November 28, 2011

Spotify App arrives on TiVo

For Spotify Premium customers. Looks good. Looks very good. First impressions are that this is the first really quality app we've had on TiVo. Type in your account name and password and viola - your playlists, albums, favourites, even the stuff synced from your iTunes accounts. Awesome stuff. Thanks Virgin Media!
UPDATE: Playlists seem to be limited to 300 songs and there's no Search (yet). But there is "browse Artist" so the capability is there to hunt around, you just need to set up your launch pad first with a single track by the artist you want to search for

November 27, 2011

Control your TiVo from a Windows PC

Andy Wheeler, a reader of this blog, has just emailed me the details of a Windows app he has written which allows you to remotely control your TiVo on a Windows PC.
The software and details can be found here:
The VM TiVo Net Remote allows you to control your Virgin Media TiVo box from a PC running Windows with .NET version 4.0 or above installed. Your VM TiVo must be running firmware 15.2 or above, be connected to your home network via the Ethernet port at the back of the TiVo, and have Network Remote Control enabled from the settings menu.
I can't test it as I don't have a Windows PC but let me know what you think.

November 26, 2011

More on the Sky F1 channel and Virgin Media

I hear that Virgin Media has already been in talks with Sky over the dedicated F1 channel and should be carrying it when it starts in March next year. As reported in the Guardian story quoted in the earlier post it should be at no extra cost because it will be included in the Sky sports package.
Our reliable friend Square Eyes has posted in a comment to the previous post that Virgin Media is "very confident" that the HD channel this will also be on VM.

November 25, 2011

Sky F1 plans emerge

According to the Daily Mail:
Sky Sports are set to run a dedicated Formula One channel next season which will be available to Freeview customers for a monthly fee.
In a move aimed at appeasing frustrated British F1 fans following the unprecedented switch from terrestrial to pay-TV, I’m told that Sky will operate the package at a cost thought to be around £10-a-month.
The new channel will be included free of charge in Sky and Virgin Media packages. The new channel is set to run for three days over the course of a race weekend. The service will include live coverage of all three practice sessions as well as qualifying and the race – and it will also host an F1 legends programme.
No word though if it will be available in HD or if you need to subscribe to Sky Sports to get it. Full details are expected from Sky in December.

November 23, 2011

"What to expect from your Virgin Media TiVo 15.2 Upgrade"

There's a great post over on Cable Forum that I'm taking the liberty of repeating here (hoping that main man zekeisaszekedoes and the guys at Cable Forum don't mind). The full thread is well worth a read, but this post alone is detailed and a great summary of what you get with the TiVo 15.2 update:

Just wanted to make a thread to point out how much the TiVo has improved with the new firmware version 15.2, as opposed to version 15.1 which I used for a couple of months before I got the update.

I have the 500GB TiVo on the M+ package. My firmware update was done between the hours of 2am and 4am… can’t be more accurate as I was asleep, however a friend of mine in the same area was using his at around 3am or so says that is when the upgrade “kicked in”. Some on this forum have reported that they had theirs either at 2am, or slightly earlier at 1:45am.

The headend for my box is Fareham which is covered under the Solent (Portsmouth) rollout area scheduled for early morning of the 22nd, so the update was delivered on-time, more or less.

There are four lists:
  1. Positive Changes, which are things I’ve noticed that fix old problems or introduce great new features.
  2. Negative Changes, which are things that were better in the previous 15.1 firmware.
  3. Still To Fix/Add, which are any old issues or missing features identified by myself and others that remain to be (hopefully) repaired or added in the next version, presumably 15.3.
  4. Untested, for any features touted as new or improved by VM that I am unable to test, or alternatively can test and have not yet for whatever reason. [I've not copied this piece: check out the CF thread if you want to read more on the stuff zekeisaszekedoes hasn't looked at yet]
If I’ve missed things I’ll add them to the first post as and when I find them.
If anyone else wants to contribute I’ll add their findings to the list with the appropriate credit.

  • Speed increase.
    • It’s not a huge increase, but menus (especially Flash HD ones) are notably faster than before. Thumbnails on the Discovery Bar seem to cache a little faster and so do the previously very sluggish ones in the Home -> Help & Settings -> Help menu. Jumping from full EPG to Home or vice versa and setting new Series Links is swifter, with the nasty problem where the currently viewed channel jumps from PiP window to fullscreen and back again much less obvious.
  • EPG tweaks.
    • I thought the EPG was good before, but it has been made even better.
    • Start/end times appear in brackets just before the program description.
    • There is a green button Options menu allowing navigation to various times/days without scrolling endlessly.
    • When using the reverse EPG the channel number/name moves to the right which makes a lot more sense visually.
    • Pressing OK on something in the reverse EPG with a catchup icon brings up “Go to Catch Up TV On Demand”… I believe it had this feature before but having never really used reverse EPG before now couldn’t say for sure.
  • Full-screen info improvements.
    • If you’re recording the show you’re watching, another ® icon appears after the VM logo and before the thumb rating (if any) and channel name, plus in many cases shows will feature both a genre and “first aired” label to the right of the description. Small touches, but nice ones.
  • Activation of Ethernet port.
    • This is possibly my favourite improvement that has been made as it really extends what the VM TiVo can do; I have mine plugged into a 16-port switch (see signature).
    • After enabling certain networking options you are able to use an Android app called TiVo Commander (or VM’s proprietary iPhone/iPad app but I didn’t test that) to control the TiVo by a visual remote.
    • Better still, TiVo Commander can manage available content on the hard drive and make it play directly without having to go into the My Shows part of the Flash HD interface. This is a much faster and cleaner way of controlling the box; I really like it, even though sometimes the link between my Samsung Galaxy phone and TiVo was broken, solved by relaunching the app easily enough.
    • Also now Multi-room Streaming is possible (check for other TiVos on the network with Help & Settings -> System Info -> Multi-Room Streaming) although I’m not able to test this because the household only has one TiVo. If all is well other TiVo units should show up at the bottom of the My Shows list. (As a side note, the TiVo Ethernet port appears to be 10/100Mbps.)
  • Express Series Links.
    • A much easier way to setup Series Links is here, and it’s pretty much one click.
    • Defaults are: start 1 minute early, end 4 minutes late, 10 episodes until speed needed, new & reruns. These are now the default options for regular Series Links too, which can be changed of course.
    • If you want to make regular Series Links use the Explore this show -> Get this show -> Get a Series Link -> Options menu chain, which incidentally keeps you in the Flash HD part of the TiVo rather than to the old SD one without the PiP in the top right.
    • (When you manage Series Links, that’s still in the old SD menu style though.)
  • Disable PIN on recording playback.
    • It was annoying to have to enter a PIN to watch shows recorded after the watershed time(s) in non-watershed times, but this has been mostly done away with now.
    • I still received a PIN request for a show rated by age (18 in that case) rather than time of day though.
    • You can lock apps with the parental control as well, but for some reason the only one that shows up on my list is the old YouTube one.
  • Multi-tap text entry.
    • I’ve wanted this feature for a long time, and now it’s here I am not disappointed.
    • So much quicker to enter text on the Flash HD menus using the numeric buttons like writing SMS on older mobile phones.
    • iPlayer app always had it (still does), old YouTube doesn’t as it hasn’t been updated and the old SD parts of the TiVo menus (i.e. when creating or modifying WishLists) still doesn’t so it’s a mixed bag, however.
  • All channels in PiP Window.
    • Yes, even the Sky ones. I didn’t expect this to be looked at until 2012 so I’m impressed it’s already been dealt with, because it was a senseless limitation.
  • USB keyboards are working. - thanks to mikerr
    • It wasn’t just the Ethernet port that got switched on, the USB ports were activated too.
    • Interestingly if you press F11 you can toggle between Flash HD menus and faster but older original TiVo SD ones which have some “hidden” options. I’ll post the keyboard layout when I’ve tested it more. From what I can tell though, there is no rewind/fast-forward/play/pause ability which is a shame.
    • My Logitech MK250 wireless USB mouse/keyboard set works perfectly, well the keyboard does anyway! I also tried one of those generic PS2 mouse/keyboard to one USB adapters, and with only the Keyboard plugged in it worked perfectly too.
    • Sadly no support for generic USB Mass Storage devices which don’t need complex drivers like external HDDs, flash memory sticks or smartphones with SD cards.
  • Info and Stop button functionality improved.
    • “You’ll be able to use the ‘info’ button in the TV programme guide and the mini guide, while the Stop button now works as you would expect.” That’s what Virgin said and so far I agree with them.
  • New YouTube app. - thanks to the_pidgeon
    • I did receive the updated YouTube app, contrary to what I first thought.
    • Both old and new are now present on 15.2 VM TiVos.
    • New one is found under Featured apps and Music while the old one is under All Apps & Games.
    • Some have said the new YouTube app is buggy, but in my experience it's okay, just not as loaded with features as the old one.
    • New one autoplaylists by default, plays an annoying VM promo video at launch and lacks features like Subscriptions
  • Sorting of Apps & Games into folders.
    • This adds nothing when you consider at the moment there are only 14 apps on the TiVo (both old and new YouTube), just results in more button presses to get to what you want.
  • Films no longer show the year in brackets in My Shows. - thanks to mikerr
    • For example The Matrix [1999] now just displays as The Matrix.
    • This was a good way of instantly telling films apart from other programmes and it is a shame to lose it
  • Aspect ratio on 4:3 content when using PiP in Home menu is wrong.
    • A minor issue, but noticeable.
    • When you’re watching an old show or film, anything non-widescreen is displayed correctly in the EPG when the Aspect Correction Mode is set to Panel, i.e. with black bars on either side.
    • In the Home menu, all non-widescreen content is stretched out to fit even when Panel is selected.
  • YouTube/old style TiVo SD menus don’t support multi-tap input.
    • The new YouTube app might, but I don’t have it to test.
    • Old style TiVo SD menus still force you to input letters, e.g. for wishlists, by use of navigation keys only.
  • Still using old-style TiVo SD menus in some parts of the interface.
    • This will probably never change with VM’s Premiere TiVo derivative, but there’s always a disappointment when going from the slick, fairly decent looking Flash HD menus to the TiVo SD menus that haven’t changed much in a decade.
  • No Spotify.
    • It was promised but doesn’t appear to be available yet… I was expecting the app to be downloaded to the TiVo at least, even if it wasn’t usable.
    [Nialli comment: it's coming November 29th.]
    • Disabled TiVo Desktop support.
      • You can’t download content from the TiVo still; hopefully in the next update, since the original Premiere is capable of it.
    • Can’t use pyTiVo or Streambaby third-party streaming apps.
      • As the VM TiVo differs from the Premiere quite a bit at this point, these excellent features which allow you to stream content from other devices (i.e. a NAS or PC) with transcoding where necessary.
      • Features like this would push the TiVo closer towards being a true media centre hub, but even with the Ethernet port activated and Multi-room/network remote features added we’re unlikely to see support for these at any point. More of a pipe dream, really!
    • Negligible difference to SD channel upscaling.
      • I never saw much (if any) difference between the upscaling on Tivo and older V HD /V+ HD boxes but VM did promise an improvement here, which in my opinion has not arrived.
      • My recommendation is, if you’re connected by HDMI it’s wise to turn the Sharpness control on your set up somewhat. All VM boxes I’ve tried benefit from a clearer picture when doing this, which is quite noticeable on SD content and even more so on HD content.
    • No red button support.
      • Yes, red button still just takes you to Catchup style options, not proper Freeview-esque support of true red button services.
      • In my case not a big issue as it is something I rarely use (TV has built-in Freeview anyway) but it will undoubtedly tick off some TiVo users.
    • No Reminder feature.
      • This legacy function is still missing.
      • Easy enough to implement, so hopefully 15.3 will include it.
      • I see it as a transitional addition to make migrating from V HD and V+ HD boxes easier, especially if you have those and the TiVo in the house.
    Overall the 15.2 can be considered a big improvement over the 15.1 in a variety of ways, with some of the lingering problems due to be removed in the next firmware upgrade. Well done Virgin Media, and TiVo US!

    November 22, 2011

    My TiVo's been upgraded to 15.2 successfully

    Worked as scheduled last night. First comments:
    • Felt much more responsive, faster than I'd expected
    • PIN disabling - hurrah! Still there on the Sky Movie channels (for non U and PG films) but otherwise it can be turned off
    • Sky content now appearing in the preview screens
    My rollout was listed as  for Nov 22 so it's 2am that day when it happens (here's MediaBoy's list if you want to see when your area's scheduled). How are you guys finding it?

    November 21, 2011

    15.2 SD picture quality "definitely better"

    For those who had poor SD picture quality with the first release of TiVo software, here's some news that will be most welcome from VM's community forum:
    There is a fault in 15.1 software (a filtering fault), it is published on this forum by VM some months ago, so 15.2 will definitely improve SD PQ. I am in Nottingham and have been upgraded to 15.2 and I can comfirm the SD PQ is definitely better. I have a Sony KDL40HX803 TV.
    I'm due for the upgrade on the 22nd, but as I didn't have the problem with my Toshiba TV (it appears to mostly have been reported with Sony and Samsung TVs) I won't be able to tell. Here's hoping this guy's experience is shared by those afflicted.

    November 16, 2011

    TiVo: official details of the upgrade and Spotify on Tivo launch

    Here's the information I got in the post from Virgin Media today on the imminent TiVo update. Note that the Spotify App will launch on TiVo on November 29th!

    November 08, 2011

    TiVo 15.2 update rollout details

    MediaBoy's blog has the details of which region's getting the update when. Three areas kick off on November 17th (Basildon, Grimsby and Nottigham) then the rest follow from the 21st. Full details at

    November 03, 2011

    BT Vision "the fastest-growing pay-TV service in the UK"

    Report from MediaGuardian:

    BT Vision has become the fastest-growing pay-TV service in the UK, adding more customers in a quarter than BSkyB for the first time since launching more than four years ago.
    The telecoms company's pay-TV offering – which combines Freeview channels with sport, movies and on-demand content via broadband – said that the addition of the BBC iPlayer and a significant amount of on-demand content from major film studios had helped boost numbers.
    BT Vision added 41,000 customers in the three months to the end of September, the most the service has attracted in a quarter for more than two years.
    It also marks first time BT Vision has ever added more TV customers in a quarter than BSkyB since launching in mid-2007.
    BSkyB added 26,000 pay-TV customers in the quarter to the end of September – well down on the almost 100,000 it reported in the same period in 2010 – while cable pay-TV operator Virgin Media's total television subscribers declined by almost 6,000 in the period.
    "It is the first time we have beaten Sky since launch and we have added more customers than both [including Virgin Media] combined," said Marc Watson, chief executive of BT Vision. "It is very encouraging but we are not getting carried away. We are a young business with a lot to do."
    Virgin Media refuted the claim, arguing that it added 42,000 new TV customers to its TiVo service. While this is slightly ahead of BT's growth rate, Virgin also lost customers in the third quarter, adding a net total of 28,800 pay-TV customers.
    One thing I would say is that, with the analogue signal switch off now rolling around the country BT Vision is picking up those who don't fancy Sky or Virgin's relatively high monthly costs but fancy a bit more than the basic Freeview. I'd imagine in time this market will be better catered for by a combination of Freeview (including a handful of HD channels) and SmartTV services on the newer TV ranges, but for now BT is enjoying its (limited) success.

    November 02, 2011

    New and returning US HD series

    2 Broke Girls - 2012 on Channel 4HD
    30 Rock S5P2 - Fri, November 4 at 10.30pm on Comedy Central HD - at long bloody last!
    Allen Gregory - 2012 on E4 HD
    American Dad! S7 - January on FX HD
    American Horror Story - Mon, November 7 at 10pm on FX HD
    Apartment 23 - 2012 on E4 HD
    Big Bang Theory S5 - Thu, November 3 on E4 HD
    Bones S7 - Wed, November 16 at 9pm on Sky Living HD
    Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe - Sun, December 25 on FX HD
    Charlie's Angels - November 30 on E4 HD (already cancelled in the US)
    Cleveland Show S2 - January on FX HD
    Desperate Housewives S8 - 2012 on E4/Channel 4 HD
    Dexter S6 - March 2012 on FX HD
    Falling Skies S2 - July 2012 on FX HD
    Grey's Anatomy S8 - November 9 at 9pm on Sky Living HD
    How I Met Your Mother S7 - November 3 at 9pm on E4 HD
    Homeland - 2012 on Channel 4 HD
    Leverage S1/S2 - Mon, November 3 at 10pm on FX HD
    Leverage S3 - February 20, 2012 on FX HD
    Mad Dogs S2 - January 2012 on Sky1 HD (not US)
    New Girl S1 - 2012 on E4 HD
    Pan Am - November 16 on BBC HD
    Phoneshop S2 - Thu, November 10 on E4 HD (also not US)
    Sorority Girls - Tue, November 8 on E4 HD
    The Mentalist S4 - Thu, November 11 on Channel 5 HD
    The Office S6P2 - Tue, November 1 at 10pm on Comedy Central HD
    The Simpsons S23 - Sun, November 13 at 6pm on Sky1 HD
    True Blood S4 - February 7, 2012 on FX HD
    Whitney - Spring 2012 on Comedy Central HD

    TiVo update rollout dates

    According to our reliable friend Mr S. Eyes, the 15.2 update will be rolling out between 17th and 24th November.