Bring on Elgato EyeTV Netstream

I’m not the biggest fan of Sky TV even though I’ve been a customer of theirs for about eight years now. The way that you are locked into their eco-system and how you watch media the way they want you and not what is most applicable to you to doesn’t appeal to me. Sky Go and other new features have helped the situation for a number of people but it doesn’t help me using a Windows Phone or Windows 8 devices as none of their apps are available on these platforms (for clarification, by Windows 8, I mean impressive UI native Windows 8 apps and not desktop apps). I’ve long wanted to break into the IPTV and streaming TV markets, originally with SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun product and now Elgato’s EyeTV Netstream and now is the time to strike.

Me and @NickyCGreen got an email from Sky at the weekend to tell us that our bill was going from a promotional rate to the standard rate, almost doubling to £40 a month. I was happy enough to pay for Sky at £20 a month and actually, I didn’t even consider this was a promotional rate. Just because something is easy though isn’t justification for buying it, certainly when it’s £40 a month. All we really watch on TV these days is FTA (Free to Air) content like BBC One, BBC Two, Channel 4 and the kids watch a little bit of kids TV too like Pop and CBeebies. We don’t have sports or movies add-ons and we don’t have any other services like Sky Go, broadband or phone from them, this is just for basic TV with HD.I  was pretty staggered that Sky will expect me to pay £40 for this basic service so I decided that now was the time to strike the IPTV drum.

I’ve long courted SiliconDust and their HDHomeRun product line but they have let the European products stagnate and not updated them to meet the x2 standards such as DVB-T2 (Freeview HD) or DVB-S2 (FreeSat HD) which means that you can only get the SD (Standard Definition) variants of Freeview or FreeSat on the HDHomeRun. On my search for other products, I came across Elgato and their EyeTV product line. On first inspection, it looks quite Apple focused with a lot of detail on Mac OS X software, AirPlay support along with mobile device support for iOS iPhone and iPad devices but they do support Windows and Windows Media Center also which is enough for me to be happy.

Elgato EyeTV Netstream Sat

I decided to dip my toes into the line-up today by ordering an Elgato EyeTV Netstream Sat, a single tuner DVB-S2 FreeSat network tuner. For those of you who don’t know what any of that means, it basically means that I can connect one of the satellite feeds from my Sky MiniDish into the box of tricks from Elgato and it will output those FreeSat HD pictures onto my home network to be consumed by any device I choose.

I’ve gone with a single tuner to start with as a proof of concept to the wife and kids, I’m going to be configuring this single feed on the Windows Media Center PC in the living room to test out the Media Center Live TV interface, that basics like live TV and channel switcing all work as planned and also that none of the codec changes I’ve made to support .mkv playback effect the TV experience. Once I can get this working and other basics like the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide), I can start to experiment a bit more like. Tricks like the MCL (My Channel Logos) plugin to add the UK channel icons to the EPG are nice additions and make the experience much sweeter.

Aside from watching live TV and optimising that experience, the next thing I’m going to be playing with is the Windows Server 2012 Essentials integration with Media Center. A feature has existed since the days of the first Windows Home Server which allowed the server to move TV recordings to a share on the server and replace that recording with a stub on the Media Center. For me, this is the best feature of Windows Media Center and Windows Server 2012 Essentials coming together. The HTPC (Home Theatre PC) records a programme from the network tuner as normal and once the recording completes, the server moves the recording to the backend Recorded TV share. The result is that the recording then is available anywhere I can access the server from. For me, this means any other Windows PC in the house, my Windows Phone using the My Server app or any internet enabled device which supports Silverlight. Windows Server 2012 Essentials (and notably R2 with it’s tablet and touch device improvements) allow you to use Silverlight Adaptive Streaming to deliver video and audio content from the server to any device you can think of (so long as it supports Silverlight).

Isn’t that a much better way to be able to consume your media? Exactly how you want, wherever you want on whatever device you want and not paying a penny for a subscription service in the process?

I tried, as I always do with product purchases to o a tonne of research before laying down the money but nearly all of the videos I can find on YouTube for Elgato EyeTV Netstream are in German which doesn’t really help me. I’ll be sure to post up a nice review of how setting up the EyeTV Netstream and getting it to play with Windows Media Center goes. If the test goes well, I’ll be sending some more of my money Elgato’s way to beef that single tuner into a dual tuner with their EyeTV Sat Free extender for the Netstream and I’ll then be doubling down to give me four network tuners throughout the house so that I don’t have to worry about recording conflicts or scheduling problems.

If the excitement of unboxing the product doesn’t overwhelm me (these things normally do) then I may even try and get a video on YouTube to get some English language demo’s of the product out there.

 

 

Sky Remote Record for Windows Mobile (and BlackBerry)

4943510[1] Remote Record is one of those excellent features which Sky offers but doesn’t flaunt anywhere near enough not helped by the fact that Sky are loving the iPhone and ignoring Windows Mobile, Symbian, Android and BlackBerry in the process.

In the past I spent a long time looking for a Windows Mobile application for Remote Record, and I managed to find one which was a Java hacked version of the application which was previously available for the Orange SPV however as this was a non-touch screen device the UI was clunky on my touch screen device to say the least.

Needless to say, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered an article on wmpoweruser.com at http://wmpoweruser.com/?p=10795&cpage=1&mobile=1 about Remote Record for Windows Mobile which was posted in November 2009.

The application looks like something genuine that Sky would have produced, however it appears via the website of a software design company called Wecomm who seem to specialise in mobile application development. Even more surprising is that all this development seems to have been done without Sky ever officially releasing the product to the market.

Hitting the link to http://p.wecomm.com/prov/prov.action?releaseId=10 will give you a list of mobile manufacturers (including RIM for BlackBerry owners) which then takes you to a list of models. Once you have selected your model the site will provide the appropriate download link.

I downloaded the version for HTC HD2 which has the same resolution as my HTC Touch HD and installed the .cab file.

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Ofcom Versus BSkyB: The Battle for British Media and Services

Over the course of the weekend, I starting reading an article on the BBC News site which I sent to myself to read later as it was very interesting: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/robertpeston/2010/03/ofcom_v_sky_the_epic_business.html

The article surrounds the topic of Sky (BSkyB) and their power over the British broadcasting and multimedia markets and the investigation into their tactics and control by Ofcom.

The article touches subjects I have blogged about previously and also a topic I am very passionate about. Hit the next link to see all of my posts in the media category and you will start to see the picture I am painting (http://richardjgreen.net/index.php/topics/media/).

Sky provide a lot of content but they also block and inhibit the delivery of new content. With Sky in the way, how are companies like Love Film or even the USA’s very own Netflix going to get to market here?

Where are content on-demand and internet based video streaming services like the US enjoy for us Brits? How are products like Media Center in Windows XP, Vista and 7 ever going to get a good reception when the biggest player in the media industry doesn’t allow for their product to work using Media Center because they breech a European ruling regarding open standards for television service providers? Only Freeview and Freesat are available via Media Center and the channel line-up leaves something to be desired. With beautiful products like HD HomeRun from Silicon Dust available we are severely missing out.

I really look forward to the report from Ofcom, supposedly to be released this week coming, however I wonder if it will throw as many punches as are really necessary? The author Robert Peston says,

So for BSkyB, Ofcom’s tanks are not on the lawn, but are actually bulldozing through the studios.

Unfortunately, I doubt it will get to this. Politicians are too scared to tackle the media giant in Rupert Murdoch’s pocket because of the potential political backlash he could cause, however what is most concerning are David Cameron’s comments regarding the scaling back of Ofcom and their powers.

…with a Conservative Government, Ofcom as we know it will cease to exist. Its remit will be restricted to its narrow technical and enforcement roles. It will no longer play a role in making policy.

Ofcom are critical to ensuring the growth and success of the British media markets, and couple this with the plans from the Tory’s to release figures on BBC earnings and force the BBC to scale down some of the BBC products and offerings and you have to wonder if the Tory’s actually want us to progress with the rest of the world. All they need is Mandy to join their ranks and were destined for doom. I don’t have the time to look, but I’m sure a review of a list of the Tory sponsors would quickly reveal cash injection from Mr Murdoch. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

Sky Player for Windows Media Center

It’s been visible for sometime, however today is the first day that the Sky Player functionality in Windows Media Center works. I’ve never used Sky Player online before so I had a bit of work getting my account setup and the rights to access our subscribed channels but after about 15-30mins I had it all working.

The UI is clean and mostly in-line with the style of Windows Media Center. Some elements such as the TV Guide I felt where not sympathetic to the Media Center UI and should be updated to give a better feel of integration.

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Sky+ HD Multi-Room Shared Planner

I got some anonymous information last night from a friend about a service Sky are considering introducing here in the UK.

The service looks as if it’s going to be called Sky+ HD Multi-Room Shared Planner – What a mouthful.

The premise of it is that you have multiple Sky+ HD boxes in your house, and you can share recorded TV amongst those boxes throughout your house. The service also touts that you will be able to connect to your Sky+ HD boxes via your PC and access that content also.

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Sky HD for Windows Media Center a Possible Reality?

You will have all seen my post previously on Windows Media Center Envy over the US treatment and our lack of.

CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design & Installation) is a show taking place in one month, and Engadget HD have an article on their predictions for announcements at the show at http://www.engadgethd.com/2009/08/10/cedia-2009-windows-media-center-predictions/.

I love Engadget because if something gets posted it quite often happens to be true, so what do you think happened to my excitement level when I read this excerpt:

We don’t expect the US to have all the fun, so here’s a crazy prediction for the UK. Currently recording premium HD content on the other side of the Atlantic isn’t really an option. There is one Sky TV hack that works, but isn’t for the faint of heart as it requires constant maintenance. Well the other day we were looking through our old pictures from the eHome tour and noticed something new. Right next to a PC labelled “Draco” is a PC labelled “Horseshoe.” Now we weren’t able to find any indication of what project horseshoe was, but the same PC had another sticker with DVB-S/T on it. This just happens to be the encoding Sky TV uses. This combined with the recent partnership announcements with Microsoft and Sky has us thinking that this little white box in the picture below is actually a Sky TV HD tuner for Media Center, but we’ve been wrong before.

If the picture in the article and the text is to be believed then Microsoft’s work with Sky to include Sky Sports content within Xbox Live could be part of a larger introduction to the eHome way from Sky and we could be seeing Sky finally allow people to use Media Center with it’s TV services without almighty hacks.

If this does come, I tell thee – I care not how poor I may be or what happens, I shall own it!

Windows Media Center Envy

It’s been a hell of a long time since I’ve tweeted or blogged anything. Heaven knows why, I just haven’t found the time as I have been busy all evenings lately, but I thought I would drop my head in the door just to say hi with this one.

Since my last writing, a lot has been going down in Microsoft town: Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM announcements and Windows 7 RTM being available to Partners and MSDN and TechNet customers by August 6th (yes please), Office 2010 Technical Preview, updates for Windows Home Server, Silverlight 3.0, Expression Studio 3.0 and more products to cover in numerous blog postings.

In this post though I wanted to mention my envy for Americans. I’m not normally one to think the grass is indeed greener on the other side but this is a bone of contention for me – TV.

In the UK we have quite a few choices: Freeview, Freesat, Cable (Virgin Media) and Satellite (Sky). Freeview and Freesat are working their way as integrated components on modern HDTV’s. Virgin Media only allow you to use their equipment because you are leasing it, and Sky use encryption and other techniques to force you to use their equipment.

Jump to the other side of the great lake and you get things like this: http://www.engadgethd.com/2009/07/27/windows-7-media-center-review/

I’ve looked at the features in Windows 7 Media Center previously however I’ve never spent too much time on it because the UK market doesn’t warrant its use unfortunately.

As the review states, Windows Media Center in Windows 7 is the best PVR you can get and has some excellent features which make Virgin and Sky’s offerings like pre-industrial revolution, however due to the lack of support by UK product vendors we get the raw deal.

My request to anyone at Virgin or Sky reading this?

Make your own TV tuners and charge over the odds for them, give us the option to use MCE officially and explain how we can do it without CAM’s and modules and hacks or whatever, just let us use a superior product please.

Sure I could use Freesat or Freeview with MCE but what really is the point?
We have Sky in our home and we don’t get the premium packages (like Sports or Movies) except for the Eurosport bolt-on for MotoGP but the channels available with the package we do have still outweighs the idea of going back to Freesat.