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Reader Comments on Aardvark Daily 17 December 2001

Note: the comments below are the unabridged submissions of readers and do
not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher.


From: James
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Sky's new firmware

Sky's new firmware for their satellite receiver/decoder is
awful! Here are the issues I've had:

Slowness! The speed of the IPG (interactive program guide) is
terrible. Drawing of requested channels is slow. If I want to
go up 5 channels from where I currently am, I can't simply
press "up" 5 times like I used to; I must press it once, wait
for the channel to fully draw (could take upwards of 5
seconds), press up again, wait for redraw again, etc.
I rang Sky about this about 3 weeks ago and was told
something along the lines of "the reason for the slowness is
because we are still doing firmware upgrades, and the
transmission of the new firmware takes alot of bandwidth,
thus slowing down the interface for those trying to watch
Sky. The problem will disappear within a week, as we have
nearly finished all the upgrades".
Now this sounds almost plausible, until you consider that my
receiver was upgraded several months after the upgrade
program began. Why didn't I notice the slowness when I was
still on the old firmware? After all, even though I was still
running the old firmware, I should have noticed a slowdown if
it was fully attributable to excess bandwidth consumption.

Crashing. The decoder now crashes, requiring a full power
cycle to correct. This doesn't happen too often, but how
often should a consumer device running an embedded realtime
environment really crash (excluding the Xbox)? This never
happened under the old firmware. And some of the errors that
come up when it crashes are pretty odd ("an internal
nameserver malfunction has occurred"). Other times it will
just stop responding to all keypresses, and the banner will
refuse to automatically disappear from the screen. The
current channel will keep playing, though. Again, a power
cycle is required to restore functionality.

Modal Messages. Messages such as "Enter your PIN to purchase
this program" now cover all other onscreen banners! This
means that if I flick over to one of the PPV channels (eg,
Box Office) and I want to purchase the now-showing program,
the informational banner doesn't automatically come up, as
the "Enter your PIN..." message blocks it from appearing. I
can't even use the "?" key to view the banner, as that won't
work either when there is a message on the screen.

Colour Scheme. White on light-blue. This isn't too much of an
issue for me, but if someone had a small TV, or if their TV
was over the other side of the room, I could see how this
could conceivably be very hard to read. The display font (for
things like the synopsis) seems to be smaller too, but I'm
not 100% sure about this.

From: Ian McDonald
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Sky TV

I have given up using the Sky TV guide as it is too slow to
be useful. I would be much happier if they turned off the
nice blue and gave me back the speed....

On the positive side the new weather channel is an
improvement - can get fairly quick access to weather info...

From: Michael
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Sky Guide

The new guide is pathetically slow and cumbersome. Almost
daily I would book items from the news channels to record
during the day. However, since the “upgrade” when
attempting to book a program large sections of the guide
are unavailable meaning that booking is not possible.

Since the upgrade attempting to search upcoming events is
so slow to make it a nonsense. I would prefer they go back
to the previous set-up until they sort their problems out.

From: Sam Johnson
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Sky Interactive

The new programme guide is so slow! It takes about 1
second per line you scroll down! It takes about 2 mins to
view the all the listings!

(I thought the interactive programme was supposed to make
things easier!)

From: Blair Nicholson
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Sky TV

I was initially looking forward to this but once it arrived
found it to have almost nil extra useful features while
killing the usefulness of what I mostly used it for, the
programme guide.  Its now so slow I have given up on using
it for anything more than basic checks on whats on the
current channel, whereas the old version was quick enough
it was easy to flick through all the channels I was
interested in to see what was on.

This means I often resort to a paper programme guide, and
probably don't watch the more obscure channels anywhere
near as much as I use to.  There are good programmes hidden
out there, but finding them is now much harder.  If the box
was fast enuf to handle it then I'd definitly like the
changes, but its not, not by an incredibly long way.

The sky website was changed at the same time, again to look
nice but clearly looks was all the designer cared about.
The old website had a very useful tv guide with lots of
channels viewable at once.  The new one is again very slow
largely thanks to reloading the entire page every time you
change anything when only small sections need to be

And while the old one had the option to customise what
channels were displayed, the new one always defaults to the
same 3 channels, and goes back to those if you select a
different date.  Also I observed about a week ago that its
buggy, missing out some programmes from the guide
altogether making the whole thing effectivly useless.

From: Neil Bates
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Sky TV Menu etc

Certainly the first thing I noticed about the new
interactive menus was the speed - or lack of. With the
number of channels, scrolling through the menu is a
complete pain and it would often be quicker to go and get
the newspaper...
Also, when you move forward in time on the Guide, you can't
move back... what's that all about ?
On the plus side, I love having TV1 & 2 on there, and the
games are good for filling in a quick 5 minutes (but that's
about it).

From: Tony Levaggi
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Sky Interactive

I find the new Sky interactive VERY much slower than the
previous format. Special extra irritants are:
On channel changes, it frequently seems to freeze for 3-4
seconds then it seems to have lost the cached channel info
on the programme guide and resets the volume to maximum, if
you've changed that through the sky remote.
When flicking up throught he channels, passing through a
channel you haven't subscribed through, like Sky Movies
results in a 4-5 second delay while it displays the message
saying you haven't subscribed to it, before it allows you
to press a button to change the channel.

Mind you the Interactive weather is a lot better than the
old Weather Channel (though, of course, very slow).

From: Andy Eakin
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Sky Digital

Bring back the old programme guide and ability to scroll
up and down through the channels quickly!  Sky has lost
all it's ease of use and now it is almost too frustrating
to use.  My theory, they have bastardised the electronic
programme guide so that people will re-subscribe to the
paper based Sky Guide at a cost of $2 per month resulting
in higher revenues! Cynical? who, me?

Oh yes, the Weather channel is much better!

From: Richard
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Sky

The thing I think it is, is all the people on the net are tech savvy, and
know what is possible. I think that alot of the people that are
congratulating them are older people that have no computer experiance
except for seeing the person use the cash register at big-fresh and are
amazed that it knows what things are from the stripes printed on them.

a 286 with windows
3.0 could scroll faster then the sky box.

Its almost like they have
less processing power in there then a nokia cellphone - they games on the
phones are a hell of a lot better.

From: Cameron Dewe
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Sky Digital TV - The new Menu System

I have been using the new blue Sky Digital Menu for a
couple of weeks now and find it painfully slow to use.
Previously when using the old Black and White Menu, the
thing tripped along as fast as I could push the remote
control buttons.  Now it seems 5-10 times slower.  I do not
know why it should be, since all that seems to have been
done is change the background colour from black to blue.  I
have no preference either way, but see speed as more
important.  Here are the things that I think are faults in
the Human - Machine interface.
  1. When scrolling through the programme guide, I have to wait about 4 button pushes before it takes effect. The screen needs to refresh after each button push before the unit recognises the next one, so only one in about 5 button pushes on the remote is effective. I know how many steps up, down or sideways that I want to go, so push the button that many times.
  2. In the Guide, the time and day navigation only works in the forward direction it seems. If one tries to go back in time, nothing happens, or occasionally the guide jumps back about 4 hours at a time. If one changes day, the current day cannot be accessed. Problem (1) makes problem (2) extremely frustrating, as if one oversteps a timeslot, one needs to start all over again.
  3. The On-Screen Programme Banner that appears each time a channel is changed uses + for the Programme Synopsis, while the Programme Synosis is accessed everywhere else in the guide with ? and + is used for the Hypertime Banner. This means one cannot touch remote control (like Touch Typing) but have to take one's eyes off the screen and look at the remote to find the button to press. Also, there is no obvious key to cancel the Banner, (though the ? key does). Previously the "Backup Key" did this, this is most disconcerting as I often hit this key to clear the Banner and find the Channel Changes instead.
  4. Channel Changing takes about 2 seconds, which seems ages compared to the old system where channel changing was almost instantaneous. The problem is I cannot surf through the channels any more, but have to wait until each appears on screen. Now I key the channel numbers, so miss catching a quick glimpse of all the channels in between.
  5. Where is the Weather Channel? It is not listed anywhere in the Programme Guide, nor is it shown on channel 0, so I rarely bother watching it any more. I am sure AMI do not want to waste their advertising dollars and I am saddened at the difficulty in finding this service.
  6. Bringing up the Weather Channel requires remembering channel 201, then following through the menus, which are slow and painful to use. Surely it is possible to have an auto scroll option that just presents each screen as it is transmitted, like the old weather channel did.
  7. I miss the animated satellite images and animated rain radar images. These were really useful in seeing where the weather was moving to and were far more informative than the current single screen images.
  8. In fact, at this stage I am wanting the old style Weather Channel back as it gave a far better macroscopic overview of the weather and allowed me to forecast my own weather a lot better. The trouble with NZ weather is that if one does not live within a few miles of the weather station then the forecast is not accurate. This is particularly so in the Wellington Area, where you need suburb forecasts as the Weather in each of a dozen major valleys that Wellington/Hutt/Mana/Kapiti population is spread over all have their own unique climates and weather. I can travel from Upper Hutt to Wellington and experience 4 Seasons in an hour on some days!
  9. The Radio Channel graphics are a good idea, except that they do not appear on the real (original) radio channels, which all display black screens. Try National Radio, the Concert Programme, Wolf Radio etc and see what I mean.
  10. The change over time for Booked Programmes is wrong. The system switches over to a Booked Programme at the end of the minute, not the beginning. This often means that Booked Programmes are started late. The previous system was far more reliable.
  11. The 5 Minute Banner for Booked Programmes only appears on screen at the -5 minute, then disappears. It does not stay on screen and count down like the old system did. HOWEVER, if one uses the remote control in this period, the booking gets cancelled. I suspect because the "Backup Key" (the circly arrow one) is still active. Also the Booked Programme banner sometimes shows 6 minutes to go!
  12. The coloured buttons on the remote do nothing, while the matrix key, which used to show channel 0 and all the channels now brings up the interactive menu.
  13. Teletext subtitles do not work, on Free To Air TV 1-4, so I have kept my old TV aerial plugged in just so I can still get teletext. Sky TV needs to be far more aware of disability issues and should not be ignoring teletext if they want to be the prime platform for TV delivery. This is a big black mark against Sky Digital TV and only the picture quality is the saving grace.
Finally, I think Sky TV should have a consumer acceptability clause in all future software acceptance testing. If it doesn't pass consumer acceptance testing, the software writers do not get paid, until they rewrite the software so it does. More emphasis on the functionality and less on the flashiness. This whole saga reminds me of the people who changed the Frito's recipe. The company adopted the policy "Don't F*** with Fritos". Maybe Sky TV should adopt the following quality policy. "Don't Stuff Around with Sky Digital!"
From: DeeDee For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Sky TV I am appalled at the change of quality in the SKY TV service. This is not an upgrade - flicking through the channels is so slow that I too either check the newspaper or turn the bloody thing off. I did email SKY TV bringing my concerns to their attention but they are all so busy answering the phones (!) that I didn't get a response. I did seriously consider cancelling the subscription but unfortunately with their monopoly its either put up with the crap or miss out on live sports coverage. With Super 12 coming up soon and the cricket season in full swing I have no option but to continue with my subscription. My frustration and annoyance is such that I will supplementing my SKY subscription with a prescription for valium. From: Dylan For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: The upgrade My flatmates and I stumbled onto the truth (at least, we think we did) while joking about the software while waiting for the list to scroll down. The whole thing is designed to sell SkyWatch! Afterall, I want to know what's on, and I can't be bothered waiting for the EPG to tell me. From: Nick For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: sky or any other tv for that matter you know, by the time I've done a day shift at work, watched shorty street, spent time with my family, who the hells got time to watch sky ???? From: Kane David For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Slow Sky I agree with your comments on Sky TV's attitude to the slowness of their EPG. Like other virtual monopolies in this country, (Telecom, Shell and other oil companies to name a few) they all suffer from the same corporate disease known by most as the arrogant "we don't care what you think" syndrome. Unfortunately for Sky, this might backfire on them. Telecom gets away with it because most people need a phone so they just put up with it - Likewise we all need to fill our car up at the local garage - But we don't exactly need Sky TV. With DVD becoming more popular and cheaper, along with broadband internet which ultimately will provide full screen streaming video, I fail to understand why Sky would want to make an existing service worse rather than better. The other problem that you mention little about is the colour scheme. The white on black as used previously was ideal given the font size. The new white on light blue isn't so good. Admittantly my lounge is quite large but given that I used to be able to read the guide with no problems at all, now I have to get up and move a metre or so closer to the TV to be able to read it. I have good eyesight and I don't require correcting lenses. Given that ones eyes normally deteriorate gradually over a lifetime, I wouldn't imagine that a 50 year old with a 14 inch TV would be able to read it very easily. Also, the average television set fades and becomes less focussed as they age thus aggravating the problem more. As is it, I plan on giving Sky another month or two and if things don't improve then I guess it's down to the pub for the sport, DVD's for movies and TV 1-4 and Prime for docos - or if TelstraSaturn finishes rolling out the cable in Christchurch I might opt for that instead and get rid of two arrogant companies with one stone (Sky & Telecom). Now that just leaves the oil companies From: Jamie Dobbs For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: SKY 'Upgrade' I, like many others, am shocked at how bad the suposed 'upgrade' to Sky's programme guide etc. are - I suggest that people do what I intend to do and vote with their feet - CANCEL YOU SKY SUBSCRIPTION Fair enough there isn't any other option (unless you have Saturn in your area) but if enough people stop their service maybe they will learn a little something about acceptance testing and pleasing their customers! In an case they should have tested the new look/feel with some customers and then got their feedback, such feedback would probably not have been good - then they could try and fix it. In any case, I'll stick with Sky for the rest of this month but if things do not improve I'll be cancelling the service and recommending to friends and associates that they never bother with Sky digital as its just not worth the hassle. Aardvark Comments Terry O"Brien informed me that the new software was tested by a group of 300 users who got it before the rest of us. He would not be drawn however, on whether Sky actually made any changes based on the feedback that group provided. He also told me that this is an "off the shelf" offering -- which must further raise the issue of whether the problems are mainly due to the use of old receivers with inadequate processing power. From: Shelby Macdonald For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: SKY 'downgrade' I was actually optimistic that these 'improvements' would be good, instead they are just fustrating. The new colour scheme, font, and font sizes are hard to read. I found the old version much more readable. Useability has gone down to zero, I press the keys on the remote or box, but it is like nobody is home. Many people have come up with quasi-solutions such as using 'Skywatch' but the fact remains that a couple of months ago none of this was a problem and we shouldn't need to have this conversation. I have a Pace and it has frozen up 3 times since the Wednesday update, though it doesn't anymore because I don't use it. I leave it on Sky News and just watch FTA channels via the TV. It is just window dressing, blue radio screens, new graphics, but what about the content? TVNZ joined Sky, big deal, it looks the same as thru the aerial and for most of NZ provides no new programming. I don't like it at all. This is a major backwards step. I thought the idea behind technology was to IMPROVE things. From: Vik Olliver For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Sky Set-Top Boxes I too find the guide intollerably slow. I've given up using it. It is actually quicker to just surf through the channels, and if you must check out the one you fancy you hit the G button. I write small system user interfaces for a living, and one of the things you never do is write a UI that is beyond the capabilities of the device. In short, they need shooting. As I won't be crawling through the guide listings, I guess I have now found a reason to get the paper guide. That's even quicker to access, if I can find the blasted thing. Message to Sky: The best thing you can do is bring back the old interface. That one at least worked. From: Paul Kellett For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Sky TV I can only confirm how incredibly slow, buggy and less ergonomic the new software is. It appears to have been deisigned by technical specialists with little or no understanding of the basics of user interface design and I doubt whether sufficient testing was done internally. A good example of a bad example. From: Andrew For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Sky Digital The new software bites.. the games were amusing for about 5 minutes for nostalgia purposes, but if I really want to play old games I'll fire up a c64 emulator on one of my PC's.. From: Stan L For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Sky - Add one more user to your complaint list I cannot believe Sky thinks 50 dissatisfied users is not bad out of a couple of hundred thousand!!!! By golly, I reckon if we run a full story at all the major newspapers in NZ and ask all unhappy customers to email you, perhaps you could provide a more accurate stats to Sky? Well add me down as one very unhappy Sky digital customer. I'm all for new technology but I reckon someone at Sky screwed up bad time with their homework. From: Steve Peacocke For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Sky TV Someone on here recons it takes 2 seconds to change a channel - hell it takes at least 5 seconds on my system before Sky responds and begins it's "chanel change process". Then it slowly clears the screen, redraws the screen with a still picture of the new channel, then clears it and redraws again. Sometimes even then flickering. I've had Sky since about April this year so surely I would have thought I had one of the later decoders. Unfortunately our normal TV reception is so poor that I need Sky just to get something to watch, however much more of this and I'll quit. Watching the grass grow is faster and less frustrating. Games? I haven't found them yet - takes far too long to change a chanel. When they changed to the new system, it forgot my password and in my frustration in trying to get the %#!%% thing to work, I purchased programs I had no wish to watch. Then a "spending limit" icon appeared on the movies! - I'm terrified to see the next invoice as I KNOW we are up to date so what have they billed me for? Comments from others tell me that Sky can bill you for movies you KNOW you did not purchase, but their computer is always right and you must pay for them. I am that close to both chucking them in and telling everyone else to do the same. It's just not worth it, even if without it we can only get TV1 and a fuzzy TV2. From: craig sutton For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Sky /TVNZ FTA To the person who was saying they have sky just because of their poor terrestrial reception. You should be aware TVNZ have Tv1 and Tv2 up on satellite FTA with teletext on the same satellite sky uses (Optus B1) Any of the following dealers will sell you a FTA reciever for less than $300 NZ www.telsat.co.nz www.satlinknz.co.nz www.digisatnz.tv Prime and other channels are comming soon. Also the TVNZ transponder has a higher resolution picture thans Skys (720x576 vs Skys 544x576) and TVNZ's also has full teletext. From: UHFboy For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: ahahahahahah Makes me glad that i'm a 5 channel UHF llama :) look at me flick through those channels instantly... look at me open the tv guide to find out whats on... look at me load up my favourite game on my PC... sky digital?? pffffft its just an excuse so they can make everything pay per view... sod that... From: Grant For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Sky Whats wrong with the upgrade, I think its great!! Obviously I'm joking, its crap. I suppose the next Sky offer will be to rent a decoder with more ram and a faster processor for 10 bucks a month. I probably shouldn't put the idea in their heads! PS, bring back the animated weather rain radar, it was the best thing on tv since ...well.. forever! From: Chad Wilson For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Crashing.. The slowness has been commented on repeatedly, so let it be registered that I, too, am disgusted at the performance. Even worse, our receiver crashes at least once a day (equivalent to a bluescreen - a TSOG internal malfunction error) requiring me to unplug the thing manually and reboot it. Quite frankly, it's f*cking atrocious. Other times it just hangs when trying to return from the Sky Interactive screen to a regular channel. The depths of my frustration and anger over what is already an expensive service, knows no bounds. From: Ripping Silk For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: I agree Obviously I can only agree with all the bad comments toward the new sky software. Slow and laborious. I've had to turn off banner notification to get a little speed back. The guide is unusable if you want to look more than 3 channels away or more than 3 hours in the future, and thats if the listing is even available! I emailed sky last week, to complain, and have had no reply. there may be no alternatives to sky where I live.. but I'm ditching it if theres no improvement. They obviously have no sense of service to their customers. How can this crap get through the cracks in the floorboards? Who the hell approved it ? Heads should roll, and the share price should tank. Sky... you think your losing money now.? wait 'til next years financials ! From: Glenn For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Sky lose two more customers We have two Sky accounts in our house and we are sending them both back. Not only is the new EPG service appallingly slow but their customer service is crap. You can not get through on the phone and they will not respond to email. All this just to watch endless drivel at inflated prices. No thanks - I am joining a book club. "And get that fucking thing off my roof!" From: Ian O For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Solution to Sky upgrade? Has anyone tried returning their decoder to Sky with the complaint that it's running slow/crashing/whatever and is clearly no longer fit for the purpose intended. (Sale of Goods Act.) At worst you might get a new replacement model that does have enough computing grunt to cope with the 'improved' firmware. Certainly worth a crack for anyone threatening to dump their subscription From: Shane For : The Editor (for publication) Subj: Oh my this is an upgrade? I thought they might of had problems when it took so long for the 'upgrade' to roll out. My big issues are; SPEED - channel guide is FAR to slow......changing channels is also far to slow (seems to be the miniguide that holds it up) CRASHING - every now and then itll fall over when changing channels and can only be fixed by pulling out the power cable. Its a shame really as you can see how nice it would be if it were only a lot faster. As we only rent the decoders I would have thought sky would have rented them themselves and passed the cost onto us....I guess not. I'm a bit worried for sky if they are relying on the games/radio channels for revenue as I dont really see people paying for them. You would be hard pressed to find a family that could afford sky digital that doesnt already have a computer/playstion in the house. I would like to see sky replace all the decoders with ones that will run at decent speed.
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