Posts Tagged ‘Sky’

Setanta’s troubles are hardly surprising

June 20th, 2009 No comments

Setanta has lost the rights to their Premier League matches after failing to make a contractual payment.

I can’t say that I am surprised by this. While I don’t agree with Sky having a monopoly on coverage of a particular sport (or any other broadcaster for that matter), the European ruling that rights must be split between broadcasters was ill-conceived.

Prior to this, it was possible to pay one subscription to Sky and watch your team on Sky. When the rights were split, consumers (whose interest the ruling was supposed to favour) were faced with paying an extra ten quid a month to get the same as the previous season; Sky’s subscription did not reduce as a result. The European ruling completely failed to increase competition from the customers point of view; the only winners have been the rights holders as it has allowed them to split the rights packages and sell them for more than they would have got for the package as a whole. You have to wonder where the interests of those making the ruling really lay.

Competition requires the availability of a choice (such as a telephone company or electricity supplier) for the same service; Sky and Setanta were not providing the same service; you could not choose to watch the same match on Sky or Setanta.

Faced with this decision, only the most hardened fan would shell out another tenner (over 20% on top of Sky’s complete Sport/Film/Entertainment package) just to see a handful of matches, especially in a family household where the full Sky package is likely to be accepted by a spouse, but an extra tenner for sports would not go down well.

Even without the current economical downturn, Setanta were always facing a mammoth task to break even.

Sky+ bug

January 24th, 2009 No comments

Sky PlusWhile Sky+ works well most of the time, I have found a bug in the software when faced with a dual recording.

Normally if you have a concurrent recording set for channels A and B but are watching channel C, the box will pop up with a message saying that you have to cancel a recording to continue watching channel C – fair enough as it needs both tuners to do the recording. If you do not respond to the pop-up it will assume you are not there and record both programs, switching away from channel C.

Having two young daughters, Sky is often still tuned to CBeebies when they go to bed. CBeebies closes down at 7pm. If Sky+ now has two recordings set it still displays the pop-up but doesn’t time out meaning that one of the recordings fails unless you come back, switch the TV on, see the pop-up and respond to it, which normally results in missing the start of the one of the recordings.

It would seem that if the channel C in the example above is a channel which is not currently broadcasting, Sky+ fails to time out and you lose one of your recordings.

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Sky+ offer not so attractive

September 9th, 2008 No comments

I’ve received a flyer from Sky to upgrade to their Sky HD box. The outside of the flyer looks promising:

Sky HD

Seventy five quid – not bad and possibly a price-point at which it’s worth upgrading, but once you open up the mailshot they hit you with the sting: £60 ‘set-up’ fee.

Now when I moved house, I had no problem unplugging at the old address and plugging in at the new address. The only difference with an upgrade to a HD box will be a registration stage – pressing a couple of buttons. If it’s possible to set up a home broadband router by yourself, why can’t Sky do the same? Also, why does it cost sixty quid, especially when new customers get it for thirty quid (another flyer arrived at the same time, asking me to introduce a friend).

They even have the cheek to say:

Sky HD

…but we don’t think you deserve to be rewarded for your loyalty.”

So, since the setup fee is non-optional, the real price that Sky should print is £135, but if you add on the ten pound extra per month for HD, the total cost of ownership for the first twelve months (on top of your normal, ever increasing, Sky subscription) is £255, a far cry from the headline £75.

Categories: Misc Tags: ,

BBC iPlayer hogs Upload Bandwidth

February 6th, 2008 4 comments

BBC iPlayerI tried BBC’s iPlayer last year, even though they still have it locked into Microsoft, but along with several others, could not get it working. All I got was meaningless error messages.

I tried again last month. This time it did give a more meaningful error “there is a problem with DRM in your Windows Media Player, click here for information on how to fix this”, except that the link only sent me to a non-responsive web server.

Last night I tried again, and the link worked, except that it didn’t take me to a solution page as expected, but to a general FAQ site on iPlayer. After several page-digging minutes later (you would expect this issue to be on the front page of the FAQ) I managed to find a page describing a solution. I tried it and, what do you know, it worked.

Not surprisingly, the problem was with Microsoft’s Media Player and the solution involved deleting some DRM system files, a visit to a Microsoft page to re-download DRM files and since we’re talking Microsoft, the obligatory reboot. Not the sort of hoops a user should have to jump through just to install a program.

I then downloaded a handful of BBC programmes without problem. (One of my daughters was especially happy to see a CBeebies programme among them.)
BBC iPlayer Swamps Upload (Red Line)After they had downloaded, I noticed the lights on the router were still flashing away. I checked my usage graphs and was surprised to see my upload was being completely swallowed up by the iPlayer software busy sharing the programmes with other users. (See red line on graph). Now before you say anything, I fully understood before I installed iPlayer that it was a peer-to-peer application, but I have downloaded linux distros before using a BitTorrent type client and have never seen my upload swamped like this. I can only assume that there are so many other users on iPlayer that any free upload seeds will be quickly picked up and hammered.

Now we come to the important missing part – there is no way to control this except the option not to share when the iPlayer download manager is closed. Any normal respectable BitTorrent client allows you to limit the number of connections and bandwidth used for upload. I presume this option is missing, because the BBC wants to maximise the number of connections available to other users, and therefore the quality of their experience.

I had similar problems installing Sky Anytime (same kontiki based engine underneath) so I thought I’d give that a go too. This time it installed OK (the BBC fix had obviously had its effect here too) and I downloaded a few programmes. However, once you shut Sky Anytime down, it does not stop sharing files with others and doesn’t give you the option to stop either, because the kontiki engine is installed as a service in Windows.

The only way to stop it, is to fire up Task Manager and kill ‘kservice.exe’ and ‘khost.exe’, however these will reappear if you reboot or restart the clients. I have since gone into services and changed ‘kservice.exe’ from Automatic to Manual start.

Apparently, uninstalling the clients will not uninstall the kontiki engine. Sky provide a downloadable program called Kclean to remove these (BBC used to, but have removed the link), but I don’t want to remove the clients, I just want software that doesn’t hog my connection.

The other missing configuration option is upload/download ratio. Normally on a Torrent client you can set the maximum ratio of upload to download, so for example for every 1MB downloaded, the client will not share that 1MB file more than twice. Both Sky and BBC clients are fixed at unlimited. That is just taking the P***.

I have found this useful piece of software from ‘the Technophile’, which monitors both iPlayer and Channel 4’s 4od player and kills the upload automatically when you close them. It doesn’t mention Sky, but it has a simple option to ‘Stop Sharing now’ which stops the kontiki service and therefore any player system relying on it. Highly recommended.


Sky Tray IconIt does work with the Sky software. When you close the Sky software (from the tray icon) BeebAnd4Monitor spots this too and stops Kontiki.

Limiting iPlayer’s use of Bandwidth

Unfortunately, when iPlayer (or 4od/Sky Anytime) are running to allow you to watch programmes, they will be hammering your connection for what they can. I can recommend NetLimiter to restrict how much bandwidth you allow them to use.

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Sky+ Series Link

January 22nd, 2008 No comments

Sky PlusSky+ is one of those rare killer apps that has actually been well designed, however there are a couple of weaknesses in one of its most useful features – Series Link.

Sky+ Series LinkFirstly, the EPG (and hence series link) can only ‘see’ 7 days in advance. As often happens on the BBC, a programme gets postponed for a week. A prime example is Doctor Who making way for something like the Eurovision Song Contest on a Saturday night. Series Link cannot see two weeks ahead, so the link gets broken, and unless you spot this, you start to miss episodes.

Secondly, and more importantly, the series link information is provided by the individual broadcaster, so whether you get the correct information about the next episode is entirely down whether the broadcaster can be bothered to provide the information in the first place, and if it does, is actually competent to do it correctly (or at least understand what constitutes the next episode).

What is really annoying, is when the broadcaster does provide information, but it is wrong. In some ways this is worse than no information at all because you are trusting them to get it right. Again, the BBC seems to be the villain here for two distinct types of false information:

Often a new series is repeated a couple of times a week (especially on BBC Three), so for example Episode 1 could be shown on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. If I record Episode 1 on the Sunday and set Series Link, I expect the next recording to be Episode 2 on the following Sunday, but I often find that the Monday repeat is the next to be recorded. Why the hell would I want to record the same thing again? Obviously someone at the BBC doesn’t understand what series link is for and is just setting the next time that ‘programme name’ is shown. The problem here is that if I cancel the rogue recording, it breaks the link, so I need to set up the Sunday recording again.

The other situation I have seen is when the person setting the series link information ignores my wishes and seems to think that I would like to record a related programme rather than the one I asked for. Typically this would be a ‘behind the scenes’ programme (BBC Three) or another programme in the ‘season’ of programmes (BBC Four), rather than what I had asked for, namely the next episode of the same programme.

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Sky Launches Remote Record on Sky+

July 8th, 2006 No comments

Sky PlusSky have finally got around to launching their Remote Record functionality on Sky+.
Basically there are three ways to remotely set your Sky+ digibox to record a programme.

  1. via Sky by Mobile, a small app running on your compatible mobile phone.
  2. by text message “Programme title. Channel. Date. Time.” to 61759
  3. and finally via sky’s web page, although this is not yet live

So far, I have only tried the first option. You need to register in the Customer Zone on Sky are then supposed to send you a wap push message to your phone including the address to download the mobile app to your phone, but nothing arrived, even when I tried resending it from the customer zone services area. I found a post on Digital Spy’s forums, which gave the download address for the 156 kbyte app. (the messages did eventually arrive about 2 hours later)

Sky Mobile TV Guide on a Sony Ericsson k750iYou then have to register your mobile number via your Sky digibox. Press the interactive button on your Sky+ remote and choose ‘Sky Active’. Then go to ‘My Sky’ and select ‘Remote Record’. Enter your mobile number and you should be set up. Note this step requires the phone connection on your digibox as it needs to dial in your registration.

The TV Guide has the same look as on the Sky+ EPG, however you cannot skip forward by typing the channel number as you can on the EPG. This makes finding higher channels a bit of a chore as the data is downloaded for each page.

When you set a program to record, a message says that it will be sent to your digibox in the next thirty minutes, but in practice it’s only a couple of seconds.

Not sure how well the text messaging option will work. What happens if you don’t get the programme name or channel number exactly right? Will the system guess? Also, this option atttracts an extra 25p charge for the confirmation text from Sky.

Categories: Misc Tags: , ,