Sky Q Installation part 1: “Openreach for the Sky, mister!”

[ Part One ] [ Part Two ] [ Part Three ] [ I’m with Virgin Media now, Feb 2017 ]

In a two, possibly three part, series of blog posts about the Sky Q installation, I’ll highlight the areas where it was fantastic and areas where it wasn’t quite so fantastic.  With the actual Q installation not far off, my biggest problem at the moment is getting Sky Broadband Unlimited working at home.

The Sky Q Hub –  the centre of the Sky Q universe

’tis a lovely looking piece of kit.  Black, and smallish, and with just two ethernet ports and an A|VDSL phone connect socket, it’s simple, but should offer a range of features that should pummel the Virgin Media SuperHub 2AC into submission.  Especially with built-in powerline support.

But alas! I can’t use it yet.  For you see, despite being hooked up to Sky Broadband at the local exchange, and I have Sky Talk activated and working (albeit for a lack of caller ID it seems – I need to check that out), there appears to be sweet nothing at all internet-wise between my house and the exchange, which leads me to think BT Openreach did something when I let BT Infinity 2 go last year.  Thankfully I currently have Virgin Media’s Vivid 200 package at the moment, but for me it’s a bit of an overkill.  I’m looking to eventually move to Sky Fibre Unlimited or Fibre Unlimited Pro (if it ever comes to my area).

Without Sky Broadband working, and without the Sky Q Hub talking to Sky Broadband, the Sky Q installation is about as much use as a dead pigeon in pigeon racing.  Nobody knows if Sky Q Silver will work straight out the box with a Virgin Media connection if Sky Q Hub isn’t working due to Openreach mucking things up – probably not within the installer’s remit if so.

The BT Openreach Problem

I spoke – at some length – to a lady at Sky who took me through all the diagnostic bits and bobs, including removing the faceplate from my former BT Infinity connection to test voice and data.  Voice works, data doesn’t.   She was exceptionally helpful and patient, and indeed, it was one of the best support experiences I’ve encountered with any company in ages.  So I was impressed with Sky’s support despite the problems – not that I’ve had to use it much over the years.  It’s generally Just Worked(tm).   So a Sky engineer was booked for the previous weekend.

The Sky engineer turns up, but does nothing.  Because he can’t, unfortunately.  The frustration with BT and Openreach is that non-BT/Openreach folk don’t have access to the cabinets to check and perform tests between the cabinet and the house it’s supposed to be connected to.   That’s where I reckon the problem lies.  After many phone calls, some of which were bounced about because my account is now with the Sky Q team now, an appointment has been arranged for BT Openreach to come out and get the problem fixed.

Further updates as they occur this week, but I’m putting my money on the cabinet.

 

No driving lessons this week..

.. due to work related datacentre issues beyond anybody’s control.

Well, except for the manufacturer of the power distribution board that caused us to have a tremendous headache involving power distribution and other fun things that could have involved fire, with the potential for servers being eligible for BBQing (along with fleshy, fleshy people).

Thankfully it had a happy ending.  Not a euphemism.

I’ll be honking the horn (also not a euphemism) again next week.

And on that bombshell: Inside the madness & genius of Top Gear

Until my employers Memset Ltd. moved to Dunsfold Aerodrome a few years ago, I had no interest in Top Gear whatsoever.  I still hadn’t learnt to drive, and the antics of Clarkson, Hammond and May were of no interest to me.

But then we moved into our big brick office, we were directly next to the Top Gear hangar-cum-studio and the Top Gear production offices and garages.  We were also overlooking the start of the Top Gear test track, with glorious views of Gambon corner.

Then they started filming.  VT pieces, then Star In A Reasonably Priced Car. Then I started watching the show because I was now very curious about the whole thing.  And you know what, it may be about cars, but as overall entertainment goes, it was very entertaining.  But I did, maybe, learn a few things about cars too.  If only I could learn to drive.

Watching the team film some of the crazier segments – including the “improved” ambulances (one of which was a Nuclear disposal vehicle) up close was fascinating.  It made you wonder what the actual hell are were doing for this week’s show (or one of the other weeks to allow for editing). They were clearly enjoying themselves but were completely professional at the same time.  Watching the BTS of Top Gear was a joy to behold, even if it was behind bars of a gated property.

As the shows continued to film, I continued to watch the shows as they went out.  All was well until one day Jeremy Clarkson decided to something completely stupid and caused the entire Top Gear format to go TITSUP (Total Inability To Support Usual Performance) and bring on the death of the much loved/hated show.

Which is why I bought Richard Porter’s marvellous book, And on that bombshell: Inside the madness and genius of Top Gear.  Richard was the script editor (amongst other things from time to time) during Clarkson et al. years, having also spent a little bit of time during the Pebble Mill era too.

The book is an amusing history of Top Gear throughout the ages – and I found myself chuckling a few times in public on my way to work as I read through the chaos of the specials, the mad antics of the trio during The Bollocks Hour (which is their downtime period before they start shooting VT links, etc. at the hangar-cum-studio at Dunsfold), and what they were doing with the number 14 Routemaster bus  (currently parked in the TG hangar – I see it every day) as a potential item, and as a party bus for the team after a particularly good season end.

Interestingly, Porter has quite a few good things to say about Matt LeBlanc, who has become one of the six presenters of the new, new, new Chris Evans fronted Top Gear.  All signs indicate that the new, new, new Chris Evans Top Gear will still be filmed at Dunsfold from what I’ve seen (after all, why change that if you’re going to change everything else).  Hopefully they will keep the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car – but then again, maybe they won’t.

Now I’ve finished the book, I’ve moved onto Perry McCarthy’s autobiography, Flat Out Broke: The Original Stig. Perry was the very first Stig (dressed all in black), and way before my time of watching Top Gear. I’ve not far in, but already enjoying McCarthy’s good humour and ability to tell a good story.

In other news – third driving lesson went well.  Didn’t get too horrendously confused with lane changing and signalling during roundabouts.  Managed with the three lane madness of Guildford’s one way system too.  So things are moving forwards quite nicely…

Why Evgeny Lebedev is wrong about the future of newspaper publishing

Concerning this Guardian interview with the Independent’s owner, Evgeny Lebedev, betting the farm on digital publishing, I’d like to say that I think he’s wrong about closing down print newspapers and going all digital.  There are still many, many, many, many stumbling blocks.

I present my case for keeping printed newspapers and magazines around for the foreseeable future…

How do I share my digital edition of X newspaper (presumably with paid subscription) with family and friends without giving them access to my tablet – a general purpose computing device?

When you have access to physical, printed newspaper or book, you can then pass them onto other members of the family, or friends after you’ve read it.  Try doing that with a tablet or computer which has personal information on it.  We’re only getting around to tablets where you can keep user accounts separate.  Even then, it’s a pain in the rear end to have to do this just to read the blasted newspaper!

Whenever I visit my parents, they always have the newspapers and associated magazines in the kitchen for anybody to read.  If they switched to tablets or read the newspapers via their computer – assuming they have a subscription (paywall) – this would be impossible.

Any newspaper that goes online as a website and offers free content in exchange for adverts can significantly slow down your computer/tablet

I’ve come across many publications and the websites for publications where they’ve put 90 billion adverts on their sites, including pop-ups, intrusive cover-ups, video trailers and all manner of crap which I can demonstrate slows down the reader’s computer or tablet UNLESS they use an advert blocker.

This significantly reduces the publisher’s revenue, of course.  But if they didn’t have to rely on potentially dodgy third party advertising schemes that make the reader’s experience an absolute misery (and some of which have demonstrated recently can be used to deliver malware), then they deserve to lose money.

Paywalls aren’t for sharing

I was paying over £17/month for a Times subscription, and the social media/sharing links were about as much use to my friends and family as a dead pigeon playing the accordion.  The articles were severely restricted – often many of them offered a paragraph, and that was it.

Then there is this method of granting access to content in exchange for a bit of interaction via an advert.  I have no time for such nonsense.

pcmag_advert_hell

The Guardian is slightly better in that some articles also appear on the website or the entirely free Guardian app.

The tablet edition of X, Y and Z are all terrible – with poorly thought out usability, or the text is only readable by ants.

My biggest bugbear with digital newspapers and magazines (aside from te sharing issue) is how they present their work on tablets.  For the vast majority of them, they have absolutely no clue as to how to produce a pleasing design that will take full advantage of the interactive tablet platform they’re supposed to work on.

Some publishers just resort to publishing what is essentially a glorified PDF of their magazine (or newspaper), or some bizarre mix of PDF and extracted text. Little to no effort has gone to provide an experience where the text is clear and readable and images fit around them with the ability to enlarge them if necessary.  With most publications it’s all pinch and zoom, pinch and zoom, pinch and ruddy zoom.

Urgh.

Empire Magazine takes the award for being the very best magazine to take full advantage of Apple’s iOS platform to bring a fully interactive version of the print magazine.  It’s incredibly readable,  the navigation is simple, you get animated pages, video content and everything that a fully interactive digital magazine should be.

Future Publishing’s Mac Format is also another good example.  Less interactive, but the layout means that everything is clear and legible across different size tablets and again, is easy to navigate.

In the newspaper market, The Times worked reasonably well as a digital newspaper.  But it had the most annoying “feature” in that if you were in the middle of reading one day’s edition, left the tablet overnight and had it set to retrieve the next edition automatically, you’d lose your place in the previous edition.  Otherwise, The Times wasn’t a bad digital newspaper – although it duplicated many articles within the newspaper to the extra digital supplements for some reason or another.

The Telegraph similarly was a good digital newspaper.  Until they hiked the paywall price up to stupid sums of money.  Clean layout and legible across all tablet sizes.  It was even neater than The Times.  But the price was what stopped me subscribing any further.

The Guardian has been the best subscription digital newspaper for me.  I could share articles that were public (not all items were shareable, but that’s fine – I understand why).  The text and images were always well laid out, legible, and it felt as if I were reading a newspaper.  It was also the cheapest – £11.99/month for Mon-Saturday edition, and for the Observer (Sunday).

I’ve never liked how The Metro, Evening Standard or Independent’s app designs.  They have never been as neatly laid out or “as newspapery” as the others I’ve mentioned.  But they, IIRC, do allow articles to be shared. It’s a step in the right direction, but we still need to get to the point where digital content approaches the same easy to share, easy to read as a printed newspaper or magazine.

Don’t get me started on Kindle books and Amazon and the lack of sharing..

To conclude..

Until I can persuade my parents (and others like them) to buy their own tablets to consume digital content – and I very much doubt I’ll be able to do so despite my going on about how wonderful they can be (given the right apps) – people are still going to want printed newspapers, magazines and books.

Until the publishing world figures out how to make digital content shareable without compromising profit; how to make digital content readable and easy to ready across all the different tablet and computer platforms; and not cost the consumer an arm and leg for doing so, then print will win every time.