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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Humax HDR-Fox T2 Review

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

On 14th Feb 2011 TiVo announced to the UK that it would no-longer be providing Guide information to UK Series 1 TiVo owners, read the blog post in full here.

A replacement for beloved TiVo had to be found. After much searching of the net, it was decided that a Humax HDR-Fox T2 would be TiVo’s successor.  Available in both 500GB and 1TB models offering twin tuners for simultaneous recording and viewing or multiple recordings.

To found out how we got on after the delivery arrived please click to read the full article.

(more…)


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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 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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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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Linutop create new model

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Linutop 3

This is the Linutop 3, a small form factor PC running Linux.  Linutop promote these PCs for various usages; kiosks, digital signage, standalone usage, but we think these PCs also work well in a couple of other scenarios too; as fanless PCs, they can serve well in bedrooms, or in the lounge to act as a quiet PC for various internet tasks.

The Linutop 3 has a Via C7 1GHz processor (compared to the Geode 500MHz in the Linutop 2), and features 1GB DDR2 RAM (up from 512KB) and 2GB of Flash (up from 1GB).

In fact, we’ve had a Linutop 2 in for review for some while, and really accpreciate the additional effort Linutop has taken with the OS; as well as providing a customised Ubuntu install (based on Ubunto v8.04), it also features additional controls, such as locking the whole OS so nothing is preserved between boots (very useful for kiosk environments).  On top of that, Linutop update their OS image every few months, incorporating the latest software updates into the core Flash image, allowing valuable space that the software updates take up to be reclaimed.  You can also backup to a USB key, or boot and restore the device from a key (providing a nice easy upgrade path when they release the new OS images, although you do lose all data).

Within that OS image, Linutop include Firefox (with Flash support), OpenOffice, VLC Media Player, and even Pidgin Instant Messaging.

The Linutop 3 is larger than the Linutop 2 (9.3 x 9.3 x 2.2 inches, compared to 5.5 x 5.5 x 1.4), is a little heavier, and now draws 20 Watts instead of a more average 8 Watts from the Linutop 2.  This low power consumption makes these devices very good for leaving permanently on all the time, without the normal overhead of a full PC.  However, these devices will never compete on speed of tasks, so be prepared for a slightly slower experience.

In other areas, the Linutop 3 offers DVI support and a higher resolution that than the Linutop 2 (now 1920 x 1080), more USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet (up from Fast Ethernet), and an internal PCIe expansion option.

Our biggest issue with the Linutop 2 is the difficulty in getting BBC iPlayer working on the device, which would make it a lot more useful…

The Linutop 3 sells for €340, and the Linutop 2 is still available at €280 (both require an additional €28 for delivery) direct from the manufacturer here.  By the way, if you think the Linutop 2 is the same as other manufacturer’s devices in the same form factor (eg the Viglen unit), think again; the Linutop 2 is a higher spec device, both in terms of memory, flash and processor.


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Nokia N86 released today on 3UK

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Nokia N86 8mp in Indigo

3UK have today released the Nokia N86 for sale, both online and in their stores.  As well as the super-wide angle Carl-Zeiss lens on the 8 megapixel camera, the phone offers a whole range of features, from SatNav (via Nokia Maps including a compass), to the vibrant OLED display (with a hard scratch-resistant glass front), a kickstand, 8GB of memory, TV-out, and an FM transmitter.  If you are an existing Nokia N95 or Nokia N95 8GB and are coming out of your existing contract, and want to continue with the same form factor, then this device is most likely the one for you!

On top of all of this, 3UK have ensured that their Skype, Email on 3 and Windows Live Messenger clients are available at launch too (they’ve also got Facebook support, but that’s just a link to m.facebook.com).  In fact, most of the apps aren’t pre-installed, but linked from the Favourites, to allow them to be installed.  However, the BBC iPlayer client will be included as well.

In terms of colour, 3UK have the Indigo Black version available now, and are planning to have the white version around January 2010 (which may imply another network has a 3 month exclusive on the white version).

If you are interested in the Nokia N86, head over to the 3Store to find out more about this phone.


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Nokia E71 and N95 to get formal BBC iPlayer support

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

BBC iPlayer

It looks like later today BBC will formally release their iPlayer client for the Nokia N95 and Nokia E71 phones.  Although there have been tricks and hacks to get the iPlayer working on these phones, BBC are going to formally support them as from today.  If you head to http://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer from your N95 or E71 you will be able to download the iPlayer client for your phone.  However, it will only support downloading content via Wi-Fi, not via 3G.

Update: We’ve now had more information from the BBC (from here); although BBC programme downloads are available on the Nokia E71, they are not available on the Nokia N95 or Nokia N95 8GB due to a lack of DRM certificates pre-installed by Nokia. Also, the BBC have stated that 3UK and Vodafone are able to offer 3G access to the programmes, but at this stage, access is not available to the other UK networks .


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Symbian software and Firmware updates

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Nokia 5800

Firstly, here are some highlights of software releases that have happened over the last few weeks that we haven’t already covered (interestingly many of them focused on the new S60 5th Edition):

  • Nokia have released a Friend View version for S60 5th Edition devices (ie the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and the Nokia N97); if you previously installed the S60 3rd Edition (which did pretty much work, but wasn’t optimised for touch input), then you need to fully uninstall it before installing the new software.  To download it, simply head here on your mobile.
  • Nimbuzz have updated their multi-IM client (now v2.0) with S60 5th Edition support too. Nimbuzz includes IM support for Google Talk and MSN, SIP support and even Skype (with SkypeOUT too), and it’s available to directly download to your phone from here.
  • Nokia Beta Labs have updated their S60 3rd Edition (original and FP1 versions) Ovi Contacts application, which should now feature more reliable voice messages and location sending features.  With some server side changes, you are now able to search for contacts (with the ability for individuals to opt-out of appearing the searches), and this client should now be available via Download! (until it’s replaced by the Nokia Ovi Store) and via nokia.mobi.  Head to here for more details.
  • Nokia have released a new Beta application; Nokia Point & Find, which is designed to provide you with real time information on things you point the phone’s camera out.  Right now, it mainly works well with movie posters and barcodes but Nokia has put some clever thought into this; if you select a movie poster it not just show details, including reviews, ratings, but will use the GPS location to provide additional information such as show times, the closest cinema showing the movie, and (limited to the UK) may even offer to allow you to purchase tickets there and then.  More information is available from here.
  • Nokia have released a beta version of their Nokia Messaging application for S60 5th Edition, and more information can be found about this version here.
  • Gerry over at nokiAAddict has confirmed that the BBC have fixed their iPlayer client on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, such that you can now download TV onto your device for later viewing again (this problem seemed to mainly affect those who had upgraded to the latest v21 firmware).

Since we released our last Branded firmware update where we requested help on providing product codes for various devices, we received a number of helpful comments from various people, and now appear to have a full set of Nokia 5800 XpressMusic operator product codes for the UK (we’re still missing a couple of product codes for the Nokia E71, so if you have a Nokia E71, we’d be grateful for a quick comment including the product code (found under the battery) and which network the device came from).  However, we can now confirm that the situation with the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic looks like this:

  • v21 was released a couple of weeks ago, having replaced v20 (compared to the v10 or v11 that most devices originally shipped with)
  • We can confirm that T-Mobile, Vodafone, O2  and even Virgin (the first Virgin phone we’ve tracked!) should all now have access to v20, however
  • Orange devices are still stuck back at v11

It appears that for different networks, different phones seem to suffer from greater delays with firmware updates, and we’d like to see the networks providing more timely updates.


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