Tuesday 27 March 2007

At The Bleeding Edge of Technology With BrokenTV: A Picture Special*

Sky's new TV on demand has launched for Sky HD viewers! We're Sky HD viewers!

"Sky+ has already given millions of people freedom from their TV schedule, helping viewers to enjoy more of the TV they want to watch."


"Anytime on TV helps our customers get even more out of Sky+ by presenting them with highlights of the weeks' programmes to watch on demand - shows that they might not otherwise have found and which they can then transfer to their Sky+ box to series link and watch every week."

We like watching programmes that are good! Let's try it out!

So, after a short holiday, the 'having the red button do something from the TV guide' option is back. Anytime TV. We can barely wait to see the list of exciting programmes from all our favourite channels (apart from BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC HD, ITV1, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, Channel Four, E4, More4, Film4, Five, Five US, Five Life, Paramount 1, Paramount 2, Bravo, Sci-Fi, UKTV Gold, UKTVG2, Living, Challenge, Hallmark or UKTV Drama, because they're not included in the service) that we'll be able to watch! Oh, and apart from shows like Lost, because Sky don't have the on demand rights to that, either.

Ooh, the info screen in the top corner looks nice, plus it's in HD, which is nice. Oh dear, we've only actually 'got' the channels two of those programmes are on. Never mind, Sky themselves have said the service is there to showcase the best of their output, so presumably they've giving us a 'taster' of what is on some of the channels we don't subscribe to. That would be a good and clever way of showing us exactly what we're missing by not upgrading our package. Let's scroll down a bit!

Nicely, it's bothered to chug away overnight recording the HD versions of things we might like to see. That was nice of them. We quite fancy seeing what Casanova is like. Who knows, if we're impressed enough by what we see, we may choose to pay for Sky's two whole channels of HD movies...

Sounds interesting. Can't wait to see what it's like, especially as most of the programmes listed for the bog standard channels are quite rubbish. Which is why WE DIDN'T WANT TO WATCH THEM THE FIRST TIME AROUND. Hopefully, it'll be really, really good. That way we won't mind the fact that the 300gb drive in our HD box will only ever use just over half of its capacity, even though we've bloody well paid for the whole thing. Fingers crossed!

Oh, for fuck's sake. That's the whole thing rendered completely useless, then.


Number of programmes available to those who don't subscribe to the movie channels: A not very impressive six. Brian Wilson: Pet Sounds Live (Sky Arts), Gene Simmons Family Jewels (Biography), The Dresden Files (Sky One), Unlocking Da Vinci's Code (National Geographic Channel), Poetry: From Pete Doherty to Andrew Motion (Sky Arts), Corkscrewed (Sky One). All others require a Sky Movies subscription. Virgin Media's on-demand service has hundreds of shows, including repeats of Absolutely. Bah.

Number of those we'd want to watch: Maybe the Brian Wilson one, but only then if we're really bored.

Number of times our Sky HD box crashed while exploring the service: Twice. Hopefully fixed soon via a software upgrade, but still quite shoddy.

Overall score, then: 2/10. And that's rounding up to the nearest whole number, and even then being really generous.


Press services. Then '6'.

Change the top option to 'NO'. Then 'save new settings'.

This fixes the annoying 'record lots of rubbish programmes that you didn't want to record first time around, because they're rubbish, as well as tons of stuff you won't get to see unless you give Sky all of your money' bug, discovered earlier today.

(*'Bleeding' as in 'hell'.)

Wednesday 21 March 2007

The 'Bad Old Man' of Updates

Despite what some might say about us being the world’s second-most irate Sky+ users, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, people send us free beta versions of crisps. This causes us to perk right up.

Like Christmas in March. (Yes, we're easily pleased.)

Yes, beta versions of crisps. Due to the benevolence of the Seabrook family (and due to us ordering a boxful of their wares in the past), we recently received several sample packets of a proposed new range of spicy crisps. Experimental crisps. But, coming from the House of Seabrook, these were crisps of a standard much higher than your regular Walkers. In short, then: the BBC HD of crisps. Which means they tenuously fall within our remit of writing about television but not really actually saying anything about actual television programmes.

There are four flavours in the box, and two packs of each.

Wasabi flavour

Exuding a pleasant spicy smell once the bag is open, you tend to expect more of a kick once you tentatively fling the first morsel through your jaw. Slightly surprisingly, the initial rippled slice of potato packs little of a spicy punch, although the taste is pleasant enough. This may lead one to become complacent, but crisptasters beware: as you make your heady way through the bag, you edge ever closer to the congregation of flavouring lurking on the surface of the lower crisps. By the time have reached the bottom of the packet, the whole experience may have become slightly wearying, unless your tongue has made contact with a crisp containing an especially large clump of flavouring, in which case you may be too busy wondering why you can't feel your tongue any more.

For the interests of balance, BrokenTV’s tasting panel comprised two other persons. Their findings were as such:

“Cor, these are really nice.”

“Eugh. These taste like aftershave.”

Balanced opinion there, we’re sure you’ll agree.

If This Flavour Were A Programme On BBC HD, It Would Be: Torchwood. Eager anticipation and early promise soon makes way for a slight sense of disappointment. You feel resigned to stick with it until the end of the series (or packet) just in case it gets better again, but deep down, you know the whole experience will leave you empty and unfulfilled.

Two Chilli Peppers Flavour

Package design not final, we imagine.

Compared to the (as far as we’re aware) unique choice of Wasabi flavouring, the Chilli flavoured crisp market already has a clear leader; Pringles Gourmet Thai Sweet Chilli & Lemongrass Flavour, a tube of which can frequently be found on the desks of the BrokenTV office. Are Seabrook about to encroach onto the territory of someone they clearly shouldn’t be dicking around with?

Well, no. There is a nicely distinct chilli flavouring to the Seabrook effort that is lacking in the brand with the moustachioed mascot, more akin to the taste you get when you pluck and consume the chilli pepper topping from a pizza. And, unlike the non-existent spiciness of the Pringle offering, it’s quite splendidly fiery. Providing the snack makes it to the marketplace, this could be the culinary soundtrack to many a Saturday afternoon spent in a cramped pub watching an illicit foreign feed of Premiership action.

If This Flavour Were A Programme On BBC HD, It Would Be: Expecting more of the same old, same old, only the find that things are going to be every bit as wonderful as you were secretly hoping, but had been afraid to express. Wales beating England in the Six Nations it is, then.

Mustard flavour

It’s mustard flavour. We hate mustard. Will this catch us by surprise, and prove to be enjoyable? No. These crisps are horrid.

If This Flavour Were A Programme On BBC HD, It Would Be: Hotel Babylon. You’re expecting it to be woeful, but you decide to check it out anyway. You know, just in case. But no, in the same way Hotel Babylon ‘stars’ Dexter Fletcher, and once guest ‘starred’ Chris Moyles, Seabrook Mustard Flavoured Spicy Crisps have mustard in them, and taste of mustard. Pleh.

Oriental Flavour

Quite a vague description of what is to come, wouldn’t you say? The list of ingredients on the back of the pack is certainly one to get the BrokenTV taste panel either salivating, or running for the hills. Cayenne, Pimento, Cinnamon, Fennel, Star Aniseed, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder. Yes the aroma released when opening the packet suggests that things may not be so bad after all. They might be tame enough to feed to a tiny little kitten, one might wonder. Five crisps into the packet, and you soon realise that they’re about as tame as being strapped to the bonnet of Ford Mondeo and driven face-first right through a selection of stalls in a Mumbai spice market. Only in a really, really good way. We’d suggest you have a drink handy.

If This Flavour Were A Programme On BBC HD, It Would Be: The HD broadcast of Kill Bill: Volume One. In short: The Winner.

How you can play this game at home.

If, for some ungodly reason, you’ve never bought a box of Seabrook crisps direct from the manufacturers, and you haven’t been sent a box of beta crisps, how can you get a wonderfully piquant crispy fix? Our preferred method is quite simple, and can be played at home.

What you will need for this hobby:

One packet of Sharwoods mini prawn crackers with chilli

One tub of Tesco spicy mango chutney

Our new readers may want to get used to this sort of thing. Or depart, never to return.


Simply dip the former into the latter, and then eat. Mmm.

If Doing That Were A Programme on BBC HD, It Would Be: Not Going Out. Given the ingredients (which, for the purposes of comparison, we’re going to say are Lee Mack, Tim Vine and Andrew Collins), you’re hoping this is going to be a very enjoyable experience. And it is. Hurrah.

Number of packets of crisps consumed while writing this update: 3.5



Thursday 8 March 2007

"It made once the turn of the world since and now it returns under our latitudes" (DVD Piracy, Part Two)

Blimey, eh? We lose our internet access for a few days, and what happens when we're not here? The entire internet (i.e. a few well known blogs) goes BrokenTV crazy (i.e. mention us, and the hit counter goes up for one day). If Google fancy buying us out for several squillion dollars, please leave a comment.

Why has this happened? Partly because Kotaku mentioned our Lost: The Spectrum Game spoof, which was entirely unexpected as it was pretty much a throwaway gag. Simultaneously, several blogs have picked up on an anti-anti-piracy advert we put on the site almost exactly one year ago:

BoingBoing have mentioned it, Wonderland have mentioned it, even one of France's most popular technology blogs (as far as we can tell, anyway) have posted it, among others. "C'est un coup de McFly," apparently. Plop that last site into Altavista's translation engine to find out what that means, and you'll get the super bonus of a copy of this blog translated into French, then back into English: "the insufferably smug Payne family cuts Christmas has big comedy gravel bank of aspirin."

But, something we'd forgot to mention at the time, was that we'd actually chased up the story, as if we were proper journalists or something. The fact that we'd promptly got distracted by a shiny object and never got around to telling anyone proves why we're not the Blogger equivalent of Cassandra, but we now aim to rectify the matter.


Taking the contact address from FACT's binary white elephant website, we fired off the following missive:

From: [BrokenTV]
To: info@piracyisacrime.co.uk
Subject: Important piracy question


Speaking as someone who has a collection of over 300 legally-bought DVDs, I've got one important question to ask you. If DVD piracy is such a crime, why do you insist on punishing the people who go out and buy their DVDs legally by making them WATCH A STUPID PATRONISING UNSKIPPABLE ADVERT, TELLING THEM NOT TO DO WHAT THEY HAVEN'T EVEN DONE, BECAUSE THEY'VE GONE AND BOUGHT THE BLOODY DVD FROM A SHOP, EVERY SINGLE BLOODY TIME THEY WANT TO WATCH ONE OF THEIR LEGALLY BOUGHT DVDS? Genuine question, mind.

It's almost as if you WANT them to start downloading movies and TV shows instead, just to avoid getting patronised to within an inch of their sanity every time they fancy watching an episode of My Name Is Earl or Rising Damp. You see, the point of trying to make people PREFER buying their DVDs legally, is to make buying them legally preferable to getting a bootlegged version down the car boot sale or firing up a bittorrent site.

Don't worry, I'm not about to start doing that, I'm just going to start buying region one versions instead. What with them being cheaper, having better extras, and not containing the visual equivilent of a gestapo officer banging on my door every time I watch a film, demanding to see a receipt for the DVD.

In summary: at least make the infuriatingly condescending things skippable. Really. If I wanted to be lectured at in my own front room, I'd move in with the Revd Ian Paisley.

A Really Annoyed Consumer.

Three days later, the following reply rattled our inbox:

Dear [BrokenTV],

Thanks for your email. We do understand your feedback regarding anti-piracy trailers on legitimate DVDs and we are sorry that you feel this way.

The reason this is the case is that, from our extensive research, we know that many people who buy counterfeit products also buy legitimate products. Therefore, the placement of anti-piracy trailers on legitimate DVDs is still an essential way of targeting those who also buy pirated copies.

We are, however, reviewing our message and hope you can be patient while we do so.


[Someone Just Doing Her Job]
Communications Manager / Assistant to Director General
Well. We don't know about you, but we're utterly placated by the above mail-merged reply.

If, and let's be really generous with our figures here, 30% of the people who buy legitimate DVDs decide that paying a whopping £4.99 for a proper copy of Batman Begins is a frankly horrid state of affairs. Instead, they wait for the next car boot sale to come along, and spend £4 on a pirate version in a badly photocopied sleeve from there instead.

Now, all FACT have to do is wait until the evil 30% of the DVD buying public sit down to watch one of their few 'proper' DVDs. Presumably these are second hand DVDs they shoplifted from a Cancer Research charity shop, or maybe they just burgled someone's house for them, it doesn't really matter. As soon as they get past the unskippable copyright warning, they'll be faced with the anti-piracy trailer. How will they react?


Once Johnny Evil30%ofDVDbuyingpublic sees the FACT anti-piracy trailer, which of the following is he going to think?

(a) "Tch. They're right, of course. I wouldn't steal a car, or more accurately, infringe upon the copyright of a vehicle manufacturer, and then make an exact replica of someone else's car and use that instead. That's a perfect example of something I would never be likely to do. I feel shamed. I'm off to HMV to buy fifteen copies of X-Men 3. I only hope Jesus will forgive me."


(b) "Tch. That's quite annoying. I'm glad I usually watch pirate copies of DVDs, where I don't have to put up with that. I think I'll just stop buying DVDs from shops, and download them instead."


It's (a), obviously. No, it is. Why? Because if it isn't, FACT (or Industry Trust for IP Awareness, or whatever they're calling themselves this week) are a bunch of massively stupid idiots who are clearly incapable of performing the sole task they have been appointed to do.

Now, we feel pretty bad about being nasty about their actions, especially as our poster is being passed around the internet like a sordid classroom scrawling of the teacher with a penis on his head. If, like us, you feel FACT have done exactly the right thing in assuming every single person who buys DVDs is a criminal, and talking down to them as such, why not get in touch with them? You can do so by emailing the following address: info@piracyisacrime.co.uk.

Don't forget to tell them how super they all are, and how if it wasn't for their actions, we'd all be off murdering puppies about now.

As for us? Well, we've noticed that a lot of child abusers tend to drive cars. With that in mind, we've decided to lobby Parliament and the motor industry into introducing a new measure. With any luck, from next year, every time you start the engine of your car, you will be forced to listen to a graphic three minute speech about child abuse before you can actually go anywhere. Don't like the sound of that? Tough shit, it's for the greater good.


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