December 06, 2006

TV Drive– the Replacement

Installed in (approx) April.

Slight problems with recording series’, which were fixed by new firmware.

Worked flawlessly till around May, then we started to be charged for programmes which we had not ordered (on pay-per-view). Phoned up Telewest, who deducted the charges. Unfortunately, the problem continued to occur.

We asked Telewest to disable pay-per-view on our set top box (as we had no intention of using it).... but the bills for paid films kept coming. Every month, we would look at the bill, which would contain last month’s deductions for films we hadn’t ordered, the fixed fee for TV access, and an additional charge of up to £26 for films we hadn’t watched.

After phoning up Telewest repeatedly to try to resolve this, it became clear that there must be, out there on the Telewest network, another machine with the same MAC address as ours. Yes, our Telewest box was being spoofed! Apparently we were the first lucky customers to enjoy this extra option. I can’t imagine that it was accidental; someone out there was enjoying films (and probably the Telewest service itself) for free.

Telewest sent out a nice engineer who swapped out our box, and, lo and behold, the mystery charges stopped! I suspect that it’s happened to to others.

Hey ho. But at least it’s fixed in time for Christmas.


The Great Prius is now just over one year old. On its birthday, I received two things:

1) A little cake from Toyota- very much appreciated!
2) A recall notice, as there was a chance that the steering column could shear and leave me with no control of the car. Eeek.

Took the car into the garage, and the fix was done in an hour.

All in all, I think a one-all draw for Toyota. I still love the car.

March 02, 2006

Stretch jeep!

An odd sight yesterday as I was driving into work- a silver coloured stretch Jeep (or other 4×4). Why? How?

And to top it all off, the reg plate was 'OOH B0Y'...

February 27, 2006

TVDrive– summary so far

To bring things up to date- the box is still here, and working much as advertised. Only two small things are getting in the way of my enjoyment of its abilities. Firstly, it occasionally crashes and has to be rebooted. Secondly, it has a nasty habit of forgetting to record things which have been set up to be recorded in advance. I've reported both of these problems to the Telewest bunch, who've been extremely helpful, and am hoping they fix them soon.

Still, on the plus side, the recording function does work three times out of four, and I have the whole of the Winter Olympics to enjoy! It's wonderful to sit down in front of the TV when you want to, and know that you'll have a choice of programmes which you actually enjoy. I've also started to use the 'pause live TV' function a bit more (it's strangely hard to get into the habit of hitting 'Pause' when you get a phone call).

Anyone up for a job?

Writing about web page

So- this is a Genuine Job in Information Security. I should know, since I wrote the spec. It's designed as an entry level job in infosec for IT people who are interested in getting into the area, and should suit people of an enquiring mind; lots of advice to departments, working to handle issues as they arise, and maintaining the Safe Computing site. Oh, and you'll get to work with me :)

Closing date 14th March, so act now while stocks last.

February 04, 2006

TVDrive trial day two– probably fixed

A Telewest engineer came by at 3pm today, took one look at my TVdrive box, and exclaimed in awe that he’d never seen one of these boxes before. He’s apparently been on the software course, but isn’t scheduled to do the installation course for another two weeks. Still, he set to with a will, and soon had the smart card swapped. The box immediately cheered up, and seems to be mostly OK now; notwithstanding the loss of channel information, which I understand to be country-wide right now (the TW service desk asked us to call back in a couple of hours if the problem still existed, just to be on the safe side).

So, time to have a proper look at this beast (wish I had a cross-over cable, but let’s start with the obvious stuff).

  • All my favourites have gone (as expected) :(
  • User interface is very similar to that of the normal Telewest box: same colour scheme, same buttons on the remote, same method for getting to a list of programs.
New bits:
  1. You get an eight day programme guide
  2. There’s a set of new buttons on the remote to do with TV Drive, which include the recognisable Play/Pause, Fast Forward, Stop, Record, and Rewind ones; also an intriguing button with a bent arrow on it, which jumps you back 7 seconds.
  3. At the top of all of the menu screens, there is a useful little sliding bar indicating how many hours of recording time you have free. The maximum amount you can record is 80 hours.
  4. You can allegedly move recorded shows to your computer’s hard drive (need to test). EDIT: not possible except by playing the show, and feeding the output from the TV Drive box to a PC with a TV card in it. But you still get pretty decent quality that way.
  5. There are three tuners, so you can watch one programme while recording two others. I’m not sure if you can also record the first programme (need to test). EDIT: no, you can’t.
  6. You can set TV Drive to record a whole series in one action, and even go on to specify if there are any specific episodes which you do not wish to record.
  7. You can set the box to record all programmes with padding at the beginning and end, to reduce the chances of missing the punchline etc if the end time changes and the programme guide does not pick it up.
  8. If you try to set too many programmes to record at the same time, the box will warn you at the start of the programme which is going to actually cause the clash; if you’re not there, it will take a decision on what to record based on your preferences (you can choose whether series episodes, programmes or manual recordings take top or second priority).
  9. Live TV recording can be controlled by the same remote buttons which control playback; as soon as you pause live TV, or hit the ‘replay last 7 seconds’ button, you are said to be in ‘DelayTV’, as opposed to ‘LiveTV’. You can get up to 90 mins of delay (i.e. you can pause for 90 mins, or rewind for 90 mins- but see ‘Thoughts so far’ below).
Thoughts so far:
  1. The help is via little videos. They’re not too irritating, but it is inconvenient to have to watch the whole thing when I’m just looking for a single tip or fact.
  2. The box looks quite stylish.
  3. DelayTV only works relative to the channel you’re on; as soon as you change channel, it will start to record for you, but you can’t go back to recordings from the channel you were on previously, or recordings from the channel you’re on from before the time you started watching it.
  4. It’s VERY slow. Especially moving between menu screens. Even changing channel is irritatingly sluggish. I suspect that this has something to do with the automatic recording of live TV.
  5. Why not give us an option to turn off the helpful instructions in the TV Guide? They use up two lines of the display, and there’s already enough on the screen (there is now an extra line used up to indicate which day you’re looking at, which is useful, but I know how to set a reminder, record a show, and return to the previous menu!).
  6. EDIT: the ethernet port is not live; apparently the firmware is not set to recognise it. Bother.

February 03, 2006

TVDrive trial day one– hardware fault

So I was browsing the Telewest site last year, and saw a link called ‘TVDrive’. Being a naturally inquisitive person, I decided to look into this. There was little information save for the promise that a system similar to Sky+ would be available at some point in the new year. There was also a form to fill in for information, which I duly did, thinking nothing more of this until last Friday (27th Jan).

Some chap from Telewest called, and offered me the chance to be involved in user trials of the new box. I said ‘yes’. He then proceeded to tell me that I would be paying half price for the first three months- I said ‘yes’ again’- that I would have a direct dial number to report faults – ‘yes’- and that I would have the right to cancel at any time in the first three months- ‘yes’. I think he was required by contract to give me the whole spiel before he could accept my agreement. But it was rather amusing.

The box was installed this morning at 11:30 and I have only had a few hours with it so far; I had to come into work for a meeting (which was moved to Monday anyway), and left J to take instructions from the installation guy.

Being as this is a trial box, I didn’t expect the system to be completely reliable. That having been said, it appears that we have a hardware problem. Two hours after the installer had left, it began to have 4 types of problems:

- the screen froze for a few seconds, then either normal service would resume, or the system would reboot.
- the picture and sound continued as normal, but the box ceased to respond to input from both the remote control and the buttons on the front panel. We rebooted to resolve this (pull power cable out of back of box, wait 10 seconds, then replug and pray). Using the ‘Reset’ button on the front would resolve the problem, but only for about 10 minutes.
- the system abruptly brought up an error stating that the smart card was invalid, or that it was not inserted, resulting in us only being able to watch terrestrial channels. This could generally be resolved by removing and reinserting the smart card while the system was running (not sure that this is right)
- the system hung on occasion for up to 10 minutes during restart (black screen with white Telewest name and logo, with ‘Please wait, loading data’ along the bottom.

One of the above problems would manifest itself at least once every half hour. J called in the faults, and the area manager came by while I was on my way home at 6pm; he swapped out the old box but didn’t have a replacement for the smart card which plugs into it. He warned that the problem was probably due to the smart card being faulty, and asked J to call him back at 10pm to tell him how we were getting on. One thing about this- the customer service so far is fantastic!

The new(est) box is still exhibiting the same problem, so I think we’ll be getting a new card tomorrow morning. In the mean time, I shall play with the box a little (depending on how long it will behave for). It’s not well.

Minor problem- no manual or user guide (apart from the crashing boor on the Telewest channel, but he makes me angry and nauseous). But the remote has many buttons which have the same labels as on our previous remote, so I think it will be easy enough to work out.

Point the first: this box has a hard drive.
Point the second: it also has an ethernet port.

Tee hee.

I wonder what operating system it’s running :)

April 29, 2005

Nobel Food Prize

If there were a Nobel Prize for exceptional services to food, who would you award it to?

Just an idle thought.

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Most recent comments

  • I now have the new V+ box and since then havent had any problems, except for BBC HD where it doesnt … by Aswad Choudhry on this entry
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