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New Sky EPG Review

New Sky EPG

Well, it seems I’ve been one of the lucky ones that have had their Sky+HD box updated with the latest EPG.

Early days yet but my first impressions are largely positive.

The Good :

  • keeping the current programme you are viewing (whether live or recorded) whilst viewing the guide is implemented well, although the box is slightly smaller than I expected, or maybe I just need to upgrade my 32″ TV to something larger :-p
  • multiple episodes of one series are “stacked” into one container. Entering this container allows you see see all the programmes for the series. This is fantastic, finally I don’t have to wade through endless pages of my kids Yo Gabba Gabba TV programmes trying to find that unwatched episode of Screen Wipe!
  • searching is vastly improved, although hitting backup seems to cancel the entire search string you are entering, not the last character which has already proved annoying
  • the guide loads instantly. I feared Sky would go overboard and leave us with the ‘you are now entering Teletext’ dread of the current interactive services, but no, it’s there in a blink of an eye.
  • the colour palette is elegant and refined, respect due to the UI designer who dropped the yellow, which now means you can leave digital radio channels playing without being blinded by the strip of yellow showing the channel name. It’s all understated dark blues and light blues, kind of like a Commodore 64 BASIC screen.
  • the previously watched channel is now linked to the blue ‘favourites’ button allowing you to quickly jump between channels, although you can still access your favourites by clicking the blue button a second time.

The Bad :

  • no indicator next to a series stack to show that you have a series link for it. You have to navigate to the end of your planned recordings to double-check that, yes, the next episode will be recorded which is slightly jarring.
  • it doesn’t seem snappy enough!

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s no slouch, indeed I think the problem is that is so tantalisingly close to being really responsive that you especially notice the ‘not quite there’ effect.

    A couple of times I’ve noticed it ‘playing catch-up’ as Henry kelly used to say, especially when scrolling through the programme grid, you get the feeling that is just needs a ‘push over the edge’.

The Ugly :

  • everything seems to take one extra button press than with the previous EPG, this is mostly due to the clutter of the programme genres appearing above the programme grid, requiring you to press down to skip over them. I daresay I’ll get used to it, but then again it might grow old really quickly
  • programme information for radio channels continues to be missing, and the only way of recording them remains going the manual route.

So there you have it, bear in mind that this is only after a couple of hours playing around with it, and I’m just glad that my existing recordings (and sound/picture settings) have been retained after the firmware update for now.

I may post more / updated information after some more time as I’m sure there will be many more hidden gems (and nasties!) to discover. If you have any specific queries about the new EPG leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer.

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Sky Music Service – too much, too late?

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Pocket Lint has posted an interesting report on the forthcoming “Sky Music Service” which might be of interest to Sky subscribers (or those thinking of getting Sky).

In summary, Sky are planning to give access to Sky subscribers, via their PC, Mac or Sky set top box access to a giant on-demand music library. Of course, Sky being Sky, there will be a charge for this, and it looks like being in the region of £6 per month.

The potential popularity of such a service is difficult to gauge. Sky customer are used to being passive consumers, feed us endless music channels and we will mindlessly channel surf them. Suddenly being in control of what music to listen to is a big conceptual shift that may a step too far, especially for older subscribers.

The second problem is the Spotify factor. Unless you’ve been sleeping off a giant hangover since the start of the year, the world (well, Europe) has gone crazy for Spotify who are essentially doing what Sky want to do – but for free.

Of course, Spotify is only currently available for computers and not set-top boxes, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a version for the Wii and PS3 available soon, much like they already have the ability to view the BBC’s iPlayer service on these gaming consoles.

Given the number of people with such a console as well as a Sky set-top box, well, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that the majority of these will consider Sky’s solution overpriced and unnecessary.

When you factor out the old, the gamers and the people using their laptops in the living room listening to Spotify whilst they do something constructive, who does that leave?

Would you be willing to fork out another £6 on top of your existing Sky subscription for this service? Let Sky Channels know your feelings by dropping a comment.

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New Sky Offers for Spring

Sky Offers

Sky have released details about their latest new customer offers for the next month or so.

The ever popular free £30 worth of Marksies vouchers is back when you sign-up online (until 5th March).

Also, until March 26th the standard Sky box (i.e. not the Sky+ version) is free apart from a £15 setup fee, that said, for only £49 you could get a cheap Sky HD box instead, which would also give you Sky+ TV recording features.

For more information on these offers visit the Sky site.

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Sky HD Box Replacement Scheme

Sky HD is FUBAR

The cat is out of the bag and Sky have finally admitted there is a problem with Sky HD boxes.

Personally I’m on my fourth Sky HD box – and have already had to pay Sky £70 for the privilege of them coming out and “fixing” my original box.

Sky state that this only affects “1 in 10″ out of all Sky HD boxes. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest this is optimistic, and this could well be a case of the “Red Rings of Death” (RROD) debacle that affected Microsoft and its Xbox 360 console. The true picture will perhaps only become clearer a few years down the line.

Rather amusingly, this might explain why Sky hired those thousand or so extra engineers at the start of the year. Perhaps it wasn’t because “TV is changing” – merely that it was being fixed.

Can you trump my total of 4 Sky boxes? How many replacements have you had?

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Sky Scores Again

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In a move sure to please current Sky shareholders, the Premier League has just announced that Sky have won the bidding to the rights to show Premier League football in the UK until at least 2013.

Is this good news for football? Well, it allows the money to keep rolling for another few years yet, meaning the football bubble that everyone expecting to burst will result in a bigger bang if it does go tits-up.

The [cue picture of Mini-Me] £1bn deal allows Sky to show the majority of live matches exclusively on their sport channels, resulting in 92 live matches per season (about 80% of which will no doubt feature Manchester United).

With the rise of Freesat, there is no doubt that Sky is dependent on exclusive football coverage more than ever before, so there will be great sighs of relief around Murdoch Towers at this news.

How do you feel about this deal? Happy to see Keys, Gray and Co continue the “professional” level of sports coverage, or disappointed that you are shackled to Sky for another few years for your football fix?

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The Sky Secret? Sky HD for £49!

Sky Logo

Hmm, so the big “Sky Secret” is revealed in Sky’s latest press release which comes hot off the digital presses.

What is it? New EPG? VOD? Sky 3DTV?

Nope – it was just option 3, a mere widening of access to Sky HD, sorry Sky+HD as they now like to call it, to “everyone”, by making the box available for just £49.

No doubt this move to reduce the price of Sky+HD has more than a little something to do with the rise of Freesat HD, which currently costs £150 but has no monthly fee.

Which is all well and good if you are a new customer, but what about us early HD adopters, who paid £300 for a box and (and a £10 monthly top-up fee and numerous £70 replacement box call-outs) since then.

Bitter, moi? :-p

C’mon Sky, at least drop the £10 monthly HD Pack charge for us loyal customers.

Oh, and hurry up with that new EPG revision…

What do YOU make of this Sky+HD price drop? What should Sky offer customers who paid £300 for Sky HD less than 3 years ago?

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Sci Fi HD Launches on Sky

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Today sees the launch of a new Sky HD channel, Sci Fi HD.

This, the 31st HD channel on the Sky service, will be found on channel number 214 and will broadcast the same very American tinged output of the SD offering.

The “Highlights” amongst upcoming shows and films rumoured to be hitting Sci Fi HD include the second series of Eli Stone, which features Sigourney Weaver, Katie Holmes and er…potch-marked has-been Seal.

Also on offer is Tin Man, a “Wizard of Oz” inspired mini-series, which on paper (or LCD) sounds awful, but apparently has notched up a mass of Emmy Awards. Hmm, we’ll have to wait and see.

Sci Fi HD are also claiming a raft of HD movie exclusives such as Cyclops and er…Ba’al The Storm God. Mmm…kay, looks like I wont be adding this to my favourite channels just yet.

What we really need is a proper UK Sci Fi channel featuring re-runs of classics such as The Tripods, HHGTTG and also gives some cash to the likes of Simon Pegg to create something crazy new and fantastic. Like Spaced…but actually set in space. That would be “awesome”.

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Sky ‘TV Is Changing’ Advert – What’s The Secret?

If you have been channel hopping in the last week or so you may have come across the mysterious Sky ‘TV Is Changing’ ad

Pretty vague, huh? What’s it all about? Some rumours doing the rounds include :

1. Sky 3D TV – hmm, some trials did take place last year, and the CES show this year was dominated by 3D television sets and glasses, but it is probably too early for this.

2. New Sky EPG – here’s the one I’m hoping for, after being an avid Tivo user for years before Sky+ my heart still sinks everytime I’m forced to use the current EPG. If I was a betting man, this would be where my money is.

3. Upgrading everyone to HD or Sky+ boxes – this has got potential, after all it seems Sky have employed a 1,000 or more new installation engineers in the last few weeks, and Sky has admitted it has got problems fitting new channels into the memory of the EPG on older boxes.

If they waived the HD fee, which I imagine they would have to if everyone upgraded, it would be a welcome but overdue gesture.

4. Sky HD USB peripherals – the Sky HD box has got expansion ports which could allow for official external hard drives to be plugged in to free up space, or maybe some media server capability to you could share stored programs around your house to wireless devices. This would get a thumbs up from me!

5. Video On Demand – nice though the Sky Anytime service is, and the seemingly infinite number of movie channels showing films at 15 minute starting increments simulate it, it is far from being true VOD (Video On Demand).

With the inroads that Sky has been making on telecommunications it would seem inevitable that they have plans for doing this – but is now the time?

So, interesting stuff, but given my track record of predicting things, most likely none of the above, but for once I will be opening up the Sky mag when it next hits the mat.

[UPDATE: - latest word is that there will be an announcement tomorrow (Tue 27th Jan). Be sure to subscribe to Sky Channels for the latest info as soon as we get it!.]
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Stand by your Sky Digibox

Sky Digibox

Sky have announced they are releasing a new firmware update that will further increase the energy effectiveness of their digiboxes.

Building on the previous energy upgrade that automatically switched boxes to standby mode if left unused for two hours overnight, this new innovation will do a similar function if the box if left unattended for four hours in the day.

This feature can still be disabled in the system settings, by setting the ‘Auto-Standby’ feature to off.

Do you welcome this change? Or do you prefer to be in control of your appliances?

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Sky News HD? Well, sort of…

Sky Arts HD Logo

To celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama, Sky News are showing the event in HD – if you switch over to Sky Arts HD that is.

It appears the event will be simulcast on the HD channel (channel 258). Hopefully this is a taster for a proper Sky News HD channel in the not too distant future?

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