Today I have mostly been photoshopping

February 21, 2009 on 8:52 pm | In Games | Comments Off

Decided to enter the competition for a new UK:Resistance logo, because I enjoy messing around with Photoshop and it took my mind off watching people I like losing at Snooker.

First off is a fairly clear rip-off:
ukrezistance

(Its obvious if you know the game…)

Then a somewhat better effort with lots of Sega characters (hooray!) but not Sonic. Because Sega haven’t made an even slightly good Sonic game in over a decade. Sorry. They should just give up and do better things like Valkyria Chronicles and House of the Dead Overkill (oh wait, I think they are…)

ukresbanner

I wonder if UK:R will use either? Probably not but its given me a laugh which is good enough for me.

Update – here are a couple more alternatives. I must stop Photoshopping now and get back to iPhone development, but Photoshopping is more fun!

ukres_alternate

ukres_alternate2

The Mythical Perfect Sky Box

February 21, 2009 on 3:00 pm | In Gadgets | Comments Off

I had a bit of a scare last weekend when I noticed that my Sky+HD box had started missing recordings. Fortunately it was ok after a quick reboot, but I a bit of web searching and found on the very handy Digital Spy Sky HD forum that some of the Sky receivers made by Thomson have a nasty habit of their power supplies blowing up :( Fortunately a quick check under the hood of the box revealed that this wasn’t the problem. Phew! Kudos to Sky for not putting a warranty seal on the box so I could do this and still stay the right side of my warranty (still have 5 months left!).

The fix, it seems so far, was to turn off the somewhat dubious Anytime TV option, which downloads ‘recommended’ telly to your Sky box overnight. Unfortunately this telly is often (a) movie channels that I don’t subscribe to or (b) shit. So I wasn’t really going to miss it. Apparently this can cause some Sky boxes to fail recordings on the second receiver (e.g. not work when recording two things at once). So fingers crossed, I’ve fixed that for now.

Anyway that got me thinking about what the ‘perfect’ sky box would be – essentially Sky boxes are just PCs with a couple of Satellite tuner cards in them, running some custom software. (Of course that is also true of a vast array of home electronics now).

What would I like my Sky box to do, that it doesn’t now? I’ve made a list:

Record more channels at once. Yeah, sometimes two just isn’t enough – don’t blame me; its the evil TV schedulers that put everything I want to watch on at 9pm on a Sunday. This would be mitigated if I had some of the other features, like ‘work with iPlayer’ or indeed:

Find repeats of programs. Especially useful if you miss a program or have a recording clash, being able to suggest recording a repeat or the same program on a +1 channel would really help. I have to do this manually and even then often have to use the sky web-based TV guide or the iPhone based TiotiTV+ app which is very handy.

Better searching. Have you ever tried to find a program on the Sky box itself? It’s awful – you can’t actually search by program name but just get a rubbish A-Z list which means pages of shite, usually on channels you don’t care about. I usually don’t even both and just use web/iPhone app to find things. Search needs to improve a lot to get the most out of the sheer number of channels/repeats available. Searching just in your favorite channels would be good (as would having an unlimited number of favorite channels). Better caching of the program guide on the box would help hugely as paging through the schedule feels like using Teletext on an analog TV circa 1980… painfully slow and horrible.

Work with iPlayer / 4oD / ITV Player / etc. If you miss a program there are now plenty of legal ways to ‘catch up’ with it… but to use these you have to use a PC (ok, sometimes a Mac works too) and can’t watch it on your big telly unless you plug a PC into it (or have a little Mac mini under it as I do). I was very glad to see that Virgin’s V+ box now works with BBC iPlayer. Sky need to match this and ideally work with Channel 4 and ITV’s on demand services as well.

Better web interface. Kudos to sky for having a reasonable online TV guide (it does break about 50% of the time I try to use it) and even more for having Remote Record, so that I can get my Sky box to record something I’ve found on the web (TiotiTV+ uses this to allow remote record from the iPhone, which is dead handy). But it’s all very one-way. I can’t tell if I’ve already set something to record, so I can easily get recording clashes and not realise it. Ideally I want to be able to manage the recordings and series links from the web, so they need to have the Sky box actually talk to their servers to do this.

Use the freaking internet already! When Sky first launched I can see that they had to include a modem to allow the Sky box to send information back to them, but now does anyone really not have the internet at home? I seriously doubt anyone has a High Definition TV and Sky+ HD box and doesn’t have the internet. There is already an Ethernet socket on the back of the box, so why is it not being used? With this they wouldn’t need to plug the phone line in, could make use of iPlayer and other video-on-demand, could provide a local web interface / automation – lots of things. Just make use of the socket that you already have…

Streaming to other devices at home. Specifically I want to stream music/tv to an Apple Macbook in another room. I understand that there are some rights-management issues here, but I would be happy to trade some quality for the flexibility. Sky should bear in mind that as people can already download and decrypt channels using a DVB-S2 card, they won’t be making it ‘easier’ for people to ‘steal’ content by doing this. It’s already easy for people to do this. What they’re doing is making the produce that people pay money for better. Doing that means they’ll have more people paying money for it – the people who want to ‘steal’ it have plenty of ways to do that, so just ignore them. Just make the service better for the paying customers.

Use less power when on standby. I’m really not convinced about using 40 Watts in standby — that’s just awful. They need to power down the hard drive, switch the CPU into a lower power mode and switch off whatever they can. It’s really inexcusable.

Find programs I want to watch automatically. Series link is pretty useful, but only works for things that are on within the next week. There are plenty of US TV shows that go on a one month hiatus over Christmas, so it is easy to miss them when they come back. The Sky box should be able to keep a list of shows to always search for – even if they aren’t on in the next week. (If it currently does this, its hidden and thus useless). You could even set it to search for a particular episode across any channels – e.g. if you’ve missed one in a series, you may be able to find it repeated on another channel eventually.

Larger hard drive(s). As I’ve already spoken about, it is easy for people to ‘steal’ content so Sky should just allow people to use larger hard drives, making them user-upgradeable. Making use of the existing eSATA socket on the back would be a good idea here. Having future ‘high end’ boxes with more tuners and a RAID set up would be even better.

Better presentation. The onscreen program guide itself is functional, but the presentation of recorded programs is very poor – they should look at various home media software such as Boxee to see what should be done. You could display the summary of the show (which the box already has) and a thumbnail image (that again the box has) or even the series logo / series summary (which can be downloaded from teh internets).

Having thought about my list I’ve realised that most of it could be done with a software upgrade – something that I know Sky are working on as rumors of a new EPG have abounded for months. We’ll have to see if it is much of an improvement!

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