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back to article Software update nobbles Sky+ boxes

A software update to Sky+ set-top boxes has left subscribers frozen out of the planner system, leaving them unable to record shows. On Tuesday morning posters at the Digitalspy forums noticed the OS version number had changed overnight. One subscriber who rang Sky customer services to complain was told to carry out this …

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Unhappy

Problem occurs when box goes into standby

The reported fix will only work until you place the box into standby mode which will then promptly bugger up again resulting in the 'please wait' message when you next power up and attempt to access the planner. Whilst the box is in this state any hard disk activity will fail meaning that all scheduled recordings will also fail.

The only fix for now is to disable the auto standby features, switch the box off at the wall for a minute or so, power it back up and keep hitting the Sky button until the menu comes up, check you can access the planner and then leave the box switched on - do NOT put the box into standby or allow the automatic standby feature to do so otherwise it will simply become borked again.

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Errors for 5-6 days

I've had this problem since Tuesday/Wednesday last week, and a power reset seems to work for about 12-14 hours.

On Saturday night we were unable to access any menu, the on screen EPG or even change channel. Again a power reset fixed this.

Hadn't called Sky, as a) It's out of warranty, b) It has a 250gb Non-Sky HDD.

Nice to know it may be their fault !

Long live 4oD and the iPlayer to catch-up in such circumstances.

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Unhappy

Not all boxes

This doesn't affect all Sky+ boxes; mostly it causes problems for those of us who have a 2nd generation Pace PVR2 box. For the most part, it also only affects those of us who have upgraded the HDD in the box but there are some reports of problems with original unmodified boxes.

The fix above is a temporary solution for most as the problem re-occurs if you put the box in standby for more than 5 minutes. The only long-term fix for this at the moment is to not put the box into standby at all, wasting electricity.

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Coat

Get your Facts Straight

Unless you're voting using the red button, or using Sky Active, The phone line actually doesn't do an awful lot on the Sky boxes. Apart from Interactive services, all it does is phone back home to Sky every so often to enable the box to tell them if you've bought a Box Office movie.

Software updates, EPG updates, card updates, package updates and so-forth are all done over the air from the satellite to the box.

The biggest issue at the moment, however, is that Sky themselves back in May heavily publicised a new EPG for the Sky HD boxes which gave us a HD quality EPG and other added benefits (such as tabbed recording lists and so-forth) which was publicised as being available in September 2008.

It's now November and it still hasn't arrived, Sky haven't officially said what is going on, and judging by their inability to even roll out simple updates without testing them properly, I'm not too enthusiastic for Sky to roll out a new EPG which may bork a few thousand Sky HD boxes

(never mind the fact that even a simple thing like Audio/Video sync on HD channels is totally fcuked).

Mines the one with the Blu-ray disks from Lovefilm in the pocket, as at least the audio's in sync on BD.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Get your Facts Straight

Thanks to all those who pointed out my bad assumption. Software updates come over the air, not down the phone line, as the story originally stated. It's been corrected.

- Chris Williams

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Unhappy

That would explain it!

Why all out programs failed from Friday and over the weekend on the HD box, the Sky+ in the bedroom was OK though.

I reset the box yesterday and it downloaded new software (black update screen) so have they rolled back?

I believe they also use the dial home feature to check you have the box where you say it is and not somewhere else in the world.

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Unhappy

HD Buggy?

Since upgrading to HD last month I have had many issues. TV Picture going into a vertical "split" screen mode. Suddenly finding my TV remote control unuseable or simply not being able to change channel on the HD box. I was told it is down to my TV HDMI port but since my Games console has worked on that fine without any issues for 8 months before hand I am reluctant to just accpet this explanation.

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@Andy ORourke

Do you have a pioneer plasma screen? A lot of pioneer screens up to gen 6 ie 436 models have problems with Sky HD via HDMI. If you don't already know there was a blog set up by pioneer engineers to publicise this and the fixes. IIRC there are fixes available for all pioneer screens up to gen 6. Gen 6 and later don't have any problems as far as I am aware.

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Rob

lifespan of sky+ boxes?

i have an unmodified box and it started sounding a bit like a vacuum cleaner over the weekend, i could also pause but not unpause, which was odd.

i guess i need a new box really, this one's about 4 years old now and has been pleasantly reliable over that time, up until last weekend :(

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Glad to see it wasn't me...

Our old Sky+ box in the bedroom (Pace PVR2 with 350gb drive upgrade) has been playing up since last week. I thought it was either the PSU starting to go and not give the drive enough juice or the drive itself. Blue screen error this morning and I thought it had finally gone but following those instructions fixed it.

Auto-standby turned off and the missus told to get watching her drivel on there in case it does finally die.

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Unhappy

Yep, borked for me too

And another guy in our office.

We've both got bigger, non-original hard drives in our Sky+ boxes.

I heard that the update has some "improved" power-saving features, so it may be that the disk spin-down commands are causing the problem. It would certainly explain why the update causes more problems on non-original disks, because Sky would certainly have tested this on all their standard configurations.

Although there's no real obligation for them to support non-standard disks, maybe they'll have to do something about it to avoid being swamped by support calls.

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Unhappy

Wish they'd roll it back!

I've had this problem since Thursday, although I have upgraded the HDD to a 250GB drive. Wondered whether it was because they'd not tested it properly, or whether they'd only tested it with standard Sky + boxes. If it's the former then I wish they'd apply a roll-back until they've developed a fix for the new version!

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Tom
Silver badge

Never let anyone else control your hardware.

And never plug it into the phone line!

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@Tom

It's updated via satellite, so not plugging it in won't help. I don't think there's a way to stop it updating, but I know you can press something if you want to force it to do an update check and then download.

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@Tom

Your suggestions on how to operate a Sky+ box without Sky controlling it will be eagerly awaited, not just by me but by Sky's legal team.

And since we've already established that the update is delivered over the air and that most people (including me) don't connect their Sky boxes to the phone line anyway, what is the point of your comment?

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Coat

They want £65 to fix my box!!!

I find that quite hard to swallow as it worked on Monday and stopped working on the Tuesday becuse the update screwed it up. Technically I know my box is still fine so they aint getting £65 from me. If it aint fixed my christmas Sky will be at least one customer short.

I do have an upgraded hdd but this was only upgraded because the original failed, Swapped a Maxtor 40GB for a Maxtor 80GB. The biggest problem as a helpless consumer at the moment is that its probably only Digital Spy where people are aware of that this is a software problem and the majority of people who lurk in the Digital Spy Sky+ forum have upgraded their disks. There are reports in there of untouched boxes failing but its probably at a ratio of 1 in 10. It would be interesting to see what happens to this ratio if the uninformed find out. I would like to know how they also feel about paying out £65 for the repairs after finding out?

Time to grab my coat I think. I just hope the grass is greener elsewhere.

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@Steven Snape

I think the 10:1 ratio you spotted is probably related to three factors - the people who frequent DigitalSpy are more likely to upgrade their harddisks, the hard disks are smaller on these older boxes which tend to be affected so are more likely to have been upgraded, the people who have these older boxes are probably early adopters - presumably more tech. savvy and therefore more likely to have upgraded their boxes.

Personally, I have one of the newer 80GB boxes, and although I had every intention of upgrading the disk when I bought it, I haven't had the need.

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So I put the box on standby..

As others have said, putting the box on standby buggers it up again. However, I've gone through the 'fix' again and it still doesn't work. So I've got a drive full of stuff but can't watch it. Well done Sky.

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Anonymous Coward

40GB boxes were killed by this problem too..

..or at least mine did, about a week ago. At the time I assumed it was a dead HDD, the box was 4 years old and it seemed the logical conclusion. I couldn't get into the planner and everything was taking an age to happen after a power down... So, I dropped a spare 160GB drive I had lying around in, then did a full factory reset. All then seemed ok. Well, it seemed ok until the machine went into standby... Hooray!

I've now disabled standby, and have a usable machine, guess I'll give it a while to see if they put out a fix, otherwise virgin media might be able to do a better deal on something more reliable...

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@ Life span of Sky+ boxes

I have been a sky+ user for a little over a year now and I have had three in the warranty period. They offered me the "Extended warranty" for £5 per month. But when I phoned on a seperate occasion saying IF my sky+ box was broken how much would a replacement cost. £65 was the reply. So I could spend £60 over the course of a year in case my sky+ box breaks or live dangerously and suffer possibly paying the extra fiver IF it fails again.

I decided to live dangerously. If it breaks I'll replaced the HDD, if that doesn't fix it I will buy another one. The fact the warranty/repair costs are so close together speaks volumes about the reliability of the units.

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Well fool you

Well, if you are happy to hand over your hard earned to some greedy Aussie media baron in exchange for repeats then what can you expect.

Fools and their money are soon parted.

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Paris Hilton

Why?

Why don't they just downgrade the software to the previous (presumably working) version until they figure out the problem?

Paris, because she might know why I guess.

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Thumb Up

Thank you El Reg!

You've just saved me from having to fork out £10 a month for the next year to sign up to the "Sky Protect" insurance scheme (or should that be "protection racket"?!) which was going to be the cheapest way of (as I thought) getting my box fixed or replaced, as opposed to the option of paying out £150 for a new box plus £65 "installation fee" (even though I could do this myself!)

Given that I've been onto their Tech Support Division twice in the last three days (latest was this evening) and they said damn all about it, I'm glad at least *someone* knows WTF is going on!

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Alert

@Mark W

"(never mind the fact that even a simple thing like Audio/Video sync on HD channels is totally fcuked)"

You have adjusted the audio output delay setting, haven't you?

Works fine for me...

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Alert

@ pctechxp - Well fool you

The evil-dwarf is actually a US citizen now.

Old Rupert changed sides in order to make more $$$$

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@ Henry Wertz

Because the firmware updates are forced on us and remotely sent to our box's, we have no control over the updates and no access to the old firmware versions or any way to manually install them even if we could get hold of them.

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Sky Plus Planner Problems

Sky is penalizing those people who have taken their personal property and added additional disk space to save more recordings by the latest software update. It is plain they did this as it would mean that those individuals would have to purchase a sky plus box from them. I found it funny that I was getting calls from a number I did not recognize and as a member of TPS should not be getting these calls. When Wednesday last week I did answer the phone when it rang and Sky was trying to sell me cover on my sky plus box. I politely told them that I was a member of TPS and did not received unsolicited calls. THEN my sky box screws up...How ironic is that.

Dale

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Lee
IT Angle

Points to note on this

I have this as I have a 500Gb drive in the box. Standby followed by spin-down = disk unable to respond in the time that Sky+ expects the disk to spin up.

I actually just reboot the box and power it up as soon as possible; I then press Backup (no phone line here, thanks) and then I go directly into the planner. Disk works.....

If you WAIT after booting it, it won't work.

If you leave it in Standby, it'll eventually sleep.

I do have reliable recordings and playback - apart from when the wife puts it in Standby. "You never told me," says she. "I told you last week," say I. "Well that was on the telephone so it did not count." Crack that female logic, El Reg devotees!!

IT? as it really is a bit SH

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Anonymous Coward

"when we'll cobble a fresh story together"

Bit of a typo there, I think you meant "When the laser-hot pen of journalistic truth will bring you another incisive report"

Actually, a knacked Sky box should be a cinch to do in Playmobil. Or Lego, with a Playmobil Sky engineer scratching his head. Can a Playmobil man scratch his head? They don't have elbows, do they? Perhaps you could upscale and used an Action Man.

Perhaps I should get back to work...

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interesting

I've never checked the small print on the agreement, but the idea that Sky can b*gger the box that belongs to ME, via an over-the-air firmware update is ... interesting. They must be liable. It's destruction of property, isn't it?

If they'd sent a technician round, who'd jammed a screwdriver into the case then wandered off, they'd have to fix my equipment damn quick, or answer to a court. How is it different if they do it with software?

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Sky+ software update.

Just to let you know that I have had this problem for the last week and have been switching off at the mains to fix it (temporarily). I tried the "fix" reported in your article and it went wrong again a few hours later. I have the feeling that the only relevant part of the Sky "fix" is pulling the mains plug.

Let's hope they fix it soon. I have mentioned it to a Sky employee and he said he has informed a couple of people internally but can't say how soon it will be resolved.

One suggestion is to ask Sky for the previous version of software.

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Me Too

Sky HD. Acting up as described by others. Power reset fixes it in the short term. No need to mess about pulling out viewing cards.

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Same as here, and other oddities

Problems started two weeks ago with my launch day Sky HD box: new episodes of the Simpsons will not record, they simply FAIL; Terminator on Virgin will not record on timer, in the planner it says 9pm but does not start recording, if I try manual recording it crashes the box.

Have had all sorts of planner issues, the Sky HD stb is being hardware powered down and up every day after work.

(Unmodified Sky HD with the original HD installed.)

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