Sky HD EPG Update

It’s been a couple of weeks since the long awaited new Sky HD EPG made it’s way onto my box. Considering all the fanfare about it I’ve been fairly ambivalent about it, so much so I couldn’t be bothered even posting about it. A tweet tonight about ITV HD has nudged me along though.

The ability to watch ITV HD on Sky is the biggest new feature for me. Before the update, ITV HD was available only on FreeSat and only via the red button service – it’s not an actual channel which when you realise how little is broadcast in HD is understandable. To watch it on Sky (new EPG only) you need to do the following:

  • Press services button > System set up > Add channels
  • Change the Freq to 11427
  • Change polarisation to H
  • Leave symbol rate @ 27.5
  • Leave FEC at 2/3
  • Press select to find channel
  • New channels will appear , TV and radio , scroll to the one marked Channel 10510
  • Press yellow to store it , press select , press select press back up , press back up.
  • Scroll down to other channels , highlight 10510 and press select to view.

Not easy and it’s a few button presses to access the channel each time. Then again, Champions League in HD tonight and FA Cup semi-finals in HD this weekend. Nice. Quality is excellent too which makes a big difference compared to the pixelated mess that ITV usually is on Sky.

Other important changes – the EPG is now in HD and much clearer than the old one. It’s also added a mini display. However it cuts off half the display if enabled and also plays the sound from the currently selected channel. This has caught me out already – last weeks Apprentice was recording while I watched the football. Went into the EPG to select it and start watching and I see the three boys sitting in the boardroom. Even worse, disabling the mini tv doesn’t sound the TV channel sound off so you can still hear spoilers. Bit daft on Sky’s part.

Your series recordings are now displayed in stacks in the EPG. Makes sense for me but another daft feature is that the stack isn’t just per series but per series and channel. Miss a recording on BBC1 and record on BBC3 instead will see two different stacks for the same series. Can’t see this affecting me as I don’t build up a lot of recordings but it is a real pain for some which could have been avoided.

HD programs can now be highlighted in the EPG – handy when browsing what’s on. Speaking of which, now and next is a lot better on the new EPG with full info on each program without going in to the EPG. About time.

Despite these additions though the downside is that it feels a bit slower in use and that’s on my box with not much recorded. Some reports in forums from users with lot’s recorded say it is way slower than before. I’m also convinced that to watch recordings it takes more button presses than before. If it doesn’t it certainly feels that way. Considering it’s been in development for so long it’s a shame that usability seems to have suffered. Overall it’s a benefit having the new EPG but still feels like a missed opportunity.

iTunes UK - TV Content at last

I think it’s around two years since TV shows were first available on iTunes in the USA. Finally some content was made available to purchase in the UK this week. First thing you notice is how little there is – it’s all American and there’s not much off it. There’s rumours of BBC and Channel 4 content to come later but there’s nothing at the moment.

Then you notice the price. It’s high. £1.89 per episode. That would be £43.47 for Lost series 3 which sounds a lot but the whole series can be bought on iTunes for a reduced price of £32.99. Currently the box set is available on Amazon for £44.98 so there are savings to be made however it’s almost double the American price, like most things here in the UK. While I’m saying there are savings to be made on DVD’s, that’s for latest box sets only. Earlier box sets are available for much less than the iTunes price, and would you really want to pay more for lesser quality?

I’ve just spent £1.89 to test just how good the iTunes TV shows look. Continue reading “iTunes UK – TV Content at last”

Sky Anytime

Sky’s much lauded new feature Sky Anytime was finally made available to Sky HD customers today with Sky+ boxes to follow soon. Launch the TV Guide and press the red button to access the Sky Anytime content. Downloaded overnight and refreshing daily it will showcase Sky’s ‘best’ content and allow you to access this at anytime. Finally the missing 140GB from my Sky box is being used.

It probably also explains why my HD box fans have been on at 6AM for the last few days. I thought it was a buggy firmware release but this makes more sense. One nice aspect of this content is there are no DOG’s or adverts. While I was initially sceptical it is a nice way of catching some shows that I may have missed, especially some of the one off shows. There’s just too many channels to keep track off. It’s also free which is pretty rare for Sky.

However if I do turn it off I would have loved the option to reclaim the 140GB for my normal recordings. It’s also a bit weird how much SD content is included for Sky HD users. Finally, does it download or record off the channels as the programs are broadcast? I guess that doesn’t really matter. For the moment I’ll keep it enabled and review the content on offer. If it’s offering content outside my normal viewing then it will be worthwhile. If not then at least my box will resume it’s normal quiet life overnight.

Not Too Shabby

Today, the 22nd of January is allegedly the most depressing day of the year. Considering that is a scientific fact today’s turned out not too bad.

Firstly Sky have fixed my dish – it had moved less than 1 cm during the New Year winds and it took them three weeks but I’m now back in the game. Woo hoo!

I took the day off to wait in for the Sky guys. Normally there is nothing on TV but I had the fortune of watching the Murray vs Nadal match which the BBC had cleared their schedules to broadcast. What a game. Great to watch and a shame that Murray ran out of steam towards the end.

I also got my new host sorted. After looking at a number of options (Dreamhost, Media Temple, Site 5 and a couple of other UK based hosts) I went with A Small Orange. Like 34sp they seem to be customer focussed rather than in the business of overselling. Great website support and busy forums were a good sign. Once the hosting was setup I got things up and running without any issue. Just waiting for the DNS propagation to take place. I logged a call to enable shell access this afternoon. It took 4 minutes for them to do the task and reply. Great service. We’ll see how performance and downtime go over the coming months but I have high hopes that I won’t see any issues.

Finally the fence is all fixed up now. Just need to paint the bugger in the Spring. Can’t wait 🙂
Fence Repaired

Off to a flyer

So, returned from Peterborough yesterday and it looks like it was a bit stormier up here than I thought. Firstly I’ve got some fence damage. A year and a half ago we replaced 75% of our fencing. The last 25% was with a neighbour who claimed that it was their fence and it was fine. Well, one of the fine panels was smashed to bits on Hogmanay.

Fence Damage

Upshot is that they would like ME to get in touch with the fencing guy I used and arrange for him to replace OUR old fence. I’m not that bothered as it would be good to get it done but would have much preferred to do it a couple of years back. Hey ho.

Switched on the Sky box late last night – dead. No signal from the dish. Checked the recordings and it’s been buggered since Hogmanay. As Darth would say…..’Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo’. Thats the original Star Wars films in HD missed but more importantly last nights This Life. Boo. Newzbin to the rescue methinks. Phoned Sky who have reassured me that they’ll get someone to me as quick as they can – offered me a date in mid Feb. After rejecting that they will get a diary team member to phone me with something ‘a bit sooner’. No shit Sherlock.

Add to that the car getting scratched down South (the curse of Naim) makes for a good start to the year. Things can only get better?

Sky by Mobile on the k800i

I’m still loving the k800i but Sky haven’t updated their Sky by Mobile app to support the new phone. No matter – there is still a way to run the app and remote record.

Firstly download the following file to your pc – http://mobile.sky.com/SBM/SonyE_vid/SkyMobile_SonyWithTv.jar. Then transfer the file to your phone. Running the app on your phone will ask you to install it. Say Yes and pick a location that suits. Running the app for the first time will allow you to enter your username and password. From then on it should connect with no issues (unless the Sky site is down). I didn’t have to change any other settings (with T-Mobile UK) although your mileage may vary depending on your carrier. More info can be found on AV Forums for getting it to work on O2. There is now really no excuse for missing that recording.

Oh So Quiet

Not been in the mood to post recently. Combination of work (including trip to Bristol), a stinking cold (blame rests with Easyjet) and then a migraine yesterday means I’ve not had the inclination to write anything. This means I’ve made no comments on the PS3 slip (I think it’s good news to be honest) nor on Blair and New Labour or on Saints Row being more enjoyable than GTA.

The only blessing from the last week is that it’s over and tomorrow night is showtime. That 24-inch iMac is so so tempting that I may make the plunge tomorrow. I had pretty much settled on getting a Macbook Pro but I don’t need that type of power on the go. So it may be an iMac now and the gorgeousness that is 1920*1200 pixels with a Macbook early next year. Oh – and a new iPod. For once I’d love the spoof to turn out to be true.

Anyway, enjoy the show for those watching online – no doubt I’ll post with some news in the next few days.

Almost forgot…Lord of the Rings:Return of the King looked amazing in HD on Sky at the weekend. Quality of the picture was superb and looked so much better than DVD. The Proms and the live football have also been great. Sky even managed to get a decent firmware upgrade out which has fixed quite a few of the bugs. Only grumble is lack of disk space makes keeping films etc an issue, especially now that the original Star Wars movies will be broadcast in HD before Christmas. Might have to perform a sneaky disk upgrade before then.

Film 4

Well done Channel 4 – Film Four went free from 9PM tonight and is now viewable on all digital platforms including Freeview. Unbelievably people are complaining that it now sucks as the films contain adverts. I just wish for those people Channel 4 had a pay option so they could still have there advert free movies but at a cost…I wonder how many would pay. I wonder how many ever paid as it is so much easier to complain than complement.

Sky Broadband

A few months after buying Easynet Sky have launched their Sky Broadband package. On the surface the offerings are very cheap compared to competitors and also offer a free wireless Netgear router for all customers.

Sky Broadband

Look a little deeper though and things aren’t so clear. Firstly the max package is subject to a fair usage policy which if going by UK Online’s FUP will be similar to most other providers.

Secondly is that the broadband will be provisioned through Easynets LLU (Local Loop Unbundled) exchanges. This at the moment covers 28% of the UK but by year end will be over 50% and by end of 2007 over 70%. This is an extremely aggresive expansion over the coming months which will test the capacity of the network and also the quality of support staff. If you don’t connect to an LLU exchange you will use Sky’s Connect package which doesn’t offer as good value as the three packages mentioned above.

Third – you need to pay for a BT phone line which for many will add to the cost.

Fourth – you need to be a Sky Digital customer. If these points don’t cause you an issue then the broadband package is an amazing offer. Great value and the prospect of a fast Video on Demand service linked in with your Sky box. Despite this it’s not enough to tempt me into moving and that’s all down to Easynet/BT.

Six months ago I moved to NTL. That’s the last time I had issues with my broadband connection. Previous to NTL I had a short but unhappy experience with Freedom2Surf’s LLU service provisioned by Easynet. Unreliable, prone to disconnects and difficult to resolve due to problem being passed between Freedom2Surf, Easynet and BT forced my hand into switching to NTL. It will take a lot to convince me to move back although £10 a month compared to £35 with NTL is a strong argument. At the very least the competition from Sky should make NTL offer a more competitive service. More on the Sky offers can be found in the investor presentation.