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FrequencyCast UK - Show #16

The show notes to go with Show 16 of our online technology radio shows.
This show looks at Satellite TV in the UK


Listen to FrequencyCast Show 16

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This show's news section covered the following stories:

  • Virgin Media LogoVirgin on Freeview: In June, Virgin Media announced the launch of a new channel, Virgin 1. Due to launch in the Autumn, Virgin 1 will replace FTN on Freeview, broadcasting from 6am to 6pm. It will be 24 hours on cable, but it's unclear if this channel will be carried on Sky. Programmes will be aimed at men. The channel has bought the rights for the entire Star Trek franchise and will also be showing Terminator spin-off, The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

  • BT Vision: After some reported stability issues, BT Vision released an automatic patch for their V-Boxes. A new version of software, 1.2.2019 started rolling out in mid-June 2007.

  • Sky+ cheaper: From July 1st, Sky scrapped their £10 a month subscription for Sky+. Some customers on certain packages already had this waived, but from July 2007, all 2 million Sky+ users will get to use this top PVR for free as long as they stay subscribed to Sky.

  • High Definition: Sky has set ambitious targets for its High Definition output. Sky's announced that approximately two thirds of Sky One's programming will be in HD by Christmas 2008.

  • Sky Reshuffle: On the 18th of June, there was a reshuffle of the Sky electronic programme guide, so many of the channel numbers in the "entertainment" range have recently changed.

  • DAB Wifi USB StickInternet radio: Following on from our piece on Internet Radio in show 15, we've now found a PC USB stick that supports both DAB digital radio and Internet radio. It has full radio information display screen and programme guide, station presets and lets you record DAB onto your PC. Normally £50, at the time of recording, it's on sale for £30. This USB stick is ideal for use on a desktop PC or laptop, and is available from Maplin.

  • Morph's back. On-demand service Joost is now running a classic Morph clip. Worth a look.

Focus: Satellite TV

We've covered a whole stack of digital TV stuff in previous shows: BT Vision in Show 9, Freeview in Show 14, Virgin Media in Show 12, and Internet TV back in Show 1, but we've never actually focused on Sky... So, in show 16, we looked at Sky Digital in more detail.

We have a dedicated Sky page that covers much of what we discussed in the show... here are the highlights we covered:

  • Overview: Sky Digital offers TV content via a satellite dish. It offers the largest number of TV channels in the UK, beating Virgin Media and Freeview. Sky Digital's channels include Sky One, Two and Three, Paramount Comedy Channel, Sci-Fi, channel UKTV Gold, E4, More 4, BBC Three, Film4, Discovery, History Channel, MTV, BBC News and EuroSport.

  • Sky installation: The basic service includes a free Sky digibox. See our Sky Basics page for more.

  • Sky Broadband: Sky is offering free broadband to their customers, although this is not available in a fair number of parts of the UK. Sky also offer a faster broadband, with speeds of up to 16 Meg. Check Sky's site to see what's available in your area.

  • Packages: At the time of recording, Sky is offering a package for £26. All of the 'mix channels, their home phone service and 8meg broadband. Assuming you're in a broadband coverage area, this can be a very good deal.

  • Sky +: This DVR digital recorder holds 40 hours, 7 day TV guide, series link, pause and rewind live TV, record 2 channels and playback a recorded show.

  • Sky High Definition - The largest number of HD channels, and a powerful set-top box, the Sky HD. BBC HD, Sky One HD, Sky Arts, , National Geographic HD, Discovery HD History HD, 3 x Sky Sports HD, two screens of Sky Movies HD, plus pay-per-view Box Office movies. You'll need an HD-ready telly. For more, see the Sky HD page.

  • Sky Anytime - Sky programming on a mobile, on a PC, or on your TV. The new Anytime TV service runs on newer Sky+ boxes and Sky HD boxes, and gathers content during quiet times, building a small library of content that you can watch on demand. Similar to the TopUp TV Anytime offering, but on a stable box and offering a decent range of content, including films, HD content and series episodes from things like Lost and 24.

Sky Anytime

There's also the option to install your own satellite TV system. Kits are available from Maplin.

For more on Sky, see our dedicated Sky page, or go to

Portable radio station

Netac A200 MP3Here's the little gadget we reviewed in the show, the Netac A200. This is the first MP3 player we've come across that has a built-in FM transmitter - this means that you can load on your music, get into your car,and tune your car's FM radio into the output of the Netac.

The Netac has two gig of onboard storage space, has a built-in rechargeable battery, comes with a car charger, supports JPG images and has an e-book reader and a voice recorder. It's a nifty bit of kit in itself, but it's really the onboard FM transmitter that makes this the killer device - you can carry your music around and listen to it on your car radio, hi-fi, or wherever there's an FM radio nearby - this makes it a portable radio station! All for under £70.

Available from Advanced MP3s.

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Thanks to everyone who got in touch. In this show, we respond to the following mails and calls:

  • BT Vision recordings on a PC: We were asked by site visitor Martyn if it's possible to access the TV recordings on my BT Vision from my PC. At the present time, content stored on the v-box hard disk cannot be accessed from a PC, or over a home network. There are some options though:
    • Get yourself a PC TV card, then run a co-ax aerial lead from the BT Vision box to the input of the PC TV card - you'll be able to watch the output of your V-box on your PC. PC TV cards are available from PC World , Maplin or
    • Transfer programmes from your BT Vision box onto a DVD, to be watched on your PC. You'll need to connect to DVD recorder using a SCART lead. Note that you may not be able to dub off "on-demand" content onto DVD, for copy-protection reasons.
    • Consider getting a video-sender to send output wirelessly. AV senders are available from Maplin , Currys and Argos

  • Sky Surround Sound: We had a mail in from Joe Huston asking which Sky systems support surround sound. Sky+ and Sky HD boxes do have a digital audio optical output and support Dolby 5.1 surround sound. To access Surround Sound, go to Services > System setup > 'Sound settings' and select 'Optical output' to "Dolby D". See the screenshot below.
    If you need an optical cable, try TV Cables or Maplin Electronics

    Sky Audio settings

  • Slingbox speeds: Dawn Hepp got in touch asking: "I would like to use Slingbox for TV in Lanzarote. What is the minimum speed for Broadband to receive? I believe the laptop can then be connected to a modern TV we have out there. Is that correct?" For those that don't know, Slingbox lets you watch telly over the Internet from a different location, such as another country. There's two things that affect bitrate - the upload speed at the transmission end and the download at the viewing end, and it's the slowest of the two that determines picture quality. We reckon that a 250kpbs is enough to give you a watchable picture on a PC. And yes, with the right connectors, you can hook up a PC screen to a TV set, although a low-quality feed on a big telly may look a little ropey.

  • BT Internet RadioWi-fi Internet Radio Updates: Regular FrequencyCast listener Matt Cooper called our podline, asking if it's possible to add radio stations to the Wi-fi Internet Radios we reviewed in the last show. Well, both the Acoustic Energy and the BT Internet Radio make use of the Reciva database of online radio stations. As of June 2007, this consists of over 6,400 radio streams, and this is updated daily. Any station can be added to the radio by going online to the Reciva website and registering. Reciva will then check the station and add it to the list. When your radio is next turned on the updated list will be downloaded and the station will be available to listen to on all the radios.

  • Sky Repeats: James McKenzie asks... "Why are there so many repeats on Sky and why are the same repeats repeated within a short space of time, it has become boring to me and I am more on the computer than the TV now." Well, there's a lot of channels to fill up on Sky, hence the amount of repeated content. There's hundreds of channels, but sometimes you struggle to find anything to watch. You may like to consider either getting Sky+, or looking for an on-demand service such as BT Vision or Virgin Media.

  • Wired or Wireless? A wi-fi question from Paul Hunter: "Can you tell me what the different benefits are of connecting my PC to the internet via an Ethernet cable or via a wireless adapter. Reasons for the questions are that I have a fixed 560kbps broadband connection on a BT line that only just supports this 'fast' connection due to the distance from the exchange. Wi-fi is more prone to interference, and it uses radio signals, security is more of an issue. Top speed is 54Mbps. Wi-fi is obviously more convenient than running cables around your home. If your Broadband speed is only half-a-meg, the speed difference is unlikely to affect your Internet download speed.

  • HD Now or Later? Martin Antonelli got in touch. He's thinking of buying an HD TV and wants to know whether to get one now, or wait and see if something is round the corner. Well, there are no major changes to HDTV technology just yet. At the top end of the scale is 1080p (progressive), but this is pricey - with 1080i (interfaced) being more mainstream and a little cheaper. Waiting could mean that 1080p becomes a little cheaper, but as the standard HDTV is already 4 times better than standard telly, our advice is to pop down to a local TV showroom, take a look at the quality, and if you're sold... get one now.

  • BT Broadband Speed: A message from John Long. He reports that his broadband speed has the habit of dropping from 4Megs to 2 Megs for no obvious reason. BT has suggested that the service is busy, or that we needs to consider moving his BT Home Hub to be connected to the Master Socket. He doesn't want to move his Hub as it's a long cable run.
    Well, first, broadband speed drops when the network's busy as you're sharing your phone exchange's bandwidth, which can explain intermittent slowdowns. Long cable runs, lots of extensions or wrongly-used microfilters can affect your speed too. Here are a couple of things to look at:.
    • Noisy line - Some tips on reducing line noise here
    • You can connect to a Broadband router over your home's mains wiring with a Home Plug

If you enjoyed listening to the show, check out our previous shows , or have a look at our Topics page to see what we've covered recently.

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