Re-tuning the EyeTV

Every few years you often need to re-tune your Freeview TV as the way the channels are organised and broadcast changes. Sometimes my TV lets me know, sometimes it’s a broadcaster that says something on air (which I usually miss) and more usually I find a load of channels missing and wonder what happened. This was certainly the case when my children mentioned missing channels on our Sony KDL48W605. So a quick check of the Freeview website and it was apparent that a re-tune was needed of the TV.

If the TV needed doing, I guessed that EyeTV on my Mac would also need to do it too. The mechanism for doing this is, is not entirely intuitive. What you have to do, is to use the EyeTV Setup Assistant.

EyeTV setup assistant

Go through the screens until you reach Auto-Tune TV Channels and then click the Auto-Tune button.

auto tune screen

So I let the EyeTV software do its job and all my channels were back to how they should be.

And they’re back…

In a previous blog post I mentioned the issues I was having with my new Sony Smart TV.

After getting a response from BBC iPlayer on the Twitter.

I checked the TV to find my UK apps were back.

And they're back

It was apparent that the problem was not with the TV in itself, but with the services provided by Sony. It does demonstrate the reliance that these kinds of devices have on external services. If the decision is made to switch them off, there is very little that the end consumer can do to stop this from happening. Additionally the closed nature of these devices means that you can’t (or if you can not easily) add these services back.

So where did iPlayer go on my Sony TV?

Sony Smart TV

It would appear that many Smart Sony TVs have lost their UK apps. I initially thought I was just unlucky, but it would appear from the internet tubes that many others have found that their Smart Sony TVs have lost their UK based apps, including BBC iPlayer, Amazon Player and Sky News apps.

Having recently replaced my TV, one of the reasons I chose the Sony KDL48W605 was the fact that it was a Smart TV and came with BBC iPlayer integrated into the TV. This means we can easily watch catch-up TV. Was slightly disappointed that there was no integrated ITVPlayer or Channel 4’s 4OD, though there is (was) Five on Demand. According to Sony this was down to licensing rights issues, less from ITV and Channel 4, but more from the rights holders of the programmes they show.

The apps on the TV are dependent on regional settings, and if you are based in the UK, then you get UK focused apps. It would appear that the server which delivers the various apps to the TV has failed to recognise those TV that are in the UK and as a result is not delivering the localised UK apps to them.

My initial thought was that only my TV was having a problem. My first few searches on Google only turned up Sony BBC iPlayer issues from 2011. I followed the guidance to refresh internet content to no avail, I then undertook a factory reset, retuned, etc and still no luck.

It was only after browsing the Sony support forums that I found other people were having issues, and the problem was been had by multiple different Sony TVs.

At the time of writing it would appear that Sony have been made aware of the issue on Friday, but as it was a bank holiday weekend, nothing so far has been done.

No magic with BBC iPlayer

No magic with BBC iPlayer

I know many people out there have no sympathy for me now that I have lost access to fibre (through FTTC) and have reverted back to a relatively much slower ADSL connection when I moved house. I am aware that much of the UK population only have similar broadband speeds.

However I do think it is interesting to note the problems I am having, it has certainly made me much more aware of the advantages of FTTC over ADSL and the need to speed up all of the UK (not just my neck of the woods).

The other evening I sat down to watch Merlin on BBC iPlayer and it was stuttering like crazy… My Sony TV has internet capability and BBC iPlayer is accessible from the user interface without needing to use a laptop or iPad. I was slightly surprised as I had recently moved a few things around and connected the TV direct to my router. Previously I had used wifi to connect the TV to the internet and this had proved unreliable; when I had FTTC, it had worked fine over wifi. When I did a direct wired connection this appeared at the time to resolve those buffering issues.

I tried again, and once more it didn’t work…

I thought about it, checked upstairs and found that my son was streaming BBC iPlayer on his computer at the same time.

It was apparent that though my ADSL connection was fast enough for BBC iPlayer, it couldn’t cope with two streams at the same time. When I had the FTTC connection, it coped fine with higher quality BBC iPlayer streams, and streaming two programmes (and doing other stuff on the web as well) was all fine and dandy.

So we waited until my son’s programme had finished and then we watched Merlin.

What this incident made me realise was that the real advantage of FTTC wasn’t so much the speed of the connection, but the width. I find on ADSL that I can cope with waiting for things to download, but what I really miss about FTTC is the ability to use the full capacity of the fibre “tube” to do lots of different things all at once. Now with ADSL I need to schedule streaming and downloads to ensure that, not only do they work, but also to not inconvenience others in the house.

So is FTTC anywhere on the horizon for me? Not that I can see, which is a real pity.

Tech Stuff – Top Ten Posts of 2011

Here are the top ten blog posts (by views) for 2011.

10. Joikuspot s60 limitation

This blog post which described a major limitation with Jokuspot on the Nokia N95 was the principle reason I bought a MiFi.

9. No joy with Sony PSP and JoikuSpot Premium

This was quite an old post, from nearly three years ago, when my primary method for mobile internet was using Joikuspot on a Nokia N95. Since then I have used a MiFi and now in the main use the portable wireless hotspot on a Google Nexus One.

8. Insufficient Bandwidth

This post described how a problem with my FTTC was causing me to have issues with iPlayer streams. I think in the end it was more of an issue with BBC iPlayer than an issue with my internet connection.

7. New Sony Tablets, the Tablet S

In this blog post I was looking forward to the new Sony Tablet. Having now seen the Tablet for real I am slightly disappointed. It didn’t feel like a Sony product and seemed overpriced for what it was.

6. Instagram on the Desktop

My sixth most popular post looked at a couple of Mac apps that allowed you to view Instagram images on your desktop. I really like Instagram, but sometimes feel disadvantaged when I want to see a feed of Instagram images on my Mac.

5. ITV Player and 4OD on the PS3

An update to the PS3 provided access to the watch again services from ITV and Channel 4.

4. iPhone Portable Wifi Hotspot

Back in January Apple announced a new feature for the iPhone, that allowed you to turn it into a portable wifi hotspot, something I had been doing for a while using my Froyo Google Nexus One.

3. I don’t like BT FON

My third most popular post was a rant about BT FON, well actually it wasn’t a rant about BT FON itself, it was rant that BT routers configured for BT FON also broadcast a BT Openzone SSID which wasn’t a real BT Openzone and so as a result my iPhone (which has free access to BT Openzone) couldn’t use it.

2. BT Openzone-H

This post was a follow on to my BT FON rant, it was apparent that BT were aware of the problem I discussed and are in the process of changing the settings on the BT Homehubs so that instead of broadcasting the BT Openzone SSID they have renamed it to BT Openzone-H. I should say that though I posted this in July, here nearly six months later my neighbour’s BT HomeHub is still broadcasting BT Openzone and not the new Openzone-H.

1. Live BBC TV on the iPad

My most popular post was not really a post more of an addendum to another post reviewing the BBC iPlayer app for the iPad.

The addendum mentioned that the main advantage of the app over the web interface was that you could access live TV through the app.

Touching the Tablet

Managed to get a hands on with the new Sony Tablet S. In my recent blog post on the new Sony Tablet I said:

I do quite like the look of the Sony Tablet S, I do like Sony stuff and if I was at this time choosing a tablet, I would be giving serious consideration to this new Sony Tablet. The price is similar (from £399) and that probably is now what will hold this tablet back, if it had been released at the same time as the original iPad it would have been a serious contender.

I couldn’t really give the Tablet S a proper hands on, as there was no real apps on there, no content (apart from an optimised demo) and no internet access. Why can’t retailers selling tablets take a leaf out of Apple’s book and provide internet access for their tablets so that prospective customers can actually try out the tablets properly? Oh I know because they don’t want people to use them for internet stuff…. Of course if they did, then they might in the end and try and buy one!

Back to the Tablet S, the touchscreen was quite responsive and I did quite like the interface. I was less sure though about the form factor. Whereas most tablets rely on a case to slant the screen if you are using the tablet on a desk or table, the Sony Tablet S has a slant built in. It felt as a result quite thick and clunky in the hand, suspect it might be better placed on a desk or table. I didn’t feel in my hands that this was a quality product, certainly not what I anticipated from Sony.

At the end of the day I won’t be spending £399 on a tablet that in my mind isn’t an iPad. I know that sounds like an Apple fanboy statement, but as the HP TouchPad shows, people aren’t willing to choose alternative tablets which are the same price as the iPad, but are willing to try something different if the price is right. I am sure given the choice most people will choose the iPad, not because it is better, but merely because people perceive it to be better.

I am expecting Sony to reduce the price of their new Tablets in less than a year, that isn’t unprecedented, they did it with their innovative UX1XN and other devices, so I may be tempted then.

New Sony Tablets, the Tablet P

On one of my other blogs I recently wrote about a fondness for gadgets from Sony. Well it would appear that Sony are wanting to enter the Tablet market (again, anyone remember the Clié?)

Sony have announced the Tablet P and the Tablet S. I wrote about the Tablet P in a previous blog post.

Much of what I wrote in that blog post also applies to the Tablet P. However whereas the Tablet P is in some ways is a traditional Android tablet, the Tablet P is a completely different and in many ways very innovative Tablet design.

It has two screens in clamshell design. These are small 5.5” screens, bigger than the 4.3” screen of the PSP and there are two of them. The clamshell design means that one screen can be used for the display and the other for input. This could mean a keyboard filling the bottom screen, or a PSP style gaming interface.

Much of what I wrote about the Tablet S applies to the Tablet P, especially in terms of apps, games, books, music and video. It has DLNA capability, can play a wide range of video and audio, there are games, books and all the apps from the Android marketplace.

Like the Tablet S it runs Honeycomb, the optimised version of Android for Tablets. There is only one model available and it comes with 3G as well as wifi. It does come with limited storage with only 4GB built in, but unlike the iPad does have an SD memory card slot. The camera is only VGA, so okay for video calls and Skype, but not that good for taking photos or video.

Though I really like this concept, the thing that will stop me buying it, is the price. I don’t really see this as an iPad competitor, though I am sure Sony see it as that, I see it much more as an alternative to the iPod touch. The 8GB iPod touch is only £193, the Sony Tablet P is £499 which is in my opinion very expensive for a tablet device. It’s a clever design and with its back end support in terms of content, it can compete with the iPad or the iPod touch in that area, but £499 is a very uncompetitive price even for a device with an innovative design. I can’t see this selling, and I am sure then Sony will be forced to reduce the price.

Great looking Android device with access to lots of great apps and content, but let down by an expensive price!

New Sony Tablets, the Tablet S

On one of my other blogs I recently wrote about a fondness for gadgets from Sony.

Well it would appear that Sony are wanting to enter the Tablet market (again, anyone remember the Clié?)

Sony have announced the Tablet P and the Tablet S.

The Tablet S in some ways is a traditional Android tablet with a 9.4” wide touchscreen. It runs Honeycomb 3.2, the newer version of Android designed specifically with tablets in mind. It has a camera and a memory card slot.

Whereas most tablets rely on a case to slant the screen if you are using the tablet on a desk or table, the Sony Tablet S has a slant built in. However unlike the iPad you can’t place it in a more vertical position, but you can get a cradle that will allow you to place it in a vertical position.

One of the criticisms laid against the HP TouchPad was its lack of responsiveness, the advertising behind the Sony S says that it has an “amazingly responsive touch panel and a more intuitive user interface” of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating and it will be interesting to see if the interface and responsiveness is as good (if not better) than the iPad.

In a similar vein to Apple’s AirPlay, the tablet comes with built-in DLNA media apps that can stream content to “media entertainment devices” which means things like Sony Bravia TVs and the PS3.

Unlike the iPad which has limited native playback, the Sony Tablet S can play a lot of media formats.

In terms of audio it can play AAC, mp3, WAV, WMA, WMA Pro, FLAC, MIDI, Ogg Vorbis. For video it can play H.263, H.264/AVC, MPEG-4, WMV. It can also display the following image formats JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, WBMP. This means that the Tablet S can play not only many Apple friendly formats, it can also play Windows friendly formats too. Of course it wouldn’t be able to play iTunes protected content, so if you have already made an investment in iTunes movies and TV shows then you probably won’t like the fact that it won’t play on the Tablet S. It also won’t natively play DivX files, so like the iPad you will need to rely on a third party app to do this.

I am sure one of the reasons behind the success of the iPad is the back end infrastructure which is iTunes. Not only is there the App Store, but you also can buy video and audio from iTunes Store. Sony may be able to compete on a more level playing field with Apple, as well as the Android Market Place, Sony (in some countries and hopefully will include the UK) will be able to let users “rent or purchase thousands of new movies and popular TV shows from Video Unlimited.” Music Unlimited sounds more like a subscription service allowing you access to seven million music tracks. Both are renamed versions of Qriocity.

Though I much prefer the Kindle app (partly as I have a Kindle too) there is a built in e-reader app, and as Sony has had an e-book store for a while for its e-readers devices, you can access this store direct from the Tablet S.

I am sure part of the success of the iPad (and more the iPod touch) has been casual gaming, a quick fun gaming experience. Of course Sony the company behind the PSP have made gaming part of their tablet and you can access PlayStation games through the tablet. This makes this Android tablet different to all the other tablets, you of course have access to all the other games available in the Android marketplace.

With access to apps, games, books, music and video, this means that consumers can make a real choice about what tablet they want to buy, a much more level playing field. Though I don’t think Sony will ever be able to match the iPad though, even if their Tablet is better in some areas and can match the iPad in others.

There are three versions of the Tablet S, all with wifi and one with 3G, however that 3G version only comes with 16GB of memory. Now with the iPad I found that quite limiting however with the Tablet S there is a memory card slot, so at least you can expand the storage.

I think one of the decided factors for me would be battery life, I am still impressed with the battery life of the iPad. The Tablet S advertises it’s battery life at 8 hours and I wonder if this is a real 8 hours or a don’t do anything with the brightness turned down 8 hour battery life.

I do quite like the look of the Sony Tablet S, I do like Sony stuff and if I was at this time choosing a tablet, I would be giving serious consideration to this new Sony Tablet. The price is similar (from £399) and that probably is now what will hold this tablet back, if it had been released at the same time as the original iPad it would have been a serious contender. However releasing it now, I am sure given the choice most people will choose the iPad, not because it is better, but merely because people perceive it to be better.

Back to the Future…

Check out this quote.

Checking out your favorite movie during a road trip. Downloading and listening to the latest hot tunes at the coffee shop. Surfing the Web at the beach while your friends surf the waves. More than ever before, people around the world are demanding simpler, more convenient ways to access and enjoy their favorite digital content while on the go.

Sounds like the iPad doesn’t it?

So was this quote about the iPad?

No!

It was from March 2006, five years ago, before the iPhone, before the iPod touch and four years before the iPad.

The quote above was from Intel about the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC). Back then they also said:

The Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) addresses these needs with small, stylish products you can carry with you everywhere you go. The UMPC devices offer ultra-portable sizes and long battery life, plus full PC and Internet capabilities, so you can access your favorite web pages anytime, virtually anywhere!

I remember back then really liking the concept, so much so that I ordered the Sony VAIO UX1XN, which was a great little UMPC computer that fulfilled the dream

UX1XN

So what happened to the UMPC?

Well it wasn’t killed by the iPad, no it was well dead by the time Apple released that. No it was the netbook and more specifically the Asus EeePC. What happened was that when companies like Sony started releasing products like the UX1XN, and Samsung their Q1 they charged a premium price. The UMPC was not a cheap product, it was much more a luxury. The price did drop quite quickly.

When the Sony VAIO UX1XN was released in the UK it commanded a £2,000 price tag. This was a lot of money for a device the size of a PDA (even if it could run Windows Vista).

In July 2007 I noticed my local Sony Centre had reduced the price to £1,600. Still expensive, but 20% off is quite a reduction. Such reductions usually imply that a new model is just around the corner.

On Amazon in August 2007 you could get the UX1XN for just £1,199 which considering the features of the UX1XN (the cameras, flash hdd) makes the UX1XN seem like a reasonable proposition.

In October 2007 it was just £999 at the Sony story and only £899 on Amazon.

UX1XN

Today used models can be have for less than £500 on Amazon, which is the same price as an iPad!

So when the Asus EeePC was launched with a £200 price tag, the concept of the netbook was launched and the UMPC effectively died. Companies did try and compete by reducing prices, but in the end it was impossible to compete on features and low prices were what people looked at.

Pricing wasn’t the only flaw, there were some others. One of the main drawbacks was battery life, iPad users who probably don’t even worry about it today would gasp at the 1½-2 hour battery life with those UMPC devices. These weren’t devices you would use all day, much more a casual device that always needed to be close to it’s charger.

I remember taking the UX1XN to a conference in Cardiff and back then said

It’s small enough to be unintrusive, unlike a laptop which can be a bit of a barrier, it has two cameras which enable me to send images to Flickr or take short video clips, and the keyboard is usable unlike the fiddly mobile phone type split keyboard of the Q1 Ultra. You can also use it without needing to put it on the table or on your lap which makes it ideal in the conference hall or break-out room environment.

I wouldn’t want to write a long blog entry (like this one) on it, but for entering URLs or posting tweets or jaiku postings, I think it will work just fine.

A big flaw for me was the operating system, Windows Vista was rather too bloated for a device which lacked the power and memory of standard desktops and laptops. This would eventually be solved with Windows 7, but by that time the UMPC was just a distant memory. Microsoft really needed to do what Apple and Google have done and create a completely new OS that works on new formats for devices, but that wasn’t going to happen at that time.

Another problem were the touch screens, whereas big Tablet PCs required a dedicated stylus, the UMPC often resorted to a simple touch screen. However with an OS that really didn’t work with touch and needed a stylus, too often you found that neither worked satisfactorily and the experience was not nice.

However many people like me, saw that these early products, though expensive and having some flaws, they really demonstrated the potential of small mobile computers, something we now see in Apple’s iPad and Android tablets. Looking back at the UMPC we can see what worked and what didn’t, as a result when something like the iPad comes along that solves many of the flaws, price, battery life and OS, but still has the the main features of the UMPS, such as solid state drives (SSD), cameras, touch screens. You start to realise the influence of these devices on companies such as Apple and Google.

Many people see the iPad as Apple’s response to the netbook, I don’t, I think Apple looked at the original UMPC concept from Intel and went, “we can do that, and we can do that better!”

Well I never….

Well I never….

So there I was complaining about Vista on my Sony VAIO P when whilst updating I saw a reference to Instant On.

No idea what this was so I did a Google search and found this YouTube video.

Basically what this is, is a sub OS that allows you to play media and use a browser (Firefox). It has a similar interface to that you find on the PSP, PS3 or any new Sony TV.

The advantages are:

  • The fast boot up speed, less than 20 seconds. This means you can start browsing or playing media files without waiting an age as you can do with a Windows Vista laptop.
  • Fast to use, with no background tasks, it is really quite fast.
  • Tabbed browsing means you can use multiple sites, though no Flash on the version I was using.
  • You can use Skype.

I was quite impressed.

I should read the manuals that come with these things more often.