YouView boxes improved with both iPlayer and Netflix

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

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In the last week, there have been two very useful improvements to the YouView boxes announced. Firstly, the newer BBC iPlayer interface, which has already rolled out to many other set top boxes was made available on the YouView platform just under 2 weeks ago. Then, today, YouView have announced that Netflix is now available to a selection of the YouView set top boxes.

If you bought your YouView box from a retailer (and it is branded BT or Humax), you should find Netflix becomes available today, and, if you have a BT YouView box and you aren’t already a Netflix subscriber then BT YouView users will be able to subscribe and get the Netflix subscription charged to their BT bill (and there are rumours of an exclusive BT YouView offer from Netflix soon).

TalkTalk and Huawei YouView set top boxes are yet to receive the Netflix update, but it should be available in the New Year.
It’s very nice to see that Netflix will get integrated into the search facilities on the box for Netflix subscribers.

For those who aren’t yet a Netflix subscriber, or won’t get the update until next year, the new BBC iPlayer will at least offer you the last 30 days of BBC programmes (something that has recently rolled out to the website too), and BBC Connected Red Button services, which include BBC Sport video highlights.


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Gadget Show Live suggestions

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

I headed to a special Preview Day today at the Gadget Show Live yesterday, and can report that’s it’s going to be a good show this year.  The first year it was run I felt there were a few too many small companies selling fairly useless gadgets, but whether it’s the economy or not I don’t know, but this year there were very few useless gadgets to be seen.  Equally, two years ago everyone was selling iPhone docks, and although there were still a variety of iPad accessories, it generally felt a much more balanced show.

If you only get an hour or two to attend, my suggestions for companies to visit include:

  • LG, if only to view their ultra slim OLED TVs, which look very impressive
  • Samsung, for having a wide variety of options from TVs, home appliances and the Galaxy Tab
  • 3View, for having a Freeview PVR with a range of additional functions, such as BBC iPlayer
  • Revo, for having a decent range of good looking and quality sounding DAB radios
  • Viewsonic, for promoting their risk free ViewPad trial (which we covered here)
  • Orbitsound, for their range of impressive speakers (both portable and for your TV) using their airSOUND technology

A couple of others companies caught my attention with new gadgets, and I’ll cover those later.  I will say that although Samsung had a massive banner running the length of one of the halls advertising all 3 Android Tablets (the Tab, the new 8.9″ and the new 10.1″ tablet), they only seemed to have the original Galaxy Tab on their stand.


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Looking for a replacement for your UK TiVo?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

It seems that the Humax HDR-Fox T2 is getting a lot of attention as a potential replacement for ageing Series 1 TiVo boxes.  On 1 June 2011 TiVo will be shutting down the listings dialup service for the UK TiVo, making the devices pretty much useless (having used a TiVo without listings for over 6 weeks when moving house, I can confirm it’s very limited!).  However, the Humax HDR-Fox T2 seems to offer an interesting range of features for those who aren’t within a Virgin Media cable area (and hence cannot request the new UK 4th Generation TiVo).

It doesn’t have all the features of the old TiVo (especially if you added a network card and the web interface); but does have others to offset.  Firstly, it’s got a built in HD Freeview+ twin tuner for 2 channel recording (or recording one and playing back an existing recordign), a 2 hour live TV buffer (compared to the TiVo’s 30 minutes), can playback media from a DLNA server (or USB sticks), includes a TV portal (currently providing BBC iPlayer, but hopefully more options), Internet Radio support, Flickr and WikiTV support.  Another interesting feature is the trailer booking feature (currently on BBC and Channel 4); when a trailer for a program is on, it offers a green button option where you can then select to record the whole series, or just the single episode.  Also, there’s some intelligence; for example, it may also offer to record other similar programmes too.  Although it did not make it to the final release of the latest firmware, a beta version did also have the ability to share recordings between two Humax units, so hopefully this feature will come to a future firmware.

So, unless you absolutely need a web interface for recording programmes, then you may want to at least consider the Humax HDR-Fox T2 (available in 500GB and 1TB options); even the 500GB version can record up to 300 hours of programmes.

I know a couple of people who have ordered the Humax to replace a UK TiVo, so hopefully we’ll be able to provide more feedback on the good and bad in advance of the 1 June when current UK TiVos will become a lot less effective.


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TiVo finally going to be available soon

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Virgin Media have this week announced more details of their TiVo plans.  Although the roll out will start in mid-December, for most people you won’t actually get service until early 2011 (it’s not clear whether the rollout is location based, or just limited stocks).  However, I can confirm that although the box will ship with a two tuner capability, it will be enhanced early next year to have a three tuner capability.  Even better for early adopters, this will simply need a software upgrade to enable (ie the hardware is already there), and not an actual hardware upgrade.

The Virgin Media TiVo box will be provided with a dedicated 10mb connection via the fibre network, which will not impact the customer’s own broadband connection, and will not count towards any limits or throttles.  Virgin Media also confirmed:

“The service launches initially with apps from major web brands including catch-up TV from BBC iPlayer, videos from YouTube, shopping from the online marketplace eBay, Tweets from Twitter and photos from sites such as Facebook, and the app line up will expand over the next several months.

The service will be supported by a brand new set-top box offering 1 terabyte of storage – up to 500 hours of standard definition programming – as well as access to 4,600 hours of TV shows, movies and music on demand. In due course, there will also be the facility to set recordings remotely via online and mobile devices.

Featuring cutting edge hardware design, the Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo box will have three tuners [UKG: once the software update comes next year], allowing viewers to record two channels whilst watching a third so recording conflicts become a thing of the past. The future-proofed service will automatically be updated with new features and functionality as they become available.

Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo will begin to roll-out from mid-December. Standard price of £199 [UKG: plus £40 installation charge], plus £26.50 per month [UKG: when taken with a phone line too; else it’s £32.50 per month] for the XL TiVo package which features over 160 channels, an unrivalled TV on demand library and access to all standard HD channels.”

For further information, or to register for interest in getting the new TiVo service, visit: www.virginmedia.com/TiVo.


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Improvements to an O2 Joggler

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Earlier this year, O2 were selling their O2 Joggler units for only £50 (they are still available, but back to the more common £100 price).  Many of us (me included) bought one at that time.  After an initial flurry of enabling telnet (allowing remote network access into the device), and using that access to install some other native apps (Google Maps, Google Calendar, Twitter, Flickr; though that last one never did quite worked properly), many of us either turned them off, sold them, or simply left them doing what they were designed for; running small apps.

However, a small community of users have persevered and actually released a whole range of updates and additional applications for the Joggler.  I’m not aware of many developers stepping up and releasing apps; it’s more the community have worked out how to get other existing apps to work on the devices, or they have worked out ways to tweak the device for better access.

Whilst I was manually installing apps, I heard of a user who was creating a set of scripts called “Pimp my Joggler”, or PMJ.  This took a lot of the hassle out of enabling telnet and installing those apps.  Like many others, having already done the hard work and worked out ways of enabling things, it didn’t offer a great deal extra (especially after Quinten released his script to enable telnet from a USB memory key).

Since then, other users have also joined in, and suddenly there is an impressive tool that’s well worth installing on your O2 Joggler; Plug’n’Pimp.  This doesn’t have a lot of similarities with the early tools, which are still useful, and shouldn’t be dismissed, but what is does offer is an easy way to upgrade and install a couple of really useful applications as well…

It installs from a USB memory key (you put the files in to the root directory, insert the USB key into the USB socket, and power up the Joggler).  Once complete, it will use the built in Messages application to confirm it has been successful (and again for other software updates).  The first nice feature is that you access the Joggler using a web browser to manage this new application.  Once there, you can install a number of new applications:

  • BBC Live player; giving you access to a range of BBC channels to stream live (UK only)
  • A PDF reader
  • Opera Mobile; see more below
  • Squeezebox Server; a version of the home audio media player
  • SqueezePlay; see more below
  • An SWF Manager; to allow a wider range of SWFs files to work on the Joggler

I’ll come back to a couple of those tools in a while.  As well as those, you can install a number of tools onto the Joggler:

  • Driver pack; improved drivers (including a better wireless driver, and adds support for NTFS)
  • Screen Off; a button to turn off the screen
  • Restart; a button to restart the O2 interface
  • Samba support; this allows the Joggler to be able to access Windows / Samba shares over the network

You can also tweak some of the settings of the device (such as Brightness, enabling and disabling auto-dim).  The key reason why I like this app though it that it will check for updates to itself and the various installed applications for you, and allow you to keep everything up to date without needing to constantly be checking around lots of different forums and websites and then manually applying lots of updates to the O2 Joggler.

For me though, two apps have stood out; Opera Mobile and SqueezePlay.  Opera Mobile; yes, a full web browser on the device, which is the one function that everyone was annoyed that it was not included from day one.  Being Opera Mobile, it’s designed for a full touch interface, and has access to a QWERTY keyboard whenever input is required.  You can even turn on advance features like Opera Turbo, to use compression to require less data to access websites.  Opera Mobile also supports a wide range of Opera Widgets, and these all seem to work fine on the Joggler, so there’s a Wikipedia widget included straight away, support for Instant Messaging, even ping.fm, and many more available for download.

Finally, for me, but I appreciate not all, there is SqueezePlay.  For those who have a Slim Devices (now Logitech) Squeezebox, you’ll be well used to the “Squeeze” name.  SqueezePlay is the dekstop audio client of the Squeezebox Server, and uses the same UI as used in the latest generation of Squeeze products.  Once installed, this auto discovered my Squeezebox Server, and immediately had access to all my home audio music.  As it’s the same program, it also supports third party apps and additional plugins to offer even more functions, so there’s a Flickr plugin and even a Facebook client!  As it uses the standard functions, you can extend this even further; I’ve got a map of the world showing the areas of the world in daylight as the screensaver for when in SqueezePlay, which comes from a plugin extension.

With these additional apps installed, my O2 Joggler has received a new lease of life; due to it’s speed, it’s never going to be the main web browser in the house, but with the ability to fit into my whole house audio music system, and the ability to easily access particular websites and snippets of information, it’s suddenly looking a lot more useful.  I’ve not gone as far as to move the Squeezebox Server onto the Joggler itself; but with the ability to access large external USB disks or network shares, this is certainly possible!

For more info on Plug’n’Pimp and many other customisations and tweaks, head over to the Joggler.Info forums, whose users and FAQs provided key information to allow me to install these additional apps.


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Joggler update

Friday, April 9th, 2010

O2 Joggler

We covered the reduced price on the O2 Joggler last week (here), and it looks like this has been very popular; to the extent that most O2 Stores have now run out of stock, and O2 have advised all Stores there is a Nationwide shortage.  So, right now, if you want to order one, you’ll need to order direct on the O2 website, where O2 have also indicated that delivery is now up to 7 days, instead of the original Next Day Delivery.

In fact, this might be the only way of getting one at the reduced price of £49.99; we understand that stock will not return to the O2 Warehouse until late next week, and the earliest an O2 Store can order new stock will be the 17th April; which is after the reduced price offer finishes (15th April).  Although it’s possible an online order will also need to wait for this stock to arrive, at the moment you can still order it at the reduced price.

Now, once you get your O2 Joggler, what to do with it?  Well, first of all, get all the software updates, as this will add all the latest functionality.  Try these things which might be worthy of doing:

  • If you don’t already have a uPNP Server, then you might want to install MediaTomb (Linux and Mac OS X only) to provide access to your music  / pictures / videos over your local network without having to make another copy of your media collection for the Joggler.
  • If you want to install additional applications, the first thing you’ll need to do is to get telnet working, and there’s now a new way of doing this, that was released yesterday; head here for more information.
  • Or, for those more security conscious, get ssh working from here.
  • Setup the ability to access Live BBC Channels (see here; you’ll need to have telnet access, and you’ll need to use telnet to get the streams working).

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TiVo returning to the UK!

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Virgin Media

Good news: TiVo is returning to the UK!

Not so good news (depending on where you live): It’s with Virgin Media

Probably the only company that could realistic bring TiVo back to the UK has done just that; Virgin Media and TiVo announced this week they will be working together to produce Virgin’s next generation HD boxes.  TiVo is providing the software to allow this, which will include Video-on-Demand and Broadband delivery of video too.  The TiVo functionality will be in both Virgin’s DVR and non-DVR boxes, which is all good news.

Given Virgin offer both their traditional Cable Modem service and ADSL, it’s not clear whether you’ll need to be within the 50% of the population covered by Cable TV, or whether it will be possible to get access to the TiVo features via an ADSL connection, but this is still very good news for those of us who have supported TiVo for many years.

Of course the other interesting situation is that Virgin already offer BBC iPlayer on their set top boxes, so assuming they don’t intend to remove that functionality, we may see the TiVo solution supporting BBC iPlayer (and even the other networks’ alternatives too, creating a very compelling solution, and one that can truly rival Sky).


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Another Touchscreen DAB radio

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Roberts Colourstream

This is the new Roberts ColourStream radio, which is yet to be formally announced or released by Roberts, but at least one website already has the item with specifications, so we can reproduce them here.

As well as being a DAB and FM radio, it features an iPod Dock (possibly only supporting the iPhone in offline mode), but also sporting a 3.5″ colour touch screen for many of the controls. In other respects, it seems to offer a similar feature set to that of the Roberts STREAM 83i (USB media playback, Internet radio).  It can make use of the BBC Listen Again function, has an AUX in socket, as well as Line OUT and Headphone sockets.

Until more details are released, it’s not clear if this unit will also play last.fm radio (as the Roberts STREAM 83i does), so we’ll update you when we get more information.

However, with a price of £400, I think many will prefer the styling of either the Revo IKON (see here) or the PURE Sensia (see here), and personally, we would head to the Revo IKON.

Also, we note that both this device and the Roberts STREAM 83i we covered last week (here) may not have DAB+ support (thanks to Paul Webster at his DABDig website for drawing our attention to this point), which may limit it’s usefulness in the future, should the UK ever decide to adopt this standard (other European countries are already rolling out DAB+, so lack of support may impact your ability to use either radio whilst travelling).

Specs courtesy of DNA Car Audio (via Paul’s DABDig website).


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BBC bring improved iPlayer to the Wii

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

iPlayer on Wii

Having launched support for the Wii earlier this year (using the browser and Flash support), last week BBC went live with an improved iPlayer solution using their own embedded code and are now featured as their own channel within the Wii Menu.

To get the new menu, head to the Wii Shop, and you should find the new BBC iPlayer Channel available in the Wii Shop for 0 points (ie free).  However, you may find you need to apply a Wii System Update first (if this is needed, you’ll be notified as you enter the Wii Shop Channel).

Once it’s all downloaded, it runs smoothly, although as with the PC client, the streaming will be dependent on the bandwidth your broadband has; and the BBC have released some interesting figures about bandwidth requirements…

As the Wii cannot handle a very high frame rate, the Wii iPlayer client “only” needs around 700Kb/sec (using the H.264 codec), and the BBC have said that any higher resolution or data rate would cause the CPU to struggle and frames would be lost.  Although the Wii obviously can’t support HD, this does mean that HD content is not available, only SD.

The BBC also confirmed that the normal PC client uses roughly 1,500Kbit/sec for SD content, and around 3,200Kbit/sec for HD.  What do these figures mean; well, for people like us stuck out in the countryside on a 512Kbit/sec ADSL line, even the Wii iPlayer client will struggle from time to time, and needs to stop and buffer the data for a while, but it shouldn’t be as bad as the PC client.

There’s no download option (unlike the PC or mobile client) so it’s streaming only.

However, the nice feature of this improved Wii client is that it does give access to the BBC iPlayer content on your TV without needing a PC plugged into the TV, although there are some nice fanless options out there for those who do want to do this (including a device we hope to cover soon here on UK Gadgeteer).

Screenshot of iPlayer on the Wii courtesy of BBC.


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O2 and PURE announce Internet Radio collaboration

Monday, November 16th, 2009

O2 Joggler

O2 have today announced a collaboration between themselves and PURE Digital, bringing PURE’s The Lounge Internet Radio streams to the O2 Joggler, and at the same time, reduced the price down to £99.99.  The O2 Joggler, if you remember, is a proprietary device offering access to a limited set of applications providing access to certain facilities (Weather, Road Traffic, News, Sports, local photo display, and messaging).  In fact, back in the March launch, O2 talked about Messaging and Internet Radio following in May, although only the Messaging support got added (and in June); so finally, they have added the Internet Radio support originally promised!

By working with PURE Digital, they are providing a “selection of the most popular UK BBC and commercial radio stations” (around 100 stations in total) out of the 12,000 or so available via PURE directly, although there’s no word as to whether the O2 Joggler also supports the listen again facilities of The Lounge.

O2 have also announced that the device will be upgraded from Flash 8 to Flash 10, and have announced an SDK will shortly be available to allow developers to create 3rd party application for this device, which will then be accessible to users via a dedicated App Store, which should be available before the end of the year (although based on pretty much all the timeframes so far being missed with this device, don’t hold your breath!)

Initially, the O2 Joggler App Store will only support free applications, which is probably a good move; and any developers interested in developing for this device should look at some of the UK specific widgets developed for the Chumby platform to understand what might work for the UK.  As a hint, Flickr photo display, Live UK train departure / arrival information, and BBC support would all help the device, not to mention apps such as instant messaging and Social Networking support, plus last.fm and/or Spotify support would help make this device sell better, and compete against the PURE Sensia and it’s own application support.

Of course, whether O2 would authorise all those applications is another story, but as the device does not use their 3G network (only the local broadband connection), there is little reason to limit the device, and support like this could in time make it a firm favourite with O2 customers…


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