14 February 2016

"One Box to View Them All"

The speedyrite award for "One Box to View Them All" goes to:

Roku 2 Streaming Media Player (4205E) with Faster Processor (2015 model)

The 2nd generation NOW TV box is a cut-down version of a Roku 2. But the Roku 2 is better because it is better featured.

Managed to pick up a Roku 2 recently on Amazon UK for £49 (versus the normal price of about £70).

Apps are available for all the main UK catch-up & on demand services:
  • BBC iPlayer
  • itv Hub
  • All 4
  • Demand 5
Also installed a couple of apps that provide access to TVCatchup and TVPlayer (effectively legitimately streaming Freeview channels over the internet), found courtesy of http://blog.artesea.co.uk/2016/01/tvplayer-on-roku-or-now-tv.html

There are also apps for all the popular streaming services:
  • NOW TV
  • Netflix
  • Amazon Video
  • Google Play Movies & TV
  • YouTube
Installing the PLEX app has enabled streaming of content from a local iTunes library on a computer that also has the PLEX server app installed.

The Flixster app provides access to a small number of movies purchased on DVD in the past that came with an Ultra-Violet copy.

Radio is well served by the tunein radio app.

Finally, the Roku 2 has a USB port. So you can plug in a USB drive and access content from it via the Roku Media Player app.

So the NOW TV 2nd generation box, acquired a couple of months ago for £19 (together with a 6 month NOW TV Entertainment pass) from Amazon UK, has been replaced by the Roku 2.

What's not to like about Roku 2?!

05 January 2016

Happy New Year & New TV Provider

The Sky TV subscription ended overnight.

Last night, we finished viewing the last few recordings and downloads that were still on the remaining Sky+HD set-top box.

Today's tasks are to disconnect and remove the Sky+HD from the "TV & LAN infrastructure" and pack it away. Will also attempt to rationalise and untangle the mass mess(!) of cables behind the cupboard whilst scrabbling about around the back.

The Humax BT Youview+ DTR-T2110 has been handling recordings from Freeview channels since before Christmas, in parallel with mainly downloads from Sky Catch-Up/On Demand (supplemented with the odd recording).

Over the same period, the TV (2nd Generation) has streamed NOW TV Movies, Netflix and some movies from our collection in iTunes on the Mac mini. Planning to replace it with the new TV 4th Generation soon.

So, Happy New Year! Or should that be Happy New TV Provider?

Coming soon: Pros and Cons, Economics, Picture Quality, Hardware Reviews etc.

21 December 2015

Farewell Sky+HD

The last day of our Sky TV subscription looms near.

We shall soon be disconnecting the remaining Sky+HD box and packing it away, to join its sibling Sky+HD box that used to be our Multiroom box in the tech graveyard corner. 

We're going (mainly) "over the top" for a 12 month experimental period using NOW TV & Netflix (maybe also Amazon Video as some stage) and  a YouView+ recorder for recording stuff and watching Catch-Up from Freeview channels.

As far as our customer relationship with Sky is concerned, all is not lost.

We continue to be a Sky Fibre Pro broadband customer and, of course, Sky plc will continue to benefit from the re-direction of our (albeit reduced amounts of) entertainment spending into NOW TV.

No plans to sell my Sky shares at the present time. Why? Because I am confident that there are still plenty of people prepared to stick with Sky+HD, I'm sure there will be reasonable demand for Sky Q when it becomes available and Sky also have the somewhat unique proposition of NOW TV to mop up the rest.

But, in my opinion, the future of TV viewing will be non-linear. For various reasons, it won't be the right solution for everybody, but right now it looks like the right solution for us. 

We are excited to be (at least partially) cutting the cord!

02 April 2014

Gone Fibre Pro

An upgrade from Sky Fibre Unlimited (up to 38Mbps) to Sky Fibre Unlimited Pro (up to 76Mbps) took effect overnight.

When the order was placed, the estimated maximum download speed given was 56.9Mbps.

This is about what I was expecting, taking into account the distance from the cabinet (about 250 metres), according to this (taken from a thinkbroadband guide):

After rebooting the SR101 this morning, downstream sync speed has gone from 39998kbps to 61971kbps and upstream sync has gone from 9999kbps to 19999kbps.

Over the past 12 months, the average downstream throughput speed has been 37.67Mbps and the average upstream throughput speed has been 9.12Mbps on Sky Fibre Unlimited (as measured by the "Whitebox").

I'm waiting for SamKnows to update the profile of the "Whitebox" so that some proper results can be observed over the next few days, weeks, months!

Thanks to a retention deal though, the cost is unchanged for 12 months.

01 April 2014

Happy 29th Birthday to Speedyrite Limited

29 years ago today, on the 1st April 1985, was the first day of my very first freelance contract assignment (at Tesco Stores plc in Welwyn Garden City) - and Speedyrite Limited commenced trading!

A lot has changed over those 29 years.

Mobile phones were in their infancy - they were about the size of a house brick and had quite a short battery life. Video cameras were massive and shot onto tape - I remember once seeing a Japanese tourist wheeling around what looked like a small car battery mounted on a trolley and connected by a long cable to his VCR camera! Now all replaced by a smartphone more powerful than the computer that sent astronauts to the moon.

Legacy application systems are still around though. The front end access to them may have changed though. Gone are the green screens (mostly), replaced by GUI front ends (not so much screen-scraping as there once was, now developed using more versatile tools). And, of course, access to all that data via a browser interface over the intranet & internet.

I'm still here though...

29 March 2014

Sky high fibre broadband pricing!

Just been surveying the price of VDSL2 fibre broadband service, from what I consider to be the four leading mass-market providers in the UK, as I'm looking to maximise the value for money. Current provider is Sky on their "40/10" product.

I have ignored the cost of call packages and any one-off joining discounts, and I have assumed that both voice & data services will both be switched to the new provider (giving free activation in all cases, except BT Infinity 1 Unlimited which is £30).

First of all, the annualised cost of an "80/20" product:

VDSL2 “80/20”
Line Rental

* No Upfront LR

And the annualised cost of a "40/10" product:

VDSL2 “40/10”
Line Rental

* No Upfront LR

* BB is “40/2”

In both cases, there's quite a big cost difference between my current provider and the cheapest mass-market provider.

If I wanted to stay on a "40/10" product, I would from £100 to £120 a year just by switching to another provider.

If I move up from the "40/10" product to the "80/20" product with Sky, it will cost me £120 a year more than it does now.

But if I switch to another provider's "80/20" product, it will save me at least £53 a year over the cost of my "40/10" product from Sky - and I will get higher throughput speed!

Sky high fibre broadband pricing!

24 March 2014

Year 1 of Fibre Broadband Performance Measurement

Here are the results of the first year's performance measurement using a SamKnows "Whitebox"on a Sky Fibre Unlimited VDSL2 (FTTC) broadband connection.

Analysis of the Monthly Report Card results from SamKnows gives the average download throughput as 37.67Mbps.

Analysis of the Monthly Report Card results from SamKnows gives the average upload throughput as 9.12Mbps.