December 30, 2010

Samsung V+ bug?

My brand new Samsung V+ is proving inconsistent when detailing the number of hours remaining, so much so that I'm doing manual calculations now rather than trusting it. For example, it will tell me 44 hours remaining, but will then drop to 21 hours when I delete a single SD recording - the latter being correct when I work it out myself. Has anyone else experienced this? It seems to mis-calculate the space taken by HD recordings.
Still, it's better than failed recordings but annoying nevertheless.

December 29, 2010

More on "Sky Atlantic HD - free and exclusive for all Sky customers"

First off, I don't know if the channel will be available to Virgin customers in standard def but will endeavour to find out. More when I find out.
I don't follow the logic of denying Sky Atlantic advertisers access to Virgin Media's 3.7m TV customers - this channel will at best attract a minority More4/BBC4 size audience and it would make more sense to me to maximise its reach. Sky1 advertisers revolted against the removal of VM's customer base. I would have thought limiting Sky Atlantic to the one pay platform is only a short term strategy - the question is, how short? Personally, I think the days of a lot of people migrating services for a single channel are long gone - Virgin customers with superior broadband know where to find US content if it's denied them on their TV service.
Having said that, I thought the days of Sky vs Virgin were over and I appear to be wrong on that count. Earlier this year Virgin Media sold seven channels to Sky: LIVING, LIVINGit, Challenge, Challenge Jackpot, Bravo, Bravo 2 and Virgin1, plus various +1s and Living HD. All bar Living and Challenge have now closed and Virgin customers have had nothing in return - Sky Atlantic would be some compensation at least. The promises of the June press release read somewhat hollow as Sky neatly sidesteps any obligations by closing all but the most profitable channels and launching new ones apparently not covered in the agreement (what Mickey Mouse lawyers didn't see that coming?). The promised On Demand content and Sky basics in HD (Sky1 excepted) are still not with us. Ho hum. I could rant and rant, but I haven't got the time or energy or inclination. I just hope we get Sky Atlantic in some form before Mad Men season 5 begins in the summer, otherwise I'll be watching it on my laptop rather than TV.
VMTV sales press release
"The companies have, in parallel, agreed to enter into a number of agreements providing for the carriage of certain Sky standard and high-definition (HD) channels.
The agreements cover the following:

  • Sky will acquire VMtv for a total consideration of up to £160 million in cash, with £105 million paid on completion and the remainder paid following the regulatory process. The acquisition will expand Sky's portfolio of basic pay TV channels and eliminate the carriage fees it currently pays for distributing VMtv channels on its TV services.
  • Sky will assume responsibility for selling advertising for the newly acquired VMtv channels from January 2011.
  • New carriage agreements will secure wholesale distribution of Sky's basic channel line-up, including Sky1 and Sky Arts, and the newly acquired VMtv channels, on Virgin Media's cable TV service.
  • For an incremental wholesale fee, Virgin Media will, for the first time, have the option of carrying any of Sky's basic HD channels, Sky Sports HD 1 and Sky Sports HD 2, and all Sky Movies HD channels.
  • Virgin Media will make available through its on-demand TV service a range of content from Sky's basic and premium channels, including the newly acquired VMtv channels. Virgin Media will also have access to red button interactive sports coverage and the opportunity to deliver selected standard definition programming over the internet.

December 26, 2010

Sky Atlantic HD exclusive to Sky

Ads now being broadcast on Sky channels confirm the bad news that Sky Atlantic HD is to be a Sky exclusive at launch next month. Seriously unhappy.

TiVo poll added

It's been a while since I ran a poll on this blog, but with the introduction of the TiVo next month I thought it would be interesting to gauge the Virgin Media devotees' appetite for the new technology and the announced pricing. The poll is top right, and you can select more than one answer if you are planning to wait for both bug fixes and a price drop.
In my last post I said I'd be unlikely to invest in January, but, having already filled my new Samsung V+'s disc in less than a week, I'm probably going to jump sooner rather than later.

December 24, 2010

TiVo for VIPs in January

Snowy Brighton's just posted this comment on the blog:
"Just spoke to VM to see if I could get a TiVo box, and was informed that I would have to wait until March as an XL customer. VIP's will be eligible to upgrade from January and the price will be £149 for the box and £40 installation fee."
Personally, with my new Samsung in place and there likely to be a few bugs with the TiVo on release, I may wait a while. I may see what the early adopters report on stability and performance before ordering. The 1Tb disc is the main attraction for me, but (unless Sky Atlantic HD arrives on VM) I can't see a great deal being recorded early in the New Year anyway.
Then again I am a man who acts on impulse so you never know...

December 23, 2010

More 3D content coming to Virgin Media

For those who can't get enough of watching telly with their sunglasses on, Virgin Media is adding more 3D movies and documentaries to the on demand service over the next few months:
3D documentaries available to XL TV customers only
- 3D Sun – today (23 Dec)
- Dinosaurs Alive – today (23 Dec)
- Mummies - Jan
- Waking the T-Rex: The Story of Sue – Jan
- Siegfried and Roy: The Magic Box - Jan
- The Extreme Nature Bats - Feb
- MircoWorlds - Feb
3D animations available to all Virgin Media TV customers
- Xenopod – today (23 Dec)
- Curse of Skull Rock – today (23 Dec)
- The Mission - Jan
- Voyage to Mars - Jan
3D Movies on Demand – pay-per-view
- The Hole – 17th Jan
- Despicable Me – Feb

The Samsung V+

Oh, this is more like it. Responds to the remote. Records two HD channels simultaneously whilst viewing a third. Changes channels same day/hour/minute/second. Connects to On Demand on demand. Looks like a proper piece of AV kit under the TV rather than a neon-bathed curiousity. HD and SD picture quality absolutely stunning.
Fabulous. It can also record radio programmes. The only downside I'm aware of is that I won't be able to watch TV whilst archiving to external recorder and that EPG display is output through the VCR scart. Haven't checked this myself but it's a minor inconvenience to me.
Thanks to Spiderplant and VM engineer Alex for making it so, and Erich for his encouragement.
Happy Christmas one and all!
A happy Samsung V+ chap

10 cool things TiVo can do for you

December 21, 2010

Another TiVo review

Here is another review of the TiVo, but I'd suggest it's approached with some caution as it is dated December 4th (pre-TiVo 500 rollout) and would be of an early version of the software/hardware. A little concerned regarding the comments on upscaling - I watch far less standard def these days but I would be disappointed to lose the SD upscaling capabilities of the V+. Having said that, the SD versions of the Sky Movies channels are pretty dire.
I'm not sure how unbiased this review is - it's from a forum for MythTV and reads like a promotion it to some degree. It also leads with the negatives rather than positives.
Maybe someone with access to a TiVo can review this review? I know VM are tight on confidentiality but it would be interesting to know a little more. I can be contacted via

December 20, 2010

Best new US series of 2010?

It's not showing in HD, but over on Five USA this week and next they're repeating the first season of the excellent Justified at 11pm every night. Highly recommended.

December 18, 2010

Another TiVo review and more pics (Pocket-lint)

Interesting hands-on review and more pictures of Virgin Media TiVo on Pocket-lint.
(And just three stars for Toy Story 3??? Maybe TiVo isn't so bright after all!)

December 16, 2010

Bad week for Virgin Media in the Nialli household

First the random rebooting of my aged SA V+.
Then last night I found that the V+ had only recorded 13 minutes of the last episode of Any Human Heart from C4HD (but said that it had all 1h30). Mercifully it was on 4OD, albeit only in standard def.
Then this morning I got up extra early to watch The Ashes on Sky Sports HD, only to find no TV service whatsoever in Area 21.
Not a happy bunny.
(Incidentally, Virgin Media's new Help & Support Forum is a good place to report and track service problems - much easier than the 151 option.)

December 14, 2010

Interesting posts over on the TiVo blog

The new TiVo blog that first appeared earlier this month is proving an interesting read, so much so that I've added a feed from it on the right hand side of this blog so you can track the latest stories. A couple of posts this week are worth checking out. I hope "Admin" can keep up his frequent posting (and enthusiasm!) - I don't know how he and Media Boy find the time.

December 12, 2010

SA V+ - random reboots when watching HD channels

Long-term readers of this blog will know that I'm holding out for the TiVo box rather than trading in my troublesome SA V+ for a Samsung, but it's getting increasingly difficult to be patient and logical about this.
This week my V+ has rebooted itself a several times, sometimes when it's recording an HD programme whilst I'm watching another, twice when I have just been watching an HD channel. There's not much rhyme or reason to it, but needless to say this rebooting has ruined a few recordings and the five minutes' reboot time is proving increasingly frustrating. It appears to be happening more and more frequently, notably since we added Sky Movies and Sports HD and watch so little SD now. Mrs Nialli not happy. Nialli not happy. Teen Nialli not over the moon either.
Does anyone else experience this? If it wasn't for the 50+ hours on the V+ stored up (actually a lot less thanks to a fair amount being HD) I'd look to exchange it before Christmas, but much of that has been recorded to be enjoyed over Chrimbo, so I'm reluctant to let it go just yet. I could transfer programmes on to my old external DVD/HDD Panasonic, but the PQ drop is noticable even from SD.
And, of course, if I do ring Virgin Media, there's no guarantee that I'd get a Samsung as a replacement either.
So I'll have to make do, which is not what I should be doing as I'm shelling out over £100 a month for the service as a VIP50. Normally I'm not an early adopter of new software or hardware (I do too much of that in my day job for the thrill to outweigh the practicalities of a stable service) but for me, the TiVo upgrade, whatever it costs, cannot come soon enough.

December 11, 2010

Sky moves its HD channels up the EPG

Sky is to launch a separate EPG numbering system for channels broadcasting both SD and HD versions. From February 1, 2011 Sky will run both its “Standard Bouquet” and the new “HD Swap Bouquet”. It means that channels with an HD simulcast that has been allocated a number further down the Sky EPG will be able to take the slot held by the SD counterpart, but only in HD homes.
I don't expect Virgin Media to follow suit, as with the introduction of the TiVo interface the channel numbers become less relevant to viewers. However it does make me wonder though how much longer Sky will continue to broadcast SD versions of its own channels - if they wanted more customers to stump up for the monthly HD subs charge then I wouldn't put it passed Sky to make Sky1 or Sky Atlantic an HD only channel.
Still no official word on the availability of Sky Atlantic on Virgin Media btw.

December 07, 2010

How clever is TiVo?

A couple of posts from Cable Forum that go some way to explain what the fuss is about. First, Tony Hoyle:
Tivo's recording is smart.. for example if your series links clash it'll automatically reschedule another recording for later (the one you want 'now' and the one you want 'later' is settable using priorities).
It picks up on things you like and suggests other things. You catch a lot of new series that way (I often miss lots of stuff because nobody tells me about it until it's nearly on its last episode, then some says 'have seen zzz.. it's really good' and I've missed the lot. Never happened to me with Tivo - invariably it'd suggested the series before anyone even mentioned it - and I found a load of stuff before anyone else).
Wishlists can be set on individual actors, or genres, or all sorts of other information (it's the rich EPG that allows Tivo to be so smart).
Apps and stuff don't interest me that much, although the Tivo ipad interface sounds pretty nice.
And yes, Tivo is worth it. With a Tivo you view TV in a different way - instead of worrying about things like schedules and channels you can just look at what's available, watch some, thumb them up/down and never have to look at the EPG.. that's Tivo's job.. like a personal butler.
Secondly, Mimar:
I think its always been difficult to explain the benefits of TiVo in writing but a lot easier to demo to friends, especially after Sky plus was launched and people were a bit more aware.
For me, its always been about the basics plus the advantage of the intelligent system built in.
For example, it allows you to prioritise the programs that you like and will then go out of its way to ensure they are all recorded.
If say House was on at 9pm and Ncis was also on at 9pm and Ncis was higher in your order of preferred shows it would record Ncis . . . . but then it realises Ncis is repeated at 01.00am so it would record House at 9pm and also pick up Ncis at its later time ensuring it avoids the clash but also records both shows. This is of course just an example as twin or triple tuners will allow for most clashes to be avoided but they do still happen and its the way TiVo learns to fix these issues (by itself) that quickly teaches you to have faith in it.
It's great to find it has also recorded a rock documentary (on an obscure channel) that you were unaware was listed but it has picked it up anyway because you watched an Old Grey Whistle Test special four weeks ago.

December 03, 2010

New VM TiVo blog

There's a new TiVo blog appeared - not sure who's putting it together but if you want to check it out it can be found at

December 02, 2010

Call me eagle eyed or sad but...

If you watch the demo on Virgin's Tivo site, there are two little things that caught my eye:
At around the two minute point when it shows South Park there's a reference to channel 733 Bravo HD in the bottom right of the screen - not a channel we'll ever see now that Sky has ditched the brand, so maybe much of the demo is from a US cable's listings?
Similarly, around the three minute mark there's a search which throws up "Boardwalk Empire". I think again this is from US listings, but the optimist in me would love it to be for Sky Atlantic HD on my new TiVo box early in 2011...

Virgin Media Investors presentation

Virgin Media Chief Exec Neil Berkett has just made another presentation to investors in City. The full slides are now online: Virgin Media Investors Day. Here are some of the new services confirmed in the presentation:
  • Main TiVo launch next year.
  • Aim to have 80 HD channels within 3 years.
  • 100mb to be formally launched in next few days.
  • Broadband tiers to be upgraded next year.
  • More TiVo boxes next year with different (smaller) hard drive sizes.
  • A TiVo remote with qwerty keyboard alluded to.
  • Free calls from VM mobiles back to VM landlines.
  • A phone credit system. If you have a sub (triple-play?) to VM services, you can use that to get discounts off mobile calls.
  • Lots more TiVo apps to come, will launch with Facebook, Twitter, ebay and others.
  • VM director descibes the launch of tivo as "first rung on the ladder" "lots more to come in the future."
  • Should be able to watch content from different TiVo boxes throughout the home in January.
  • Ability to control TiVo and watch home content on mobile devices
(Thanks to Horizon on Cable Forum for the info.)

December 01, 2010

TiVo launch press coverage

An early review and plenty of new pictures of both the VM TiVo box and user interface on TechRadar
Virgin Media has also confirmed that the TiVo iPad App will launch in the UK in 2011 as well.
More press:
The Guardian
What HiFi
Financial Times
and proving it really exists, CNet's Crave has photos of it in their front room"

Virgin's TiVo site

Check out the official TiVo website from Virgin. Found the demo video a bit in your face, but the lady in the Intro video is very watchable...
You can register interest too, although it's now saying "early 2011" launch.

TiVo: £199 + £40 install for new customers

Official Virgin Media press release
Virgin Media launches the UK’s first next-generation entertainment platform
  • Game-changing interface brings together the best of TV, on-demand and web through a single box
  • Unique content discovery and personalisation tools
  • A world of apps for the living room
Virgin Media has today unveiled details of Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo®, the UK’s first next-generation entertainment platform.
The new service will lead a much-anticipated revolution in the way people find and enjoy their favourite content. An easy-to-use graphical interface will combine the live TV schedule with catch-up TV, a huge library of on-demand programming and popular web-based applications alongside a market-leading personal video recorder. As a result, Virgin Media customers will never miss out on great programmes and will find it easier than ever to discover new types of entertainment to match their tastes and preferences.
The platform will be supercharged by Virgin Media’s unparalleled digital network, ensuring guaranteed quality of service, whether watching in Standard Definition, High Definition or 3D. This also means that - unlike other internet enabled TV services - customers will be able to watch what they want at the click of a button, rather than waiting for time-consuming downloads. As Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo utilises dedicated channels of bandwidth, the user’s viewing choice will not come at the expense of their broadband connection, so households can watch and surf simultaneously without interruption.
Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, said: “This is a landmark moment in the UK’s digital revolution and vividly illustrates why Virgin Media is the only company who can provide the ultimate digital lifestyle. For the first time, viewers will have a truly personalised viewing experience so they can get the most out of the wonderful worlds of the internet and TV all in one place. We’re really excited to bring our customers what is just the first of successive generations of transformational services based on this unique TiVo-powered platform.”
The game changing platform features a highly intelligent recommendations engine which will learn to predict the type of shows that a particular customer loves and, just like a personal shopper, will recommend great content on offer. The superior search technology will find films, music, TV shows and online content as well as providing rich programme information and details about the actors and directors, allowing viewers to discover even more content connected to the cast and production. The user will be able to create a WishList™ search based on a particular show, theme, actor or director and all future content relevant to that will be automatically recorded.
The iconic peanut-shaped TiVo remote control will also give viewers the chance to rate shows through the instantly accessible TiVo ‘thumbs up/thumbs down™’ buttons. Using this feature to help ensure even greater accuracy, the intelligent service will provide suggested shows and store them in the ‘My Shows’ folder – so Virgin Media customers will never miss out, even when they didn’t set a recording.
As well as planning TV viewing over the next week, the service allows viewers to scroll backwards by up to seven days in the TV Guide and access catch up TV and programming information instantly. This will ensure catch up TV becomes simply a seamless extension of live TV viewing.
Through its dedicated 10Mb cable broadband modem, which is built into the personal video recorder, the new platform will also bring the ever-growing popularity of the app store to the living room for the first time, doing for TV what the iPhone and Android have done for the mobile phone. Built on an Adobe Flash-based platform, the latest videos, social networking and information apps will be updated regularly. The service launches initially with apps from major web brands including catch-up TV from BBC iPlayer, videos from YouTube, shopping from the online marketplace eBay, Tweets from Twitter and photos from sites such as Facebook, and the app line up will expand over the next several months.
The service will be supported by a brand new set-top box offering 1 terabyte of storage – up to 500 hours of standard definition programming – as well as access to 4,600 hours of TV shows, movies and music on demand. In due course, there will also be the facility to set recordings remotely via online and mobile devices.
Featuring cutting edge hardware design, the Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo box will have three tuners*, allowing viewers to record two channels whilst watching a third so recording conflicts become a thing of the past. The future-proofed service will automatically be updated with new features and functionality as they become available.
Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo will begin to roll-out from mid-December. Standard price of £199**, plus £26.50 per month for the XL TiVo package which features over 160 channels, an unrivalled TV on demand library and access to all standard HD channels. For further information, or to register for interest in the Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo service, visit:
* The service is launching with two tuners and will be updated with three tuners in early 2011.
** Standard £40 installation costs apply.

Update: According to Virgin's Twitter account, existing customers pricing details are yet to be released (thanks Rich99) 

TV Choice On Demand additions

There's a new category in the TV Choice On Demand line up: US Show Box Sets. So far, the first seasons of 30 Rock, House, Heroes, Lipstick Jungle and a few other NBC/Universal series have appeared in SD with some shows also available in HD. They look like they'll be there until the end of the year at least.
As always with On Demand, they're not appearing necessarily in full straight away.