Saturday, 08 February 2014
YouView vs Sky

2014-02-03T10-19-24_0I've been a Sky customer for over 11 years and while in the early years I didn't think much about shelling out near to £50 a month for all of the channels through the years, I realised how wasteful that had been seeing as I didn't watch most of them. I began by cutting back on the channels as much as Sky would let me getting my bill to about £23 a month.

If you're a Sky customer you'll be no stranger to Sky's offers, where they'd like to give you the movies or sports package for a large discount for 6 months or more. The problem comes when trying to cancel those channels. In the past I've been on the phone to the cancellation line for almost an hour trying to drop channels and with them suffering slow systems. Sky make it very easy to add new channels you can even do this online, however the functionality to remove channels was not made available online.

Don't get me wrong I have had no other problems with Sky through the years as a service and I have found it a reliable service. I even managed to save money by learning how to service my own satellite dish without taking out a service contract. However I couldn't help but be fascinated by BT's YouView option. BT give you the option of a YouView box along with 18 other channels among them SyFy, Universal and Fox which were some of the channels we seemed to watch the most on Sky. All of this would only cost me £7 a month added onto my existing broadband package. Previously I had been put off BT's service in the past because you couldn't record these extra channels which were sent to you over your broadband connection. After an announcement was made that these channels were recordable, I took the plunge and ordered the BT TV service and ran it alongside Sky for a few months to compare them and to start recording my shows on the new box.

The comparison 
It took me a bit of getting used to the interface on the YouView box but after a while it started to make sense. It also came across as more intuitive compared to the Sky program interface, the ability to go back in time on the planner and watch shows that had already been aired was a brilliant idea. Recording shows was simple enough and so was recording a series of a show.

On Demand Shows
2014-02-03T10-45-43_0Both boxes provide on demand content and there is no competition when it comes to the latest content Sky does win hands down. That's not to say BT's "BT Player" service doesn't have an impressive catalogue however quite a lot of the on demand content is older and much of it has probably been removed from Sky's catalogue already.

But wait! Is that Sky in the On Demand section on the YouView box I see? It is indeed! So while you have access to BT Player in the On Demand section on the YouView box from BT which features all the on demand shows BT have sourced you also have access to content from BBC iPlayer, ITV, 4OD, Channel 5, MilkShake, NOW TV, Sky, Dave and S4C.

The Sky Store player in the on demand section is basically giving you access to pay per view movies from Sky. If you're looking for the latest movie releases you're more than likely going to find them in here before they reach the BT Player Box Office section. Sky Store funnily enough actually seems to work better on the YouView box than it does on Sky's own box. The Sky Store is also available separately on other services.

What about NOWTV?
NOW TV is also a service available from Sky basically providing Sky's regular content over broadband (at a price). Don't get too excited though the NOW TV player on the YouView box does not have the ability to stream live content from NOW TV as it does on their website or via the Xbox such as Sky Atlantic or Sky One but Sky does mention they are working with YouView to make this available. For now the only content you can get off NOWTV on YouView is Sky Movies. I'll be writing a separate article about NOWTV and their dedicated NOWTV Box later.

Other on Demand Content
And as usual the other on demand players such as iPlayer, itv Player etc are freely available on the YouView box as they are via a web browser on your PC. I will admit I have only made use of BBC iPlayer and 4 On Demand and have had no problems so far with the quality of the service.

Anything Else?
I have found the YouView Humax box provided by BT reliable and haven't had too many problems with it. I have only had one issue watching a SkyStore film which kept on stuttering, the issue was corrected by quickly resetting the box by holding down the power button on the front for 8 seconds.

I suppose I will find out soon enough if I will end up regretting my decision to drop Sky. Only time will tell Smile

posted on Saturday, 08 February 2014 14:28:20 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 26 July 2012
Is YouView too late?

YouView has taken an incredibly long time to launch. The idea behind YouView I believe is a brilliant one, however I can't help but think they're a little late to the market and when you see what they have to offer you can't help but think ".oh is that it?"

image

Don't get me wrong its nice having a set top box that enables you to watch on demand content from your TV but the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 have been available from the XBOX 360 (£174) and PlayStation 3 (£187) for several months now. It makes you wonder if anyone will shell out £299 for the YouView set top box. Look at all the new SmartTV's out there that already have the above mentioned services built in or available to download as apps and you end up scratching your head wondering if its really worth it. The majority of the content that YouView boasts to have besides the ones I have mentioned above are freely available right now if you have Digital TV. There is no need for a set top box. You are basically just getting the ability to watch the above on demand content as extra. 

Enter Sky's new service which will be added to YouView called NowTV and all of a sudden the above starts to look a little more viable. While NowTV is currently only a movie service, Sky will later be offering Sky Sports and content from its flagship channels Sky1, Sky Atlantic and Sky Living. Granted if you are a Sky subscriber and have an Xbox you're probably already seeing some of this content on Sky Player. The one problem there is you have to be a Sky subscriber to get to that content and as always some shows are blocked on the live Sky Channels on Xbox because they don't hold the digital rights to stream it over IPTV. It makes you wonder if we will see the same issue taking place if they end up streaming live Sky channels over YouView?

Its important where you get YouView

Look closer at the offers for YouView available from BT and Talk Talk as opposed to buying one solo and plugging it in. Suddenly things start to get a bit clearer, not all YouView offers are equal. Get a set top box from Talk Talk for YouView and with an additional "boost" you can get some of the Sky Channels without the need for a dish and a subscription with Sky. It appears TalkTalk will be offering the service they currently used to offer on TalkTalk TV in addition to YouView content which is great news for TalkTalk customers.

BT appear to be offering the same content from BT Vision to people who get a YouView box with them. However looking at BT's line up I prefer the selection of content and channels that appear to be available from TalkTalk. The dilemma there is I prefer getting my broadband from BT instead of TalkTalk.

Over the coming months it will be interesting to see how this pans out. I'm also interested to see what Sky does with its content. In the past they've always been interested in owning the platform and the rights to the content instead of sharing their content with other platforms for a fee.

posted on Thursday, 26 July 2012 09:03:50 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 12 February 2012
Watching SkyPlayer and other content from your PC on your TV

This article can apply to just about any content that you can watch on your PC but just can't watch on your TV be it via XBOX, PS3 or some type of set top box we have to face the facts that some services are either limited on these devices or have content restrictions.

So for example lets say I want to watch a show that is on SkyPlayer on my TV via my XBOX. You may discover that that show is restricted for viewing via Xbox on your TV but you are perfectly free to view that content on your PC. Sounds silly doesn't it?

Anyway the next option is to connect your laptop or PC to your TV and that can often be pretty impractical especially if you want to use the laptop at the same time.

The Solution
Enter this lovely box of tricks by StarTech called a Ethernet to VGA Over IP Converter, so how does this help?

StarTech

This clever little device plugs into your home network and has a VGA connector on the back that plugs into your TV or monitor. You then install drivers for the device on your laptop which will discover this device on your network and treat it as an extra monitor!

But it doesn't just stop there, the device is also a USB server. That means you can plug any USB device into it and your laptop will think its plugged into one of its local USB ports. You're probably wondering why? Well you may want to plug a USB mouse and keyboard in there so you can control what's happening on the screen from near the TV.

I basically use it by dragging the video I am watching onto the extended display my laptop suddenly has via this device and can carry on using my laptop while at the same time its playing a video in the other window.

So just how good is this?
There is a "but" though, your were expecting one weren't you? You can use this device over WiFi but to get a good quality broadcast I resorted to both my machine and the device being on a 100meg wired network. In theory if I had a 300meg WiFi network instead of 54meg it would have had the same result?

posted on Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:47:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Saturday, 03 July 2010
The technology push to your living room

I've been reading articles about Google TV, Microsoft, Sony, BT, Sky and (now) Apple with interest regarding their push to your living room to put content on your TV.  There's a hell of a lot of content on the web and the age old issue of watching this content conveniently on your TV instead of having to fire up browsers on your PC is a problem none of the big companies appear to have really solved.

Sure you can watch some of Sky's content on your Xbox 360 now. But you won't get all of Sky's content because of content restrictions enforced by content distributors. You also won't get 4OD, BBC iPlayer or the ITV Player on this service. In addition to that you won't get YouTube, Hulu or Joost. Basically there is not one set top box that will give you all of these services through your TV without having to switch or unplug some box out of the VGA, SCART or HDMI slot on your TV. My guess is that Google are trying to address this with their new set-top box idea. Weather it will work remains to be seen, because at the end of the day it doesn't matter how fancy your platform is, content is still king.

Content distributors also hold a lot of sway, they dictate how their content can be distributed. If a channel is distributed via the Internet and over encrypted satellite in the eyes of the content provider they are separate mediums which require separate content rights. Hence Sky's problem of only being able to broadcast some of their Sky 1 shows via SkyPlayer and blocking the channels for the duration of that show for SkyPlayer customers while satellite customers get to view it.

Likewise content providers may give the writes to distribute a show over a streaming Internet Service with the caveat that it cannot be streamed to a service that connects to a TV as this right could have been solved to a terrestrial provider. This arrangement makes things incredibly difficult while all the user wants to do is watch their TV shows in the most convenient way possible.

I wish Google TV every bit of success although I am struggling to see how they will be able to offer the content we want all through one set top box. In addition to this problem when watching a series on TV sometimes people would like to start from the beginning of a series people are all raving on about. Content providers don't make it easy to get to this content and their appears to be a high amount of people using illegal downloads via services such as Bit Torrent to get to this content. The video/TV entertainment industry appears to be out of touch with how people would like to consume their content. The same thing happened in the music industry which saw a huge shift in how music was distributed which lead to services such as Spotify.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a service that held just about every movie, TV series, documentary that had ever been made, made available on demand? You could pay for the content per item or for a monthly fee have access to all of it?

posted on Saturday, 03 July 2010 10:42:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Project Canvas

The BBC, ITV, BT, Five, Channel 4 and TalkTalk have been given then go ahead for Project Canvas a project to enable people to watch Internet based TV on set-top box's connected to their TV's. Its a brilliant idea and one we disgruntled customers have wanted for some time. Its great content guys but I'd love to watch it on my TV screen easily instead of having to watch it on my computer screen. Yes there have been alternatives for instance Sony's PS3 openly supports and advertises that you can watch BBC iPlayer on its games console and the same service is also available on the Wii. The Xbox 360 being somewhat of a walled garden has snuggled up to Sky who also have rather good content but charge and horrendous amounts for their subscriptions to watch their on demand content on the Xbox and not all of Sky's content is available on the Xbox as it is on the PC.

So why Project Canvas? Well not all of the content from the above mentioned broadcasters Internet content are easily available on a TV as the BBC iPlayer is. Even if you do plug a PC into your TV, the usability of it still isn't as easy and seamless as it should be. The way we want to watch TV is changing we want to watch show's when we want to and not when a schedule tells us we can and the industry has been a little late giving us what we want and how we want it. The way I see it, is that Canvas isn't any different to another method of delivering content to your TV. In the past we have made use of set-top box's, the only difference with Canvas is - this set-top box gets its content over a cable, but so does Virgin Media's cable service? Ahh but we have quite a selection of broadcasters and its all on demand. Virgin Media does this to? Yes but you need a cable subscription Canvas in theory should work on anyone's Internet connection ah!

In theory Canvas should do away with the subscription model to see this content and break us away from a technology walled garden. Its no wonder BSkyB is not happy with the idea, Canvas would (if it worked) be open to all and on demand which gives it more coverage than Virgin Media's service. This threatens Sky's service which is mainly delivered over a satellite dish. Or if you are willing to pay for it get yourself an Xbox 360 and a subscription to a limited amount of their content on demand.

What I like about this partnership is that the broadband providers such as BT and TalkTalk are part of the group and can make allowances for the extra content that is being sent over their networks. This will inevitably be paid for with some paid for content being provided on this new platform.

posted on Tuesday, 22 December 2009 13:04:33 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Monday, 23 November 2009
My home entertainment revolution

You've seen the adverts on TV and on the Internet we are in the middle of a home entertainment revolution. Games consoles are at the forefront of how we are going to consume movies and TV shows in our living rooms, no longer will we have to watch digitally available content in front of our PC screens. Multi media consoles such as the Xbox 360 and the PS3 will revolutionise this experience they are  marketed as being the centre of your entertainment universe.

Are they? Well lets take my Friday night experience into account. Having survived the week, treated ourselves to takeaway and and collapsing on the sofa in front of our TV talking about how exhausting the week had been. We decided it would be nice to watch a film, I pick up the Sky Plus remote control and press the box office button 2 minutes before 8pm. The laboriously slow menu system on the Sky Plus box isn't very forthcoming on the entertainment it has to offer me tonight as it sluggishly provides very poor information on each film. We as usual look up the films available on www.imdb.com to see if they are any good using one of our laptops, and as usual there's not much that grabs us. Next I decide to fire up the PS3 as I've heard someone mention there are some new entertainment features available and I might be able to start downloading or streaming films. On firing up the PS3 I realise I need to plug the HDMI cable in as it was used earlier for my PC. I'm then presented with a hard disk corruption message and told the system will attempt to restore the hard disk corrupted sectors. The task succeeds but I'm presented with a message telling me that I will need to run a System update. I ignore the message click on the Playstation store icon and am told before I can proceed I must do a system update. Fine I'll do the system update, I set the PS3 to do a system update and decide while I am waiting I may as well fire up the Xbox 360 to see if there is anything in Zune or Sky Player.

I log into my Xbox 360 and enter the Zune store. But there's not that much new content in the Zune store, the majority of the content is old films and there are not many of them. The newer films that have been released such as the new Star Trek film and Moon are not available. I like the idea of Zune because it enables me to stream content instead of having to wait for a large movie to download. Having not found anything I want to watch there I checkout Sky Player. There's a lot of movies here but unfortunately I need to subscribe to the movie channels on my Sky Movie package before I can get any of these movies on demand. I already have a multi room subscription and I have a package that includes the entertainment and documentary channels. Having multi room enables me to use the Sky Player on my Xbox 360, I had kept multi-room because I had been locked in a contract on it from my previous home and had planned on cancelling it and taking the movie channels but this means I couldn't use Sky Player on my Xbox 360. What a dilemma! I can't even watch Sky Movies on the Xbox 360 on Pay per view because its on my Sky account. I shake my head and wonder how the PS3 is doing, it looks as though the update failed something about a server connection problem. So I decide to fire up the Mac Mini connected to my TV and look at the iTunes movie store. It also requires an update so I get that running and am eventually able to browse the store and find the film I wanted to watch Star Trek! I set the Mac up to download it. Apparently its going to take an hour.great. We decide to play Rockband on the Xbox 360 while we wait. After 40 minutes the film has download and I get it to play on the Mac through the RGB cable on my TV. The quality I must say wasn't stunning, for some reason films still have the "letterbox" view even on wide screen TV's. Why? The letterbox view is a lot narrower than usual and you can tell by the full screen mode that pixels are slightly stretched every now and again the action scenes give this away. I probably wouldn't have noticed this if I had watched it on my laptop screen, which I kind of feel seems to have been he target of this format. What family watches films on their laptop or PC screens together?

So what's the problem? Well there is no doubt that services are now available for watching shows on demand through your TV. I have a Sky Plus box, Xbox 360, Wii, PS3 and Mac all connected to my TV. The problem is the Xbox 360 may provide a streaming high quality service which is brilliant for watching content on demand when you want it, but it lacks the content in Zune. The iTunes store has the content but it can't be streamed you have to download it and that's just as bad as having to wait for a film to come on at the right time on Sky Box Office. Besides the quality of the content on the iTunes store isn't as good, maybe I would have a better experience if I had bought the Apple TV box? (more money to spend and yet another box). The Sky Player service on the Xbox is prohibitively expensive, Sky appear to treat Sky Player content as though you were a completely new Sky TV subscriber. It doesn't work on the idea that you are a Sky TV subscriber already and just want another way of watching the same content on demand. It basically gives you that ability but it charges you for it in the way of multi room subscriptions.

What about the PS3? Well I eventually got the PS3 update to work and discovered it had a movie section which seemed to have the same content as the iTunes store. Great news I suppose, but it appears this content is not streamed content but has to be downloaded. Not so good..

Buying content to own is also another dilemma, what format do you purchase the content for? If I purchase the film on my PS3 I won't be able to play it on my Mac or my Xbox 360. I'm not a pirate all I want is the ability to play the media I bought on what ever platform I choose. Unfortunately content providers don't really understand or are unwilling to let their content be available on multiple channels even if it is watched by the same person who purchased it to begin with. Rights for content is distributed by channel not by who purchased the content to begin with. I believe we are going to face a big issue unless just like DVD and Blu-Ray, the industry comes up with a standard for the delivery of the same content across multiple platforms digitally.

posted on Monday, 23 November 2009 22:20:50 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 29 May 2009
Sky to be available on Xbox 360

Well we all know it makes sense and a lot of you have said how it would be such a good idea to watch on demand TV on your Xbox 360. If you can see it on your PC why can't you see it easily on your games console which is actually connected to your TV? Well Microsoft and Sky have finally seen sense and quite soon Microsoft will be offering Sky content on the Xbox 360. If you look at how Sky delivers its current offering called Sky Anytime PC, they are using Microsoft's Silverlight technology while everyone else (BBC, Channel 4 and ITV) are using Adobe Flash.  As you can see Sky and Microsoft are quite compatible on the technology front.

While Sky Anytime PC is a good service they do not offer all of their channels live through the service. The majority of the content provided is a catch up service for missed TV episodes (not bad) and for Box Office Movies. It doesn't (and I could be wrong here) look as if Sky will be offering their flagship channel Sky One live through this service, it would be great if they did.  In the ideal world I would like to see everything that is offered via my satellite dish also offered over an IPTV service including on demand content.

It used to be possible to view Sky Player content on your Xbox 360 but only using a Windows XP or Windows Vista machine as a proxy hopefully this should change all of that.

posted on Friday, 29 May 2009 21:53:44 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 18 December 2008
BBC iPlayer now officially working on PS3!

After discovering that Joost works on the PS3 browser I then decided to to see if the BBC iPlayer worked in the same way and it did! The BBC iPlayer web site now detects if you have a Playstation 3 and then serves up a smaller vision of the site for the PS3. It even tells you to press the right controller in to maximise the content you are watching. I must say there were a lot less complications with it than there was with Joost, probably because the BBC kept it simple, simple works for me it means less goes wrong.

Now I know the iPlayer has been working on the Wii for a while now but its nice to see it working on the PS3 as its the only console I usually keep plugged in because it plays my Blu Ray discs, DVD's and is a lot better at playing streamed content from my Windows Media Centre PC better than my Xbox 360!

You can also see past episodes of Hero's on the iPlayer now BTW.

posted on Thursday, 18 December 2008 14:49:27 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 19 February 2008
ROBOTECH

robottech Ever since I was a kid I have always loved Robotech. It was one of my first introductions to anime, of course in my youth I lived in South Africa and TV really didn't start until 6PM before then we spent most of our time playing outside. So naturally I missed quite a lot of episodes of this great series. But not to fear through the magic that is Amazon I have now purchased the complete box set of Robotech which I intend to watch in its entirety. 

Robotech for those not in the know is set in a fictional future (1999) where the world is embroiled in war until an alien space craft crash lands on Macros Island in the South Pacific. All of a sudden the wars on Earth stop and the worlds most brilliant scientists set to work investigating the alien technology and restoring it under the guise of project Robotech. From project Robotech comes SDF-1 its flagship and many Veriatech fighters which are effectively the coolest part of Robotech. Basically F15 style jets that transform into robotic fighters, later we are introduced to motor bikes and tanks that do the same thing. However its not long until alien badies are on the scene in the form of the Zentraedi who want the advanced technology for themselves and thus the war begins. 

posted on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 21:50:22 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Saturday, 12 January 2008
Xbox 360 to get on demand TV service!

Looks like Microsoft are teaming up with BT to provide BT Vision content on the Xbox!

Now it wasn't to long ago that I mentioned how perfectly suited the Xbox 360 was to such a service when I started using it to view DRM content downloaded (via my PC) from on demand services such as BBC iPlayer, 4oD and Sky Anytime. I couldn't quite figure out why Microsoft hadn't signed up a dedicated content provider or several for that matter?

What is taking place makes perfect sense there are obviously more XBox 360's in circulation than there are BT Vision box's which according to the BBC only have 100,000 customers. The only problem I can see is that BT Visions content doesn't seem all that inspiring, either that or they are just not showing all the content they really have on their web site. The other thing is that Sky seems to have most of the interesting content as far as I am concerned and no one seems to have an on demand versions of killer shows such as Hero's, Battle Star Galactica, Prison Break etc.

posted on Saturday, 12 January 2008 16:36:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 25 November 2007
4oD on XBOX 360 and TV over the Internet

image If you've been reading my blog you will have noticed my fascination of trying to stream content via my Xbox 360 for services provided by the BBC iPlayer, SkyAnytime PC  and now Channel 4's 4oD service (TV and Film on demand). Basically the BBC, Sky and Channel 4 all provide separate services for which you can download content off the Internet. This could be an episode of Star Gate SG1 you may have missed (Sky), Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (Channel 4) or East Enders (BBC and no I don't like it but my wife does).

What all of these technologies have in common is they all use Microsoft's DRM (Digital Rights Management). What this means is that the content provider (BBC, Sky or Channel 4) can control how long you are able to watch this content until it expires, this also controls who can watch it. All this is taken care of in the background where a licence is downloaded to your machine enabling you to watch the content. While all of these providers may appear to have different innovative interfaces, under the covers they are all really using Windows Media Player which supports DRM. The BBC got a lot of flack for not using an open source platform for doing the same thing. The truth is this method has probably worked out cheaper, as so many other providers are using the same technology its tried and tested (until someone cracks it of course).

One of the let downs I found of these services was there was no way of watching the content you missed on your TV. You had to watch it on your computer. Unless you were a bit computer savvy and knew how to plug your computer into your TV (not all TV's support this) there wasn't really much of an alterative. That was until the Xbox 360 started to be able to stream content from your Windows Media PC. I found the Xbox 360 proved to be a cheaper alternative than having a dedicated PC for watching content from the Internet on your TV. I have also found it also works well with content from Channel 4's service 4oD. The only problem I have found is that 4oD's videos are not as higher quality as those provided by Sky (this may probably change), it gives the impression of a pixilated image on my 1080i LCD screen. I think Microsoft can provide a lot more upgrades for the Xbox 360 to take advantage of this place in the market. Although I suspect they may be keeping a bit quiet about the potential because they may be thinking of a separate content deal they want to put together, so they can charge Xbox Live subscribers for the privilege.  

It looks as though no one has really taken advantage of the potential for a TV Over Internet Provider (TOIP) box that could pull all these providers together maybe even including Joost?

posted on Sunday, 25 November 2007 12:44:40 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 15 November 2007
ITV Broadcast live on the Internet

It appears that ITV is one of the first broadcasters in the UK to broadcast live on the Internet. Now I know the BBC and Sky have shows available to download on the net but it appears ITV are broadcasting (with a slight delay) on the Internet all of their live channels.

Now if you think about it this makes incredible sense. ITV's revenue model is based on advertising, that means the more people you have watching your TV channels the more advertisers want to advertise on your channels. Clever? Very clever indeed. Sky however does not seem to be able to follow the same revenue model. If you can get Sky Channels on the Internet why on Earth would you want to shell out £25 a month on a Sky box and dish? Mmm that's not a hard one to figure out. I think ITV are onto a winner here I just hope they get the content and shows to back it up.

posted on Thursday, 15 November 2007 21:35:41 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

Goodbye Video Machine

My video machine has finally left the TV cabinet and here ends an era.

It started gradually I suppose when DVD's started replacing Video tapes in the video shops and I got my very first DVD player in the form of a Playstation 2. It was quite an exciting time, movies were crisp and all of a sudden I had Dolby Surround Sound - virtual bullets were flying through my living room along with a a stampede of horses. This was the true magic of home cinema I would no longer be able to go back to VHS after I had discovered this new and wonderful way of watching movies. Soon my video machines only use was for recording the odd program on TV I desperately wanted to watch. But alas - soon the poor video machine was no longer doing this when the Sky Plus box entered my household. Gone was the issue of ensuring you selected the correct channel on the video machine, setting the time on the video machine and finding it had recorded nothing but static. The Sky Plus box made recording live TV, pausing and rewinding it child's play. So much so the only job left for the poor video machine was to show the time. Later it was not even useful for this when it was replaced with a small LCD clock and eventually consigned to the loft. Maybe one day old videos machines will become expensive collectors items for watching old VHS video tapes not available on DVD?

posted on Thursday, 15 November 2007 19:51:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 23 October 2007
SkyAnytime PC on Xbox 360

Just to recap on my last article about how to watch BBC iPlayer content through your Xbox without using Media Centre I have now tested it with Sky Anytime PC and it works like a charm.

The best way to make this work is to log into Sky Anytime PC and click on the "Account & Settings"  button from here you can find the "Default Download Location", copy this and then open windows Media Player 11, click Library > Add To Library and click add to add the folder location you just copied from Sky Anytime PC. Now next time you download a file from Sky Anytime PC it will automatically be added to your Windows Media Player library. If you followed the steps in my previous article to share your library with your Xbox you should be able to now watch SkyAnytime PC content on your Xbox withut having to drag the downloaded movies into the My Movies folder.

posted on Tuesday, 23 October 2007 21:45:37 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 21 October 2007
Watching BBC iPlayer content on your XBox 360

Having recently bought an Xbox 360 I heard there was a way of streaming content from your Windows XP machine to the XBox, the reason I was particularly interested was that I had started using the BBC iPlayer and Sky Anytime PC service for watching TV programs on demand. It was great for catching up on shows I had missed or forgot to record on my Sky Plus box. The only problem I had was that it wasn't much fun watching these shows on my laptop screen when I had a 42inch LCD screen with surround sound sitting around being unused naturally the Xbox filled this chasm.

Having looked around the net many people who do not have the Media Centre edition of Windows XP do not seem to be able to stream DRM protected content to their Xbox. Well the solution to the problem is pretty simple and you don't need to use TVersity (great free program by the way).

The Solution

  1. Ensure you have Windows Media Player 11 installed you can download this from Microsoft's web site. Chances are if you have the BBC iPlayer or Sky Anytime PC installed you will already have the latest version of Windows Media Player.
  2. Click on the Library tab and select the option Media Sharing. From here tick the checkbox "Share My media to:". If you click on settings in this window you have the option to select what type of content you wish to share. Click OK to close this window.
  3. Now after you have downloaded some content from BBC iPlayer first select to watch the content. What this will do is get the licence (DRM) to allow you to view the video. No need to watch the video you can close the BBC iPlayer window.
  4. Copy the movie into your movies folder (found under my documents) and then drag it into Windows Media Player. This part is quite important I couldn't get this to work unless I carried out this step for some reason it has to be inside the Movies folders located under My Documents.
  5. On your Xbox select the media tab, select Video and then select computer. If all goes well you should see your Windows XP machine. Select your computer.
  6. Back on your Windows XP machine go back to Windows Media Player select the Library > Media Sharing over here you should see your Xbox. Select it and then select Allow and then OK. (Don't worry you only have to do this once).
  7. Go back to the Xbox and press the backup button and select the Video option again as in step 5 you should now see the video's you had placed on your Windows XP machine. Select the video and enjoy!

Now don't panic you don't need to carry out the steps above all the time. Every time you want to add a new movie try to watch it first to acquire the DRM licence then place it into Windows Media Player and then watch from the Xbox. This seems to have been the only way I could get this to work. I see no reason why the above will not work with SkyAnytime which I will be testing shortly. If you are not able to see your Windows XP machine from your Xbox backup to the media tab itself and go back in. If this doesn't work ensure your Xbox is connected to your network.

If you know of an easier way of doing this I'd love to hear from you.

posted on Sunday, 21 October 2007 19:03:07 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [6]

 Monday, 01 October 2007
Latest army advert

Was just watching one of the latest army adverts where they showed the army using remote controlled drones to monitor the battle field. What got me was I am pretty sure the controller they were using for the drones was a controller for an Xbox 360. Very very odd....

posted on Monday, 01 October 2007 19:09:05 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 19 August 2007
BBC iPlayer Try 2

Okay after rebooting my machine twice I finally got the BBC iPlayer to work. Wehoo!

What can I say it actually works! The picture however is very "letterbox" style and not really 100% optimised for computer screens. Oh well will download some more now and see what I get. 

posted on Sunday, 19 August 2007 20:36:23 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 12 August 2007
Sky Offering discount on HD box's

I wonder how many people are in my particular dilemma, you shelled out some cash on an HD ready TV which proudly sits in your living room but alas you are only use half of its capabilities, why? Because you can't receive an HD signal without a Blue Ray disk player (part with £420 min for a PS3 the cheapest in the market), Virgin Media Box or a Sky HD box.

Okay while I like the PS3 I am not quite prepared to shell out £420 for it, I'm playing a waiting game to see if it will come down in price first. Microsoft probably had a better idea with releasing the XBOX 360 and then a separate HD player later (will it ever arrive though?). That leaves us with Virgin Media, and to get this I will need to have cable installed and I can't get any of the Sky Channels on Virgin media. I know you guys provide a great service guys, but you're not providing anything that Sky doesn't already offer. Get some of the programs Sky has on its flagship channels before Sky does, a decent flagship channel of your own and just maybe will you start to boost those subscription numbers again.

That leaves me with Sky HD but like Virgin Media you have to pay a subscription fee and then an additional subscription fee just to receive HD TV. In addition to this you also have to purchase the HD box yourself which costs around £299. But Sky have introduced a sliding scale, the longer you have been with them the cheaper the box becomes. So if you have been with them over 6 years you can get the box for £199. Not bad but Virgin Media are giving their V+ HD Box's away for a setup fee of £150 and they have 500 on demands movies to watch (not looking at the fact they don't have any of the main Sky Channels).

posted on Sunday, 12 August 2007 11:29:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Saturday, 04 August 2007
BBC iPlayer

iPlayer I've long been a fan of on demand TV and IPTV, I think its a brilliant idea to be able to get TV on demand when you want to watch it instead of changing your schedule to fit in the programs you want to watch on TV.  I've been using Sky Anytime PC for a while and have been suitably impressed with the results and then I tried Joost which just completely blew me away. Joost was so amazing, why? Because it just worked you didn't have to do much just install it and turn it on and you were watching TV. I am a strong believer that IPTV should just be a platform and content providers should treat and select platforms such as Joost and treat it the same as any terrestrial method of receiving TV. For example the content providers get paid by adverts in between shows or maybe by subscription mechanisms. Surely the content providers shouldn't lock their content down by network and try and get it through as many platforms as possible, that way everyone benefits. The content providers have a greater audience which in turn equals bigger profits for them?

Anyway I digress... I finally got hold of a BBC iPlayer Beta account and hurried to download the software and install it. Everything went fine until I tried downloading one of the programs and all I got was "We are currently experiencing technical problems, please try again later"....arrrghhh! Not impressed! I tried everything, checked over all the instructions checked the help but there was nothing to help with it. I can see now why the iPlayer has had some bad publicity lately. Anyway I am going to wait and see what happens tomorrow maybe its a one off technical issue?

posted on Saturday, 04 August 2007 22:03:40 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 24 July 2007
BBC iPlayer

I was just reading an article about a possible holt to the iPlayer application being launched by the BBC to enable licence payers to access BBC TV programs online.

The OSC has complained that the BBC should launch this service on an open source platform and not lock people into a Windows only platform and would therefor want to holt its launch if it continues on a Windows only platform.

What gets me a bit angry even though I can understand the point of the OSC is that a hell of a lot of money (licence payers money) has been spent on this player. To holt a version that would target most of the BBC's viewers anyway because a few people are a bit unhappy that it won't work on Linux or the Mac is a bit over the top. The BBC does have a plan in place to release a Mac version of the player later on. I can understand why the BBC has taken this approach it makes more sense to target the biggest users of a platform first then move to the second biggest platform and so on.

While I also understand that "The BBC has a mandate to provide equal access to content " regardless of platform, as long as the BBC has a roadmap for this to happen, this should fulfil this need, however it should not require the ripping out of something that has taken time and money to create. The point that the BBC is planning a Mac version is quite clear that a user is not being locked into a platform. While I like Linux as a server product (and use it as such) I am not a big fan of it as a desktop product.

posted on Tuesday, 24 July 2007 13:12:14 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 19 July 2007
Mmmm Hoff

Yes I am a big fan of David Hasselhoff. Why? Because he is just so damn cheesy he's actually funny! 

Anyway here is one of my all time favorites that has me in stitches every time I see it. Long live the Hoff!

posted on Thursday, 19 July 2007 21:31:09 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Monday, 02 July 2007
Joost set-top box please

Every now and again I do a Google search and take a look at Joost's blog to find out if they have finally got a set-top box on the way and the only article I have found that seems to be anything hinting at being close is this article.

Gee if they had a set-top box I would be one of the first to get one. The content from my Sky box is lacking even with Sky Anytime. BT's BT Vision also doesn't seem to be much to get excited over and Virgin Media leaves too many strings attached for me. Get your phone with us, mobile and Internet and you can get cable. I think the thing about Joost that appeals to me is the whole simplicity of it. There is no strings attached it just works. Apple TV seems like a great idea as well but where is the content Apple? I don't want to get an Apple TV box just to download music videos.

Come on Joost where is that set-top box?

posted on Monday, 02 July 2007 21:42:34 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 01 July 2007
Concert for Diana

I've been watching the Diana concert on the TV. All the acts were brilliant however one thing that seems to let it down from a television perspective is how they will be interviewing someone and then suddenly cut them off and go to the two main presenters while Fearne Cotton is still in the middle of talking to someone and then go back suddenly to someone else. They were also constantly introducing the wrong acts which was a bit unfortunate. At times the sound would suddenly disappear, its hard to know if it was the producers fault or technical faults.  

The concert in all was fabulous and helped to highlight so many things Diana was involved in, so many good causes and charities.

posted on Sunday, 01 July 2007 20:47:46 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Saturday, 30 June 2007
BBC and Real Media Player

realMedia I really like the BBC web site. No other news web site in the world gives you the variety of choice and quality the BBC web site does without the bombardment of adverts that sites such as CNN and SKY have on them.

My only gripe is why on earth they only use Real Media Player to broadcast their content. I find Real Media Player slow and clunky where they have tried to include so much into the actual player and prefer players such as Quick Time and and Windows Media Player by comparison which are quicker to load and have better handling of buffering content. I always find when I am watching a video on the BBC site, I can hear the sound but the video takes ages to catch up.

Does anyone have the same problem?

posted on Saturday, 30 June 2007 14:25:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 14 June 2007
Connie's got talent

If you've been watching the new show called Britain's Got Talent you would have seen little Connie singing.

When I first watched this little girl, I thought by the way she was answering people interviewing her that she was just going to have a little singing voice.

What had me nearly in stitches was watching Simon Cowell's face he seemed consigned from the beginning that she was just going to do a little song in a little child like voice and walk off. Then all of a sudden he sat up astonished by her amazing voice as she stunned the audience and the judges with her talent.

Well done little Connie! And thanks for shocking Simon Cowell and proving him wrong.

posted on Thursday, 14 June 2007 21:07:30 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]

 Saturday, 09 June 2007
Joost again

Okay I will admit I have become one of those "yuppies" who go on about Joost. I just had an excellent thought about it, why don't they come up with a version of Joost for the Wii console? Wouldn't that be great? I can already watch YouTube videos from my Wii console why not get Joost sorted on a Java applet?

posted on Saturday, 09 June 2007 10:59:43 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Monday, 28 May 2007
Joost Me!

I finally got around to using the Joost invite my friend Owen sent me a while ago. To be honest I couldn't understand what all the fuss was until I finally signed up and saw what TV was on offer.

Its not half bad for an IPTV platform, in fact its bloody amazing. All the channels are delivered incredibly fast and it allows you to watch shows when you want to watch them. This platform is literally quite awesome and I only hope it really takes off in a far bigger way with much larger titles. I spent my time watching past episodes of Lexx and browsing through a few music videos stations. If this is the way for IPTV then I am fully onboard for the revolution! I have seen other IPTV providers such as BT Vision and was not too impressed they seemed to be lacking the content while at least Joost does have some nice content although slightly older content its still makes good viewing.

It would be nice if you could now pickup a dedicated IPTV box for Joost to plug into your TV. At the moment I plug it into my TV via my laptops RGB port. I am looking forward to some more content and wonder what the payment structure for Joost will be once its out of beta. Will you need to subscribe to it for a monthly fee or will the content be paid for using the small and not too long adverts they had during the shows?

posted on Monday, 28 May 2007 13:10:54 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 27 May 2007
BT Vision vs Tiscali

When I first heard of BT Vision I thought to myself what a good idea! You can finally get TV over your broadband from one of the top broadband providers in the country right?

Well not quite exactly. BT Vision advertises that you can get all the free view channels over their set top box plus TV on demand. Ok sounds good, but when you look into it further you actually need to be in an area that can receive Freeview by aerial so basically the BT Vision box has a built in free view decoder and you don't get these channels over broadband. However the box does allow you to record, pause and rewind live TV a bit like the Sky Plus box does except this is for Freeview channels fare enough its a worth while service (they're not the first). So I decided to look at what  was available from the on demand bit of it, the main reason you are basically getting this box and why you need a broadband connection for it to work.

Now if the website is anything to go by you get precious little in variety in comparison to the likes of  Tiscali's newly acquired service which used to be called Home Choice which offers 1000's of movies to watch on demand. Maybe BT Vision has a lot of content to choose from but if they do, they don't advertise it very well. Tiscali are also offering a service called Sky By Wire which gives you access to Sky Movies and Sports Channels it doesn't however give you access to Sky One which appears to get hold of all those top shows such as Battle Star Galactica, Star Gate, Nip Tuck and 24. What I find the most amusing is what a monopoly Sky has on content, they don't have the best delivery mechanism for their content but they pull people into their platform because of what a hold they have on people who want to watch their channels. Sky One used to be available over other services such as Virgin Digital (formerly NTL Telewest) but I am gathering that Sky wants to keep this little gem of a channel very close to its chest. Virgin Digital also offers a great delivery mechanism with loads of channels available to watch on demand, Sky are only just catching up with on demand TV and if you've got a Sky Plus box you may have noticed the Sky Anytime option available on your set top box now. Its a paltry selection of on demand TV delivered to your set top box at night, which doesn't begin to compare to what's available from the other providers out there such as Tiscali and Virgin Digital.

posted on Sunday, 27 May 2007 10:57:27 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 10 May 2007
Buying an LCD TV

You would have thought buying an LCD TV was easy if you had saved enough cash, it was the first time I had bought one and I had seen a DGM 32 inch display going for £344 pounds at DABs. I jumped at the chance and and when this lovely TV arrived I plugged it in and was almost immediately dismayed to see 2 red pixels glaring at me (ahhhhh!).

Oh well I thought having never bought an LCD TV before I just logged into DAB's site and registered for a faulty return and booked a courier on DAB's site to pickup the TV. It was just going to be a question of them seeing the fault and saying "Oh its faulty lets send this fellow a brand new TV as a replacement" right? Wrong! Apparently so many manufactures have a policy on what constitutes a faulty LCD TV screen,  according to a certain standard depending on how big your screen is depends on how many faulty pixels your screen has before they agree to replace it!

So lets take that into perspective, if you have a 32 inch LCD TV with 3 faulty red "stuck" pixels, and when you watch your TV that is all you think of as it ruins your viewing pleasure. The manufacturer will not consider it faulty as it does not fit  within their 5 or more faulty pixel rule for your size of TV! So you shell out all of this money for a faulty TV that they will not accept as faulty or replace by their standards! The thing is they don't make this very evident on DAB's website when buying an LCD TV what you have to expect and its all hidden in their help section. The problem I have now is that DAB's do not believe in phones so its very hard to contact them about anything especially when you can't get onto a computer with an Internet connection to use their online chat and the only way I was able to find their "email us" form was by searching for it on Google! Anyway the TV is being collected tomorrow and I have put a note in the box, having not been able to contact them I have not really been able to talk about the fault and how I only read about the returns pixel policy after the return had been logged. I have now asked if I can have a refund as part of their 10 days no quibbles refunds policy. Hopefully I can get my money back and go to AriaPC these guys if you pay £35 extra will test the LCD TV of your choice before sending it to you for faulty pixels! What service! I only wish I had found these guys earlier. I have a feeling I am going to have a lot of problems with DAB's....

posted on Thursday, 10 May 2007 20:33:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]

 Monday, 30 April 2007
Before you buy a house

If Hollywood has taught us anything about house buying in creepy films you should check:

  • The house was not built on ancient Indian burial ground
  • No one died in the bath
  • If its a mansion and its been sold at a fraction of its real value, its probably haunted
  • The house was not built on the ground of an ancient orphanage. According to Hollywood bad things usually happen here and there will be ghosts
  • The house was not built on the grounds of an old hospital, ghosts of dead patients.
  • Find out if the previous occupants are still alive
  • Find out if the previous occupants had a tendency to go crazy with chain saws
  • Check the basement for a doomsday door or well with a crazy creature inside it.
  • Check if anyone of the previous occupants were burnt alive for witchcraft. She/He will probably haunt you.
  • If your dog, cat, mouse or what ever creature you have acts strange in the house or barks/squeaks at thin air don't buy it, its probably haunted.
  • If your kids suddenly start having imaginary friends they never had before that ask them to climb on the roof of the house, its probably haunted.
  • If your kid finds a strange scary looking doll at the new house and starts acting strange take it away leave it in the house and run. Its probably haunted.
posted on Monday, 30 April 2007 22:48:44 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]

 Friday, 27 April 2007
Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul

Now I have always been a big fan of Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse although I can't help but find some of the sketches in their new comedy show together Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul a bit lame and in many times un funny. Some of the sketches seem a bit extreme in my opinion and I found myself not laughing at all and struggling to find the funny side of it especially the sketches to do with Nelson Mandela. Now a show I did find funny was The Fast Show, don't get me wrong I did find some of the sketches funny in Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul but not on the same level as the The Fast Show. Maybe its early days yet with this comedy show they usually take a while for people to get to know and love the character right?

posted on Friday, 27 April 2007 21:40:35 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 23 March 2007
Apple TV

I have just been looking at the Apple TV which is available here in the UK now. I think its a brilliant idea, the only problem I have with it is there is absolutely no TV series or main stream movies available for download from iTunes in the UK which is how the Apple TV box gets its content. I can see it making much more sense in the US where you can download episodes of popular shows such as Battle Star Galactica for a couple of dollars.but nothing like that exists for the UK iTunes market. The only video content they seem to have is music videos and I wouldn't purchase this device just to watch music videos I can do that on MTV. Unless you start ripping your own movies to play on the Apple TV box I can't really see much point in its launch over here yet.

I think Apple need to do some serious investing into on demand TV content, they have the hardware all they need now is the content. On demand TV is set to be rather big, Virgin Media and BT has already released a set-top box's that provide on demand TV however BT doesn't seem to be very good at promoting it as half of the people I speak to about it did have a clue it was out there. Come on Apple where's the content?

posted on Friday, 23 March 2007 15:05:14 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Wednesday, 21 March 2007
Sky again

Interesting article on The Independent website about Sky's grip on Pay TV. We all know how much control Sky has over the latest imported TV episodes, Sports and even pay per view movies and in its latest move withdrawing its popular TV channels from Virgin Media. They also took an 18% share in ITV in what some saw as a deliberate attempt to stop Virgin Media buying it and making it their flagship channel. Sky have made a lot of noise in the industry especially with it wanting to start taking up pay per view slots on Top Up TV. I was wondering how long Sky Three would last on freeview, or would they be placing Sky One on Pay per View on the platform again like it was in the old days of ITV Digital?

posted on Wednesday, 21 March 2007 21:36:09 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 02 March 2007
No Sky for Virgin Media Customers

Its a pretty dark day for Virgin Media Customers who suddenly stopped receiving Sky TV Channels last night. I have heard all kinds of complaints from annoyed work colleagues who have had cable TV for some time now before it even became Virgin Media.

The above brings back memories when I used to be an ITV Digital subscriber, I had bought an ITV Digital package because I was unable to get Sky and I also couldn't get cable at the time. ITV Digital was perfect no dish just a normal aerial. Then all of a sudden they started to go bust and Sky pulled all of their TV channels, now one thing I couldn't understand and maybe I don't understand how these sharing of channels work. But don't these commercial TV channels make their money via adverts placed on these channels? So surely the more platforms you can get your channels broadcasted on the more viewers you get and the more advertising revenue, or am I missing something?

In my opinion Sky has a very competitive advantage, they have bought all the rights to the top shows such as Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis, Bones, Battlestar Galactica, Lost and 24.  Virgin will probably be hard pressed to fill the gap left by this lack of programming and do not show a single Sky channel in their lineup while Freeview the free digital service, offer Sky Three and Sky News and Sky Sports News.

posted on Friday, 02 March 2007 19:51:53 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Wednesday, 28 February 2007
Dr Carson Beckett is Dead!

StarGate CastThey've killed off Dr Carson Beckett (played by Paul McGillion) from StarGate Atlantis!

He and Dr Rodney McKay were one of the most hilarious comedy duo's I have seen on TV in a long time. I will really miss the way they made me laugh and hopefully his replacement will provide just as much laughter in the future.

posted on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 22:06:45 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]