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  #1  
Old 11-12-2010, 10:26 AM
FriscoJohn FriscoJohn is offline
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Concerned about Sage's Future

I love my Sage based HTPC. I want Sage to be around and prosper forever (of course this is self-interest as I want it to continue to advance and be supported).

I'm apprehensive regarding Sage's future, however. To call a spade a spade, it seems to me that Sage is a geek's product. (And I use the term geek with great respect and deference, meaning by it one who has the intellect and persistence to master a complex technical field).

I say this because one has to spend hours combing the forum and the rest of the internet to figure our how to do some pretty routine things in Sage--e.g., mapping QAM channels, getting it to work with a satellite tuner, learning how to rename and move files, getting the right EPG data to show up in the grid--just to name a few issues I had.

Although my abilities fall far short of true geek-dom, I was fortunate enough to have some programming and electronics in my distant past, enough at least, to be able to understand the info I found, which was usually presented at a level that assumed a substantial amount of technical background. However, had I known how many frustrating hours, indeed whole days, would be involved in getting up and running with Sage, I probably would have run the other way.

I don't have a simple solution to propose. Clearly one thing that would help is a comprehensive FAQ which discusses set-up and usage issues at a "consumer" level which does not presume technical background.

I take my hat off to the people who volunteer huge amounts of their time and expertise to develop the great plug-ins that provide so much of the functionality of Sage. I certainly understand that they have already done far more than their share by developing the applications and probably aren't inclined to spend a lot more time "dumbing down" the instructions to use them. Maybe that is a role for the less talented but semi-technical literate like me. I have tried to share my experiences in discovering how to do things in Sage in my posts but this, of course, is not the same as a well organized wiki or FAQ.

Of course, the ultimate answer is a really comprehensive manual. I understand that Sage is not a giant tech company but a virtual newborn. Their manual is a great start but simply doesn't have enough detail. It may not be realistic to ask them to produce volumes of support documentation a la IBM. This is maybe where the dedicated users have to step in and help out.

It would be helpful, however, if Sage could devote some of it's support resources to organizing and doing quality control on a FAQ or wiki such as I am suggesting. Such a project really needs a dedicated and authoritative coordinator which Sage could provide.

Well I am rambling on. I hope this won't be seen as criticism. I think Sage and its devoted community have done a fantastic job given the limited resources and the magnitude of the project. I'm just hoping to spark some discussion of how this great product can achieve its true potential by becoming accessible to the less technically literate consumer.
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  #2  
Old 11-12-2010, 10:46 AM
Brent Brent is offline
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I'm not concerned about SageTV's future. And I've read posts like this every so often since I've been using Home Theater PCs - BeyondTV, MediaPortal, MS MediaCenter, GoogleTV, TiVo and SageTV.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FriscoJohn View Post
I'm apprehensive regarding Sage's future, however. To call a spade a spade, it seems to me that Sage is a geek's product.
Truth is, all HTPC's (not just SageTV) are a "geek's product" overall and while this is slowly getting easier, you're not going to make it "plug & play" with the feature-set available to us today.

Quote:
I say this because one has to spend hours combing the forum and the rest of the internet to figure our how to do some pretty routine things in Sage--e.g., mapping QAM channels, getting it to work with a satellite tuner, learning how to rename and move files, getting the right EPG data to show up in the grid--just to name a few issues I had.
You're probably not alone. These things aren't always easy - especially if you don't refer to the giant users manual that addresses these things. To make matters more complicated, many of us geeks tend to want to throw in as many of the plugins we can find right off the bat and those plugins have varying amounts of support and complications.

Quote:
However, had I known how many frustrating hours, indeed whole days, would be involved in getting up and running with Sage, I probably would have run the other way.
I'm curious, was this your first time with HTPCs? I ask because setting up SageTV is actually not that difficult if you've done an HTPC before. But yes, it takes a lot of time, learning and work to do so for the first timer.

Quote:
Clearly one thing that would help is a comprehensive FAQ which discusses set-up and usage issues at a "consumer" level which does not presume technical background.
Agreed. I think the blog coming soon will address some of this but I agree more can be done for the first timer.

Quote:
.....aren't inclined to spend a lot more time "dumbing down" the instructions to use them. Maybe that is a role for the less talented but semi-technical literate like me. I have tried to share my experiences in discovering how to do things in Sage in my posts but this, of course, is not the same as a well organized wiki or FAQ.
I've attempted to fill this role a little on GeekTonic. And if any of you would like to do little how-to's or writeups to contribute to that cause let me know. The new SageTV blog will have some of this as well.

Quote:
Of course, the ultimate answer is a really comprehensive manual. I understand that Sage is not a giant tech company but a virtual newborn. Their manual is a great start but simply doesn't have enough detail. It may not be realistic to ask them to produce volumes of support documentation a la IBM. This is maybe where the dedicated users have to step in and help out.
I'm pretty sure you made Andy cry right there SageTV has one of the most comprehensive & detailed user manuals for HTPCs anywhere if not THE most detailed. It's on your computer if you installed SageTV And it's also available here. Read it - or at least refer to it when you have a question.

Don't worry, SageTV is surviving BECAUSE of its focus on the customers that got it here - the geeks. And better yet, they are slowly making the program (software and extender) more accessible to those less "geeky." Don't take my response as condescending - just and attempt to provide my opinion and feedback on your post.

PS: I'm interested in the things in particular that made your SageTV install experience less friendly. Might be something we can learn from and something SageTV - the company can learn from. Thanks!
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  #3  
Old 11-12-2010, 10:59 AM
gtfreymann gtfreymann is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FriscoJohn View Post
I say this because one has to spend hours combing the forum and the rest of the internet to figure our how to do some pretty routine things in Sage--e.g., mapping QAM channels, getting it to work with a satellite tuner, learning how to rename and move files, getting the right EPG data to show up in the grid--just to name a few issues I had.
In the past 3 or 4 years I've tried LinuxMCE, MythBuntu, VistaMCE and now I'm only less than a week into SageTV! :-)

What you describe seems common place with any HTPC software setup if you ask me.

It gets 'easier' the more you play, but every solution requires the same stuff.. install, configure, customize, tweak...

I can say that setting up SageTV has been by far the easiest, with VistaMCE coming in close behind.

Out of the box, with no add-ons, etc. VistaMCE was the easiest to configure with my setup, followed by SageTV, then MythBuntu, leaving LinuxMCE in the dust (now that's a true Geek Only system).

I wouldn't worry about the future of SageTV at all. Version 7 appears to have been well thought out, and the Plug-In system works quite well and has allowed me to pretty well add whatever I was after very easily in comparison to the other media centers I've worked with.

The WAF ratio is pretty high too. When I was showing the wife some of the neat Customize options she said "wow, they've thought of everything!"
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  #4  
Old 11-12-2010, 03:43 PM
FriscoJohn FriscoJohn is offline
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Appreciate the responses. I certainly didn't want to ruffle any feathers. However, I have enough invested in Sage now, and feel strongly enough about its potential, that I felt I should make the effort to put out there a point that I thought needed to be made.

It's certainly fair to ask for specific examples. To give but two examples of the difficulties that plague the semi-technical type (e.g., me) in getting Sage going:

Example 1: As recently as May of this year SageTV was still shipping with a "PredefinedDVBs.frq" file that only had European satellite frequencies included. Had I not read a post by 3doptics on a satellite forum I would never have known that I had to replace this with a user produced version of this file (thanks 3doptics) that had the North American satellite frequencies. Then I had to learn far more than I will ever need to know again about how Sage interfaces with satellite tuners (e.g., the role of the "[tuner name].frq file and the "[tuner name].scn file and how to tweak these). The answers were not to be found solely on the Sage forum, or by consulting Sage support, but required searching various non-Sage sites as well. To me this failure to provide for North American satellites is somewhat indicative of an assumption at Sage that its users will "figure it out". Most people can't and won't. Sage ignores a huge base of Free To Air satellite afficionados (far more of them than there are current Sage users) who are always complaining because their satellite receivers don't reliably record or even provide for good EPG data. If it were a walk in the park to get Sage up and running this crowd would be ordering like crazy. However, the satellite forums have sufficient references to problems using Sage to scare them off. (And I have to put in my obligatory plug for PBS here--over ten channels of diverse PBS programming on AMC21 for less than 200 dollars in equipment cost. Many more satellite transmissions, including many ethnic stations, in the clear on other satellites receivable with a 32" dish.)

Example 2: I couldn't get Sage to populate the EPG at first. Yes I read the manual and consulted the board and thus made sure my Windows firewall was opening the proper port. What I didn't realize, until I had thought about for a couple of days, was that my cable modem had its own firewall that had to be dealt with. I even contacted sage support on this one and they did tell me it was probably a firewall problem but never suggested the possibility that it might be a firewall other than Windows or possibly an anti-virus program. Surely this comes up frequently since so many people use cable modems. A good detailed FAQ should cover this.

Certainly no slight intended to the author of the manual. It's great as far as it goes. However, unless it runs to thousands of pages it won't be able to cover all the nettlesome minutiae that trip up less technically skilled users. I think it's hard for a technical writer to put him/herself in the place of the less sophisticated user. What is obvious and therefore goes unsaid for the techie is just not obvious to the non-technical.

I think a blog might work to fill the gap as long as it has as part of it a very detailed FAQ that addresses all the sorts of issues I have mentioned. However, I think Sage has a role in making sure it is comprehensive, up to date, and quality controlled. (Lets face it, some user "solutions" are just plain wrong and potentially dangerous.)

Maybe Sage will not (at least in the short term) be an out of the box, consumer item. But there is a huge market of the semi-technically literate such as myself who would flock to it if figuring it out weren't so daunting.

Again, none of this is meant to slight those who have so generously given of their time to develop plug-ins and answer questions on the forum. There are a lot dedicated people who have contributed great amounts of their time in this manner and we, the less talented, surely appreciate it.

Anyway that's my two cents (and you know what two cents will buy you these days).

Regards.
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  #5  
Old 11-12-2010, 04:10 PM
OneOfMany OneOfMany is offline
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There is currently a thread active that is a member of Sage's team accepting requests, and submissions for a blog..

http://forums.sagetv.com/forums/showthread.php?t=52094
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  #6  
Old 11-13-2010, 06:54 AM
aedgington aedgington is offline
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Sage 2 was a 'geek's product'.

Sage 3 was a 'geek's product'.

Sage 4 was a 'geek's product'.

Sage 5 was a 'geek's product'.

Sage 6 & 7 are simply amazing. I think you'd have to see where it's it's been to see how far it's come. It's advanced in leaps and bounds despite competing with turnkey solutions (with less features).

When HD was coming out, Hauppauge was changing cards and chipsets weekly, and a new MCE was unveiled, I was worried. Right now, with *cheap* clients and a beautiful interface, I think the future is brighter than ever.
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  #7  
Old 11-13-2010, 08:19 AM
Brent94Z Brent94Z is offline
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I feel what you are saying

I forget exactly what caused me to buy Sage originally but it was many years ago and I remember not even installing it for months and I think close to a year! I work a lot and don't have a lot of free time. I'm pretty good with computers but even still, when I started reading everything, it was a bit overwhelming and I think this feeling of being a bit overwhelmed caused me to not even build the HTPC that I bought all the parts for. However, my Tivo box ended up dying, I had some time off, and I decided to just dive in. It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be (thank goodness) BUT I still had a pretty steep learning curve. I used V6 for quite a while with no plugins because I just never had time to sit down and figure out all the "lingo" and acronyms (STV vs STVi vs the othe thing that is sometimes both or something like that LOL) that it took to be able to do it. I remember reading the forums and trying to figure out what "PQ" meant... took me forever to figure that one out and several others because you can't (at least at that time) search for such a small search string.

So, I definitely do agree with you that it takes a bit of a geek to get one of these up and running. My mother could likely figure out how to setup and program a Tivo box but not likely a SageTV setup. But, in a sense, I don't think Sage was ever intended to be plug and play... I don't see how it can be when there are so many options available and different hardware choices which can be used. Having said that, you can have a Sage setup that is fairly simplistic and a rookie geek can get it going (like a PVR-250 capture card or HDHR and an HD300) or you can have a fairly complex setup with multiple analog tuners and an HDHR plus an HD PVR or two.

Also, it is getting easier. While I didn't use plugins in V6, I'm a plugin junkie with V7 due to the ease of use

I guess I consider it a bit of a hobby so the time spent getting everything tweaked in is acceptable for me. If I didn't enjoy this and consider it a hobby, Tivo would suit me just fine. But, I find it "fun" to install new plugins and new themes and do all the stuff that Sage does and don't think I would be happy with just a basic ole Tivo setup. I end up talking to friends about my setup and often just refer to it as "A high end Tivo" or a "Tivo on steriods" LOL. I do, though, get frustrated sometimes (like when my cablebox turns off in the middle of the night for no good reason and I miss a recording. ARGH!) but those moments are minimal.

I'll also add that me going from not even knowing what the acronym "PQ" meant to my current setup could never have been done without this great community. There are so many great people here who are willing to help that it turns it into not just a means to record a few shows for me to watch later but an enjoyable hobby.

I think that what would have helped me most as a newbie would have been a list of all the acronyms that are used not only by Sage but by the people who frequent the forums. Just the other day I saw somebody post "What is a SMM?" like it was a piece of hardware or something. I knew EXACTLY how they felt because I went through the same thing when I first got started. I think there is now an acronym list somewhere but I'm not sure it is as easily found as it could be.

I also know what you mean by even when you think you find the answer in the forums that the talk describing how to do something is even above what you know! This happened to me the other day just trying to get a very simple concept to work with the SageMyMovies plugin. I couldn't get multi-discs to work correctly but it was because I was missing a very basic, but key, bit of knowledge about the concept of how it works... and this concept really wasn't written down anywhere that I saw.

I hope in a few months you end up having as much fun with Sage as myself. I think you will now that the initial growing pains are over

Last edited by Brent94Z; 11-13-2010 at 08:21 AM.
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  #8  
Old 11-13-2010, 04:49 PM
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JetreL JetreL is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aedgington View Post
Sage 2 was a 'geek's product'.

Sage 3 was a 'geek's product'.

Sage 4 was a 'geek's product'.

Sage 5 was a 'geek's product'.

Sage 6 & 7 are simply amazing. I think you'd have to see where it's it's been to see how far it's come. It's advanced in leaps and bounds despite competing with turnkey solutions (with less features).
Great point about the sage versions, I would say Sage6 was still a geek product, IMHO. I remember when I first installed it. (Sage6 was my first iteration using Sage) I had no idea what I was doing and everything about it was very counter intuitive. Sage7 has become an absolutely awesome product with their plug-in management system and menu systems. It's not perfect but sure bridges many gaps I initially had with Sage!!
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