Big Issue

Here in the Big Issue column we take a regular look at the current issues that surround Sky+ and give our comment and analysis.

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This Month - Sky+ Dual Recording by Callum MacFarlane
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2003 
Dual Recording Heaven Coming Soon                    
It's been a long wait, but the anticipation is nearly over.

The biggest change to Sky+ since it's launch is a matter of weeks away.

Sadly up until now, we have had to choose at times to watch old fashioned TV through the Sky+ 2nd tuner, and not from the hard disk, including sitting through something abhorrent to Sky+ users, commercials (pah -what a waste of 3 minutes), whilst Sky+ is recording something else for us. The time of juggling the priorities of 2 programmes that clash will come to an end.

The software update that delivers this "killer feature" will long be remembered as the day "Sky+ came of age". And not a day too soon.

A huge channel choice is excellent for the average Sky subscriber, but it is a "double-edged sword" for Sky+ owners, especially those with families in the household. The number of times in any week that that this household wants to record 2 programmes at the same time is quite high, especially between 7pm and 10pm each weekday.

In fact, the beauty of Sky+ has made it -its own worst enemy. Programmes that we as a family would have in the past quite happily watched, and perhaps recorded other programmes on at the same time into the Sky+ personal planner, have now taken priority so that Coronation Street, Eastenders and the like are always recorded as Series Links because it's just so damn convenient. We even skip storylines that we find dull and just concentrate on scenes with a story we want to see. This constant recording of our favourite soaps and series is great for effectively time shifting these shows, but the number of other programmes that we effectively have to miss is quite staggering.

It has taken the Sky+ Development Team quite some time to bring this amazing feature to the masses. The Pace manufactured Sky+ box has always had the capacity to record 2 programmes by the very fact that it has 2 tuners on board. However the tricky part has been designing a user interface that is easy to understand and that won't result in mass complaints to Sky if programmes don't get recorded as planned.

The test of the new feature will be in the using. But already questions do arise: Will tuner 1 and tuner 2 be dynamic and be able to utilise the software so that if the tuner that you normally view Sky on is recording, but the other tuner has finished recording, will we be able watch live TV on Sky? If Eastenders overruns by 5 minutes to 20:05 and tuner 1 records it all, will a programme on another channel that would have naturally been recorded by tuner 1 at 20:00 then switch to tuner 2, if so what happens if you're in the middle of watching a film on Sky Movies? Will a message pop up? Will it just stick with tuner 1 and miss the start of the other programme? The scope for confusion seems great.

But if Dual Recording is a menu choice to be switched on in the Services Menu, then perhaps it need only be used by people who know what they're doing. Dual recording is going to be straight forward for one person households because there is little chance of anybody messing up your recordings when 2 programmes are recording at the same time. Will this be the same for households with couples, and families? Probably not.

You cannot teach a 4 year old responsibility of advanced features of Sky+. Yes young kids can use the EPG & remote controls no problem. But when warning messages start to pop up when the child tries to change to CBBC for the Teletubbies, your 2 tuner recording of Hollyoaks and Star Trek The Next Generation is in jeopardy! Unless that is of course Sky introduced PIN number confirmation for channel changes when 2 programmes are being recorded at once, that would get around the child pressing the normal buttons.

And for adults too, the action of entering the PIN no. would at least gain the acknowledgement that they are screwing up somebody's else's viewing pleasure. This may even make them check with other household members that it is ok to stop that recording of Footballers Wives so that Scooby Doo can be watched.

You might ask why all households don't invest in a 2nd digibox and mirror subscription to cut down on the potential channel changes, but again the Sky+ box has brought about its own problems. This household so enjoys the convenience of time shifted, commercial free TV through Sky+ that watching shows live on our digibox is a 2nd rate activity that only occurs in extreme circumstances. When you've used the best - and that is what Sky+ is, it's very difficult for people to accept an inferior service such a standard digibox.

In fact this household would like a Sky+ box in every room. It's now the problem that's there's so much great stuff to watch that we've recorded on our Sky+ that although certain parties watch recorded shows that interest them, there's not enough hours left in the day to watch the shows I want to watch. I currently have 14 Stargate SG-1 episodes to watch, but heaven knows when I'll have time to watch them.

If Sky did an offer that gave a 2nd Sky+ subscription that was reduced - say £5 - I'd buy another Sky+ tomorrow. Then we could all watch different recorded programmes at the same time.

So until then, roll on Dual Recording, it will be great to have all we want recorded, my query to the Sky+ development team is just when will they give us that feature that gives us more hours in the day?  

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