Driving lesson update: I drove past The Stig!

Me!  Driving in the opposite direction to The Stig!  Me! Driving!  The Stig!

He was passing in his [censored] on his way out of Dunsfold while I was making my way back from my Dunsford-Guildford driving lesson loop.

The driving lesson itself was fine – a few mistakes, but managed not to get my big feet push down on the pedals simultaneously.  Also managed to take the Guildford gyratory system pretty well too, although the car in front struggled to get in the right lane at one point.  *shakes fist – ruddy experienced drivers*

Sky Q Installation Part 3: “You can’t install that yourself!”

[ Part One ] [ Part Two ] [ Part Three ] [ Sky Q Re-Install, 2018 ]

(Originally published in March 2016)

Sky Q has arrived, and it’s not bad at all.

The Sky Q installer spent about 40 minutes in total – changing the LNB so that it can support wideband signals, then went and got the Sky Q mini installed upstairs in the bedroom.  I didn’t want to install the Sky Q mini box immediately, and insisted that I’d do it myself later, but the installer was quite insistent that he do it.  So I caved in and apologised for leaving my bedroom in such a mess (oh, the bachelor’s life!).

Once that was switched on, he got the main Sky Q Silver box – a mere slip of a thing compared to the portly Sky+HD box – up and running.  Since I’m running Sky Broadband[1] with the Sky Q Hub, the set-up was entirely based around the mooted wireless mesh network.  The Sky Q mini box upstairs will boost the signal of any devices connected to the Wi-Fi network.

Once the Sky Q Silver box was hooked up to the Wi-Fi network (using WPS), we went upstairs to sort out the Sky Q mini box.  Also connected via Wi-Fi.  I’m keen to keep using Wi-Fi as too many ethernet cables cause clutter.  I am not a tidy person when it comes to cabling.

I was asked if I had changed anything on the Sky Q Hub.  I had.  I had changed the SSID, the admin password, and the SSID password.  I’ve kept the dual band SSID in tact (no separate SSID for 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz channels).  I was told by the installer that changing anything on the Sky Q Hub could cause problems, but thankfully – maybe due to recent firmware upgrade – went through without any hiccups.

The installer checked the mesh network and all was good.  Thankfully I live in an older, smaller building which doesn’t owe much to modern materials that block Wi-Fi signals.  I dread to think what some of these Sky installers come up against with people living in more modern, bigger houses or apartments.

I was given a demonstration of the new system.  I must admit that I do not like the touchpad remote control.  It reminds me of the 4th generation Apple TV and that remote control isn’t impressive either.  It’s far too easy to make mistakes with it.  But – haHA – Sky have thought of that and provide you with THREE remote controls.  One for the Sky Q mini box, one touchpad for the Sky Q Silver box, and another – identical to the Sky Q mini box remote control – that also operates the Sky Q Silver box.  The remote is almost identical to the touchpad other than the touchpad surface is replaced  by buttons.

In use, the Sky Q system is marvellous.  While none of the scheduled recordings or previous recordings made by the Sky+HD box can be transferred, this isn’t a bad thing.  It makes you think about what you want to record and gives you the opportunity to declutter.  I know I record too much stuff without actually watching it.

The Sky Q app on the iPad Pro works very well – and when you’re using it at home, acts as another screen TV. You can stream live TV and transfer recordings and programs from the Sky Q Silver box to it.

The Sky Q mini is wonderful.  I never had a Sky multi-screen subscription before, so all this is new.  Everything you do on the Sky Q mini is streamed from the Sky Q Silver box downstairs, via Wi-Fi (and the Sky Q mini box also acts as a local hotspot for any devices, such as an iPad/iPhone, in the immediate vicinity).  There is no delay, no noticeable difference in quality of image (speaking of which, the HD quality fo the new Sky Q Silver box is extraordinary – much, much better image quality from what I can see),

With UHD support and voice control (likely) to come this year, Sky Q will be the best way to view TV across multiple TVs and devices (as well as having more recording space and multi-record functions than the previous generation of Sky box).  Until Virgin Media comes up with their own solution – their aging Tivo product is in dire need of modernisation – this is a good choice for the TV connoisseur.  It ain’t cheap, but then again Sky have put a lot of development work into it, and will be putting in a LOT of support too.  All that costs money, and Sky isn’t a charity.  But then again it isn’t as expensive as you think.  Sky owns the equipment, therefore, if any part of it goes TITSUP (total inability to support usual performance), then it’ll replace/fix it at any time during your subscription.

But my view is that Sky Q is worth the hassle.  It’s not a replacement for Sky+HD yet, but if you want the ability to record more than two programmes than once, want to be able to watch multi-screen (including tablets) easily, want UDTV, then this is for you.

[1] Tomorrow this will be upgraded to the Sky Fibre Broadband Pro – hopefully.

Finally, South West Trains join the Smart Card generation!

I may be learning to drive with the intention of replacing buses and trains with a car so I can drive door-to-door from home to work (and vice versa), but it may be a few more months yet.  In the meantime, the good news is that South West Trains has finally brought out a smart card which is used like an Oyster card to get through the ticket barriers without the wear and tear on paper tickets.

I’ve just registered to get one, and hopefully I’ll never have to spend time getting my monthly ticket replaced because the ticket machines have chewed/destroyed them.  Apparently the Plus Bus aspect will still work, but obviously that bit will remain paper (which is fair enough because you only have to show that to the driver – it goes nowhere near a machine).

You can get more information and register for a South West Trains smart card here.

Sky Q Installation Part 2: “You can do it if you Sky Q it..”

(Awaits letter from B&Q solicitors)

[ Part One ] [ Part Two ] [ Part Three ] [ Sky Q Re-Install, 2018 ]

(Originally published in March 2016)

My Sky Broadband Unlimited is all set-up and running at home now.  Around 11Mbs down, 1Mbs up. Somewhat of a difference in comparison to my Virgin Media connection of up to 200Mbs down and 11Mbs up. But SBU is free and I shouldn’t complain.

I was right as to why Sky Broadband wasn’t working in the first place: BT Openreach hadn’t removed the Infinity kit at the cabinet, so my phone line was unable to talk to the Sky equipment at the local exchange until BT Openreach reconfigured the cabinet wiring (which they did yesterday).

I also discovered another issue during all this – caller ID wasn’t working on the Sky Talk package, but a quick call to Sky resolved that.  I must admit to being very impressed with Sky Customer service.  While it did take a while to get to speak to special Q operative, it wasn’t wholly unpleasant. They play the theme tunes to some of Sky’s most popular TV shows – Mad Men, Game of Thrones, etc. while you wait.

Well, the result of all this is that I’ve now ordered an upgrade to Sky Fibre Unlimited Pro.  This will give a theoretical maximum of 80Mbs down, 20Mbs up.  The intriguing thing is that assuming the local exchange supports it, I should be able to get a static IP for my broadband connection.  This will be very, very useful for firewalling purposes when using my personal servers.  However, the static IP functionality isn’t guaranteed at the time of the order, so we’ll wait and see.  But what this will do is to allow me to drop Virgin Media in a few months time and rely entirely on Sky.  They say don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but .. urgh .. I believe in better.  If nothing else, I should be able to talk to the right people if things do go wrong.  And I’ll just have to deal with one bill each month, rather than multiple.

The Sky Q hub itself isn’t bad.  Initial tests show a sturdy unit capable of 802.11ac with reasonable throughput. The only downside so far is there are only two ethernet ports.  But I intend to keep the Sky Q Silver box and Apple TV (running tvOS) wireless, with my Philips Hue light bridge and UHD TV on ethernet.  I did try an 8 port gigabit ethernet switch with the Sky Q unit, but the Philips Hue bridge would not work with it correctly. I’ll need to take a look at the switch (a Netgear) configuration to ensure that both the Sky Q hub and the switch are correctly configured.  The switch wasn’t configured to issue DHCP requests and I configured it to be a dumb, dumb switch when it was connected to the Virgin Media Superhub.  More tinkering is needed.

This morning I came down and woke the MacBook Pro from sleep to find that it was taking an age connecting to sites.  Having not much luck with routers that attempt to combine 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands into a single overlapping SSID, I’ve taken the opportunity of splitting the SSIDs into two separate names – one for 5Ghz and one for 2.4Ghz.  I’ve had no trouble with this on the Virgin Media SuperHub AC, so let’s see what the Sky Q Hub does.  I’ll report on progress as and when.

Update: The reason for the connection problem above was due to TWO backup programs (Arq and Backblaze) consuming the full 1Mbs upstream.  Ping times went from around 25ms to over 600ms and performance was as slow as heck.  So I’ve temporarily disabled the backups until next week (when the Fibre Pro goes live), and moved everything back to a single SSID covering both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands.  All is now well.

Driving, MISS!, Drakey

This week’s driving lesson was a bit different from the others so far – I got to drive myself home.

After a week’s absence from the wheel, things looked to be okay, but the first faux pax came when I failed to give way to a car coming from the right at a roundabout in Bramley.  I thought I had enough clearance – not so.  Thank goodness these learner cars have an extra set of pedals on the passenger’s side!

Speaking of pedals, another problem I encountered – twice, in fact – was that my size 12 feet managed to hit both the gas AND brake pedals simultaneously.  The car does not like that.  The engine will absolutely tell you that it doesn’t like that.  This is despite my driving instructor also having size 12 feet, and that this particular model of car has particularly wider spacing between the brake and accelerator pedals.

Other muck-ups included super confused signalling at a double roundabout near St. Johns, priority over a small junction (moving to the middle and then turning), and some speed issues.  If there was one thing I’d really like to see happen is if the speed signs could be more prominently placed along the side of the roads, with the size of the signs being kept equal.  Some of them are so small!  I encountered a section of road that allowed me to travel up to the national speed limit, but I missed the sign that told me that.  So I kept a steady 40mph as I tend to do.

I also need to ensure I follow the shape of the roundabout if I’m going to use the second exit.  Not, as I was doing, just driving forwards.  Similarly, I need to do better at remaining in lanes when filtering into a lane and turning at a junction which continues that lane filtering.  Keep everything smooth during the turn.


Despite these errors, I managed to get myself home and park accordingly.  I’ll be doing this a couple more times over the next couple of weeks.