April 15, 2017

V6 update being rolled out

There's a new update being rolled out to V6 boxes to address some of the bugs.

If you have the update your firmware level will be 20.5.8.1.RC6-VMB-11-C68 (Home > Help & Settings > System Info > System Info). According to Virgin Media, the box should no longer crash if watching some shows; the wake up bug has been fixed and if you press play and then OK during playing back a recording it plays faster (but the voices don't go high pitched).

There are new options in the power saving settings which at the bottom of the screen;
Always On
Connected Low Power - powers down after 4 hours but still lets you watch recordings on that box from elsewhere
Eco Low Power - box will power down after 4 hours

April 13, 2017

Superhub 3s becoming public wi-fi

Interesting but not necessarily good news if your broadband struggles at peak times.
https://arstechnica.co.uk/business/2017/04/virgin-media-wifi-public-hotspots/
For now only Virgin Media customers with the latest Super Hub 3 (Hub 3.0) are being opted into the new public Wi-Fi service. Virgin is trialling an update to the older Super Hub 2ac routers, too. The ISP says it will add "hundreds of thousands" of hubs by "later this year."
This won't be popular if download speeds drop due to network contention.

March 30, 2017

New boxes comparison from What Hi-Fi

No clear winner and that's an odd TiVo screenshot (taken from the website rather than a TV?) but this is a fair comparison of the latest offerings from Virgin, Sky and BT:
http://www.whathifi.com/features/bt-tv-g5-vs-sky-q-vs-virgin-tv-v6-which-best-4k-tv-service

March 23, 2017

TiVo developing for ... Sky Q?

Believe it or not, TiVo is providing Sky Q with a natural language, voice-based search solution, making it quicker and easier for Sky Q customers to find the content they are looking for. Honest.
More details here.

March 05, 2017

New function on the V6 remote

I found a new capability of the V6 remote the other evening: if I hold down the TV button for a few seconds it brings up my Sony TV's AV input menu. My old TiVo's remote doesn't do this but it's a useful feature and means I no longer need the telly's own remote very often now.

March 02, 2017

Where's the Store?

On November 30th Virgin Media announced:

Virgin Media Store
To give Virgin TV customers a new way to own the entertainment they love, Virgin Media is launching Virgin Media Store to bring viewers some of the biggest movies first out of cinema before they are available to buy on DVD alongside a huge range of box sets to download.
Through the Virgin TV V6 and TiVo boxes, desktop and a Virgin Media Store app for iOS and Android, viewers can simply browse the store, buy what they want and then watch it straight away on a TV or mobile device such as Virgin Media’s TellyTablet. For films, a DVD copy will be automatically put in the post for keeps. The Virgin Media Store will launch in February and will be available for non-Virgin Media customers on desktop and mobile.

No word of it since. Nor have I heard of anyone having a "Telly Tablet" either. Anyone know anything about these?

February 23, 2017

VMHD and 4k coverage

It was recently suggested that I update the focus of this blog (which is ten years’ old later this year) to campaign for more 4k content on Virgin Media, much like I originally did for HD. I’ve given it some thought but will keep it running with general Virgin Media TV news (including HD, Netflix and any 4k content) rather than running a 4k or HDR campaign. I’m more than happy to support anyone who wants to campaign and can help promote one on VMHD but I don’t have the time (nor a 4k TV) to run one myself.
Nialli

February 17, 2017

Another review of the V6 - three stars from What Hi-Fi

What Hi-Fi magazine’s review of the V6 is less positive than most, and is particularly negative about the lack of content and pricing on Virgin’s new box. Here’s what they conclude:
The V6 is a frustrating beast. Hardware-wise it’s mostly good, and if it doesn’t quite beat Sky Q it’s a fairly close-run thing.
The interface could do with a further refresh and it seems a little prone to crashes, but it’s a notable improvement on the TiVo box. If you’re a current Virgin subscriber and intend to remain one, you should upgrade for the speed boost alone.
But it all falls down a bit when it comes to content. There are no Sky Atlantic-rivalling exclusives here, and you can’t even pay extra to get Sky’s best shows on your Virgin box.
What’s more, there’s no 4K content outside of Netflix or YouTube. If that changes, the V6 might well be a proper contender. Until then Sky Q still leads the way.
Although What Hi-Fi has always been a bit of a rabid Sky fanzine I think the comment on the lack of 4k content is not so wide of the mark. It would be great if VM made some announcements on this front. Read the full review at http://www.whathifi.com/virgin-media/tv-v6/review#kajPdy2efVXYv9fT.99 They award the V6 three stars out of five, but I’d suggest the actual review is actually a fairer, four star one.

February 11, 2017

V6 Review from Pocket Lint - "Better than Sky Q"?

Overall Pocket Lint gives the V6 a positive review and concludes:
There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that if you are an existing Virgin Media TV customer you should upgrade to the V6 box...
The fact that the box works so well with an existing TiVo device to provide a multiroom solution should be considered too. It’s a great upgrade option for existing TV subscribers.
Read the full review here: Virgin TV V6 and here’s their review of the Sky Q system, too

[Original post edited after Sky updated Sky Q firmware]

February 10, 2017

Another attempt to clamp down on Pirate Bay et al

The press this week has been getting its knickers in a twist again about illegal downloads, peer-to-peer distribution of pirate content and the like. Here’s one example, from the Birmingham Mail:
Customers of Sky and Virgin Media found [to be] users of these sites will be issued a warning.
The warnings, which are part of the government-backed Get It Right campaign, will inform customers they have 20 days to stop downloading content illegally.
The campaign is attempting to educate web users about the dangers of piracy.
“Copyright owners are monitoring peer-to-peer (file-sharing) networks to identify instances where their content is uploaded and shared without permission,” states the campaign.
“They will note the Internet Protocol (IP) address and then contact the appropriate ISP – including BT, NowTV, PlusNet, Sky, Talk-Talk and Virgin Media.
“The account holder may then receive an Educational Email from their ISP referencing one or more instances of peer-to-peer uploading and file sharing activities that have been confirmed to breach copyright.”
Click here for the full story. Bizarre that the Mail story on the web is packed with ‘How to use Kodi’ videos, isn’t it?

Anyway,  the actual measures to stifle piracy are still laughably half-hearted and the ‘stop, or else...’ threat is completely toothless:
Sky says that any users who receive an educational email won’t have their broadband suspended.
“Your broadband service won’t be affected as a result of receiving this email alert,” the company wrote.
“However, if you continue to share content illegally using your broadband connection, Sky will request that you take immediate steps to remove or disable any file sharing software that is being used to share copyrighted content illegally.”
Ow! Stop slapping my wrists! It won’t work of course - Pirate Bay users (and wasn’t that supposed to be blocked?!) know full well what they’re doing and aren’t going to be deterred by a tepid telling off in an email. What is more, according to uSwitch; “Internet providers will not actively monitor people’s online activity in order to find instances of illegal file sharing, nor will copyright holders. Instead, copyright holders will track activity on peer-to-peer networks to identify instances where their content is being illegally uploaded and shared.” So they’re not even going after downloaders so any Torrent users who are smart enough to throttle their upload channel won’t even get the email. Pathetic
And let’s not forget that there are still (I think) Usenet communities sharing content that presumably isn’t being targeted by this campaign either.

February 02, 2017

What's your favourite feature of the V6?

Okay, so we all love the fact that it’s not just faster than the old Samsung/Cisco TiVo boxes, but actually BLOODY FAST, sometimes surprisingly so, but what else do you like about it?
Me? I love the fact that I can watch recordings from either of my V6s on my main telly. With my old set up I had a 500Gb TiVo in the basement that my wife would watch her favourite movies on (recorded in SD as it’s only a 24in TV) but inevitably we’d decide we wanted to watch one of them on the bigger telly upstairs ... but couldn’t as they weren’t recorded on the 1Tb TiVo upstairs.
However, with our two V6 TiVo connected not only do we record everything in HD thanks to the bigger, shared capacity but we can watch everything on either TV - perfect. I’ve even taken to recording all our movies on one box, keeping the other for everything else. It’s fantastic and I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who has yet to take the leap.
What does everyone else like? Anyone used all six tuners yet (more if you have linked boxes)? Offline viewing on your tablet/computer? iPlayer you can watch the same day as you fire it up? The improved responsiveness of the new remotes? Anyone played with 4k content? Let me know.

January 31, 2017

Discovery channels on Sky

Today’s is the last day for Sky and Discovery to agree a deal on these channels

  • Discovery Channel
  • Eurosport 1
  • Eurosport 2
  • Animal Planet
  • TLC
  • Investigation Discovery
  • DMAX
  • Discovery Turbo
  • Discovery Shed
  • Discovery Science
  • Discovery History
  • Home & Health
  • Quest

and all of their HD and +1 siblings. If there’s no 11th hour agreement today then that’s a lot of blank slots on the Sky EPG tomorrow. As carriage disputes go, it’s a doozy, and possibly a taste of things to come as the channels and platforms start to feel the commercial squeeze of those billions being invested in football.
Will people jump from Sky (and NowTV, which is also affected) because of the (temporary?) absence of a dozen or so documentary channels? I don’t think so. Discovery may be a big name but it’s hardly a big channel with compelling content these days. And that content is so widely available now that I’d be surprised if anyone made it a sole determinant of which provider they go with - I’d suggest availability, price and performance are more important. How many Virgin Media customers have a cheap NowTV box on stand by when Sky Atlantic has something interesting on? I do, and I would guess I’m by no means alone.
But maybe that’s just me. I don’t watch any of the Discovery lineup and if it disappeared from Virgin tonight I wouldn’t even notice. However, I have a friend who enjoys several Discovery shows and for him it’s a deal breaker - he’s had enough of Sky and is planning to try Virgin or BT, so what do I know?

UPDATE
Susanna Dinnage, managing director, Discovery Networks UK, said in a statement: “We want to thank our millions of viewers and fans for their overwhelming support over the last few days. We have reached a new agreement that guarantees Sky’s customers access to Discovery’s wide range of channels and programmes for years to come."
Read more at http://www.whathifi.com/news/sky-agrees-deal-to-keep-discovery-and-eurosport-tv-channels#i8q3bfgvI41RBxhu.99

January 30, 2017

Apologies for missing comments

For some reason Blogger has been a little over zealous in tagging comments posted on this site as 'For Moderation', which means a number of them haven't been published as promptly as you'd perhaps expect. I don't know why this suddenly happened but I've now approved the back log (around two dozen, almost all on posts made in January) and I've changed settings so that I get notified if a comment is flagged by Blogger for attention. Sorry.

January 26, 2017

Profits fall at Sky prompts "dish-free" Sky TV service in 2018

Sky is to make its full TV service of hundreds of channels available without the need for a satellite dish for the first time, as it looks to stem customer defections to rivals such as BT.
The pay-TV giant suffered an 18% plunge in profits at its UK business in the last six months of 2016  has announced that it will launch the broadband-delivered TV service next year.
Jeremy Darroch, the Sky chief executive, said it would allow Sky to target up to 6m households across Europe who cannot, or will not, have a satellite dish.
There's already the broadband-delivered 720p NowTV service of course but what the appetite will be for the full Sky TV service (and cost) will be interesting and possibly challenging for Virgin Media and other services. Too early to know whether it will include any 4K UHD services or what the hardware would be.
Sky and Discovery are also trading blows in a carriage dispute that could result in twelve Discovery-owned channels disappearing from the satellite service at the end of this month.
More details on both stories here and at http://www.whathifi.com/news/sky-q-tv-service-wont-require-satellite-dish-2018

January 23, 2017

V6 - a few problems UPDATED

All new hardware has bugs or, as one of my engineers once claimed, ‘undocumented features’, and the V6 appears to be no different. Overall I am very pleased with the new boxes and wouldn’t for a moment consider swapping them back for my old Samsung and Cisco TiVo relics, but over the weekend a couple of problems occurred that I’ve posted on the VM Community Boards in threads that suggest the difficulties I have had are not unique.
Power Save
Lots of reports on the Community Forum about this here: http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/Virgin-TV-V6/V6-Wake-from-Standby-Issues/td-p/3291846
The automatic power save function is the default setting but I strongly recommend that you disable it as it seems to have a life of its own and waking the box from Stand By is often a long and sometimes fraught process, requiring a full shut down and start up if the box locks. I didn’t want my boxes on though all night so I have tried manually putting them into Stand By overnight. Seemed to work but this morning I found that this had led to a failed recording from BBC1 HD reported in Recording Hiccups as “Power Lost”. There was no power cut and the only difference I can see between the successful recording made at 9pm and the failed one at 10.30 was that the box was in Stand By.
According to the V6 User Guide (you don’t get one but it’s online here: https://assets.virginmedia.com/help/assets/documents/Virgin_TV_V6_user_guide.pdf) you can’t view recordings remotely on either another box or device if the V6 is in Stand By either.
I can’t find any details of the difference in power consumption between On and Stand By, so I’ve set both my boxes now as Always On until Virgin Media fix it. Of course, there’s no longer a need to worry about any impact on Climate Change now that has been finally exposed as an evil Chinese plot... ;-(
Netflix
There appears to be DNS issue if you are using a VM SuperHub in Modem Mode with an external router rather than relying on the SuperHub’s own Wi-Fi. I’ve found my SH2 Wi-Fi to be unreliable so have an Apple Time Capsule as my router. I have one V6 connected directly into the router via Ethernet, a second connected by Wi-Fi.
iPlayer and YouTube worked fine but Netflix failed initially on both boxes, showing an error that said “Application is loading. Netflix is loading onto the TiVo box. Please wait a moment and try starting Netflix again. (V312)”. Turns out I’m not alone and there’s a thread on the Community Board forum on this that suggests it’s a DNS problem. I resolved it for my V6 with the Ethernet connection by turning Modem Mode off on my SuperHub, rebooting the V6 and then Netflix worked. I then switched back to Modem Mode and it still works so that box is fine now.
However I was unable to do that successfully with the Wi-Fi connected box, despite wasting several hours on Sunday running up and down the stairs (not literally - I’m still recovering from a broken leg) and rebooting and re-rebooting anything and everything. Still no Netflix on that box, which is annoying as that ain’t connected to a Smart TV and so there’s no Netflix or similar downstairs at the moment.
Neither of these are showstoppers with the V6 but they are annoying and if I continue to get Failed Recordings that will be a serious problem.
Anyone else experiencing similar?

UPDATE: Virgin Media engineering have acknowledged that there are bugs with the Stand By functionality and I’ve been recommended to disable it for now.

January 20, 2017

Nialli's initial experience of the V6

I had my two TiVo boxes swapped yesterday for a pair of V6s. Here are my initial observations:

The Installation:
  1. It’s a pretty straightforward hardware swap – the most time-consuming part is when the engineer has to call VM to activate the boxes. Our man was on hold for around 15 minutes. As always, the hold music emanating from his mobile was dire…
  2. Total time to install both boxes was under half an hour
  3. The speed of the V6 makes the configuration a doddle. My boxes did three software downloads, each faster than the previous
  4. The EPG was fully populated within the hour – I seem to recall this could take several hours with the TiVos and even longer with the V+
  5.  I’ve got one V6 wired to my router using Ethernet. (My router is a SuperHub 2 in modem mode, connected to an Apple Time Capsule for reliable Wi-Fi coverage.) Our second V6 is just on the Wi-Fi, which meant it took a little longer to do the downloads as my Wi-Fi speed drop in the evenings (it was around 75mbps during the install). I didn’t have to hardwire the second box before the Wi-Fi option appeared – it just worked
  6. Overall, I was impressed. Our engineer didn’t know much about the new box and it was the end of his shift and my dinner was ready so I ushered him out of the door rather than have him attempt instruction. Besides, it's always more fun to play...
The V6:
  1. My two TiVos weren’t as sluggish as some people’s but even after a few hours I couldn’t go back. Has anyone else noticed how unbelievably nippy and snappy the V6 is?? I’m seriously impressed, and TiVo software running at this speed suddenly feels lively and modern
  2. If the V6 was the same size as the old TiVo then the design of the new hardware would feel like a throwback to the old cable boxes of the nineties, but it ain’t – it’s about half the width and it almost disappears in my TV stand. In fact the second box I’ve put on its side and tucked away behind the TV, so you can’t even see it
  3. Connecting the two boxes so they can share recordings works faultlessly
  4. Streaming to my iPad works fine too
  5. The TV Anywhere iOS applications no longer seem to have the connectivity issues I was experiencing with the TiVos
  6. The engineer left both of my original remotes as well as the new, which work fine with the V6s so I have spares now which is useful. The new remotes automatically control my Sony TVs, which saved me having to do that remote code fun and games to get the volume and on/off buttons working
Overall, I’m impressed and delighted with the new boxes. Well done Virgin Media!

January 13, 2017

Great service from Karl in Retensions

I called Retentions (as I was seriously considering a Now/Humax alternative to save money) and got myself upgraded to Vivid 200 broadband, two V6s (one off charge of £112) and my monthly bill DOWN by a tenner. Install date? Next Thursday. Very happy bunny. And we'll be doing some serious binge viewing this week of our old recordings

January 11, 2017

I'm back

Sorry it’s been so quiet on the blog over the last month or so. I managed to break my leg in late November and it limited the time I could comfortably spend on my laptop, and, unfortunately for the blog, working on my second novel took precedent.
Anyway, I’m back now, the leg’s on the mend and the second draft of the book is almost done. I still haven’t found time to call Virgin and ask them to swap my TiVos for V6s yet, and I’m unlikely to do so until I’ve waded through most of the recordings I’ll lose when I surrender my boxes.

Sky Cinema HD channels all renumbered

For once, a Virgin Media EPG shuffle that makes sense as the SD and HD movie channels from Sky swap places in the programme guide. Here are the new numbers:

Premiere is now 401
Showcase 403
Movie Greats 404
Disney 405
Family 406
Action & Adventure 407
Comedy 408
Crime & Thriller 409
Drama & Romance 410
Sci-Fi & Horror 411
Select 412

The renumbering shouldn’t affect any recordings or planned recordings you may have.