MasterChef music chops

Watched the series final of MasterChef UK this evening, and one of my favourite things of the series returned to tonight’s episode.

It’s probably something that a lot of people don’t even notice as they watch, but the background music was timed and punctuated by the clinks of utensils and the chops of vegetables.

I think it’s very clever, and I appreciate the skill and attention to detail that the sound/vision editor has for their work.

As if to illustrate the point here’s a tweet from MasterChef UK senior video editor:

Will Virgin Media Ireland give us the TiVo?

With UPC confirming recently that it is to re-brand to Virgin Media over the next few months, it will be interesting to see if they also introduce one of Virgin’s products to Ireland – the TiVo.

TiVo Series 1

I had one of the original TiVo Series 1 boxes that was on sale for a couple of years in the UK from 2000 onwards. It was an amazing PVR and was much better than anything that Sky or the cable companies offered at the time.

It recorded shows from compatible set-top boxes, and learned the type of TV you liked to watch, and would pro-actively record programmes it thought you might like. The on-screen interface and remote were also intuitive and easy to use.

There was a small but active TiVo Series 1 community in the UK at the time, which included people who modified and upgraded their machines to increase the functionality offered. I upgraded my box to increase the record time from 40 hours to 250 hours, and to also install a network card to allow software/EPG updates over broadband. I also installed all kinds of software plugins, including one that allowed me to remote control the box over the internet – including setting programmes to record – something that, 15 years later, we all take for granted.

I loved that TiVo. Indeed, I was so attached to my TiVo that, when I moved to Ireland in 2007, I still kept it for a number of years – even though it didn’t work abroad!

Virgin TiVo

In 2010 Virgin Media in the UK announced that they were offering TiVos to their customers as one of their set-top box options, and today they offer two TiVo options for TV subscribers – a 500GB box and a 1TB box. Today’s TiVos are much more advanced that the old Series 1 that I had, and integrate the cable receiver into the box – allowing customers to record two channels while watching a third.

It would be pretty amazing if, as part of the Virgin Media re-brand, that TiVos were also brought to Ireland. They would be a very welcome replacement to the existing Horizon boxes offered by UPC, which have some known problems.

Improvements to the UPC Horizon Set Top Box

Update 29-Aug-2014 – a software update to the Horizon box in the last couple of days seems to have solved some of these problems – see:UPC Ireland – Horizon Software Update

Horizon is UPC’s premium TV offering, and has several advantages over other TV/DVR systems, such as:

  • Ability to record up to 4 TV shows at the same time and watch a 5th, which avoids recording conflicts
  • HD channels as standard, rather than as a paid-for extra
  • Integrated broadband modem and WiFi router in the set top box, so you only need one box for TV, Broadband and Phone (although of course, as they’re in one box, you have to have everything in one location)
  • Ability to stream live TV via WiFi onto iOS devices and PC/laptops in the home (although no support for Android yet)

However the new Horizon system is now without its problems.  I was involved in the public trail back in the spring of 2013, and fed back all of these findings to UPC – but as of today, none of them have been resolved:

  • The TV Guide is very slow to navigate. There is no way to go straight to a particular, so if you want to find something to record in a week’s time, you need to scroll through an entire week’s worth of shows to find the one you want.
  • The Recorded Shows navigation is slow and involves a lot of key presses.  Deleting individual shows is very slow, and you often end up pressing the remote several times, thinking that the button press has not registered. Also if you want to delete a whole series, you are forced to delete each show in the series individually, which takes ages. There’s also a very dangerous “delete all” option that could accidentally be selected – and it will delete everything off your box!
  • The Now and Next on-screen option is very poor. You can see what’s on now, or what’s on next, but not at the same time!  It’s so bad it’s not even worth bothering with.
  • There are numerous sound problems. If the picture freezes for any reason (a regular occurrence particularly with recorded shows), or you press pause while playing on-demand content, then the sound drops out completely. The only way to get it back is to fast forward or rewind a couple of times.
  • Recorded shows are inaccessible to watch. Sometimes the recording corrupts, and the series/episode numbers show as ‘-1’. When this happens you can’t access the show to watch it.
  • WiFi reach is quite poor. It’s certainly not as good at the old UPC modem I had. There are also problems where the wifi will sometimes stop working altogether (about once a month), which requires a box reboot to clear.  Some devices also have problems connecting.  It’s such a problem in my house that I’m planning to switch back to a separate wifi router.
  • The horizon.tv website is useless. You’re meant to be able to stream all the channels from it (if you’re on UPC internet) but only some of the channels are available. The TV guide doesn’t work properly either – particularly the remote record function.

I’m very surprised, and disappointed, that none of these issues have been resolved in the past six months, and the UPC continue to strongly push the Horizon service knowing that it has problems.

Utterly Pathetic and Crap (UPC)

Whenever anyone asks me about my experience of getting TV and Broadband from UPC, I always tell them one thing: the service is great if you just set it up and leave it, but if you try to change anything they will make an utter mess of it. And true to form, they’ve done it again.

A couple of months ago I switched my current account to a new bank, and as part of the switching process the old bank notifies every company that takes a direct debit from me of the new account details. Now for every other company I deal with this worked fine. They received the details, changed the direct debit mandate, and took payment from my new account. But not UPC it seems.

The usual April payment didn’t come out of my account, but I was reassured by a text message form UPC saying that a double payment would instead be taken from my account in May. So I naturally thought they have received the new account details, but hadn’t managed to set them up in time for the April billing cycle. And so I waited. But then I got another text message a couple of days ago saying that I need to update my Direct Debit details online. So I dutifully logon, and give them the same details as supplied about a month ago.

But then I get a phone call this morning from the UPC credit control department, demanding immediate payment over the phone. They say that there’s no Direct Debit set up on my account, and that they will not set it up until I pay not only the April payment, but the May payment too (which isn’t even due yet). I ask them to simply collect this money by Direct Debit as per their original text, but they refuse to do so, saying that they can only set up Direct Debit mandates for accounts that have a zero balance. And they refuse to acknowledge they they’ve messed up at all. In their eyes it’s all my fault that the April’s Direct Debit was rejected, and further that I should have been in touch to rectify the situation, despite the reassuring text message suggesting that it’s all in hand.

So anyway, I eventually agreed to settle the balance owed over the phone, and gave them my card details – only to be told that they don’t accept Visa Debit card. I must provide either a Credit Card or Laser card for payments over the phone. But they do tell me I can pay by Visa Debit online, although I should select ‘Laser’ when I make the payment – but this turns out to be a lie, as they don’t accept Visa Debit online either.

Dave

Car shows and comedy panel games… quite possibly the best combination for a night’s TV viewing pleasure. And I don’t even need to switch around the channels – I just need to tune into Dave, and am presented with a whole stream of quality televisual entertainment.

Tonight’s prime time line up has been: Top Gear, Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week, and QI.