Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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12 January 2012

I’ve just been listening to a segment on TV and TVOD on the BBC’s Media Show and it has reminded me just how far outside the mainstream my media consumption practices are. The average British household apparently ‘watches’ four hours of TV a day – a record high figure. This probably includes ambient sporadically viewed ‘TV on in the corner’ but still how on earth do they find the time? I probably watch an average of an hour of TV a week. X Factor has been an extraordinary success for ITV – I have never watched it (and probably haven’t watched ITV at all in a year). The channel I view programmes from most is probably (you guessed it) BBC4. Even with the proliferation of DVRs, TVoD etc, people still watch 88% of their television ‘live’. I watch or listen to almost nothing in that way any more. By far the bulk of my audiovisual media consumption comes in (audio) podcast form – about 1.5 hours a day – because I can do it while doing other things eg cycling to and from work.
It’s really odd to realise just how far outside of the media consumption mainstream I am (and it’s hard for me to imagine myself into the heads of more typical media consumers).

30 March 2009

You wouldn’t think it would be too hard to get TV listings that would cover all the freesat channels and provide reviews and ratings, particularly for all the films (I am uneasily aware that lots of films that are not reviewed in the papers and are on obscure satellite channels pass me by unseen). Alas the Radio Times is the leading free contender and a) it doesn’t include a few channels and b) its movies at a glance feature is seriously broken. It used to work really well about two years ago, letting me see a list of only those movies which had 4 or more stars but that feature was lost in a redesign and never renewed. I’ve looked at several other free online options (Onthebox, Yahoo TV guide, TV Guide and TV Easy) but they were even worse. Time Out which I used to buy mainly for the TV listings appears to be cutting down on their listings and in any case doesn’t offer them online.

Digiguide does appear to offer what I am after but it isn’t free (£15 a year) and alas they seem to have put the bulk of their development effort into their Windows offline reader and the Windows PC I have is some distance from my TV. If they offered a similar offline reader tailored for my iPod Touch or Mac I would subscribe like a shot. I might yet end up doing so. But if anyone else is aware of a good free option either available now or on the way I would love to hear about it.

9 March 2009

By way of background, I have been thinking seriously about switching to Freesat (our house can’t receive Freeview). In addition our DVD recorder appears to be dying, and our TV set is at least 22 years old so it surely has to die soon, which would mean going HD. Knowing that HD is the future it seems silly to buy a new device that only played and recorded at standard definition. So logically a box which offers Blu-ray recording and built-in Freesat recording would be a sensible purchase, since both functions would be useful now or in the future. Imagine my delight when I heard that just such a device was about to arrive here – the Panasonic DMR-BS850. So what would I expect to pay for that? Well the Humax Freesat DVR is £300 and a Panasonic Blu-Ray player starts at £180 or so. I’d expect to pay another £100 or so to be able to record onto Blu-Ray as well but I’d also expect a little cost saving for buying everything in a single box. So maybe they’ll charge £550? Nope – it seems Panasonic plans to charge nearly double that sum for their new gadget. Bah!

I guess what I’ll do is buy a Humax box, possibly a cheap replacement DVD recorder (£130) when this one flakes out and wait for my TV to die and for Blu Ray pricing to become rational…

30 December 2008

Non-UK readers can stop here… Tech-savvy UK readers I could use some advice.

Sky’s heavy-handed efforts to get us to switch to Sky Talk have caused us to re-examine our TV/broadband/phone mix completely. The long & short of it is:

We’re contemplating dumping Sky for Freesat plus a broadband supplier and a telecoms supplier. Though we’re in London we are only in an analogue area for Virgin so that’s a non-starter. Overall we don’t call much but we call a lot to France and Canada. I don’t know how much broadband we use but I think it is substantially more than 2-3Gb a month. The current shortlist is:

Price-wise TalkTalk is a no-brainer – half the price of the other options (£200 a year for 20Gb a month broadband plus almost unlimited calls except for national daytime) – but its customer service has a lousy reputation. Does anyone here use them? Are they any better than they were? How can they afford to be so much cheaper than anyone else? Do they make it up on volume?

Are there any other ISPs you could recommend that offer good service and un-capped or high-cap broadband for a low price (with or without an inexpensive telephony option)?

If we go freesat should we go ahead and get the Humax PVR or are there other good freesat PVRs on the near horizon?

24 November 2008

I’m busy downloading the demo of Red Alert 3 to celebrate making progress on my thesis and I thought I would try out BBC iPlayer’s streaming video option to watch Survivors at “high definition”. To my surprise the BBC video is quite close to download quality even while I’m downloading the demo at 400Kbps! I was dismissive of the likelihood that people would bother watching BBC TV live on iPlayer but at this quality it would be quite bearable.

And I’m old enough to remember waiting for plain text web pages to load in Mosaic…

PS I am enjoying Survivors so far even though it is hardly sophisticated entertainment…

14 October 2008

British Telecom has just announced its fibre to the home trial offering (potentially) 40MBits/sec Internet and data connections. One of the two telephone exchanges where it will be trialled is in Muswell Hill, just 2km away – unfortunately, our exchange is Upper Holloway, 1.3km away in the other direction.

11 August 2008

Britain From Above seems to be more than usually focused on cross-platform consumption, divided into two minute chunks with pictures and extras online as well as being available on HDTV. Alas two minutes isn’t enough to really dig into any one item but some are interesting – I was intrigued by this glimpse of Lord Abercrombie’s well-meaning but disastrously ill-conceived vision for post-war London:

8 February 2008

I bought a freeview box (UK digital TV across the airwaves) a few years ago to act as a backup to my cable TV. Within a year it had broken. Since then I moved house and thought I would try again. I bought a pretty cheap set top box (the Philips DTR 220) and an even cheaper antenna but I didn’t anticipate any problems. We’re close to the centre of London and on top of a hill, 87m above sea level. By sheer coincidence we are also just over 2Km away from Alexandra Palace where the first British TV signals were broadcast from (the antenna is there still but it doesn’t broadcast TV any more I don’t think). However, when I plugged everything in I could barely get any channels at all (and that by wandering around the room clutching the antenna).

I’m kind of stuck with Sky in any case as I get my broadband cheap from them as well, but it would have been nice to have had an alternative. I might be able to get Freeview properly with a roof antenna but I don’t much feel like spending significant sums on something that is just meant as a way of watching one channel while recording another without investing in Sky+ (another £100-£150).

Will things get any better once we go digital TV-only in 2012? Guess I’ll have to wait and find out…

13 June 2004

It promises ‘almost 200 television and radio channels and interactive services’ (I’m guessing mostly radio channels and time-shifted free channels) for £150 including installation starting later this year. The press release is “here”:http://www.corporate-ir.net/ireye/ir_site.zhtml?ticker=BSY.UK&script=415&layout=0&item_id=580035.

The part I find particularly interesting is the fact that Sky’s boxes have a modem. As they point out, ‘All Sky digiboxes contain an integrated modem and therefore are capable of accessing online services including e-mail, SMS text messaging and public service information from Directgov.’ I wish them every success since the government foolishly failed to mandate modems for terrestrial DTV set top boxes (see “a previous blog.org posting”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_digital_tv.html#000924) and thereby missed a chance to tackle the digital divide.

Thanks to Tech Digest for the news

5 June 2004
Filed under:Digital TV,Gadgets,Useful web resources at11:00 am

The Lifeview TV Walker is a mobile phone sized TV tuner that connects to a laptop. It works with all three television standards and lets you record TV to your hard disk. It’s a cool idea but I don’t know I would be willing to put up with bad reception and limited number of channels now that I have digital TV at home. And I don’t travel that much anyway.

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