Saturday, December 07, 2013

How to clean up the Samsung Smart TV you shouldn't have bought

You shouldn't have bought that Samsung Smart TV [1].

You should have bought a dumb TV with decent speakers, a simple remote, and simple HDMI switch box so every user can effortlessly switch inputs [7]. Pair it with an Apple TV and, if you insist [4], something to stream Amazon video [2]. If you want to record over-the-air TV please report to the local police station [3].

Alas, you did buy the spyware-by-design [5] Smart TV. You gaze in horror at the crapware infested screen, remembering pre-iPhone mobile and HP winboxes. Set aside an hour or so, because you have cleanup to do.

Short of hacking the TV your cleanup options are limited to:

  • Delete: Only a few of the apps can be deleted. I assume they didn't pay enough to Samsung.
  • Move: You can create a folder to move some app icons too. Moves are slow.
  • Lock: Almost everything can be 'locked', even things that can't be moved. You can't lock the bundled IE browser however.
  • IE Browser only: If you have the patience, you can find a 'restrict' option in the browser settings. Set a passcode and enable nothing.
For the standard Lock and the IE Browser restriction you are asked to enter a passcode -- even though you never set one [6]. The default is always 0000, then you can change it.
 
The basic cleanup pattern is then:
  • Use the Tools button (on remote) to create a folder
  • Select items on screen with remote, click Tools, and see your options (Delete, Move, Lock). Delete when you can, Move when you can, Lock all you can't Delete.
At the end of the day you will be stuck with a number of apps on screen, but they will be locked and thus confusion is limited.
 
You really shouldn't have bought that Smart TV :-).

[1] I've had four hours of experience with post-1994 TV. Isn't amateurism wonderful?

[2] As of today neither Google nor Apple set top boxes will stream Amazon video. Of the options listed here the Roku has a good reputation. The XBOX 360 is abysmal, the original Wii did a good job. I assume Amazon wants to do their own hardware solution. Apple TV does Netflix well. For now we've installed Samsung's Amazon streaming app -- it's slow to start but has worked for a couple of days.

[3] Few now remember the short time when it was easy and inexpensive to record over-the-air (OTA) TV; VCRs dropped their advanced scheduling abilities in the early 90s. The Tivo era died at the hand of Cable and content owners, now there's a crowdfunded effort for OTA DVR with minimal results. For a brief time Samsung SmartTV supported recording to USB stick or drive, but this interfered with their revenue model and has been quietly dropped.

[4] Amazon Prime streamed video library is a very mixed bag. Movie selections are abysmal. Television is variable, but they do offer BBC and thus Dr Who. Apple TV has PBS - with some Amazon carve out exceptions. The media landscape today makes the Netflix DVD era seem a golden dream.

[5] During my cleanup process I ran into at least 4 EULAs; I assume they all grant Samsung the right to monitor everything we do.

[6] Samsung copies Apple extensively, but they need to copy more.

[7] Samsung's comparable dumb TV is more expensive than their Smart TV. I assume that's partly better components, but it's possible that the Smart TV cost is subsidized by the bundled video options.

See also:

Update 5/17/2014 - restoring the missing PVR (recording) function: The SamyGO TV firmware hacking project enables “Video Recording”. The download site is now at http://download.samygo.tv/. We have a Samsung UN40EH5300, per samygo.tv I think this is an “EH5300” model:

<TYPE><REGION><SIZE><YEAR><SERIES><VARIANT>[misc details]

where

U: LED

N: North America

Size: 40”

E: 2012

H: ? H series? EH series? (Wiki is confused here)

5300: variant 5300

Alas, the wiki SamyGo wiki makes it clear that hacking a 2013 Samsung is no trivial task. The relevant wiki page is a work in progress - as of 12/2012. Nonetheless, on the forum there are discussions on hacking it …

1 - One For All remote URC-7320 or similar

2 - Press magic key 3 sec then enter 0812 Press magic key 3 sec then enter 994 + magic key + 00020 + red key ( now red key is 3SPEED ) Press magic key 3 sec then enter 994 + magic key + 00027 + green key ( now green key is FACTORY )

with tv turned on press info in tv original remote and green key in ofa remote and thats all

The URC-7320 is no longer sold, but Amazon does sell a URC-8820. Elsewhere a blog post says using the IR remote hack is particularly treacherous…

I found a discussion on enabling EH5300 PVR, but I think this is a generic direction, I can’t see it’s been used on a 5300.

1.- Download ruSamsungTVCommunicator

2.- Connect your TV and your PC to your local network.

3.- Open ruSamsungTVCommunicator and wait until it finds your TV (If it doesn't find it, you'll need to manually enter its ip address)

4.- A prompt will be shown in your tv, accept it.

5.- Turn off your TV and ruSamsungTVCommunicator then press {INFO} {MENU} {MUTE} {POWER} on the remote and re-open ruSamsungTVCommunicator.

6.- Press FACTORY and after this 3SPEED buttons on ruSamsungTVCommunicator.

7.- From Service Menu select Control, than Sub-option; Find PVR and change it to ON and PVR Num =1

8.- Save settings by pressing POWER on remote controller (TV turns off)

9.- Enjoy your new PVR!!!

I actually tried running ruSamsungTVCommunicator on a no-file-system-access XP VM running on OS X. I set a VM snapshot, then reverted post experimentation. There were quite a few unsettling pauses in the process, which might have been the XP antivirus keeling over. I didn’t get far with the experiment. I think I’ll have to give up on my hacking the Samsung — at least until there’s a less worrisome toolset.

2 comments:

James Gramze said...

We have a very nice 55" Samsung Smart TV. Everyone who has seen it says it is the best screen they have ever seen. Here's how I use it.

I had to turn off gestures and voice control as they worked when I didn't want them to and would not work when I did want them to.

We cut the cable TV cord and are using a cheap indoor antenna. We get all the major networks in HD for free along with about ten SD channels. With Samsung's free Smart View apps for iOS the tuned in station on the TV is streamed over WiFi to my iPhone or iPad. This is awesome.

We have an Apple TV as the only device plugged into our Samsung Smart TV. We watch that a lot, with video podcasts, iTunes Radio, and the free PBS and Smithsonian channels. We don't use any pay services on the Apple TV.

Since we have Amazon Prime we do use the Samsung Smart TV for free AP video viewing.

We Airplay content mirroring content from other devices to our Apple TV which is displayed on the Samsung TV. Lastly, I play a lot of content from a USB thumb drive on the Samsung, which plays a rather huge number of formats.

Our Samsung Smart TV is solid for all these uses and it has really good sound along with its spectacular screen. Most of the "smart" features don't work well, but what I list above is, quite honestly, a marvelous and satisfying experience. We just ignore the rest and the thing is awesome to this Apple fanboy.

John Gordon said...

Thanks James, nice summary. We're also cheap indoor antenna people, which suffices in our neighborhood, and we use the Smart TV for Amazon Prime.