True, it’s been a while since my last entry. Regrettably that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen crappy devices over the last few years. However, of all the devices I’ve tested recently, the LG annoyed me enough to write about it, so here it goes. I figured, Amazon’s Cyber Monday might be the right time to get a bargain on a new TV for the inlaws and the feature list of the LG 42LN5758 looked appealing. Little did I know at the time of LG’s sneaky way of logging info on their users’ viewing habits as uncovered by DoctorBeet. And sure enough, my model on firmware 03.20.38 does send the filenames of all media files on an attached USB drive to an LG server:
Of course, I could block the URLs in my router (there’s not even an option in the menu to turn this off) or wait for a firmware update dealing with this once LG figured out, the public backlash wasn’t worth the extra pennies they might gain from advertisers (apparently it’s time now, please check the update at the bottom of this page). However, I’ve read a lot of complaints about firmware updates removing features with no chance of getting them back as well as LG making it next to impossible to downgrade to a previous version.
That’s obviously par for the course cause LG makes it needlessly complicated to do the initial channel scan: you have to select ALL instead of ASTRA and then NONE which is quit unintuitive if you’ve seen the menu. Hilariously enough, they seem to think their method of sorting channels on the TV with the remote involves only a few simple steps “making your life so much easier”, I kid you not. To transfer the channel list to USB to do the sorting on your PC, you have to take this clumsy approach:
- use a regular LG remote (fortunately there’s no oh-so-improved ‘Magic Remote’ or Logitech Harmony required)
- press and hold SETTINGS until the channel info appears at the top of the screen
- release immediately and as fast as you can enter ’1105′ followed by OK
- in the upcoming Installation Menu select USB Cloning > Send to USB
- sort the channels in Chansort on your PC and repeat the process
Why does it have to be this complicated? Why can’t the channel list be copied from a regular menu? Beats me! Apparently all TV manufacturers consider this data to be so much more than a bunch of parameters, easily being stored and edited in a simple CSV file like this
40;CNN Int.;0;;;;;ASTRA 19.2E;;11778;1;1068;27500;28522;165;100
they make you jump through extra hoops to get it.
The same goes for USB recording: it’s embarassing to see manufacturers – in an act of preemptive obedience towards rightsholders – encrypt all lawful (!) recordings so they cannot be watched elsewhere. But what’s the point of using exotic filesystems which renders a recording USB HDD useless for anything else? The Samsung UE40D8090 uses XFS as a filesystem but writes to drives already partitioned with it. Thus I can split my drive into NTFS/XFS partitions and play back media files from the NTFS partition and record to the XFS partition, all on the same drive. Not so with the LG, even an already paritioned drive (with JFS in this case) will be formatted. The LG apparently creates an extra 50 MB ext3 partition with a 500 KB binary ‘LGDB.vol’ file on it and if even if you keep this partition/file when resizing the JFS partition and adding a new NTFS partition, the LG deems the drive unusable and wants to format it again which prevents you from using it for anything else.
Also annoying is the fact that you cannot switch inputs fast cause pressing INPUT on your remote usually opens the fancy input list where repeated presses of INPUT do cycle through the input sources which still need to be confirmed by pressing OK. Switching from USB playback to TV like this, however, does not work, you need to press BACK (which apparently manufacturers just cannot agree on where to place on a remote) several times, depending on how deep down you were in the folder structure of your USB device, to get back to the input list where only then you can select another source. Worse, to eject the USB device you first need to switch to another source to be able to call up the Quick Menu (Q.MENU on the remote) where you need to press RIGHT 11 (!) times to reach the ‘Eject USB device’ button (how’s that for quick?) cause the generally commendable first-to-last/last-to-first vertical navigation in menus inconsistently does not apply to right/left navigation.
The main issue for the inlaws however is that one of them is hard of hearing and therefore needs to listen to the TV with a wireless TV headphone while the spouse listens via the TV’s speakers (a not too uncommon arrangement, IMO). Their current CRT TV has a cinch line-out so the speakers do stay on with the volume-adjustable headphones attached. Unfortunately the LG only has a cinch line-in and the headphone jack mutes the speakers once a headphone is plugged in. And of course you cannot turn this off and therefore cannot have audio over headphones and speakers simultaneously.
So why is there an option in the audio menu to switch between speakers and headphones, you ask? My guess is that some of the geniuses at LG eventually figured out that the placement of the headphone jack (which looks like a dummy connector, by the way) on the rear side (!) of the TV would make it inaccessible with the TV being mounted to the wall. Guess how many customers did not think of this and had to unscrew the TV again. That was probably the same genius that placed the volume/channel/settings buttons on the rear side of the device too.
While waiting for LG customer support to comment on this, I found various entries on popular consumer electronics boards suggesting this feature has been requested by customers like forever. And sure enough, LG support told me the only way to get audio from speakers and headphone simultaneously would be to use a SCART to RCA adapter which I’d already tried in the meantime resulting in speakers and headphone being slightly out of sync and therefore unusable but especially as there is no sound coming out of the headphones when recordings/media files are played back from an attached USB device! Facing these facts, the support acted in true LG fashion by shifting the blame on me, suggesting they’d expect customers to conduct proper research into a device’s features prior purchase.
Of course I didn’t bother to ask how the phrase ‘AUDIO menu items are disabled when connecting a headphone’ from the manual PDF could possibly be construed to mean that simultaneous audio is impossible, nor did I bother to test the validity of the phrase ‘Optical Digital Audio Out is not available when connecting a headphone’ by buying a Toslink to Cinch converter. I simply decided to switch to another brand.
Why LG? Why indeed!
Update, December 14th
Apparently LG has finally caved and released update 04.20.29 (currently only available via the TV’s support menu) that stops sending unencrypted user data and USB filenames to LG (HBBTV data apparently is still being sent to the networks). You can verify this by downloading this dump file and browsing it in Wireshark. Right-click > save as and once downloaded rename to .zip (I can’t be bothered to purchase WordPress’ Space Upgrade just for a new filetype). While logging this file I briefly watched ARD (with HBBTV) and ZDF before switching to USB and playing back the file “LGsux.avi”.
In case you were wondering: NO, of course LG did NOT enable simultaneous audio over TV speakers and headphones in any of these updates. Hey, it’s only been requested for 2 years or so…