Microsoft TV platform

Discussion in 'Satellite TV, Sky TV & FreeSat' started by michaelab, Jul 11, 2002.

  1. michaelab

    michaelab
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    Anyone heard of this? Anyway, my local cable company (TVCabo in Portugal) has started an interactive digital TV service which uses the Microsoft TV platform. See here for details.

    I'm more interested in the EPG and the built in DVR (TiVo like) features such as digital recording, time shifting and pausing/rewinding live TV than specific 'interactive' features but I'll see what they're like. Should be installed this evening.

    What I'm really hoping is that Bernie Ecclestone gets off his a*se and sorts out getting digital pay per view Formula 1 coverage to Portugal. If and when he does then I imagine this setup would be the best one to take advantage of it.

    Michael.
     
  2. billduff

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    Never heard of it but Microsoft in the UK own a chunk of Telewest (about 25%) so maybe we might start to see it over here.

    On the F1 issue, it more like Bernie dropping his price. Apparently he charges the networks a fortune to get the feeds. He did cough up about £500m to pay for the equipments and transporters so I suppose he's got to get his cash back somehouw.
     
  3. Squirrel God

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    Microsoft's TV platform has been out for a while, but hasn't really taken off with the set-top box users who have preferred offerings from Open, Liberate etc.

    It's all part of Microsoft's .net "strategy"...
     
  4. michaelab

    michaelab
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    I don't think the set-top-box users have much of a say - they just have to take whatever the cable or satellite company decides it will use. Unless by users you mean the cable and satellite companies :)

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting mine installed. Thought it would be today but turns out that was just signing the contract :(

    I'd have gone for it for nothing else other than getting a good digital picture. The fact that an EPG and DVR is thrown into the set-top-box is a bonus (a big bonus it has to be said). I wonder if Sky News interactive ('press the red button') will work here or if it only works for UK satellite subscribers.

    Michael.
     
  5. Squirrel God

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    Well... I use "users" to mean mainly the cable and satellite companies, but also the businesses that are trying to use the DTV platform for e-commerce, advertising, etc. Human users also have a say because they take part in trials as part of market research. This is why I prefer to use the term "users" rather than just refer to the cable and satellite companies (and this term is used in this way quite commonly in industry magazines and literature).

    It's still an experimental area with the technology changing rapidly (particularly in the US, e.g. Time Warner cable's recent changes in set-top box and programme offerings).

    Billduff is right about Microsoft's stake in NTL and I suspect that this was solely to help push their TV platform and enhance the presence of .net. With DTV having the potential for Microsoft to reach the largest number of home users (i.e. those who watch TV rather than those who own PCs), it's not a market that they want to keep out of. ;)
     
  6. michaelab

    michaelab
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    Looking at the Microsoft TV web site (from the link in my original post) they are clearly well chuffed about the TV Cabo contract. It seems like TV Cabo really went for the lot - Microsoft TV platform front to back and the most sophisticated set-top-box option.

    Still TV Cabo only has about 2 million subscribers so it's hardly the biggest market in the world! I guess MS are hoping that if all goes well in Portugal that other European companies might get interested.

    Michael.
     
  7. michaelab

    michaelab
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    OK - got my Interactive TV STB from TVCabo today. It's basically just a PC in a different box! Here are a couple of pics:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Interface, with keyboard remote etc is pretty much as you'd expect. DVR is a little clunky but useable. Only downside is that you can only program future recordings off the EPG - some channels don't supply this information so you're stuffed. I believe that Sky+ suffers from the same issue.

    There's only one extremely irritating feature of the service which is that if your on a channel/program which has some interactive content then this little 'i' in a box logo appears about half way down on the left hand side of the picture. I'm hoping there's a way I can get rid of that otherwise I may unsubsribe from the service. They could at least have put it in one of the corners!

    Now - I'd love to know how to hack into this thing :D Anyone have any clues where I could look for tips?

    Michael.
     
  8. MAW

    MAW
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    Are those 3 phonos component out? or just audio, + spdif
     
  9. michaelab

    michaelab
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    They're not component out. The white and the red are audio and the yellow is marked 'video' which I guess is spdif (why's it called that?).

    Interestingly though it has VGA out (useful as I will shortly be getting a projector). Will have to try and hook up an old 15" monitor I have lying around to see how it works. It also has S-Video out.

    I don't know what the yellow and black phono sockets are on the same 'card' as the coax cable input.

    For non AV ports it also has serial port, 2 USBs, an RJ45 network connector and the standard headphone jack sound card sockets.

    Michael.
     
  10. MAW

    MAW
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    regrettably, that yellow is the lowest grade video. not spdif then. I can't read the labels though the pic is v. interesting. NTL Pace boxes here have rj45 for broadband internet connection, the serial port is apparently just for programming at the factory, whether the 'VGA' port will be functional is fascinating! At least you have S-video, which will save you £65 for an RGB converter if it doesn't work.
     
  11. michaelab

    michaelab
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    Well - I've had it for a day now and things aren't looking so rosy anymore:

    First of all, it seems to 'crash' a lot and even when it does powering the STB off and then on again doesn't always work as it seems to hang on startup. Usually at least 2 on/off cycles are required. It's beginning to have all the hallmarks of a Microsoft product!

    Secondly, and perhaps the nail in the coffin for me at least is this:

    [​IMG]

    See that little yellow box with the "i in a TV" logo (Interactive TV) in it on the left hand side of the picture? Well, that little thing is there ALL THE TIME on all channels with interactive content which is pretty much all of them.

    If I can't get rid of it or at least get it moved into a corner then it's back to regular old analogue cable for me. I like the much improved digital image quality and the DVR features but if I can't watch TV without a silly iTV icon slap in the middle of the picture the whole time I can live without them.

    Has anyone ever seen anything so ridiculous?

    Michael.
     
  12. Squirrel God

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    There is a solution for this with BBCi etc. If you do a search of the forums you'll find out what keys to press on the remote. It might work in this case as well....
     
  13. michaelab

    michaelab
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    I did a forum search and couldn't find anything about removing the 'interactive' icon. I'm going to give TV Cabo a call to see if they know anything (and if they don't to complain!).

    Michael.
     
  14. Squirrel God

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  15. michaelab

    michaelab
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    Thanks! At the moment my STB has totally crashed and refuses to boot up so I can't try it. Also, I don't have a 'backup' button but I have a 'back' button (as in, back to the previous page) so maybe that will work.

    Anyway, there's a tech. coming around tomorrow evening to look at my STB and maybe he'll know of a way.

    Michael.
     
  16. Squirrel God

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    Not hard to see why Microsoft's TV platform has not really taken off is it? Good lawd!

    Have to say, their first few releases of anything are always crap. Then after numerous revisions, they finally release something decent. Remember how awful Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word were in the early days? Only now are they decent products.
     
  17. billduff

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    On my Telewest box I use the 'TV' button to clear the interactive notice. Its the same button that brings up the 'Now and Next' mini-guide.

    On the Microsoft isue. Bill Gates was quoted once as saying 'Never buy version 1 on anything Microsoft produce'. I think it was when Win95 launched and someone how bad the first version was (DOS based boxes that you could switch between).

    Doesn't seem like much has changed.
     
  18. michaelab

    michaelab
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    The tech. came around to 'fix' my STB today. After 2 or 3 failed attempts to start it up it did eventually work.

    He said: "These boxes are sh*t and have real over heating problems, if you turn them off the hard disk can get stuck so it needs to go through a few on/off cycles to unstick it" :eek:

    Then, whilst he was there it crashed and was just stuck on a channel and wouldn't respond to any commands. "Ah yes" he said "if you give the box a command and it doesn't finish doing it before you tell it to do something else, it crashes. That's a known issue. Whenever you see the little 'hourglass' circle in the corner don't touch the remote or it will crash." Nice one Microsoft!

    He went on to say that it's a combination of crap software and a crap box. He said these STBs only have a 266Mhz processor and have an overheating problem. He also explained that none of the extra 'PC' connectors (USB, serial etc) work except for the VGA out.

    Then I asked him about the 'i' icon, if it can be removed. He said no it can't and yes, everyone who has the service complains about it.

    He did however have some good news. He told me that some new STBs are coming out in September and all existing customers will get a free upgrade. The new STBs will feature:

    - 1Ghz processor
    - Better software (!)
    - The 'i' becomes a dot in the corner, and can be removed (phew!)
    - No overheating
    - Working PC connectors
    - and, most incredibly of all a DVD player and recorder!

    If this all turns out to be true I'll be very impressed. I think he must be mistaken about the DVD recorder bit and getting it confused with the DVR hard disk recording functionality.

    So, I'm waiting until September....

    Michael.
     

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