December 21, 2015

Sky Broadband Porn Filters 'on by default' for new customers

Sky will block "adult content" by default for all new customers, the company has announced.
Sky said the move would result in "much greater use of home filters", but customers could still opt-out if they wanted to.
35% of existing Sky Broadband households have the porn filters on already, compared to 12% of Virgin, 14% of TalkTalk and 6% of BT. 

The broadcast giant said it will now email all existing customers, asking them if they would like the filter to be switched on.

If the email is ignored, Sky’s policy is to turn on the filter automatically, as it did following a similar email sent in January, when all customers who joined prior to November 2013 were contacted.

December 19, 2015

Not so super Superhubs

I recently took a call from Virgin offering a 'free broadband assessment' at my home. I said yes as I was a little disappointed with the reliability of the wifi around our house. The engineer was great; he identified the problem (my Superhub 1 was broadcasting on a congested channel in the area) and fixed it by configuring a Superhub 2 to use a less populated channel on 2.4Ghz and also activating the 5Ghz signal too. Instantly I was seeing speeds, during daytime at least, of 150mbps on all devices.
Sadly though, the wifi on the Superhub 2 proved unreliable, and a glance through various forums suggested that it's a very common and known problem with the Superhub 2 that the signals can drop for no reason. The solution is to either ask Virgin for the newer Superhub 2ac if you have devices that can take advantage of 802.11ac (ie from the last 18 months or so) or to add a 3rd party router.
I've now added the Apple Time Capsule, which centralises backups for my whole house (we're exclusively Apple) and the wi-fi has been super reliable and blisteringly fast across the board.
I post this as it may prove useful to others struggling with Virgin's wifi, but also to ask a question: why do Virgin undermine the promise of their class leading broadband by dishing out sub-standard hardware? Surely that's self defeating, and good routers are cheap as chips these days.

December 16, 2015

Netflix to tweak compression algorithms in 2016

Am I the only one who is a little sceptical about compression advances? Despite Netflixes assurances that their tweaking of the bitrate won't be perceptible I'm more of the opinion that these changes can diminish the quality of picture and sound for the sake of economy.
Large patches of color, like the kind found in children's cartoons, don't actually need a very high bitrate to look really good. What Netflix will do in 2016 and beyond is create specific recipes on a per show basis that will enable some shows with less visual data to use lower bitrates but still come through at 1080p quality. That means going back through its entire backlog of shows and creating new rules for every individual show.
In an example provided by Netflix, the company said that in order to get a crystal-clear 1080p stream in the past might require a bitrate of 5800 kbps. Using the new algorithm, Netflix can achieve the same quality with around a 4640 kbps file, effectively reducing the overall bandwidth needed by 20%. 
[more details on TechRadar]

December 09, 2015

Virgin Media London outage

I'm not sure how widespread this is (Virgin won't tell me) but in SE London we have had no broadband or TV services now for over 24 hours and still no definite fix time. 
My 'compensation' for the loss of a day's work (and pay)? £4.13. 
Also yesterday morning VM customers in the area received notification of the price rises in February. Nice one, marketing dept. 
Does anyone else in London have issues?

December 06, 2015

Interesting comment on EE TV

A comment from 'Griff' on the blog about the next price rises makes interesting reading. As it's an older post he's referring to I'm repeating it here:
"I've been loyal to VM for 15 years (NTL onward) despite moving house. Word for word I agree, finally with some comfort that I'm not alone and there better things - with the main poster of this thread. I agree so much that I thought I'd written the post myself and in a moment of advancing seniority forgotten that I'd written it myself! I even pay the same. So with a TiVo box that regularly has 3 red lights lit, with an advancing broadband speed heading over 200mb, with a router that just about services 4 people, Hive, Sonos, Apple TV, power lines, FIFA 16 and CofC on every available 'ageing device', even a xmas tree that turns itself on at sunset - with an 'ecosystem' that now prepares itself for the ever growing IoT, I felt prepared with VM to battle it out with whatever comes next. 
"Until yesterday. 
"On a shopping break, I headed into EE to discover that with EE TV, I can record 4 shows in HD. I can walk from 1 room to the kitchen, to have Michael Buerk on the BBC news follow me. I can upgrade to Sky Sports for only the months that I'll actually use it. And record sky sports / movies from Now TV. They'll even as a deal get supersize my already too much 10gb phone data allowance to 20gb so I can move my wife onto a shared data plan. Take all these savings (less the admittedly extra phone incentive) and I'm £1000 a year better off. Time to spend £500 each on 2 new smart TVs that offer even more capability to stream room to room and I'm quickly talking myself into moving away from a company that is rewarding loyalty with additional costs for no additional benefit. 
"Why shouldn't I move from VM to EE? I've got 2 reasons : both of which I already have an answer for : they can only offer 80gb speed not 150 or more that's coming. But do I really need this anyway? And so far there isn't a second EE TV box available but there is one in the pipeline. And if I can stream to a second smart tv anyway from the 1tb EE TV box there is no need for a second box anyway"

December 01, 2015

Netflix highlights for December

Worth having Netflix for this future classic alone...
Full details of new Christmas arrivals on Netflix can be found on VODzilla.