Triple play has arrived in our home. Here’s the description of my day yesterday. First, Internet access was cut off. Normal, since I changed ISP, but what was abnormal is that I got it back at nearly 3 times faster download speed very shortly after, when I connected our new Freebox v6. I was expecting more of a hole in the connection and had a 3G+ key ready just in case.
Nothing to see here! Three boxes, each with a diagram of hookup on the inside lid:
- Freebox modem, router, server.
- Freebox player (set top box)
- Power supplies for the above which also connect the two via Ethernet at 200Mbps
I opened up the boxes, plugged in the server and powered it up. It has a LED readout that enumerated the steps it was going through in powerup, connect, syncro. I went upstairs and hooked up the player to our TV, using the included HDMI cable. That alone sets the box apart from most of the gear I’ve bought. There was a second Peritel cable in case you have an older TV with no HDMI. I love HDMI for its combining of audio with the video.
As soon as the modem was plugged in, it went though its paces and I played with the Macs connected to it via Ethernet cable. It happend that the box router comes set with the same unroutable local address I use, 192.168.1 but the gateway was set to 254. I use fixed IP addresses on most of my equipment, so I had to first use DHCP on one to find the gateway. Once I did this, I could switch the computers back to manual fixed IP and set up two other important devices, our SIP phones.
Full telephony is part of the triple play, so I plugged the Siemens Gigaset S675IP in to the phone connector on the router as if it was a “normal” phone. It’s not: the Gigaset is a DECT/SIP hybrid, it connects to a phone line and has 6 SIP accounts. Our are set to providers in the USA and conference servers like ZipDX. I needed to reconfigure both the Gigaset DECT and the Polycom IP650 desk phone to talk to the new router IP. Both phones were now working.
Setting up WiFi was a matter of generating a key, and might be the only daunting thing to a non-techie. However, I got through it and copied the very long string to USB. One thing I never found was a way to copy that key to the iPods,. It had to be typed in manuually; This was probably the longest operation of the day.
Media Server / Set Top Box (above)
Firing this up went through some configuration. First the screen resolution and trim, which is automatic. Then the detection of terrestrial digital TV channels. Finally I was ready with the full menu (see image below). I briefly tried terrestrial, which worked, but sucks because we don’t have an outside antenna. The digital TV over the Internet is perfect. Further, I was able to download a file at something like 15MB/s while watching TV. But then I moved to the media part.
Network Attached Storage
At first I was confused by how to connect to the server part, since there is a 250 gigabyte drive in it. Older versions used ftp, which I was ready for, but couldn’t find. It took my hours to realize that this box works as Network Attached Storage (NAS). Here’s the amazing part: it just appears as a drive automagically on Macs and even the Windows 7 laptop. I immediately copied some AVI over to it and lo and behold, it plays these better than my Macbook connected to the TV did on VLC.
Blueray / DVD
I’m not a Blueray fan, we don’t even have a full HD TV, so I didn’t try it and don’t care. However, inserting my American DVD in the unit gave me the “wrong region, fool!” error. I’ll have to look into the possibility of a hack, but I fear the region is in the firmware. Not about to mess with that. I put in a DVD I made here, which works in normal players, but it had no audio. I guess for now, we’ll have to keep the deregionalized DVD player we have.
The unit has a built in DECT base. I haven’t tried this yet, I’ll be back to edit when I do. If you already have a bunch of DECT handsets, this might be a good way to go.
It’s rubbery and a bit too much Philippe Starck (tarte à la crême du moment) for my taste, but it works.
The Internet access speeds are about 20Mb/s which is great, although I’d have liked an upload speed increase, too. It’s only a hair faster than the 768Kb/s we had before.