Archive for the ‘MySky’ Category

Latest MySky (HDi) update

The latest (and heavily publicised) MySKY (HDi only?) update was released today.  Oddly, our update was applied around 2 p.m. – the currently showing program was replaced by a very ugly notice that the system was being updated.  I can’t understand why the update wasn’t deployed during the night (e.g. 4 a.m.), when the number of viewers must be significantly lower.  What if I had really cared about the program that was showing?

My initial reaction was very negative.  After it was pointed out (via Twitter) that many of SkyTV’s mistakes are correctable via new options in the settings back, I’m slightly less negative, but it’s still not an improvement.  This is especially frustrating considering that the UI is so terrible, and has been ever since MySKY was introduced about five years ago (I’ve had MySKY since just after the launch).  Being told that they know about the many problems and fixing them isn’t possible until the hardware is revved doesn’t inspire any confidence at all, since the problems existed with the original MySKY and certainly were not fixed when the hardware was revved (with HDi).  Someone at SkyTV is responsible for selecting the hardware – if the platform doesn’t support creating a decent UI, then they should choose something else.

(Has anyone on the MySKY team used an Apple product?  Or even Windows 7 or a Zune product?  Would they recognise good UI when they saw it?  Do they have anyone that has any UI talent or experience?  If so, perhaps they could give that person a bit of power to fix things?)

The “what’s new” page has a feedback form where you can comment on the recent changes.  I encourage you to do so.  My comments were:

Planner Search

Sorting by time is a pointless way to organise the planner – it caters to people that don’t understand how to use a DVR properly (e.g. who are using it like they would have used a VCR). Sorting by A-Z is vastly more useful, because the typical planner task is either finding a specific program to watch (I always know the first letter of the name, I rarely know or care when it was broadcast/recorded), or browsing through programs to find something to watch (I don’t care what’s oldest/newest, I care what the program is).

The changes in this update make things worse in this respect. Although it’s possible to turn off the video and set the “search” interface to A-Z sort by default, you’re then in an interface where you have to go right/left to get to delete/keep. The planner should default to A-Z search, or at least have that as an option.

Confirm Delete

Although it’s fantastic that after 5 years the “tiny button right next to ‘don’t delete this’ deletes irrevocably” problem has been addressed, a confirmation dialog is (although common) generally the wrong UI decision to make. Users (a) get into habits of just ok’ing such dialogs, decreasing their value, and (b) are less willing to try things out. It is almost always better (and certainly would be here) to simply make any action reversible (i.e. have an undo delete).

Preview

The preview in search seems completely pointless. I almost certainly know what the program is based on the title, and if I don’t, then starting to show the program isn’t going to help. This is exacerbated by the fact that with the “automatic” buffer setting the preview generally starts with the end of the program that was on before the program that you’re looking at.

It *would* be useful to have an episode name & number (where applicable) in the main planner screen (e.g. to distinguish between several episodes of a kid’s program that is played out-of-order), or to only show each series once (and selecting it goes into a submenu where specific episodes can be selected; this is common in other interfaces where screen space is limited). Showing the synopsis in search helps with this, but takes up a vast amount of space (only five rows of text – even on a huge screen!), and comes with the annoying and loud video.

Positive

After five years, the guide finally shows an indication of which programs are scheduled to be recorded.  This feature was present in the old Sky Digital system (which didn’t record, but did allow you to schedule reminders), and it’s amazing that it’s taken this long to restore it.  However, it ignores series-link, so it only highlights the next episode.  It would be nice to get the feature right.

0759 for the hidden Sky menu

This really falls under the “just so I know where to look next time I forget” category.  With MySky, the “setup” menu is hidden from casual use (IIRC in both UTF Sky and Sky Digital it is not).  To get to it, you go to the system settings menu and type 0759 (0SKY) and then select, and it takes you to the menu where you can change the satellite settings, do a fresh installation, and so on.

When we moved house, the theory was I could just pick up the MySky box and plug it in (there was already a satellite) and save $50.  Unfortunately, this didn’t work.  I was told that I could call their helpdesk and they would be able to help get past the “poor reception” error (which is indeed what I got).  Unfortunately, the technician I spoke to couldn’t do much – in fact she had to put me on hold while she looked up the MySky settings (she started out trying to fix Digital – do they not have an indicator on the customer record that shows I have MySky?) and was clearly reading from a sheet – and a slightly inaccurate sheet at that (it missed a couple of menus, although I knew where to go).

At the end of the day, the tech on the phone couldn’t help.  Although I could again get to the hidden menu, I had forgotten that MySky doesn’t offer a nice simple “choose the satellite” menu – instead you get to enter the frequency and angle yourself, which is information I don’t have.  I’m so busy with work and unpacking that I figured that I’d just not bother trying anything else and let the tech fix it.

It turned out that it was a cable around the wrong way.  However, this isn’t totally my fault – the satellite cable gets split and plugs into the MySky box twice.  One lead is white and one is black.  There are no indicators at all on the MySky box or the splitter that indicates that there is any difference between the two (no #1 and #2 or ‘white’ and ‘black’ or any markings at all).  I’ve unplugged and re-connected MySky many times, and must have luckily picked the same place to plug each cable in, since apparently if you get them the wrong way around you get no signal.

Couldn’t the tech on the phone have mentioned this?  Even just a “try swapping the black and white cables” would have sufficed.  If I’d had more time to play around with things I would have disconnected everything and tried again, and might have randomly selected the right way around, but I didn’t have time for that.  Even suggesting that, though, would have been something.

I guess they really want their $50 moving fee.  For about 5 minutes of technician time.  Bah.

MySky Glitch

After about a month of working as well can be expected, a weird MySky glitch occured the day before yesterday. All of the scheduled programs (all done via series link) more than a day in the future vanished from the planner.

Unfortunately, I was later home yesterday than anticipated, so wasn't able to manually add the programs back. When I did arrive home, I pressed record and was told that I could not record this program (for any program). I rebooted MySky and not only was I able to record again, but all of the scheduled programs (those that hadn't been missed) were back.

Inexplicable glitches are the worse type, because now I'm back to not trusting it to record again. I wonder if I should reboot it once a day, or something like that…
technorati tags: ,

MySky is falling

As half a million or so New Zealanders know, Sky's Digital service died a bit before 6pm yesterday until reviving about 8am this morning (in the middle of my recording the final Gilmore Girls episode, argh).

I understand that (rarely) satellites fail, and that errors like this are a huge problem, but will sometimes happen, and that Sky was probably mostly at the mercy of Optus (who own the satellite) here. The response time wasn't great, but it wasn't as bad as it could be.

My issue is that during the outage, all my MySky box would do is show the "atmospheric conditions" error dialog. I have 60-odd hours of recorded material, which don't need a live signal to display (or shouldn't), and couldn't watch any of it. This should have been the time that MySky shone, because I should have had many hours of material to watch while I couldn't watch/record live TV. Instead, I was stuck with free-to-air TV like everyone else.

Poor design. A "mature" product would not have this flaw.

(I think, although I'm not 100%, that my MySky box was accessing the guide – i.e. pulling data from the satellite feed – when things died. Maybe this problem didn't happen for everyone. I would certainly be interested to know if that was the case).

technorati tags: ,

Is MySky “mature”?

Clearly, TiVo is mature (whether it manages to survive amongst all the competition, particularly from PVRs like MySky that are from content providers, is a separate question). So an easy way to consider whether the MySky design is mature is to compare the features of the two systems. Continue reading

The Listener’s Take on MySky

My parents have subscribed to The Listener for as long as I remember. When I left home, I subscribed too, and continued for nine years, until Pamela Stirling took over as editor and turned the magazine into a trashy, pale, copy of what it once was. I do occasionally glance over their website, however, and noticed Russell Brown’s MySky review.

Either they give the reviewers the only working copies, or Brown didn’t use it long enough for it to break, like it has for everyone else I’ve heard of that has it.

Laughably, Brown says:

My Sky, benefiting from the experience of Sky’s siblings in Britain and Australia, is a mature product.

A mature product, in my opinion, is one that works. Not one that fails daily.

He does continue to say:

What that means is that it’s an absolute doddle to use.

So I suppose he has a different definition to “mature product” than most people. MySky is simple to use. However, I really do feel that to be “mature”, a product has to be well tested, which should mean few bugs. MySky is nowhere near that category.

technorati tags: ,

Latest MySky Correspondence

For a while, I had an email conversation going with SkyTV about the problems, and it did appear that things were progressing. Not any more. They seem to have given up, and have decided to treat me as someone completely unknown. My latest email:

Continue reading

MySky Live Pause/Rewind Failure

A new (just what I need!) MySky problem appeared yesterday: live pause & rewind no longer worked: they displayed a “this program cannot be recorded” error message, even when nothing else was recording (and on any channel).

I managed to fix this with a reboot (hold down ‘go back’ and ‘select’ on the front panel), but it’s yet another reason to avoid MySky for now.

technorati tags: ,

More about MySky Series Link

In the comments to an older post, John Porter passed on a very interesting email about how the MySky Series Link feature is implemented. Continue reading

Gmail and SpamCop

My now lengthy email discussion with SkyTV about my MySky problems hit a new snag today: I have been using my gmail account for this correspondence, and my last message failed to be delivered:

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:

skyweb@skytv.co.nz

Technical details of permanent failure:
PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 9): 550 Rule imposed as tony.meyer@gmail.com is blacklisted on SpamCop or SpamHaus

Searching, I see a couple of articles ([1], [2]) that indicate this isn’t anything new. I’m not sure why all the previous messages made it through – perhaps SpamCop just made an update, or some sort of load-sharing at gmail switched me to a different SMTP server.

What a PITA. Back to regular mail for now, I guess. Please, anyone who can decide, don’t use SpamCop. Blacklisting is such a stupid system, especially blacklisting one of the world’s most popular webmail systems.

technorati tags: , , , , ,