Sky and the precioussss EPG.

, posted: 29-Mar-2010 11:00

The Electronic Program Guide (EPG) is one of the best things about switching from plain and boring analogue TV to the new(ish) and free fandangled Freeview service or pay-per-month Sky TV.  The EPG tells you what's on TV now, and what you can look forward to in the future.  No more scrambling around the living room to find the TV Guide or Sky Watch - everything you need comes up on screen with the push of a button.

The EPG also allows you to more easily record your favourite programs; since we know all the days and times, setting up reoccurring recordings is a piece of cake.  Some clever cookies were providing this data for enthusiasts who didn't want to purchase a MySky PVR (Personal Video Recorder, a smarter VCR so to speak) but use their own PVR and it seems Sky have an issue with this.

The legal minds at Sky have been busy in the last few weeks, firing shots over the bow of providers (or programs) that allow you to utilise the Sky EPG.  The EPG does not allow you to get free Sky, it purely tells you what's on.  That's it.  Sky are limiting your knowledge of what's on, for something you have to be already paying for.  It makes no sense.

Instead of providing the EPG for personal use (publishing and selling it is a different story) for free as part of their subscription or for a small monthly fee, they are more interested in ostracising the subscribers who they should be embracing.  Surely the EPG isn't that precious?  Would not publishing the EPG to everyone entice non-subscribers  to sign up after seeing all the goodies that are being shown?

Sky needs to realise that overprotection of their EPG is not harmful to their core business of selling subscriptions.  The EPG should be made freely available as it is a sneak peak as to what is on, and in no way allows one to get Sky for free.

What do you think?

Screwed by ACC – good marketing, poor execution

, posted: 26-Mar-2010 23:39

What are the odds? The week that I'm holidaying here in Christchurch someone decides to lock themselves up the top of the Cathedral in the centre of the city.  I did walk past the church mid Thursday afternoon, seeing both TV news networks setup, and wonder why a banner was hanging from the look out:


The protestor was Neville Toohey, and the banner he was hanging was publicising his website -  Neville's beef is with the ACC; his major issue is they have declined his claim for back surgery

His cause is perfect for receiving sympathy from the average Joe Blogs.  The big ogre Goliath (ACC) vs the small and helpless David (Toohey).  It would be very easy to paint ACC as the faceless, uncaring corporation trying to squash the little guy.  Everyone will rally behind the under-dog. 

Toohey brilliantly caught all our attention through a very simple and cheap act - sit in a very visible (and reasonably inaccessible for the Police) part of town with a banner redirecting people to a website with more info - he could've easily capitalised on this, but I feel he's failed to realise the full potential of his cause.

His website reads as a random ramble of information.  There's no details about his specific injury, or the steps he's taken to engage the ACC over his issues - all the information I've read about his case is through the media, why is it not coming straight from the horses mouth? Where is the link to donate to his cause? Why are there not quotes from others wronged by the "evil" ACC?

The media he has been so successful at capturing seem to be now working against Toohey, as they are reporting that ACC have been more than accommodating:

"Mr Toohey's clinical records showed back-related issues from before this ACC claim, and the nature of the incident he claims caused this injury was simply `bending over'."

She said the ACC told Toohey he had the right to a free independent review of its decision, but did not accept in the three-month time frame.

When he did request a review about eight months later, he did not appear in person or make submissions, she said.

"Accordingly, his request for a late review was declined by the independent reviewer."

I'm not picking on Toohey - his claims seem valid, and he does seem to have a warranted claim with the ACC - I do wish him the best.  My thoughts are that he was successful in getting the nation's attention through a unique means and that  it's a pity he didn't do a better job at the follow through.

(Final thought: if you were planning a 24 hour sit in, anywhere, why would you not pack some basic food and water supplies?)

Who is deceiving – Close up or Campbell Live?

, posted: 22-Mar-2010 19:09

I'm watching items on Close Up and on Campbell Live right now on the opening of conservation land for mining. 

Gerry Brownlee is being interviewed live on both channels simultaneously.

Which network is deceiving us, and how can they get away with saying something is live when it obviously isn't?


Why I would avoid Euro Car Rental in Christchurch

, posted: 22-Mar-2010 11:03

I'm on holiday this week in Christchurch staying on after Saturday's Geekzone pizza evening. My partner hasn't been to the South Island before, and since redjungle hasn't either, we dragged him and his better half along with us.  The four of us are really enjoying the sights here in Christchurch.

To make transport easier for the week, we opted for a hire car.  I researched a dozen different options, and picked a hire company with a good web special.  After a couple of friendly emails regarding pickup times and multiple drivers, I was satisfied that we were going to have a trouble-free hire.

I was wrong.

My first red flag was the early phone call on Friday morning.  Even though I had entered my credit card online when booking the car, they would not charge me - I was advised they couldn't as it was illegal to without the card and the card holder present.  Why take my credit card number at booking if you won't bill me? What is the point?

My suspicions are they can't accept Card Not Present (CNP) transactions for whatever reason. If you can't bill my credit card, don't require it at booking as it serves no purpose.  The reason I enter my credit card with other companies is to speed up the pickup process - I can sign the paperwork, grab the keys and be on my merry way.

The second and more major issue came with the optional insurance.

I regularly hire cars for business trips, and am well familiar with how the insurance works.  The excess for a rental car is high, and you can select to reduce the excess; this does increases the overall hire charge but if you are concerned about the high excess it's a good option to go for.

Since we weren't going for the reduced excess, Euro Car wanted to put a hold on a credit card for the total excess amount - $2,813.50! - to be released when we returned the car.  When we declined this, the only other option was to pay an extra $220 to reduce the excess to $500, and they would only hold $500.  This increased the cost of the car to a level where we would've been better to talk to one of the hire car companies actually based at Christchurch airport.  I could understand if all the drivers were under 25 with driving convictions but we are all over 25 with clean driving records.

I have never had this issue with Thrifty (my normal car hire company).  The rental agreement stipulates that if an accident occurs you are liable for the excess, plus they have your credit card number and drivers license details on file - this is sufficient.  I'm not sure how many people have $2,800 on their credit card spare, that's not already allocated as actual holiday spending money.

Thanks Euro Car Rental, it's the first and last time we'll be using you.  Buck up your ideas and get with the standard practices that the other major industry players have.  Holding the complete excess on a credit card is unfair when you already have the contracts you require in place.  Also bill the credit card at the time of booking - it's ridiculous to not be able to, plus you get your money straight away - you seem to be trigger happy with credit card holds, so you should be able to do this.

I've learnt my lesson - stick with companies who actually want your business (should've gone with Thrifty.)


P.s. If you're in Christchurch and want to catch-up over a beer with redjungle and I this week, flick me a PM.  Your shout of course :)

Amazing 3D from Panasonic

, posted: 15-Mar-2010 10:00

Every manufacturer boasts their product as being superior to all others.  When I received an invite to see what Panasonic was bringing to 3D I was a little sceptical at all the hype, having just seen Sony's offerings.  One line in the invitation email however did catch my attention:

Winner of Best in Show at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this year.

Impressive. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so last Monday I visited Panasonic HQ to see what made this TV so special.

Panasonic TC-P50VT25 3D TV

Brand new and freshly delivered from the States, we were about to start watching the Panasonic TC-P50VT25 - a 50" plasma (note it's not a LCD) screen that was marketed to give us an experience superior to that of watching Avatar at the cinemas.  So, with a handful of other tech enthusiasts, the lights were dimmed in the board room, we donned our futuristic glasses and the demonstration began.

Powered by a Panasonic BluRay player (using HDMI standard v1.4) we were able to see a variety of 3D demo videos, one of which was the Beach Volleyball Tour held at Mt Maunganui.  The colours were crisp and bright, and 3D made watching the volleyball a new experience; some of the shots made it seem as though the ball was passing very close as it bounced out of shot. I am looking forward to broadcasters adoption of 3D channels, as live sport in 3D is as close as you can get without actually being there.

Gaming is another application that looks much better in 3D.  We watched the new Avatar game played on X-Box.  It does take some getting used to, but overall it is much easier to become fully immersed in the game when there is depth to the image.  Any military games looks amazing as bullets and other projectiles seem to leave the screen and head towards your.. head.

If you do get tired of 3D, you don't have to watch 3D all the time; a quick and easy change in the menu puts the TV into 2D mode.

Panasonic 3D glasses TY-EW3D10

The 3D active shutter glasses are half of the clever technology.  When first turned on (yes they are battery powered) they synchronise with the TV.  As you watch, each lense turns on and off rapidly, which gives you the 3D experience.  Light and able to fit easily over prescription glasses, you get full 1080p to both your left and right eyes.

One way to convince your partner/better half of indulging in this plasma is it uses a lot less power than a standard plasma or LCD screen -  it meets Energy Star 4.0 requirements so you will save on your power bill. 

FullHD3DCamcorder A 3D plasma is useless without 3D content, so Panasonic are also releasing this year the world's first integrated HD 3D camcorder, the Panasonic AG-3DA1.  Expect to see more of these at major sporting events soon.

Overall, a very impressive offering from Panasonic, and not hard to see why it took out CES.  After seeing such high definition, clear picture, it's really hard to go back to watching anything else without criticising.

To finish up, some answers to the queries I sent Panasonic following my visit, thanks to Andrew Reid, the Panasonic guru:

How does Panasonic's 3D differ from that seen in the theatres?

With the home experience the glasses are synchronised to the screen. When you turn on the glasses on they control how you see the image.

What are so special about the Panasonic 3D glasses?

To remove the possibility of crosstalk or unwanted after images, Panasonic's 3D glasses close off both eyes at the instant that the images change for the left and right eyes. They have been designed to suit many different face sizes, can be adjusted to fit and also fit over glasses.

Will there ever be 3D without needing the glasses and why?

Unsure. There are several forms of auto stereoscopic screens. Unfortunately the current technology has several major issues e.g. eye strain, severely limited viewing angle and poor resolution to name a few. If they manage to overcome these then perhaps but it doesn't seem likely any time soon.

When will broadcasters start to show 3D content?

Unsure. Overseas 3d broadcasts could be as soon as this year. Locally you would need to talk to the broadcasters.

What advantages does Panasonic have over competitors such as Sony?

Panasonic use plasma as a technology for 3D, more specifically Panasonic uses a new generation of our NEO PDP panel that has been specifically designed to handle the increased demands of 3D meaning our panel doesn't suffer from cross talk. It also offers significant improvements in terms of Contrast, colour and power consumption when in 2D mode.

Rough RRP on the glasses and TV?

Glasses will be approximately US$100, each 3D panel will come with one set of these.

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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