Sorry MySky. I have TiVo now

, posted: 9-Jul-2012 06:00

Today marks me having a TiVo, and not having MySky, for about a month.

As someone who grew up with Sky, not having it was very strange at first.  I've had a MySky since they first came out, and I always watched recordings (never Live TV), and fast forwarded the ads.  Even when visiting friends and family who didn't have it, I would praise how amazing the mighty MySky was, and that they should get one as well.

Once I started watching Netflix and Hulu Plus, my opinion of Sky changed.  I was able to source much better and more up-to-date content, for half the cost of my Sky subscription.  It was a no-brainer - I dumped Sky, and TiVo was the natural choice as a DVR for Freeview.

I'll admit that the TiVo has taken some getting used to.  The remote is very different from the MySky remote, but after some practice, I don't look back.

The TiVo does lots of things better than MySky, my favourites include:
  • Like a particular program, say Top Gear? You can setup a recording so when it appears on any channel, the TiVo will record it.  With a MySky, you have to select each and every recording, and if a new one appears on another channel, you'll miss it.
  • Rewind/fast forward - the TiVo shows you a few frames ahead/behind as you fast forward, so when you realise you're past the ad breaks, and click Play, TiVo will stop at the right point exactly. Clever.
  • You can setup particular shows (like the news) to delete after one show, so instead of filling up your hard-drive with old news, you only keep the latest (you can do the opposite for sitcoms you want to keep for longer).  There's no option for this on MySky.
  • If you have multiple TiVos, you can watch any recording from any TiVo on any of them, plus you can export recordings.  MySky can't even do anything close to this.
  • Bigger hard-drive - four times the capacity for HD content of MySky.
  • No monthly subscription.
MySky still has the upper hand with mobile apps for remote recordings (both iPhone and Android) and if you really like sport, there's not really a good alternative.

If you aren't a big sports fan (I'm not) TiVo works well, and we all know most of the stuff on Sky is repeats.

Game Masters Media Preview

, posted: 28-Jun-2012 13:48


I'm currently in Melbourne about to head across to the Game Masters Media Preview.

I'll be tweeting and posting pics as much as I can from my twitter account if you want to follow along (@nate), or I'll give a complete summary on my blog tomorrow.

Excel is not a customer database

, posted: 25-Jun-2012 06:00

With surprising frequency I'm meeting with businesses who are using an Excel spreadsheet (or spreadsheets) as their primary store for customer info.  It's not until I point out some big flaws with this approach that they realise that this isn't a future proofed solution, and when it breaks, there will be tears.

It starts out innocently enough - with a handful of customers, and a staff member or two, a shared Excel spreadsheet is quick and simple to setup.  To get around concurrency issues (not being able to open the same spreadsheet by two separate people) staff call across the office and get the other person to close their copy down.  All works well until the company expands not only their customer base but their staff as well.  Spreadsheets weren't designed to work this way.

Excel isn't the one to blame here.  Excel was designed as a tool to do reports, analysis, what-if scenarios.  It was never designed to be a database with hundreds of rows and multiple worksheets.

The three biggest issues I see with trying to use Excel this way are:

Data redundancy

Data redundancy is having information that is repeated in two or more places.  The classic example of this is a customer's address and phone numbers.  In an ideal world, you would store these details in one place, and they would flow through to all your different systems such as sales, support, accounts etc. 

You can't do this in Excel - where you need the customer's details, you need to have another copy of them stored.  When a customer comes to update these details, multiple places have to be updated, and if one is missed, this causes issues.


It's not easy to run complex reports such as "what products have we sold the most of and to whom" or "what is the most popular product" - all you have is pages and pages of data.


You may want some parts of a customers record (like their credit limit) not accessible/editable by some staff - can't do this in Excel.  It is an all or nothing list. 


So what's the solution? Find CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software to keep track of all this or get a solution custom written (blatant plug: by someone like us). 

Investing time and money when your business is small and easy to manage will pay big dividends as it grows, and allow you to expand easily without causing further headaches.

Save $600pa on your home phone and internet

, posted: 18-Jun-2012 06:00

Short version: Swap to VoIP and naked DSL.

Below is my example on how to reduce your home phone and internet bill by $50/month.  Your mileage will vary.

I've been meaning to take a look at my parent's telecommunications for some time - they were with Telecom (and had been for sometime) for their phone line and broadband.  When they received a call from a Telecom rep offering them a sharper deal and mum called me for my opinion, I decided to stop being lazy and work out a better deal for them.

Their April bill was pretty standard:


After doing some research online, I found Snap offered the best deal for naked DSL, and used 2Talk for VoIP (I prefer VFX but they don't allow multiple concurrent registrations, meaning, I can't have one number registered to multiple devices). 

The spreadsheet I used to compare the two offerings was:




Foot notes:
  • Snap naked broadband is $60 a month for 10GB, I added a $15 data pack to take it to 70GB (Telecom was only 60GB)
  • I'm unsure about whether wire maintenance is still there, so I've added it to the Snap + 2Talk offering so as not to unfairly skew my results
  • There is a one-off porting fee of $20 per number.
By porting (or moving) their main phone number to 2Talk, they were able to retain their residential phone number.  I also took their existing cordless phones and plugged them into the FXS ports on an old Draytek Vigor2700 router I had spare, which means they were able to keep using the phones they were used to.

New benefits:
  • Saving $50 a month on their phone and internet bills
  • Paying only 22 cents per minute for mobile calls (old rate was 46 cents).  Unfortunately they didn't make any national calls, so I had nothing to compare with.
  • All of the 2Talk features, which include call waiting, caller display, voicemail-to-email to name a few (comprehensive list here)
The biggest vulnerability is if the internet goes down or if there's a power outage - since they couldn't remember the last time either happened, they were happy to resort to mobile, and didn't want to invest in an UPS (backup power supply).

If you lack the technical expertise to do this all yourself, the Orcon Genius can achieve the same thing in one device.

Finally, my biggest advice for anyone attempting this: porting numbers will drop any attached services.  If you port a phone number, and there's broadband on that line, the broadband will be disconnected.  Please check and double-check all details before attempting a number port.

User accessibility, and keeping the bad guys out

, posted: 11-Jun-2012 06:00

As a developer, all the systems we create have end-users.  There is a delicate balance between make sure a user is who they say they are, and stopping unauthorised access.  Make it too easy and their data can be compromised - too difficult, and our helpdesk gets flooded daily with calls from users who can't legitimately get into their systems.  The tried-and-true method for user/pass combination is email address and a password.

As a user, I hate systems that impose ridiculously complex rules when it comes to me selecting a password.  If I pick a password that is ridiculously simple, I should suffer any adverse implications for my poor decision.  Making me remember a login that isn't my primary email address (such as a username/account ID) is just as annoying.

The worst offender for a system I use often is our credit card processor - if someone did get access to my account, the worst they could do is transfer funds to our company bank account.  Nothing else remotely useful is available, yet they enforce a very complex pattern, and make me change it every month.

Another good example of this is in a recent thread by Geekzone user Lurch - he highlights the issue of signing up to Vodafone's careers site:

Please note that the password must respect the following rules:

  • It must contain between 6 and 50 characters. Use only characters from the following set: ! # $ % & ( ) * + , - . / 0123456789 : ; < = > ? @ ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ [ \ ] _ ` abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz { | } ~
  • It must contain at least 2 letter(s) (ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz).
  • It must contain at least 1 numeric character(s) (0123456789).
  • It must contain at least 1 character(s) from the following set: ! # $ % & ( ) * + , - . / : ; < = > ? @ [ \ ] _ ` { | } ~
  • It must not contain more than 2 identical consecutive characters (AAA, iiii, $$$$$ ...).
  • It must not contain your user name.
  • It must not contain your email address.
  • It must not contain your first name.
  • It must not contain your last name.

Just to sign up to a careers site, you have to jump through all these hoops.  Over the top much?

I originally had a whole blog post here outlining what I think is a better solution, but instead micsco's post from xkcd sums it up far better than I can:


nate's profile

New Zealand

I'm Nate Dunn, and I work for 3Bit, and am a moderator here at Geekzone.

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The views and opinions represented on this blog are personal and belong solely to the blogger and do not represent in anyway those of 3Bit Solutions Limited or any other company.

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