Rick's Notes
January 2006



Mom and I just had a big argument. I write my dates as year/month/day, based upon the ISO 8601 style. I do this because in the past I've had people failing to understand British numerical dates (namely Americans!). She said that it was nonsensical and affected and nobody would understand that sort of date. In reply, I said that the date 07/03/2006 is open to misinterpretation; after all, is the rendezvous in March or July? Most Europeans will think March, most Americans will think July. Look at "9/11" as a good example - the World Trade Center did not meet its ugly demise on the 9th of November.
So mom said that 'normal' people (she's real big on quoting what 'normal' people are supposed to do, though I suspect the 135 million SMSs sent on New Years herald the fact that her type are slowly becoming less and less normal, no - she doesn't take pictures with her mobile, she doesn't even want a mobile that takes pictures, or plays games, she thinks it's supposed to be a phone and nothing else)... anyway she said that 'normal' people would get around the problem by using a written date - 11th September, or 9th November. This might be all well and good when writing to English speaking people, but what about somebody who speaks Italian or Russian or Japanese? She told me that an Italian (quote) would probably be able to read a date written in English (unquote). That comment alone is why I am writing this comment. We both feel that too many English-speaking people expect the world to speak English - it is excruciatingly embarrassing to see an English person in France wave their arms and say "no, no, no, me, English, speak, English, no" - as if learning something like "je suis vraiment désolé mais je parle seulement l'Anglais" is so hard? It may not be correct, but it is surely better than waving your arms around and talking as if to a baby! But for her to then come up with a clanger like that... unbelievable!
This is where YOU come in. What's your opinion? It has been my attempt to go with a date format that is (supposed to be) universally understood; without any nasty ambiguities and without using any language-specific elements (such as names of the month - how many people, off the top of their heads, can say that know the difference between Giugno and Gennaio?). Get in touch, tell me what you think...

I did, actually, do something satellite-related today. I have made a number of additions and updates to various parts of the site. I think the "setting up" section is now completely autonymous, since the firmware updates last Summer have meant that digital viewing at 19.2°E is rather unlikely (or at best difficult) with a Digibox...

[Aside: It is just a shame I'm not in a position to seek legal advice - this Digibox is ex-Sky and no longer has anything to do with Sky, and even if I wanted to throw money at them I would not be able to do so as I do not live in the UK; yet Sky have decided to implement an apparently trivial change in the firmware upgrade which has seriously reduced the scope of what I am able to do with my receiver. Had it been under contract, they might have had a point, but this box was basically rescued from a lonely cupboard and, one day, probably disposal.
One could argue that the firmware updates are provided 'free' on behalf of Sky so I cannot complain.
A valid counter-argument would be that the Digiboxes suffered crashes and the loss of numerous channels, sometimes as often as several times a day - the sheer number of channels was more than the original firmware could cope with (and as this happened on a wide range of different receivers, I'd figure the specification was inadequate rather than just one manufacturer's particular implementation of it). Furthermore Sky wished to introduce a new PIN system (which only appears to work if you have a viewing card) as well as - apparently - a totally new numbering system for radio channels and an extended EPG (supposed to happen in Autumn 2005). Therefore, the new firmware is not only a necessity for stable and reliable operation of the receivers, but also enhancements to their own facilities.
And in the middle of this, a tiny little twiddle to say "if the box has not loaded the channels list, block access to the Other Channels option". This is so definitely aimed at preventing the use of the Digibox on other satellites that it is almost funny. After all, at 28.2°E you'll never notice it as you'll have all the EPG info, while anywhere else in the sky - your Digibox might as well be a bookend...
So my question is, what right do they have to dictate how I choose to use a receiver that is no longer under their control and is no longer anything to do with them?
You'll notice that I have made several references to Sky as the culprits. I have private emails from others asking about this, so I know it is not something peculiar to Pace Digiboxes, and furthermore I cannot imagine why Pace would choose to implement such a thing on their own; but I can fully understand why Sky would...
I feel that it is all about money. Though, in this multimedia age, people are getting wiser, and I don't think Sky are getting it. You see, the Digibox does not support other satellites any more, and it never supported DiSEqC; but a cheap FTA receiver does both. The Digibox never provided an EPG listing for any of the 19.2°E channels, only Now&Next. So it's okay if an FTA box does likewise. The Digibox is severely limited in its abilities to store a miniscule 50 'other' channels, which it tends to forget from time to time, provided the channels use one of the two symbol rates that the Digibox can handle. An FTA receiver not only supports many much channels with much more flexibility, it'll go looking for the channels for you. Two LNBs and a switch, it'll switch LNBs as you switch channels. Piece of cake.
And the estimated cost of installing this system, to work alongside (or - with a dual-output LNB) partially replace the Digibox at 28.2°E? About two months of a Sky subscription. Maybe three. And this, I think, is what they're not getting. Rather than enticing people to Sky (I never figured out why the Sky customer information channel was blocked to people without a card - what a great way to tell us all the exciting things we're not getting!), they seem to be doing silly little things that annoy. Well, you know, with a small smattering of a few European languages (though, mainly French), and the British FTA channels to fall back on, I have no need for a Sky subscription. Even if they gave me a great offer like have it, here in France, for 12 months and only pay for six... I'd still turn them down. There's a whole sky out there waiting to be explored, why should I spend my time looking at the Sky?

I guess today is the day for being a little bit controversial. Never mind, I prefer to "tell it like it is" because bullshit helps nobody in the end, so perhaps this is a cathartic exercise? Or maybe there's nothing good on TV tonight so I'll write this instead? You pick. After all, this stuff is only my opinions. Take 'em or leave 'em. It's your choice...


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