The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How to Upgrade Your HDTV Firmware [SAMSUNG] – And Get Rid of Annoying Audio and Video Problems


How to upgrade your Samsung HDTV firmware.It’s no secret that HDTV’s have taken off. That’s for good reason, considering the incredible image quality that HD provides. So, as people buy HDTV’s and set up HD service with their cable providers, you might think everyone is extremely happy in TV-land. But running some searches in Google for HDTV audio, video, or image problems shows you that everything isn't perfect. Like many other gadgets and electronic devices, HDTV’s run software (AKA firmware). That software often needs to be upgraded as bugs and other problems are addressed by the manufacturer. Therefore, if you end up running into weird issues with your HDTV, don’t immediately think that your TV is shot. You just might need to upgrade your HDTV’s firmware. And that’s exactly what I’m going to walk you through in this post. If you’re not technical and are afraid of terms like “firmware” or “upgrade”, don’t worry. I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to upgrade. Also, I focused on Samsung in this post, but the process should apply to other manufacturers. Definitely check out the support site for your specific TV before making any changes.

Samsung HD Audio Problems
I bought a Samsung HD TV a few years ago, based on researching various manufacturers and models. Samsung received outstanding reviews overall, and was consistently called the innovator in the industry. I now have two Samsung HDTV’s and have been happy for the most part. However, over the past year, one HDTV started giving us audio problems. The audio would drop out and you wouldn’t be able to get it back unless you cycled through the various ports (HDMI2, HDMI3, AV1, etc.) Yes, that got extremely annoying, especially when it started happening multiple times per day.

Placing Blame in the Right Spot
So I did what most people would do. I mistakenly blamed the cable company. :) I switched cable boxes (multiple times), I switched out wires, tested various setups, etc. Nothing helped. For whatever reason, I didn’t think that the TV was the problem (based on having it for a few years and that Samsung had such an outstanding reputation.) But upon further research, I noticed many other people had the same problem. During my research, I also noticed several links to Samsung’s support site to download the latest firmware (which some people claimed would fix strange audio or video problems). After going through the process of upgrading my HDTV’s firmware, the audio problems that we were experiencing were 99% gone. It’s not perfect, but much better than it was. It’s now rare that the audio drops out.

After fixing the problem, I started explaining the situation to friends, family, etc. I noticed that most of the people I was speaking to had no idea you could upgrade your HDTV’s firmware (or how to do it). Based on upgrading my firmware, I had numerous requests to email the instructions for how to complete the upgrade. So instead of emailing dozens of people, I’ve decided to document the process here on my blog. Without further ado, let’s jump in.


How To Upgrade Your HDTV’s Firmware (Step by Step)

Note, you will need an empty USB flash drive to complete the process. The flash drive will be used to transfer the firmware upgrade to your HDTV. If you’re not familiar with USB flash drives, they are inexpensive, fast, and provide various storage capacities. They can be purchased at any electronics retailer and typically start at $10-$15 for 4-8GB of storage.) Here's a link to Google Product Search for USB flash drives.

Finding and Downloading the Right Firmware

1. Visit the support website for your specific manufacturer. I’ll walk you through the Samsung website, since I own Samsung HDTV’s. Visit the site and look for a link for "downloads" or "get support".

The Samsung HDTV Support Website.

2. Enter your HDTV model number. Note, I would always use the exact model number to ensure you download the correct firmware.

3. Once you see the downloads available for your TV, click the link for “firmware” or “download firmware”. Save the file to a directory on your hard drive. The download will probably be either a zipfile or an executable file. You will ultimately need to unzip the file (if it’s a zipfile) and drag the folder or contents of the zipfile to your flash drive. If it’s an executable file, then you just need to drag it to your flash drive (covered in the next step.)

Downloading the correct firmware upgrade for your HDTV.

4. Insert your USB flash drive into an open USB port on your computer. It should show up as another drive (in My Computer or Windows Explorer). Drag the file you downloaded to your USB flash drive. If you downloaded an executable file, then just drag that file to your flash drive. If you downloaded a zipfile, you might want to unzip it prior to dragging the files to your flash drive.

USB Flash Drive.
USB Flash Drive in Windows Explorer.

5. Once you transfer the executable file to your flash drive, double click the file to extract the folders necessary for the installation. This will place the necessary files on your USB flash drive. You will probably see a new folder or two after executing the file. Note, it’s recommended that you use a blank USB flash drive. If you have files already on the drive, I would clear them out prior to going through this process.

Installing the Firmware Upgrade on Your HDTV

6. Connect your USB flash drive to the USB port on your TV. For my TV, this was located on the back panel of the TV and was labeled “Wiselink”.

HDTV USB Port.

7. This next step definitely depends on your manufacturer and model of TV. Use the TV’s remote (not your cable remote), and access the main menu. For my TV, I simply clicked the “Menu” button on the remote. Scroll down to the “Setup” tab and then find the option for “Software Upgrade” or “SW Upgrade”. When you select “SW Upgrade”, choose the option for “USB” (which was the only option I had). If you downloaded the correct firmware for your specific TV, then you will be prompted to install the upgrade. If you proceed, then you should see the firmware upgrade being installed.

HDTV Menu to Access Software Upgrade via USB

Note, DO NOT DISCONNECT THE USB DRIVE while the installation is taking place. Doing so could cause serious problems with your HDTV (like corrupting your firmware or damaging your TV hardware).

The TV should automatically turn off and then back on after the install is complete. Once the TV turns back on, you should be good to go.

Congratulations, you just upgraded your firmware. :)

Are You Ready to Upgrade?
So there you have it. If you are experiencing technical issues with your HDTV, don’t start shopping for a new model just yet. Instead, it could be that you need to upgrade the TV’s firmware (which is pretty straight forward and shouldn’t take you very long to complete). Also, if you experience any problems or have questions about the upgrade, definitely contact your manufacturer’s technical support. They can make sure you have the right firmware version for your specific TV.

Happy viewing.

GG

{Disclaimer: I highly recommend contacting your TV manufacturer's technical support team prior to upgrading your firmware. I am not responsible for any technical problems or issues you experience during the upgrade.}

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The DVR and Its Effect on TV Advertising Recall, Do Your Commercials Stand Out?


DVRs and TV Advertising RecallOr does that really matter? More on that later. First, I’m a big DVR user and have been one for a number of years. I bought my first TIVO about 5 years ago, quickly added a second, and then moved to the Comcast HD DVR last year. So, I read an article in late February about a study conducted by General Electric’s NBC Universal to document the recall power of TV commercials when DVR users were whipping through them at 6x speed. In other words, do you recall an advertisement as you are fast forwarding through commercials on your DVR? By the way, that’s exactly how I watch the shows I record. In addition, if I choose to watch a live show, I just start watching the show 15 minutes in (for a 1 hour show) and then I can still fly through the commercials. Now back to the testing. The following quote is directly from the Wall Street Journal article:

Tracking biometric measurements such as eye movements, heart rate and sweat, the study found that the ads people concentrated on the most and recalled the most shared several traits. The most successful ads concentrated the action and the brand's logo in the middle of the screen, didn't rely on multiple scene changes, audio or text to tell the story, and often used familiar characters. People were also more likely to remember an ad in fast-forward mode if they had seen it once before live.

Glenn’s translation: A big static logo in the center of the screen. ;-)

Uh, tracking biometric measurement?? OK... The most successful ads didn’t rely on audio to tell the story?? The more I think about this topic, the more I think that this entire study wasn’t necessary. I guess it was for networks trying to hold on to TV advertisers at all costs, right?

Paging Dr. Gabe… Dr. Gabe Please Come to the Living Room:
So, I decided to conduct my own study. That’s right…and without biometric measurements, my heart rate wasn’t monitored, my eye movements weren’t scanned, and my sweat glands weren’t checked! I flipped on my TV, drilled into my recordings, armed with a high tech toolkit for a high tech doctor of technology (a pad and pen) and started my first show. My goal was to fast forward through each set of commercials at the highest speed and see which ads I could recall. That is, if I didn’t go into convulsions first! :) Since every study needs a name, I am calling it “The Strobe Logo Study” conducted by Glenn Gabe, Technology Scientist at Large. ;-)

Without further ado, here are the results! I will also give my quick analysis of the results following the data.

LOST on ABC (Probably my favorite show right now...)
1 Hour in Length
I started zipping through the commercials at the highest fast forward speed. Believe me, the highest speed is darn fast…each segment of commercials was over in a few seconds. I remember seeing a flash of the Wendy’s logo (centered on screen), an Applebee’s logo and a Dunkin Donuts logo (both also centered on screen). More on ad positioning later. Each was up for a flash…probably a quarter (1/4) of a second. Also keep in mind that the three logos I remembered are big brands that have been advertising for years. This obviously helped with my recall of their ads.

The Sports Reporters on ESPN
30 minutes in length
The only advertisement I remember seeing was CDW. I saw this logo twice during the show and for a little longer than the logos in LOST. This intrigued me, so I rewound the show a little to watch the CDW ad. It ends up they sponsor the show (see, I didn’t know this because I never watched it in real time!) So, as a lead into the show, they have a voiceover say, “The Sports Reporters is sponsored by…CDW”. This takes a few seconds, which leaves their logo on-screen longer. I saw this twice during the show when whipping through it on my DVR. This is an interesting note for TV advertisers. Also, the logo was centered on the screen, an important factor during my scientific study. :)

American Idol on FOX (like I had to tell you…)
60 Minutes in length
I remember seeing a Citizens Bank logo (I think) and an Infiniti logo. And, maybe…just possibly… a Lowes guy. Then again, it could have been a 7 Eleven guy or Wawa guy. I told you…it’s darn fast! Any quick movement or elaborate camera angles looks like a blur in fast forward. It makes sense, though. The common thread for TV commercial recall was becoming apparent. Any commercial that ended with a large logo centered on screen had a chance of recall (unless I blinked during the 1/4 of a second!)

Dancing With The Stars on ABC
60 Minutes in Length
I’ll cut to the chase…I recalled 3 ads, Advil, Petsmart, and a Nivea product shot. Again, each logo was centered on screen and fairly large (and the Nivea product was also large and centered). Are you seeing a trend here?

Here’s an interesting side note:
When you watch a recorded show, it will abruptly stop at a random frame at the end of the show…which is rarely when it fades to black. Dancing with the Stars ended on a BBC Worldwide America logo. So, since my DVR stopped on that frame, I saw this logo for about 10 full seconds before it returned to my DVR menu. If you are still looking for ways to appear in a DVR world, this could be one of them. BBC Worldwide America was not an advertiser, but that spot could be opened up for advertising...

Conan O’Brien on NBC (Just a brilliant comedian!)
30 Minutes
I literally didn’t recall any specific advertisement… Not one. So, I went through it a second time to make sure my eyes weren’t just fried out of my head from the previous shows… Nope, not one ad, logo, brand, etc. I guess none of the commercials used a logo centered on-screen. Read on for my scientific analysis of my DVR study.

Is this what it’s come down to for TV advertisers?
Triggering convulsions in people to see if they remember a flash of a logo? Really? I know not everyone has a DVR (yet), but if this is the type of study we are conducting, then there’s something very, very wrong. I can hear the scientists who conducted the NBC Universal study now. {In my best European scientist voice} “Yes, it seems that even 1/8 of a second can impact your brand’s recognition in the mind of lowly consumers. TV advertising is still hugely powerful and we may turn to 60 strobe flashes of logos in the future versus 30 second spots. Sure, some people may be hospitalized from the flashes of light, but it’s all worth it if the Advil logo shows up, is recalled, and then helps the hospitalized person's family overcome its collective headaches by using Advil.” OK, I’m a bit sarcastic, but it’s hard not to be!

How To Really Enhance Your TV Advertising, ONLINE
When I think of the cost to produce high end TV commercials, then the cost for airing those commercials, and then combine that with the growing number of DVR users, it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to understand why traditional TV advertising is not in good shape. I’m not saying that TV commercials should go away…but I believe that you need to supplement your TV campaigns with other campaign elements to maximize exposure and engagement. For example, I always recommend adding an online viral component to your TV commercials. Have a micro-site or landing page to engage your brand and advertisement, to help with lead generation, to work in a contest, to spark user generated content, to add a blog, etc. and then utilize online marketing channels to drive visitors there. So, combining your high end TV commercials with a robust micro-site, and then utilize paid search, organic search, email marketing, social media, blogging, display advertising, etc. to drive people there is a smart way to go. Then you’ve got yourself a serious campaign, covering all avenues, and using innovative methods. Versus…trying to justify your TV commercials with “flashes of a logo” or what I’m calling “The Strobe Logo”. There is so much you can do online to enhance your TV advertisements, and at a reasonable cost. To me, it’s a necessary addition that can unleash the true power of viral marketing.

Now let me go put an ice bag on my eyes and give my poor DVR and TV a break! Until my next scientific experiment, this is Dr. Gabe signing off. Does anyone know a good eye doctor? Maybe I should get in touch with the people who went through the original study to see who they recommend!

GG

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, scientist, or PHD. Please don’t ask me for medical assistance or to conduct clinical studies. If you need assistance from a medical doctor, please consult your healthcare company for a referral. I am not authorized to prescribe medication, recommend time off from work, or advocate medical procedures. :)

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

TIVO HD DVR at $300 - Too Little, Too Late?


TIVO HD DVR Pricing Forces Customer Evangelist To Buy Competing DVRAs I mentioned in a previous post, I was a TIVO fanatic. Notice the word “was”. From the second I bought my first TIVO, I became a word of mouth marketing machine for the product. As a customer evangelist, I was my own viral marketing channel for TIVO (no pun intended). It’s what every company strives for, right? Get people so jazzed up about your product that they find ways to tell the world about it. Whether it’s in a blog post, at a party, at the park with your kids, at work, on a plane, train, etc. You get the point! So, with HD booming over the past few years and everyone buying HD TV’s, how would TIVO respond? If you want HD resolution, then you didn’t want to use a standard definition TIVO box. TIVO fans eagerly waited to see…

Well Hello Competitors!
As cable and satellite companies (like Comcast in my area) introduced their DVR’s at extremely reasonable prices, more and more people started to try them out. They were integrated into the cable box, supported by the cable company, and the installation just seemed “cleaner” than installing a TIVO. Again, TIVO fans waited to see what TIVO would do… Personally, at that time, I loved TIVO and would not give the Comcast DVR a try just yet… I was a loyal TIVO fan.

TIVO Offers Their HD DVR!!!...
…At $800? What? When most HD TV’s range from $1200 - $2500, you want to charge me a whopping $800 for a DVR?? Seriously? No, come on…you’re pulling my leg. There’s an extra zero in there or something. OK, I’m going overboard here, but this was my first reaction. So I was stuck…I loved TIVO, didn’t want to go to the dark side of using a cable company, but I wanted my HD TV!! I really have no idea what TIVO was thinking. They basically thumbed their noses at their top customers…the people that spread the word about their product like wildfire. Forcing them to make a decision like this was dead wrong. And, that TIVO's marketing department thought this was a good idea scares me as a professional.

The Call to TIVO Customer Service
So, reluctantly, I made the move to Comcast’s HD DVR, and overall, I was happy with the product. There are definitely some things I don’t like about it, but overall, I’m happy. Then I had to call TIVO to cancel one of my plans (I have 2 TIVO’s and one would remain hooked up to a standard def TV). The woman I spoke with was extremely nice and customer service oriented. I was expecting the AOL-like method of not letting you cancel the plan, but I didn’t experience that. She was professional, empathetic, and made me feel that I was her first call of the day (which I knew wasn’t the case…) Now, you should notice the word I used above “empathetic”. This is because when she asked why I was canceling one of my plans, I explained that $800 was ridiculous and although I love my TIVO, the smart decision was to make a move to Comcast. Then I waited to here her pitch for staying, why the HD TIVO was worth the $800, so on and forth. But, I didn’t hear that at all…you know what I heard?? “I hear you Glenn…to be honest, it’s hard for us to even afford the $800”. What?? That’s from a TIVO employee for crying out loud!! Now, if that’s not a reason to second guess your marketing strategy, then I don’t know what is.

Months Later, TIVO introduces their “Affordable” HD DVR
Great. Whoopee. Now I feel like they insulted my intelligence. This is what I was asking for months ago… I actually would have paid $400 back then. I said this all along to my wife. “If they were only a few hundred dollars less...” $400 was my limit, but they kept it at $800. Now, after making the move to Comcast, I’m supposed to do a double flip and buy the $300 HD TIVO? I don’t think so. Note that the $300 TIVO is a different product than the $800, but for the average customer, that doesn't matter.

It’s funny. In the past, whenever I heard someone talking about TIVO, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Now when I hear “TIVO”, it’s a much different feeling, like I just walked into a cheesy car dealership and a guy with a skinny tie, wearing floods, with a toothpick sticking out of his mouth just approached me. “Hey boss, looking for a new car? We've got some great prices...”

It’s funny how a marketing strategy can take someone from being a company fanatic to someone writing a post like this. Ouch. It truly is sad.

So, what do you think? Is it too little, too late?

GG

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Comcast HD DVR vs TIVO


Comcast HD DVR vs TIVO
I’m a big fan of TIVO, but when HD Tivo’s are going for $800, I naturally had to take a look at the Comcast HD DVR. I wasn’t thrilled that I had to do this, but $800? I’ve been using Comcast’s On Demand service for years now, but wasn’t thrilled with the speed and the functionality of the service. I naturally thought that the DVR would be similar, so I’ve stayed away. OK, I was wrong. Read on.

TIVO has been a part of our lives for over 3 years now (since my daughter was born). We knew that time would be limited for watching TV, so we thought it would be smart to watch the shows we like when we want to watch them. It has been an invaluable gadget for us…even my daughter understands that we can rewind a show, that the Wiggles record every day, and that we can zip forward through commercials. (Sorry advertisers.) :-) That said, I really didn’t want to spend $800 on an HD TIVO. So I called Comcast. On one Saturday, I picked up the new DVR, pulled out one of my TIVO Series 2 DVR’s, and started testing out the Comcast DVR. We’ve been using the Comcast DVR in our family room for a few months now and my findings are below:

What I like about the Comcast HD DVR:

Seamless Integration with the Comcast Cable Box:
Tivo was relatively big, a second box that needed space, and was slow to react…more about the reaction time soon. With the Comcast DVR, you only need space for the cable box, which made my wife extremely happy! It’s also darn fast, which TIVO wasn’t. There was always a lag between changing stations with TIVO and it’s communication with the cable box. In addition, there were times that TIVO thought the channel had changed, but it didn’t. Then it would record a show we didn’t want thinking it was recording the correct selection… This annoyed the heck out of us, but didn’t happen often, probably twice per month on average.

Cost:
At $10/month for the Comcast DVR, there’s not a big investment and it’s covered by Comcast (if something goes wrong, you can call the cable company to come fix it or replace it). Compare this to TIVO HD at $800 and if it breaks, good luck. I’m sure you could call TIVO and have someone repair it (maybe), but knowing Comcast is right around the corner is nice.

HD Anyone?
Yes, TIVO has an HD box, but the Comcast DVR is less expensive, easy to integrate, and I was recording and watching HD footage the same day I picked up the DVR. On a somewhat related note, who else can’t wait for all stations to be broadcast in HD?? It’s hard to look at standard definition when you turn the station from HD. Am I wrong? :-)

Dual Tuners, Recording 1 Show and Watching Another:
This bothered us greatly with our TIVO Series 2 DVR’s. I love being able to watch one show and record another. It makes sense, right? Let’s say I’m watching the US Open and Tiger is on a tear. If the Yankee game comes on, why do I have to change the station? This is what happened with our TIVO… This feature with the Comcast DVR is really nice. It would be hard to revert back…

What I don’t like about the Comcast HD DVR:

TIVO software is better:
You have more functionality with TIVO, and sometimes it’s the little things that you miss. For example, I cannot jump forward in 15 minute increments like I could with TIVO. So, if you recorded an hour long show and you want to hop to the last 15 minutes, good luck. You might actually have a seizure watching the footage zip by at full fast forward speed (which is still a minute per 1 or 2 seconds.) I also liked the ability to watch something in slow motion. This isn’t available on the Comcast DVR. There is a series pass, like the season’s pass on TIVO, so that essential bit of functionality is there. I do believe Comcast will keep enhancing their software, so this might not be much of an issue down the line. Right now, however, TIVO wins the software battle.

Weird Audio Problems:
At first I thought it was my TV, but doing some Google searches revealed many other people having weird audio problems and freezing issues with their Comcast DVR. For us, the annoying little problem is that the audio goes out and you cannot get it back without switching sources or turning off the TV and then turning it back on. So, I switch from HDMI to AVI and then back and the audio comes back on. Yes, this is annoying and I hope Comcast figures it out…

Limited Space for Shows:
At 100% capacity, our Comcast DVR is holding about 40 hours of footage (mixed between HD and standard definition). It’s ok, but we would obviously like more space. It hasn’t been a big problem yet, but I can see it becoming a problem down the line if the space issue isn’t addressed. We don’t watch a huge amount of TV, but we like to record our favorite shows, which are mostly in HD. Then we have our daughter’s shows, mostly in standard definition. My son isn’t old enough yet for TV, but when he gets involved, we will definitely need more space. I’m assuming that Comcast will keep increasing the space as their service becomes more robust, but it’s worth noting now.

Dare I say…
In closing, as a TIVO fan, dare I say that my experience with our Comcast HD DVR has been…pretty darn good?? Well, it has and I need to call it like I see it! There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about TIVO’s lifespan (or lack thereof). I’m not exactly sure what the company has planned and which areas they will focus on in the future, but I can tell you that if I switched to the Comcast DVR, many others are going to do the same. I’ve told countless people over the past 3 years about TIVO (with my very own mini Word of Mouth Marketing campaign), but I feel much less connected with the TIVO brand right now… I’ve still got a TIVO Series 2 in another room in my house, but it’s been getting less and less attention. Do you think it knows that Buzz Lightyear is downstairs recording some HD right now? ;-)

GG

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