is not quite a simple plug and play device.

My experience with the box (once everything was working and I was on an HDMI TV) was generally good.

The remote was a little frustrating at times, but that’s partially because of the fact that the box is capable of doing so many things. How do you make a remote for a box that handle video, image and web widgets in a way that is usable.

The big problem for me is the lack of support for widescreen PAL TV’s with a SCART connection. This is something that may be fixed in future firmware updates, and certainly it’s something that has been mentioned in their forums.

For HDMI connections tho the DSM-330 functions as you’d expect.

I think the query for lots of potential customers is wether to get something like the DSM-330 or wether to use install Windows Media Center on the PC in the first place. Both scenarios will require a PC and require you to know how to set these things up.

The main advantage of using the DSM-330 is that if you want to have another DSM-330 somewhere else in the house then you can connect it to the same server – and the server PC can still do other things (though obviously the more DSM-330’s you attach the more demand it will place on your server PC and network traffic). This obviously works out cheaper than building lots Media Center PC’s.

 

UPDATE [August 21 2008]
The people over at DivX kindly sent me a beta version of some upcoming firmware to try out. Whilst I’m sure there are lots of changes under the hood (for example, I noticed that the sound options have been extended), the main one from my point of view is the addition of an Advanced option in the display settings. This adds a list of display modes for you to select from manually – and includes the PAL Widescreen support for non HDMI connections that I was after. I’m not sure when this is going to become a released firmware, but well done to the guys at DivX.

Review by: Iain

Posted in: TV & Home Cinema
By June 12, 2008 Read More →

Vito SMS-Chat now with threaded SMS and Smilies

VITO Technology releases a new version of SMS-Chat. SMS-Chat lets you organize your SMS correspondence into threaded SMS conversations. New version now has smilies. The telephone numbers, hyperlinks or e-mails that you receive in SMS are now more usable as you can simply click it and the necessary application with the data will be called out then. Minor bugs have been removed. SMS-Chat users who liked the bright skin will now have an opportunity to choose the skin they’ve got used to.

VITO Technology SMS Chat

Chatting at present is a ritual which is hardly possible without numerous smilies showing emotions that people feel and shortenings what stand for so many words. So as SMS-Chat is one of the messengers for chatting we decided to give its users an opportunity to vary their texting with different emoticons. New version of SMS-Chat supports cool animated smilies.

The feature that everybody really likes in the previous version of SMS-Chat is the ability to click hyperlinks to open in browser, to click phone number to place a call and e-mail to send a letter. Now this feature has become even cooler. In previous version you were to click the SMS to call out menu buttons afterward choose the needed action. As far as the new version you only need to click the highlighted text and SMS-Chat will automatically detect whether it should give a ring, e-mail or open the link in the browser. A nice touch, isn’t it?

SMS-Chat is available for $14.95 at http://iwindowsmobile.com.

SMS-Chat supports English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese, and Russian.

Posted by: Iain

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Posted in: Apps & Games
By May 17, 2007 Read More →

Site Updates

Hi all

Just a quick note to say that we’ve just finished some backend site updates.

We think all is smooth again now, but if you spot anything odd, please let us know.

Posted in: Site Announcements