At the 2010 InfoComm show, I remember getting my first glimpse of the Crestron Capture-HD capture recorder. Like most, I was very excited about the product. The CHD offers high-definition recording with a video window overlay for use primarily in a lecture-type environment, though it fits the bill for many needs. Packed into a 1RU form factor and running embedded Linux, it is an impressive device at an incredible price point. We immediately had a use for the CHD and were quick to implement three recorders in a usability lab environment. As early adopters, we assumed there would be some degree of growing pains. However, nearly a year and a half later I am just starting to feel comfortable with the device in its reliability and stability.
During our first install with the initial firmware release, the customer reported problems when writing to USB drives. Crestron quickly identified a problem in the firmware and a fix was release which we implemented for the customer. In the following weeks the customer reported additional problems with loss of audio and occasional lockups of the units. We discussed these issues with Crestron who had not received similar reports at the time. An additional problem was that after a system reboot, the CHD would loose its time and go back to Unix epoch. As the CHD does not have a real time clock, it needs an Internet connection to retrieve its time from an NTP server. As we did not have the units on a “real” network and only a dedicated A/V Control network, this functionality did not work. In order to sidestep these problems, I created a Simpl+ script which simply retrieved the time from the master and used that variable to set the time of the CHD units (Crestron has since released a newer firmware and module which accomplishes the same task). In order to fix the stability issues, I opened a second connection over port 41795 of each of the CHDs and issued a good old fashioned “reboot” command at 3 in the morning. The units have been running stable since and the customer has not reported any problems.
My second experience with the Capture-HD was a bit more frustrating. Installed in a similar lab style environment, two CHDs were connected to a larger DM-MD32x32 Digital Media Chassis. Every few days, the Capture-HD’s would either lock up or lose video. It would generally happen while the units were sitting idle for a few days at a time. I attempted to try to reboot the units at night like my previous install. However, this worked to no avail and I continued to have problems. After MANY calls to Crestron, I was finally given a beta version of firmware which solved the problem. This firmware seems to be MUCH more stable and I have not had an issue yet. The version was v1.000.0066. Crestron has yet to make this public as of the writing of this article. However, I have been told that a new version is due for release in a couple of weeks.
Slow Network Transfers
Finally, my last complaint is that the network transfer speed is HORRENDOUS! I have tested FTP transfers both through a dedicated server on a local network and with my laptop plugged directly into the CHD LAN port and the best speed I can get is a paltry 2MB/s (16Mbits/s). This means that a 4GB file will take around 1/2 hour to transfer to an FTP server. I find this kind of crazy and can only assume that it has to do with the internal bus of the storage device or USB. In any case, I hope that there is a chance that it can be improved with firmware.
While these initial problems with the Capture-HD were certainly frustrating, the box is still very exciting and I hope that Crestron will continue to improve the firmware and software for the device.