EPG update
(February 9th 2006)
(revised February 17th 2006, and
re-revised February 28th 2006)


Sky had been planning an overhaul of the EPG for quite a while. In 2004 many Digiboxes 'failed' due to the number of channels (the 'missing channel syndrome', sometimes requiring a box to be physically unplugged and restarted several times a day!) so a fix was eventually released. This fix was more temporary than final as - apparently - there were difficulties with adding 'new' channels to the existing line-up, especially radio channels.

The 'big change' was previewed to take place in Autumn 2005. Well, Autumn came and went and all we saw was a nicer-looking EPG. Perhaps somebody out there greatly underestimated the complexities of revamping the EPG on all possible Digiboxes, even the old ones!

However a date was been set. February 28th.

The update took place in two phases...

Phase one, was the EPG being split across two pages. Pictures below. This is to make programme 'navigation' easier, as a lot of stuff was becoming hard to manage (I don't think many people realise that - with the full EPG on-screen - you can tap in a channel number to go straight to that channel; try it, call up the "All programmes" EPG and then enter 321 for The Horror Channel).
My firmware/EPG was updated around 3am on February 9th 2006. The box reset while I was watching Classic FM TV (#459). I wasn't annoyed though, it was only that overweight Italian bloke. :-)
Phase two was the biggie. All those channel numbers that you've learned will be useless. Almost everything was shaken up and rearranged. The day came and went and actually nothing was different except for a new bunch of numbers to try to memorise (it took me a year to get the last lot into my head!). Radio channels are now four-digit, beginning zero. For quite a while previous, if you tried pressing '0' on your remote, you'd have see a little speaker icon and "---" appear.
Two things much hoped for by viewers have not (yet?) transpired:


The system information, in case you're interested...

System information


So what's new?

The EPG itself has been split across two pages:
The new EPG, page 1.   The new EPG, page 2.
You can see more categories. Lifestyle & culture is stuff like Sky Travel and all those UKTV food-related channels.
It is really nice to see the radio channels listed on their own, as opposed to hanging on the end of the myriad of music channels.
It is interesting to notice that the "Religion" channels appear to all be Christian-based. Those that appear to be non-Christian ("mta-muslin" and "Islam Channel", to name two) are categorised as "International".
Specialist currently is for hard-to-categorise channels - such as Teachers' TV.


What hasn't changed?

Some things, however, have stayed the same...

You need a card to set a parental PIN. This is unlikely to change as I think the box communicates with Sky in the process of setting up a PIN - perhaps as a security measure?

You need a viewing card to set up parental controls.


The system test still requires a phone line to be connected...

System test?
What I think the Digibox requires is a system test akin to that shown below, which provides you with positive feedback to the state of the receiver...
I think this would be a better on-screen 'system test'.
(this picture is a mock-up, by the way...)


And, interestingly, Sky have not altered the yellow button and message stuff. I wonder if they ever will implement messaging? What would be kinda cool is if they could provide a phone number where you can send SMSs. The start of the SMS would be the "version" and "serial number" of the box or (if a registered Sky subscriber) some sort of shortcut (like "RicksBox"). Then the remainder of my message would be sent on to me.
For example, if you SMS'd:
   9F03060029643010I can't email you, your mailbox is full!
to Sky, then it would extract the "where to" from the numbers at the start, and then the message indicator on my box would light up. When I press the yellow button, I would see:

Message from +44767123456 at 12:34 on 6th Feb
I can't email you, your mailbox is full!
I think it is vitally important, if Sky ever do think of this, that they consider providing a means of allowing unregistered people (i.e. non-subscribers) to send messages to unregistered people (i.e. non-subscribers). After all, they would get a few pence for each SMS, wouldn't they?

Until such a thing happens, we'd still see:

No messages for me today...
And I only include this picture because it has that lovely French girl from the Renault adverts. Her name is Annelise Hesme, by the way.

An idea of how to implement this... The box should hold, internally, the last 20 messages received along with a "seen" flag. Then, upon receipt of a message, Sky should broadcast it as out-of-band data immediately, then after 15 minutes, then in increasingly longer intervals until it has been broadcast perhaps 10 or 20 times. When the box receives a message, it should check the internal message ID (perhaps a datestamp) with those it already knows about. If it is known, ignore it. If it isn't, add it to the list and turn on that yellow light! Perhaps in "Services", you can review received messages, including 'Delete' and 'Reply to sender' (will need a phone line for this!). When you delete a message, the box should probably retain the message ID (so rebroadcasts of the message, if you delete it immediately, don't cause it to appear as a 'new' message).
And how not to do it - turn on the message indicator and require the user (who'll have to be a subscriber) to get their box to call out in order to retrieve messages. As it stands I have a few people who could easily tap out an SMS to send to my Digibox to appear on-screen as a message to me. But, then, they can just as easily send an SMS to my mobile.
Make it accessible and friendly, Sky, and you might get a few pennies for each message. If not, their pennies will instead go to Orange. Your choice.
(and if I was resident in the UK, I may even have used my box to send replies - writing SMSs on my mobile is not exactly the simplest thing to do!)


For some reason, the 'Narrative' in the audio setup has been changed to 'Audio description' (which is messily abbreviated 'Audio Des' (is that like Mel&Des?)). Don't tell me that this has been dumbed down because people didn't know what 'narrative' meant!?!?

When is a narrative not a narrative?



Awesome! Awesome! Whooooo! It almost makes me want to hug some random person at Sky (and then get arrested, so I won't)...

Did they read my suggestion? This is great!

Go back up to the pictures of the new EPG index. Did you notice that little blue button? Did you notice what its caption said?

Yeah - really! The EPG will now show you the line-up of only those channels that you have marked as 'favourite'. So now you can see, on two pages, what it'd take a lot of faffing around to do in the main EPG. Oh YES! This is a real "When Harry Met Sally" moment. You know what I'm talking about. :-)

Favourites schedule, the coolest upgrade in a long time! The second page of favourites scheduling. The third page of favourites scheduling.
Oh, and I should add - in order to make this even more useful, you may now assign up to 50 'favourite' channels. This means a possible five pages of favourites schedules are possible, though I only have 30 channels (three pages) selected.


Main index

Copyright © 2006 Richard Murray