Saturday, 5 May 2012

Bye Bye Sky!

Its 2012.. and I'm swapping from satellite tv.. to cable tv.. why am I mumbling about this here? because there's a vaguely interesting story.. and possibly some useful info for any Sky users.

I've been with Sky since around 2001.. I remember the day I had the dish installed, not just a minidish, but an Arcon Sweetie, on a motorised mount.. scanning the skies for French, and English tv.. Working from a list of channels & frequency info.. we gradually stepped the dish across the satellites, stepping through the channels, to setup the ones we wanted to keep. Except all of the channels seemed to be carrying some sort of documentary, from New York.. and then in the background behind the presenters, we saw what's now been repeated worldwide.. it was no documentary, the date was September the 11th, and it really didn't matter which channel we tried to tune, the images were all the same.

Back then, we had the Sky box hooked via an original Series 1 Tivo, the only model ever to be sold as a standalone unit in the uk.. it was pretty reliable, and with the addition of a turbonet (later cachecard), recordings could be moved on & off the box for watching later, as the disk got full.

When Sky rolled out their own PVR, "Sky+" we ignored it, and kept using Tivo.. the season passes, wishlists, and community around the Tivo, along with its ability to be tweaked.. made it a far better option..

But time rolled on.. and Tivo+Sky was becoming problematic.. Sky didn't like the idea that the dish could move to watch something else.. and Tivo was getting slower as it's disk space got larger.. and the inability to record/pause French TV, was becoming more pronouced the more we got used to the PVR.

I'd started trying to build a replacement for Tivo, and finally with Vista, a Media Center became available that supported satellite, and Freeview, and analog, within the same UI. Vista became Win7, and Media Center became our main window to the world. (More info here )

Then HD came along, we updated to Sky HD, and used the HD PVR to view & timeshift in HD.. at the sametime, we moved the entire collection of boxes from under the TV to a spare room, and reconnected it all to the TV via HDMI over Cat5 extenders.

The output was split via a HDMI matrix, able to watch the media pc, or the sky box, and later an xbox 360. This setup worked well, even letting a TV in one room watch something, while the Projector in another was watching a film.

But then, as I mention here I ended up with a Virgin Tivo cable box, mainly because I'd wanted faster internet access.. and it made sense to connect the Tivo to the Media PC, and leave the Sky box connected to the HDMI switch, as the Sky box, with "Anytime+" made a great way to watch movies on demand in the evening.

That concludes the backstory.. ;p and brings us to why I am now, after over 10 years of being a Sky customer.. ditching them.

I tried to view my Sky box.. and could not.. upon attaching a scart cable, I'm greeted with a message saying my "display is not HDCP compliant".

This is amusing, and slightly insane, since both Tivo, a Sony BluRay, and the Media PC all require HDCP, and have no issue with any of the displays attached to the HDMI switch. So I try connecting the Sky box directly to the TV via an extender.. 'not HDCP compliant' .. orly? connected it directly with a cable, and it works fine.. umm??!!!

Further investigation showed that my Sky box has become incapable of functioning on anything other than a direct cable connection to any of my displays. (The very same displays it declares to be HDCP non compliant through the switch). Amusingly, connecting Sky to an A/V Amp, via HDMI, and then connecting the HDMI output of the Amp to the switch, works fine..

My Sky HD box is well out of warranty.. and I pay for one of Sky's "Top Tier" packages.. so I gave them a ring.. having heard that people cancelling often get offered 6 months free.. surely they'd see that fixing my problem would mean retaining my subscription ?

But no, apparently "Sky Policy" prevents them offering a customer of 10 years, more than a 25 pound reduction on a 65 pound call out fee.. to obtain an engineer, who 'may replace the box if he agrees its faulty'. Great.. given the box works fine on a direct cable, I can guess where this one would lead.

So I phone the Cable company, and find I can add a second Tivo, and Sky Movies, to my account with them, for less than I am paying Sky for the equivalent.

I call Sky to cancel, and surprise, the guy tries to get me to agree to a (now free) engineer visit, to 'replace my box if its faulty'.. too little .. too late.

I'm looking forward to integrating the 2nd Tivo from the cable company next week.. and I'll put the Sky box up on ebay.. (since most people will only ever hook it to a tv anyways).

Technical Info:
  Sky Box that didnt like HDCP : DXR780 Model#R003.047.25.00P Version#4F3001

Also tested a DXR890, which worked fine through the switch, also tested 2 other HDMI switches that used to function fine with Sky. Results were consistent, the ONLY box that had issues, was the DXR780.. everything else functioned perfectly.

In conclusion, if you've come here, because you have a Sky box, that's having issues working through an HDMI switch.. a newer Sky box will likely fix the problem.. but you may find it easier to switch provider than convince Sky to do that for you.. especially if its out of warranty!

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