Posts Tagged Electronic program guide

How NTL / UPC can beat the Starview Box

UPC Romania

For quite some time now, NTL/UPC have had a thorn stuck in their foot. That thorn is something commonly known as a “dodgy box” or the official name “starview box” / “The box”.

The dodgy box allows non technical home users hook on to a basic NTL / UPC analog line and receive digitial TV including fully subscription based channels – free of charge.

In fairness to NTL, they’ve tried everything they can to beat these boxes. From sending out sensational rumours (i.e. a rumour that viruses could be sent down the line to these boxes) to constantly disrupting the service by changing the encryption code. Although I’m sure it suceeded in removing the “plug n play” type users, who don’t understand why their TV doesn’t work when it’s unplugged, it certainly hasn’t deterred those who know what they are doing.

So how can they really beat these rogue thieves from stealing their service? Well I think it’s quite simple and they seem to be making a step towards this.

Personally, if I think a service is good enough, I don’t mind paying extra for value. Recently NTL/UPC sent me a letter stating that they were upgrading all digital customers in my area to facilitate the new services they have coming online. In cable forums across the UK and Ireland, the rumour is that they are doing this so that they can start using a new encyption that will make the majority of these dodgy boxes as useful as a doorstop.

In the letter they mentioned that they were offering a new “DVR service”. This is NTL/UPC’s attempt at competing against the might Sky’s – SKy Plus, that allows you to pause and record live TV. Unlike Sky, they were offering this new service at only €5 per month, with no charge for the upgraded device. I thought, why not? €5, it’s well worth it.

So it got me thinking of what else they could offer:

  1. Improved DVR service
    Although the new service is much welcomed, it’s not a patch on Sky Plus. The interface is slow and doesn’t allow certain things like Sky Plus does.
  2. More Channels
    I think they could easily offer more channels to their package. Just by adding free-to-air channels, surely there’s little if any cost for them to do this. They recently removed my beloved Scuzz music channel without any notice – this was a free to air channel, that I’m sure they weren’t paying for.
  3. A True Digital Service
    It’s taken a while for NTL to offer even the basic pause live TV function, but some interactive functions would be really nice, like shopping online etc. Or even just the ability to “click the red button” 😉
  4. Interactive Gaming
    Not something I’d personally use that often, but a drawer none the less.
  5. Cheaper Price
    Obviously I’m going to say this, but the price comparison between NTL/UPC and Sky is just non existent. Sky just offer a greater package, even though they are slightly more expensive. This could be a huge turning point for People to use NTL / UPC over Sky.

The DVR is a step in the right direction, but I know they could offer a lot more.

In fact, a quick review on the DVR system isn’t very impressive. It’s apparently a Thomson 6000 series device. The EPG is slow to load and quite finicky. Other pet hates are the fact that you can’t record from an external device, even though it allows you to channel it through it.

Anyway, I’m just giving out now 😉

All in all – if there was an improved, value for money service on the table, I believe people wouldn’t be bothered trying to hack the network with these dodgy boxes.

Updating a starview box, if you don’t have any friends to do it, can cost anything from €10 – €50. Why would they bother with the constant updates when you have a cheap, better alternative?

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Starview 2 aka “TheBox” Review

A few months ago, I wrote about these new Starview boxes that allow you to get access to all NTL digitals channels, with a basic NTL analogue connection (illegally of course). I did my own research at that stage and found that they worked a dream.

Since then, I’ve been keeping my eye on developments on this front, hoping that I am proven right that NTL will actually find a way to prevent this. So far, everything NTL do to counteract this has been simply a waste of time. The speed at which the developers of the software for these boxes can find a way around the changes is phenomenal, which causes a minimal distruption to service. I’m sure it would be a nightmare for most users of the box to find out ways to get round these changes, but for the technical savvy, it’s a simple task.

Anyway, a friend of mine purchased one of the new Starview box’s, now called TheBox or Starview 2. This guy is as technical as an apple and instead of trying to figure it out himself, took the easy option of calling on me. So, I went and had a look at TheBox for him.

Although it’s more expensive than the original Starview, it’s not much different at all. Specifications are exactly the same, even though it’s advertised as being an upgrade. Looking closely at the system, the only change really is the EPG (Electronic Programming Guide). In the past, when you scrolled thorough the channels to see what was on next, it would also change the channel. Very frustrating and quite useless! Now though, you can scroll through the channels to see what’s on, without changing channel. Another new addition is the time beside the info for each channel and it also shows what’s on next.

It is illegal to receive subscription-based television airtime without paying for it. It is also illegal to connect this item to equipment that you do not own, without prior consent.

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