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[Talking to the Topfield TF5000PVRt using Linux (instead of their Windows apps)]

We have a Topfield TF5000PVRt, which is a Digital TV Set Top Box with 120GB hard disk. The unit records our TV shows in MPEG2 format, which means you can easily burn a DVD etc once you get the files to the computer.

It's getting the files to the computer that's tricky. The connection is via USB, and the manufacturer provides only Windows software - but I run Ubuntu Linux, not Windows.

In 2009 a graphical applcation was developed to allow Linux users to communicate with Topfield PVR USB connection. This application is called Guppy, and can de downloaded from http://guppy.ttsui.net/.

Just in case anyone wants my previous write-up of the old ftpd software, which worked well before 2009, here's the info ...

In my searching around the Internet, I came upon a program called ftpd-topfield, which seemed to be a Linux-based utility, used to talk to the PVR. Problem is, there really isn't much in the way of documentation on the site if you're looking to run the program on a PC-based system. In fact there was not really much obvious documentation that you actually COULD run this on a PC-based system. I got it working, and thought it worth explaining how.

First, I connected the Topfield to the USB port and verified the Topfield was visible via the 'lsusb' command :

    callan@runt:~/$ lsusb
     Bus 001 Device 004: ID 11db:1000 Topfield Co., Ltd. PVR

Then, I installed ftpd-topfield-0.7.4. The first step here was to figure out how to actually install it, since I'm still fairly new to linux (I know my way around the desktop, but I don't get all this compiling programs stuff!).

I eventually figured out that I just had to go to the ftpd-topfield-0.7.4 directory, and use the command 'make' which compiles a binary (executable). Then I just run this program like this: ./ftpd -D --P 2021 [enter]. Note that I had to run this command as 'sudo' else I received an error in my syslog (Jun 11 10:15:10 runt ftpd-topfield[5450]: can't open /var/run/ftpd-topfield.pid: Permission denied).

This starts the program as a Daemon, running on port 2021. Basically what this does is turns the local machine into an FTP server. It also allows the local machine to talk to the Topfield. It appears to basically be a bridge between the two devices - the FTP server seems to mount the Topfield as its file system, kind of cool actually.

So if you then FTP into the local machine (using lftp as recommended) this is what happens:

     callan@runt:~/ftpd-topfield-0.7.4$ lftp localhost:2021
     lftp localhost:~> ls
     drwxr-xr-x 1 none none 0 Jan 1 2003 DataFiles
     drwxr-xr-x 1 none none 0 Jan 1 2003 MP3
     drwxr-xr-x 1 none none 0 Jan 1 2003 ProgramFiles
     -rw-r--r-- 1 none none 512 Jan 1 2003 PBKHddLicenceKey.txt
     drwxr-xr-x 1 none none 0 Jan 1 1970 firmware
     drwxr-xr-x 1 none none 0 Jan 1 1970 turbo

As you can see, the FTP Server is 'serving' the Topfield hard drive. Cool. Then I chaned the local directory to my home directory :

      lftp localhost:/DataFiles/Clips> lcd /home/callan
      lcd ok, local cwd=/home/callan

Then changed to the DataFiles/Clips directory on the Topfield, and looked at the contents :

      lftp localhost:/> cd DataFiles
      lftp localhost:/DataFiles> cd Clips
      cd ok, cwd=/DataFiles/Clips
      lftp localhost:/DataFiles/Clips> ls
      drwxr-xr-x 1 none none 0 Jan 1 2003 ..
      -rw-r--r-- 1 none none 69111808 May 21 19:15 BbJaime.rec
      -rw-r--r-- 1 none none 239292416 May 13 20:53 EskimoJoe.rec

Then finally, grab the first file :
      lftp localhost:/DataFiles/Clips> get BbJaime.rec

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