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Like a Virgin

May 8th, 2007 · Posted by Skuds in Technology · No Comments · Technology

It was a tough decision, whether to throw money at Murdoch or Branson, but today we had Sky disconnected and Virgin Media’s digital TV installed. I will still have the dish and I am led to believe that my old box will still pick up a load of free to view channels, so I am keeping the box in the kitchen.

Its early days yet, but so far the verdict is that everyone is happy with the TV but I am less than impressed with the installation. We were supposed to have someone arrive between 8am and 1pm but at about 10 to 1 the engineer called to say he was running late and would be another hour. Fair enough, and nice of him to call, but then he didn’t turn up until after 3pm, by which time I was already in Town getting Charlie his suit.

When I returned the engineer was still here. In fact he didn’t leave until about 6pm. Nothing unusual in that you might think, but we did have cable TV in the pre-Telewest days so all the cabling was already in place and I thought it would be a lot quicker. Also, I noticed that the box in the living room (a “V+” box) has the Dolby Digital logo on the front. I wondered if that meant I could put it through the surround amp for anything broadcast in surround sound, and the engineer didn’t seem to have a clue, muttering something about it having three output sockets for audio and video.

(I checked up after he had gone. There are 5 sockets – R, G & B for HD video and L & R for audio which is 3.1 channels short for surround sound. However there is an optical audio out which presumably handles surround sound. All sorts of other goodies like USB and ethernet, but no mention of them in the manuals so I don’t know yet what they can do.)

I’m sure I can work out how to wire it all together if I want to do anything advanced, and if its worth doing – I don’t know what, if anything, is broadcast in 5.1 sound – but it all works which is the main thing and its dead easy to use.

Because of the difference between satellite and cable there are some pros and cons. The main drawback is a slight delay responding to the remote sometimes, which is understandable. In fact, thinking about what is going on behind the scenes its a miracle there is only a slight delay. Also it looks like we can only get BBC London, whereas Sky had BBC South East, and all the other regions as well.

Its unfortunate that there is nothing I really wanted to watch on TV tonight, but I have set the box up to record the Gilbert and George documentary tonight and a film (About A Boy I think). They are both on at the same time so tomorrow I will see if they both recorded properly. In the meantime I have been playing with the ‘on demand’ features, of which there are several.

First of all there is Virgin central. This is a channel (119) where you press the red button and have a choice of several series which can be watched in their entirety. Or not. Some of them have only half the series there, but I either don’t want to watch them or have already seen them, so I am not too bothered.

Then there is ‘catch up’ where you can call up programmes which were broadcast in the last week but which you missed. A good idea, but sadly it is not every programme broadcast in the week – just from a few channels and just a few programmes from each. I am hoping that the selection grows over time, but even so it does include Eastenders so the kids are happy. I sat down and watched Have I got News For You which I missed last week, so its already proving to be of some use.

The other (free) on demand service is called TV Choice. This is a bit like the Virgin Central thing, but with a lot more to choose from. In fact there is some overlap: the first series of Life On Mars is on both, but it is only 5 episodes on Virgin Central and the complete series on TV choice. Again the selection might grow over time, but as it is there is a lot to watch – three complete series of Black Books and Absolutely, all the old Comic Strip Presents…, Green Wing, Father Ted and loads more.

There are also 500 films and loads of music videos and concerts available on demand, but they all cost extra on a pay-per-view basis, so I’ll leave them alone for now.

I have had a go at pausing live TV and then replaying it later. I’m sure the novelty will wear off soon, but I am still at the stage where I think it is pretty neat. The other big advantage is that the picture is a lot better in bad weather.

All these new toys and it will cost a lot less than Sky did. Its a shame to miss out on Lost – but I can always use part of the savings to buy the box set later on.

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