Thursday, July 31, 2014

TV Media Box - Minix - Using Android

Date: July 31, 2014

It’s been a long time that I have not been frustrated at any gadget at home ever since I used Apple products some 5 years ago.  

Last week, I start to play with my Minix box which run Android OS, and I start to feel the anger once again where I had never felt for so many years.


This is not because I am an Apple fan.

This has nothing to do with that.  

This is because I was trying to install more apps onto my Minix media box.

On an Apple IOS devices, you simply choose your App, and it works.  (Some may not work because of new hardware differences such as the M7 chip, etc)



This has nothing to do with the Minix box too.

These boxes are running Quad Core Cortex A9 Processor with Quad Core GPU.  All have 2GB DDR3 ram.

Just think about it… My favourite TV box is running only Single Core CPU.  So, these boxes are much more superior than Apple TV hardware.

They are called Android mini-PC. 

No #1 enemy of Android, is not iOS.  It is their own fragmentation.


So, here is my experience.

1.  My small little project is to find some cool apps to be installed on my Minix box.  I am not talking about any special apps, but rather, apps such as Suho, Youku, LeTV app.  These are all China apps that gives you tons of video streaming contents.

2.  So, my first choice is to install the app from Google Play store.  Unfortunately, that does not work.  There is no specification of App for TV purpose.  So, many of the Apps that I downloaded is either bad in resolutions, or it is specially written for “Mobile” usage, those app that keep popping up annoying notifications saying use 3G must pay more that kind of thing.  And sometimes, I could not find the App I wanted.

3.  So, installed a “Black Market” App to try to see if I can find my App from there.  Again, resolution not correct.  Even Netflix or Hulu does not work well on the Minix box I had.

4.  So, I used “Baidu” to start looking for the App I want.  I become more clever now.  I start searching for Apps that has “HD” or “Pad" in their App name.  Thinking HD gives higher resolution.  But I was wrong.  Most of the App which is HD is for “Pad” version.  Again, I wasted the entire evening installing useless Apps.  Most of these apps has higher resolution, but it does not work with the TV box remote.  And yes, since the Minix box is served as my TV Media box, I will need the Apps to be working perfectly with the remote control.


5.  After trying for so many days, I was not even near to perfect my Minix TV media box.  Just think about it, my Xiaomi box also uses Android OS, but it has an Application Market Place that has all the App that is approved by Xiaomi, and it will guarantee working on Xiaomi box to the correct resolution, and work with Xiaomi remote and so on.

6.  At last, I was happy to find the App that is needed to install on my Minix.  It is called “Sofa Butler” (沙发管家)


 7.  This small little App here, is a gateway for you to download all the TV box related App.  You got to make sure the App that you download, be it Sohu or PPTV, all are workable with the TV.  Usually they will have a “TV” wording on their App icon.  And they will tell you it is a “TV Version”.

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8.  It is very important, because, they make sure all these App works with the TV remote control.

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9.  So, once I found the Sofa Butler, my next job is to download all the TV compatible App, and try to figure out which one work with ViewQwest ISP the best.

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10.  Some App like LeTV will tell you that it cannot be used on a certain box.  

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11.  The Sofa Butler also comes with Tools to test out your Internet speed to their servers.

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12.  You also can download some of the TV streaming app and they also come with very nice network testing tool.  For example, this one test with 4 major video on demand supplier.  So, it seems that Letv and Tencent can delver the fastest streaming.

IMG 7879

13.  Some network tools let you test 21 of the popular network.  But I think it is not accurate many of them.  

IMG 7910

14.  So, the best think to test is still thru the old fashion method.  Download the app, and run the app, and feel the speed.

15.  For example, I download the brand new “TV version” PPTV client onto my Minix.  And on the ViewQwest broadband network, it is fast.  For PPTV, since the caching server is on ViewQwest network, therefore, running the movie or shows usually takes about 1 second buffering time.  Very fast.  So, when you fast forward, it is like immediately stream from where you fast forward to.

16.  I like the Sohu desktop.  It has a small TV screen for you to preview the show.  It takes about 5-10 seconds to stream to show too.  And it has recommendation of show based on what you have watched too.  

17.  I also like the Rabbit TV.  the interface is good and there is no complaint from me when it buffer and stream the show.  So, as you can see, it will scan thru its list of streaming source and then give you the best sources to watch the streaming.  It takes about 6-9 seconds to stream the TV show.  And it chosen Sohu as the source.

18.  Lastly, let me show you the Youku video.  The buffering time is slightly longer at 10-15 seconds.  But the quality of Youku shows is usually very high quality HD.

So, after 4 days of working on this small little frustrating project.  I finally decided to keep the following Apps on my desktop so that I will use it from time to time to watch the hundreds of thousands of movies and TV shows.  There even have the Karaoke app for me to play music.  The LeTV need to pay money.  so, It is going to be removed.  The PPS is a bit low resolution.  I like the Baidu Cloud2TV.  It is done by a Search engine company so you can now they will have lots of relevant search result for you to choose from.  iQiYi is quite bad on ViewQwest network.  So, going to remove that too. 

IMG 7908

Of course, you need to find the best Launcher.  So, for me, I am still searching for one.  But I am incline to use the “万花筒视频” as it is the most intuitive one I can find.

IMG 7911

One last thing.  LeTV can run on ViewQwest Broadband very well.  It usually takes about 1-2 seconds to launch the show too.

IMG 7917

But their latest App comes with prices too.  So, now you need to subscribe for LeTV.  LeTV can run very well on SingTel network too.  But too bad, they need to collect money soon.  The strange things is, the LeTV app on my iPad is still free to watch.  For the TV version, the only allow you to watch SD version, and you need to pay for HD.

IMG 7920

Last thought.  The Chinese programmer is really good.  They actually will come up with all kinds of Apps that will help you to install “Correct” Apps onto your Android mini-PC.  After you have learned how to do it, you do not need to go thru the painful path I have been thru.  I can still remember, I bitch about the Android Apps, how fragmented the App stores, and so on for whole 3 days.  Until I found the “Sofa Butler” app that helps me to install all the correct Apps with TV version of the App and App that works with the TV remote control.

So, I am not so angry any more after I discovered it.  

So, you can turn your Minix into a Xiaomi look alike box too.  Have fun!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Trek Bike That Has Run 5000KM

Date:  July 30, 2014

This is my bike.

I am not a serious bike fan that ride bike at night with friends.  Those people own a road bike can cycle 40-80km per day.

I am a casual bike rider.

I ride bike for exercise.

I didn’t want to run, because I already can feel my left knee cap is not feeling click if I run too much.  

Riding bike is just like swimming, it has low impact to your knees.

So, if I am in Singapore, and I can wake up early, and I don’t need to send my kids to school, usually, I will bike.

IMG 7893

This is where I bike.

From my Park West condo, I ride along the landed property Faber Walk area to reach the Ulu Pandan canal there.  Then, I cycle to Commonwealth Ave along M1 building.  Then, ride back to Clementi Road.  And then, go back to the Commonwealth Ave.  Then, across AYE to the other side of the AYE towards Pandan Loop area.  And then ride back to Commonwealth Ave.  And then, Ride to Clementi Ave.   And then, ride back to Park West.  

Like that, back and forth 2 times, it will clocked at least 20KM with at least 1 hour non-stop work out.

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By the way, I am using Runkeeper to keep track of all my exercises, such as cycling, walking, running, swimming.

It is a great tools.  It keep a tap of how much exercise you have done.

Each exercise, it tells you how long, what its he average speed, how far, and how much calories.

After each exercise, it will auto post a message to my social circle.

Sometimes, if for a few days I didn’t bike, some of my friends will say “Hey, how come I didn’t see you cycling in the morning?"

Then, you defence a bit and next day, you go to cycle again.

IMG 7897

It actually tells you how well you are doing in each KM.  So that you can analyse at which point you actually feels tired.  Otherwise you will be consistent most of the time.

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It even tells you that when you are cycling over a hill with elevation, your speed drops because of that.

IMG 7899

Of course, virtually, you are doing exercise with your friends.  You can compare yourself with your friends, are you working out? 

IMG 7900

But, the best statistics of all is this.

From Sep 2010 when I started using Runkeeper, that is about when I own this bicycle.

I have done 420 activities.

I have cycle about 5583KM so far.

So how far is 5583KM?

That’s far.

I am proud of myself.

For utilising the bicycle and clock it so long distance.  Yeah!

IMG 7891

I think those 3 bikes below, don’t even clock a combine 500KM.  Wahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaa

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And don’t forget, after every exercise, you must eat well.

When you do exercise, your body will burn the fat and that is the time bad radicals will come out releasing from your body.

So, you will need a strong defence systems to counter off these bad radicals.  Otherwise, you will easily get sick.

Before the ride, I take one breakfast.

After the ride, I take my second breakfast.

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Cheesy Squid

Date:  July 30, 2014

I bought two packs of this from my last Hokkaido trip at the airport.  One of the shops that sell all kinds of Hokkaido goodies.

Oh boy, I cannot describe how good is this food.

This is the package looks like.

And it says “It’s made of good ingredients”.

At first, I thought it is the grilled squids with sticky rice.

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Apparently, I was wrong.  This is the back of the packaging.  Each pack has about 6-7 squids in it.

IMG 7876

We don’t know what to do.  

So, we put it in the steamer for 5 minutes. 

So, it looks like this.

IMG 7873

So, it is a grilled squid.

IMG 7877

But when you bite it, there are Hokkaido cheese in it.

Hokkaido is famous of seafood and cheese (dairy products) and they combine both of them together.

The taste in your mouth is very hard to describe.

But they blend in very well.

IMG 7878

I love it.  So, next time, when I am in Hokkaido, I will definitely buy many many packets of it.

It is so delicious.

Japanese is really good in making good food!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Star Wars Teaching

Date:  July 27, 2014

Monday is a holiday for the kids.  So, I decided to let them watch Star Wars for three evenings.

This is the first time for the two brothers watching the Star Wars together.

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They were very focus in trying to understand the story.,

IMG 7840

We were watching Episode 4, A New Hope yesterday.

Today, we watched Episode 5, Empire Strike Back.

And before they go to sleep, I let them watch part of Episode 6 where Luke Skywalker and gang save Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt.

I am glad the kids loves it.

And they actually remember the whole story and they understand the story now.

In order to make it more fun, I slowly bring out bit by bit the characters of the show.  This is the X-Wing, and Luke Skywalker.

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When they saw me taking out the Millennium Falcon, both kids were so excited.  Han Solo.

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Of course, they love Master Yoda and the two droids.  R2D2 and C3PO.

IMG 7845

So before watching the show, we played the Star Wars Monopoly.  Jay remembered lots of planets name and the event from the movie.  

As all those are in the Star Wars Monopoly game.

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Of course Kay Kay also play the game.  He is the dice master.  He rolls dice for both of us. 

That is why our game can be really quick.

But eventually, it was a draw game.

IMG 7831

So, what are the essential teaching I am teaching my sons?

1.  Learn the force.  You must focus so that you can control the force. 

2.  Do not easily be angry.  Angry will lead to the dark side.  No fear.  No hate.



3.  Try Not.  Do or not do.  There is no try.


4.  Do things must have patience.


May be  they are still young, or may be they may not understand what the show is all about.

But I seriously think that they understand some part of it.

Kay Kay said: “Daddy, you need to buy two more lightsaber.  One green and one blue.  Me and KoKo use the green and blue one.  This red one you use."

Daddy: “Noooooo, I am your father!"

IMG 7841

TV Media Box - Xiaomi 小米盒子

Date:  July 27, 2014

***** Notes 28/5/2015 *****

You can download the Shafa.Com Appstore App on Xiaomi.  By simply installing it from Shafa.Com website.

However, if you like the USB method, I do keep all my Apps as backup at this location.

Please take notes, some of these Apps are older version.  Once installed, the Appstore app will prompt you to update these Apps.

***** Notes 10/10/2014 *****
1.  China regulators only allow all the wonderful TV apps, i.e. PPTV, Youku, Sohu, 爱奇艺, 腾讯, etc to be run on smartphones or touch book/iPad.  New law, China regulators band these TV streaming apps to be run on any TV, TV set top box such as Xiaomi, YunOS box, etc.  So, most of the time, when you download these apps from the official sites, it will not work.  So, to work around it, you will need to hunt for the hacked version of these apps, which will not force you to download new version, and will allow you to run it on the Set Top Box.  I found a few of these, and place it in here.    Copy these APK onto USB thumb drive, and plug it into Xiaomi Box.  And then install it.  These Apps is available for now Oct 10, 2014.  I am not sure how long it will work.  So, use it while it still work. 
 Screen Shot 2014 10 11 at 5 51 26 am
2.  Again, I do not sell Xiaomi Box.  I usually get my Xiaomi box from Taobao thru my buying agent.  You can do it yourself, or you can ask any other Taobao buying agent to do it for you.  My taobao buying agent is:  Ms. Amy Li,  You can buy from Qoo10 too.  But make sure when you place the order, 1) No need to jailbreak it.  2) make sure it is Xiaomi Box 3, the one with 4K capability.  3) The price should be RMB399 and above.  Anything lesser need to suspect.
  The box cost RMB399, but there will be agent fee 8%.  And then, there will be 5% insurance and so on.  There will also be local shipping as well as International shipping.  Recently, I have asked her to ship all the goods via another shipping agent, where you require to go MRT station or to some place (usually HDB) to pick up the goods.  It is cheaper than the post office EMS delivery.  EMS is still the safest.  So, you make your own decision which one to use.
3.  If your home is not using ViewQwest Fibre Broadband with Freedom VPN, then, I say you forget about buying the Xiaomi box.  For example, my friend using Starhub Cable, almost 90% of the Apps cannot run properly.  Too much dropping, and too much buffering.  M1 was reported to seems to be OK.  But I won’t count on it.  As said, these Traffic Light ISP all has their own TV content, and they have to protect those revenues.  So, it is unlikely that they will provide a smooth Internet highway for you to access these TV apps sites.  If you already tie up with Hubber, Singtel contracts, sorry, you have to decide whether you want to get another ViewQwest link to watch EPL, HK drama, Korean drama or US TV series or not.  If you are not using ViewQwest, and you have a Xiaomi box, you will have lots of frustrations and buffering.  So, I suggest you better stick with Cable TV or MIO TV or MiBox in that case to watch the proper TV channels from these providers.   
4.  It is a TV set top box, so, don’t treat Xiaomi box like a PC.  Only download Apps that works for the “remote” control.  You may place a wireless mouse behind, but it is not elegant.  hahahaha
5.  To watch EPL and other live sports, I usually 光芒体育.
***** End of Notes *****

That, I gave a two thumbs up for 10moons TV box.
Today, let’s stress test the Xiaomi, and see how it hold up against the the 10moons’ Linux box - YunOS (云OS).
It is going to be best of Android Vs. Linux TV box.
It is going to be Xiaomi (小米) Vs. Alibaba (阿里巴巴) or Taobao (淘宝).
It is going to be ICNTV (小米’s TV Program partner) Vs. 华数TV (YunOS’s TV Program partner).
IMG 7683
Before we begin, let’s note the following.
1.  I do not sell these TV boxes.  I love to watch movies and TV, and it is my strong interest to find out which box is the best for my LG 4K TV.  So, if you want to buy the box, you can either go to Taobao and get it yourself or you can ask my buying agent to buy it for you and pack for you.  So, please don’t ask me where to buy or how to buy or can buy for you or not. Thanks.  For Xiaomi, I ask my agent to buy the non-jailbreak one from Xiaomi website in China. - RMB399
For jail-broken one, I ask my agent to buy from - RMB419
For 10moons.  I ask my agent to buy from ... - RMB299
2.  At home, I used ViewQwest 200Mbps.  But because of OpenNet terminate the fibre in kitchen area, and there is no physical fibre between my kitchen to my network cabinet.  So, I have to use Homeplug (Ethernet over Power Line) technology.  So, maximum, I can only get 100Mbps to my TV boxes after all the tradeoff.  ViewQwest is an ISP that provides Freedom VPN which is a set of DNS redirection service that can full Netflix, Hulu and PPTV to think that you are in US or in China.  And hence, no Geolock issue.  PPTV is hosted in ViewQwest data centre by PPTV.  So, only thru ViewQwest network, you can get 1second or lesser buffer time.  So, don’t ask me if this will work on Singtel or Starhub or M1 or MyRepublic.  I seriously don’t know.  But I do see the performance of both Singtel and Starhub from my friend place.  It is really sucks.
3.  To be fair, before you complaint about SingTel or Starhub, you should also see your own home network design, weather it is optimal?  Are you using the crappy router provided by the ISP?  But best of all, go read for all the comments and comparison.  Those are people who spent lost of times to fix their network and they can tell you who has the best performance.
(Sorry, I must always put this down, as too many people write to me on the above issues).
OK.  Let’s go back to the main topic.
This is Xiaomi TV Box.
IMG 7684
The 3rd generation is the latest model, that does not have network port.
IMG 7685
Oh ya.  Their power supply also different.  You cannot use other 5V power plug to supply power to Xiaomi.  It is different.  I can use my 10moons and interchange with my other TV box such as Amazon Fire, and Minix boxes.  But not this one.
IMG 7686
I saw many different version, where they place English menu, toggle, and some just give you the normal Android desktop, etc.  But the one I had, I bought the jailbroken one, has this default interface where it ask you to choose the desktop when you press the home key.  You can interchange either use the Xiaomi UI or use the VST or Rabbit UI.  All are usable.
Today, let’s focus on the Xiaomi UI.
IMG 7688
This is Xiaomi UI.  Which is pretty standard.  You got all the TV Movies pages as well as the Application (应用) pages.
IMG 7689
 Here is the video of navigating Xiaomi UI.

Most of the China made TV box will have this feature to test your network speed.  What they do is from where you run the network, your ISP, they will do a download of the movie and to tell you what your Xiaomi box can do.
IMG 7693
OK.  My Xiaomi reported that I can play Super HD (超清).  This is the speed to iCNTV servers.  But take a look at the average download streaming speed.  It is 353KB/S.
IMG 7698
Now, if you recalled from my previous 10moons box, I did the same network speed test.
And the speed to connect my 10moons box to 华数TV servers are 1377KB/s.
Conclusions #1:  You can expect to run Xiaomi TV box on ViewQwest at the much slower speed as there are a different speed connecting to both caching servers.
It is 1377KB/s from 10moons Vs. 353KB/s for Xiaomi.
Not convince?  Let’s launch a few movies and you will know what I mean.
Video will tell you thousands words.
Video #1.  First video, once pressed (at the 10s mark).  It takes about 20s to buffer from a Caching server CDN19.  You can see that the speed is fluctuating too.

Video #2.  Here is another video, and it goes thru CDN30.  And this one takes about 10s to launch.

Now, let’s look back the test we did few days ago on the YunOS of 10moons TV box.

Conclusions:  You can tell the different.  When you are on ViewQwest network, and when you connect to ICNTV from Xiaomi, it is slower to get connected.  The buffering time is much slower too.  If you connect to 华数TV It is almost instantaneous.
This is something to do with your ISP Internet network topology.  Who they buy the IP Transit from, and how they deliver these streaming TV contents to you.
So, my conclusion is, ViewQwest at the moment will not give a good streaming experience to your Xiaomi box.  (May be Xiaomi running on other can get surprising results).  But most show still can be played and it looks very good on your Big 4K TV screen.  All the contents are Super HD.
However, if you have a jailbreak version of Xiaomi where you can install PPTV.  The PPTV running on the Xiaomi TV box is fast.
1 second buffering.  The movie will come out.

So, you compare to the YunOS, the performance is comparable.  It was great.

And not to forget, Xiaomi comes with very nice Apple TV like remote.
I like it too.
IMG 7794
1.  Xiaomi is a great box.  But the way how they implement the caching using CDN 19, CDN 26 and CDN 30 gives mix results to viewers.  Sometimes fast some time slow.  The fastest also takes about 8-15 seconds to launch a show.  This has nothing to do with the box.  The box itself is elegant.  It has something to do with the network.  Xiaomi says it only support China viewers.  So, I am guessing the rest of the Singapore network provider will have similar performance.
2.  Temasek Holding or GIC I think put a lot of investment in Xiaomi, and I hope they can tell Xiaomi to implement proper chaching to Singapore audience.  But then, all these involves very dark content copy right issues, so, it is not going to be easy for them to get it done for oversea or Singapore.
3.  On a ViewQwest FreedomVPN environment, running YunOS to connect to 华数TV TV content is much faster (1 second launch the show).  The PPTV client running on both YunOS and Xiaomi UI are same, 1 second launch the show.   So, thru the simple video you can guess, in my mind, why I still give 10moons a two thumbs up.
Until ViewQwest or Xiaomi can solve their CDN performance issue, otherwise, I am not recommending it for ViewQwest network.
Tell you a big joke.
That day, I was trying to show my friend how fast is the 10moons TV box.  I brought the box to office without bringing the power adapter.  So, in the office, I found a power adapter and I plug it in.  Unfortunately, that power adapter is a 12V Linksys power adapter.  And it burned by power socket on the 10moons box.  @#!^!$#!@%!$$^!
HaHaHaHaHa… I am getting my new unit in soon.  Should be in within 2 weeks time.  HaHaHaHaHa
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