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back to article Sky mulls PVR software rollback

Sky is considering reversing an update to the software on its PVR boxes after it froze customers out of the programme guide and left them unable to record TV. The update to Sky+ boxes, described as minor by the firm, was pushed last week over the air. Customers noticed the OS version number had changed when they were locked out …

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Anonymous Coward

Ill-advised DIY modding

DIYers are kind of asking for trouble. I don't know about the recent boxes, but the earlier ones didn't have enough buffering to cope with delays due to thermal recalibration in consumer level drives. Unless a DIYer uses an A/V spec drive, the chances are they'll see random errors anyway.

That said, Sky could make life a bit easier by publishing a list of drives that will work with each box.

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Coat

eh?

"vast majority of cases the boxes concerned have had their hard disk drive changed for a non-standard component."

non-standard component?!?!?

how the hell could you conceivably replace the internal hard disk with a non-standard component?

"I see. Have you made any changes to the hardware inside your sky box, sir?"

"Why yes. I've replaced the internal hard disk with a small, off-duty checoslovacian traffic warden. Why?"

"I think we may have gotten to the crux of your problem, sir."

"Really? I don't see how the traffic warden could possibly cause issues."

"Well, I'm afraid our firmware has very limited support for traffic wardens due to the regioning implanted on each box, and seeing as yours is checoslovacian..."

Mines the one with the pythonesque lining, rob grant in one pocket, and Doug Naylor in the other (keep 'em seperate, cause they don't get on too well these days)

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Anonymous Coward

Modded box and problems

found this problem with my box on wednesday morning and assumed hard drive had died (been replaced before) 2nd drive showed same problem, as I had also been working on cabling that morning I assumed that I must have got something wrong and fried the box.

Phoned sky to get a price of a new box and was told that the cheapest way of getting a replacement box was to request an engineer visit for £65, the money would cover ALL expenses including a new box if it was required. I was about to pay when the operator stopped me and told me about the botched update and how to work around it until they fix it.

the current workaround is quite simple

1. unplug the box

2. plug it back in

3. go to services, system setup and DISABLE auto standby

4. do not put the box into standby otherwise you will have the problem back again

just for the record the same problem occurrs if I put the original sky drive back in and force a reload of the current software so the "only affects modded boxes" line is not accurate

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Say

They say you should not upgrade your box? after 12 months its your box to do with what you want!! if they go down this route they should so what Virgin media and NTL did before the change and that is they own the box and not the customer!!

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Jobs Horns

Sky Update

So Sky release an update which only appears to affect people that have changed the HDD in their Sky+ box.....

...and people are surprised at this tactic^H^H^H^H^H^H unfortunate incident?

Steve Jobs: Apple Store - 'Nuff said

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Anonymous Coward

Not the first time.....

This isnt the first time Sky has done this. They did the same thing around 2 years ago. I had a version 1 box which I replaced the drive in as the original died and they wanted £65 to come round and £85 for a replacement drive. £150 for a 40gb drive??? yeah right........

So, I decided that I would replace it myself with an identical type & size drive, just a different manufacturer....... Then Sky decided after a firmware update that I couldnt replace the component in *my* box, that was 3 years out of warranty, myself rather than paying extortionate fees to them. When the drive had been working flawlessly for over a year.

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Unhappy

A/V spec drive upgrades are also affected

I upgraded my parent's Pace V2 box from a the measly 40GB drive supplied, to a 160GB drive. After doing a lot of reading beforehand, I deliberately made sure I bought a drive which was to the A/V spec, but it has still been affected by Sky's latest upgrade.

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Flame

Ill-advised commenting

As DIY is the only upgrade for these boxes and the drives worked perfectly before sky made an ill-advised upgrade that broke this then I guess you are nothing but a sky stool-pigeon

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Paris Hilton

Standards, everyone has their own...

This just about sums up the IT industry doesn't it?

I mean, it's a hard drive, it follows 'ATA' specifications / standards, as does (allegedly) their software - ignoring all the crappy legacy bumpf like LBA, CHS, 'Bios limits' etc. (which shouldn't come into play - the original drives were 40Gb) - why the heck doesn't their standard software work with 'standard' hard drives?

Because the standards are crap?

Because the drives don't follow the standards?

Because the software doesn't follow the standards?

2 of those 3 are probably right...

The IT industry is riddled with crap like this - and it's getting worse :(

Some people are claiming this breaks the original 40Gb drives as well - so much for 'mod at your own risk'.

Paris, 'cause she's got standards as well...

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Anonymous Coward

Advice sites are pretty expicit

I've not looked into this in a long time, but the sites that give information on swapping out the hard drive were pretty specific about the drives that were suitable for modding Sky+ boxes.

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Paris Hilton

Hahaha!!

Serves them all right for taking Sky up - if the services aren't good enough, just don't go with them! Simple!

Paris, because she let's the lucky 5% mess with her box too.

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Anonymous Coward

Not Just DIY Sky+ boxes

If the first Anonymous Coward cared to read the forum thread highlighted in the article, he/she would soon realise that it is not just the DIY modded boxes that have been affected, those which have the original disk as supplied by Sky have also been affected.

In typical Sky fashion, they have ignored the full facts and acknowledge only what they perceive to be the issue.

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Cop out

While most problems on the net have been reported by people who have upgraded their hard disks, there are many reports of unmodified V2 boxes with the same problems. There is also another commonly reported problem with this new software version - the power supply fan runs full speed all the time making the box much noisier.

In my opinion these facts suggest that it is a problem with all Pace V2 hardware whether modified or not. And I think there are a number of less tech savvy poeple out there with unmodified boxes who have "upgraded" them or paid Sky £65 because they assume the hardware is broken.

This version of the software is clearly flawed when running on this version of hardware and for Sky to blame it on "modders" is a smoke and mirrors ploy to detract from their own lack of quality testing.

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Stop

How much is a Sky+ Box...?

I, too, have had this problem after replacing the old 40GB HDD (which died) with an 80GB drive and was within a few minutes of forking out £10 a month for "Sky Protect" (or is that Sky Protection Racket) coverage for a year (ie £120 or so all told) to get an engineer to come out and replace my current box with a refurbished one because after doing all the usual resets etc, it still wouldn't work properly. Fortunately I read El Reg's last article on this just in time to save my money!

The people at Sky (who knew nothing about the problem) first told me that I'd have to buy a new box for £150 and pay £65 to have an engineer install it, but it occurred to me, how much is a Sky+ box?

Consider, a 40GB drive which (if you can even get them these days) are about £20 at retail. Add in a motherboard, a few chips, a transformer, a case and bit of assembly and you've got maybe £50-£60 worth of costs. So where is the rest of the money going, I wonder...?!

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remember this?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/01/06/sky_dvr_bug/

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Alien

so if the sky update broke it....

Did anyone get a message on-screen to say there was a update and "do you want to install it?"

no???

well then as i own my sky box, and have done for over 4 years and in all that time it has worked perfectly, along came sky and modify my box and it stops working correctly !!!

in my opinion, sky broke it, they fix it.... as for a 65 quid call out, they can take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut for that!!! since when do you pay for the repair when someone else broke it? Does it say anywhere in the T&C for sky plus that you cannot modify the hard disk?

I have had sky plus since a few months after it first came to market... and up to now i have had no problems with my kit with the exception of the odd failed recording... but they are few and far between to be bothered about!

This latest update has not affected me, but if it had, i would have been demanding sky replace my box with a brand new one !!!

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Boffin

AV drives? Eh?

Have you been living under a rock for a few years? People don't sell "AV drives" anymore. If they were needed, I'd be buying them, as I spend a lot of my time building high end hard-disk based video systems. As it is, standard drives these days don't have thermal recalibration issues.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ill advised whatevers

"As DIY is the only upgrade for these boxes and the drives worked perfectly before sky made an ill-advised upgrade that broke this then I guess you are nothing but a sky stool-pigeon"

Hardly. I used to design PVR hardware long before Sky+ came out (ours was shelved because the company didn't think PVR was a viable market... ha!) Thermal recalibration was a big issue when using off-the-shelf drives due to the lack of buffer memory available to the MPEG decoder ICs. A/V spec drives guarantee to provide a minimim level of continous throughput; consumer drives do not.

Sky's current problem isn't an A/V spec drive issue but an incompatibility. I was just noting that the majority of modders have gone into this without really knowing what they're doing and also that it might be nice if Sky published a list of compatible drives.

By the way, not using an A/V spec drive "only" results in random, infrequent loss of data and won't result in a non-working system.

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Is "Evil Overlord" a good title?

Sky are lying. I know of two cases of this affecting unmodified boxes. One of my friends might not be 100% accurate, so I wouldn't hold that up as evidence, but the other one is a neighbour who wouldn't dare do a mod. She rings the TV repair man to change the batteries on the remote FFS and just doesn't get that taking the lid off something doesn't necessarily break it.

I can't say I'm surprised though. Sky seem to be a mixed blessing in my house - excellent service for ages, then totally unable to organise a simple house move. Their credit card is good, but you try to use their web services to deal with a simple query and you find out their front-line support is run entirely by people called "Carol Beer". But, if you can get past her, they're absolutely fine.

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Gates Horns

The Murdoch-o-vision evil in your homes

Ah the old problem of News International enforcing their way on others.

They killed Tivo too because they wanted a 'ground-up' box that couldn't be hacked.

Q: How many will drop Sky for Freesat now?

A: Not many I suspect......

Bill because he knows the power of control.

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Gates Horns

I am still non the wiser

I have Sky+ and I am yet to receive this update. So either Sky have already prevented the rollout, or are already int he process of rolling everything back...

And I still can't find ANY info on what this update actually achieves/does. Aside from destroying out of warranty boxes...

Bill gates with Horms becuase Microsoft are the cuase of everything wrong, electronically, in the world.

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Stop

Only themselves to blame

Seriously are idiots blaming Sky because THEY swapped out the supplied HDD for their own (AV standard or not).

What is this country coming to. If you take the lid off, you are on your own...

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Stop

Re: AV drives

"As it is, standard drives these days don't have thermal recalibration issues."

Of course they do. More so than older drives as the rotation speeds go up.

The difference these days is that RAM is more plentiful, not to mention hard disk caches being larger, and you can use bigger buffers to hide the problem. The older SKY+ boxes didn't have this luxury and required a drive where the effects of calibration issues were within an acceptable range. Some manufacturers published worst-case figures for all their drives, whilst others would only give them for the more expensive A/V-specced units (which were probably the same in many cases). You can probably still find some of Alan Sugar's old forum posts on the issue if you have a hunt around. ..or are you suggesting he didn't know what he was talking about either?

"I spend a lot of my time building high end hard-disk based video systems"

The key part of this statement is "high end", i.e. you probably have lots of buffering and nothing to worry about. SKY+ boxes are a million miles away from being high end, even in their latest incarnations. The latest ones "should" have enough buffering to make throwing any old drive in there a no brainer. Whether they do or not is another question.

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Boffin

Re: AV drives? Eh?

"As it is, standard drives these days don't have thermal recalibration issues."

Lol. So the laws of physics have changed over the past few years, yes?

The physical effects are more pronounced on modern, high density/high speed drives. What's changed is the manufacturers are trying harder in their efforts to deal with it. Better servo control helps, as do larger on-drive caches.

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Bronze badge

Ill advised my arse

If you think DIY hacking PVR boxes is "ill-advised", all I can say is you are reading the wrong web site.

There are very likely some Reg readers who know more about hard drives than the guys who designed the Sky+ box (and yes, I've designed PVR boxes in the past as well).

And you seem to have a fixation with "A/V" spec hard drives, which, as another AC pointed out, haven't existed for about 8 years or so. Thermal recalibration hasn't been an issue since hard disk makers adopted embedded servo technology and removed the need for it.

So you were right once, but it was a long time ago.

My money is with another AC who reckons it's a standards thing. Probably the IDE controller or firmware embedded in the DTV chip isn't very standards-compliant. It only takes (for example) one dumb programmer to hard-code a timing parameter and you are screwed. Combine that with Sky's lack of testing on disks outside the limited range they ship and there's your problem.

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Coat

@Not Just DIY Sky+ boxes

To the anonymous coward who replied to my anonymous coward post:-

Why let the truth get in the way of a good Sky bashing.

PS I don't have time to read everything on the web like some people obviously do :-)

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Looks like a dvd recorder for me...

Well I'm one one of the people who've 'modified their box' It was 'modified' because the orginal 40Gb disk failed. Two years back I had the option, do I pay Sky £65 for a refurb box and wait for an engineer to fit it, or spend half that on a new disk and pop it in myself. Guess which option I choose.

The box has worked fine, better infact than with the original disk for the past 2 years. Far better in than my parents Amstrad Sky+ which was fitted earlier this year and has several crappy issues.

I don't want some rubbish refurb, I'd be quite happy back with the software that has worked perfectly for the past two years.

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Only Affects Modded boxes - bunch of bull

I cannot believe Sky stating that this is only affecting modded boxes, I have an unmodded box which has been experiencing the issue, engineers are coming tomorrow from sky (free of charge) to "service my box, problem is a service will not work so I will end up getting a free replacement.

This was only given to me after I threatend to cancel

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Anonymous Coward

sky firmware oddities

I was the second poster here and have sky+ with the faulty software.

sky have a history of rolling out dodgy updates (even to non sky+ boxes)

I used to use a thomson sky box (not sky plus) and every couple of months the software would update and mess up my sound by putting a high pitched squeal over the top.

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Silver badge

Uhm, Sky Box?

Why do you people even accept such a thing like a satellite reciever designed by the content provider? That just seems horribly wrong.

In germany we used to have something like that. It was named the dBox. There were 2 variations. The first one had a buildt-in SCSI-Interface so you could connect a CD-Rom drive and watch Video CDs. Well at least until they upgraded the software and removed that feature. The second version had it's software written in Java which was not just slow but _SLOW!!!!_. It had an Ethernet socket, but the software didn't use it. Most of those boxes run Linux now.

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Upgrade ?

Isn't it about time they brought out a Sky+ f/w update that:

- lets you use the full HDD rather than just 50%

- gives you a reasonably readable EPG rather than a DOS-mode text one

- lets you text search the EPG programmes rather than having to wade through "Starts with A ... B ..."

- displays Radio programmes in the EPG thereby letting you series-record Milton Jones

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Pirate

DRM strikes again !

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity.......... Owned.

Thank goodness for TBP :)

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Anonymous Coward

slingbox

I'm operating sky HD+ through a slingbox, cos I am working on site two time zones away - looks like I have lost the chance to record stuff remotely because of this. I wont be back for months to perform the hard reboot.

Sky wont be getting my money again.

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Flame

Pace hardware

A piece of Pace hardware or software failing? Shurely shome mishtake. Pace have always been the lowest of the low in any given market, and their terrible management and awful design choices have conspired to ensure that they can't get the talent they'd need to make a decent product.

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Seriously, no, dream on.

>"As it is, standard drives these days don't have thermal recalibration issues."

>Of course they do. More so than older drives as the rotation speeds go up.

Seriously, no. Once you start using 10k and 15k drives, you don't ask your supplier for 64 "AV drives", unless you want the piss to be taken. The block cache in the host machine or drive controller is easy equal to the job, you don't buy "AV drives" any more. Thank god, the days of filling boxes with AV drives and plugging them into beige NLE rigs is over, making for a more entertaining working day. Playing out uncompressed 1080p would just cost too damn much if you still had to mimsy around with such designations.. As was asked above, have you been living under a rock? You might enjoy colour TV too, I hear it's good for watching popular beat combos.

What's more, you sure as hell wouldn't be finding any sort of fancy drive in a Sky+ box. Just count yourself lucky that the damn caps haven't popped. Those things are built so cheaply, it's untrue.

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Happy

No, really, AV drives don't exist now Granddad

I honestly don't know why people insist on posting comments about this, it's a non-issue.

In the old days (pre-2000), hard drives had a thermal recalibration phase and now they don't. No, they haven't rewritten the laws of physics, they just make them differently that's all. If you had been arsed to Google for an answer you would have found this as the 2nd hit:

http://www.pctechguide.com/31HardDisk_AV_capability.htm

Nowadays, if manufacturers promote a drive as ideal for AV, it just means that it's quiet and doesn't get very hot, that's all.

Secondly, I am not complaining, not to you or Sky. Of course it's my lookout if I replace my hard drive, I know that because there's a big fuck-off "Warranty Void" sticker that I had to break to open the box.

Finally, in case there's anyone left on this comment page who still has the will to live after wading through all the uninformed shite, I can happily report that putting my original 40G drive back in my Pace V2 box makes it work very nicely thanks.

Incidentally, neither the original 40G drive nor the big new drive I replaced it with were special magic AV drives. They are just ordinary vanilla bog-standard Seagate drives, so can we please give it a rest with the AV drives now?

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750GB in my SKY HD box

Sky HD box ships with a 300GB drive of which Sky take a big chunk for 'anytime' where they control what gets recorded. That leaves you with less than 30Hrs of HD recording. I swapped my drive for a 750GB samsung on the day I bought it and it has worked perfectly until recently when I have had a few glitches. All solved by BRS (big red switch) reset, or Planner Rebuild on the hidden menu (services -> 4 -> 0 -> 1 -> select), and generally the box works pretty well.

But fair play to Sky, people - they are entitled to tell you 'if you did this, you did it at your own risk' but they are still trying to address the problem. Of course I'd like to be able to plug in a nice big 1TB+ array into the E-SATA socket on the back (which doesn't function afaics) but I have to say both this box and my old 40 (now a 250) have delivered very good value for money. I would buy a new box tomorrow if I had to (and I'd upgrade it before plugging it in).

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Paris Hilton

Sky+ Users

So....

You need a satellite dish+planning permission so you can get crappy TV programmes, on a shitty PVR that can't be modded/upgraded, with a poorly tested OS that runs an abysmal EPG...

...and it only costs you 30 quid a month for the privilege?

Sky's TV business is so screwed - Freeview, iPlayer & 4OD will set you free.

Paris, because if you pay her enough she'll fuck you too.

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Go

AV Drives or not.....I Fixed mine

All I did was replace the original 40GB Drive, force a software update (Hold Backup when switching mains supply on), wait for the software to reflash and hey presto.......backie workie.

I then went one step further and swapped the 250GB drive back in and, yep, you guessed it, it worked too.

So, Sky broke it, I fixed it. I'm happy.

The more interesting thing was that after Sky did their worst, I did a full system reset, which theoretically wipes the hard drive of recordings. When I recovered the system using the 40GB drive, I put the 25GB back in and they were all still there.

I personally believe that Sky knew what they were doing and did this as a way of finding out the penetration of hacked boxes in the wild. They probably picked up a few legit boxes due to shite quality control at their manufactrers.

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Bronze badge
Alert

Just to confirm, it's not just modded boxes

Got a Sky +HD box here, (Thomson) still got it's seals in place since new, standard Hard Drive etc.

And yes it's been screwed by the resent update.

Failed recordings due to a clash, when nothing else was being recorded, a failed recoding initiated by me hitting the record button while watching it live, tried to watch today and it was another failed. One item on the planner still scheduled to be recorded, despite it being in the past! Very odd seemingly random behaviour!

Please fix it Sky, and top blaming other people for your lack of proper testing.

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JBR
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why bother

with Sky? They took the footie from my sat afternoon and I'lll never forgive them

Downloaded mythtv, slapped 3x200gb hard drives in an old box with 2 digital terrestrial and one satellite tuner- hey presto your own (far superior) media server for about £200. No pay channels but, hey it's all just crap on them anyway. Get yourself down the pub or the cinema and have a life

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Sky own the customer

Danny Posted:-

[They say you should not upgrade your box? after 12 months its your box to do with what you want!! if they go down this route they should so what Virgin media and NTL did before the change and that is they own the box and not the customer!!]

Nah, Sky definitely "own the customer".

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@ Neil Stansbury

Since when did you need planning permisison to put a dish on the side of your house? Not since the 80's at least - planning rules have an exception in them letting anyone put a dish on a house unless it's a listed building or in a conservation area.

@ Nano Nao

Sky's new EPG (for HD customers only at the moment) offers all of the features you describe - except the bit about unreserving the HDD space.

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Anonymous Coward

Reading comprehension of own posting fail.

>"As it is, standard drives these days don't have thermal recalibration issues."

>Lol. So the laws of physics have changed over the past few years, yes?

>The physical effects are more pronounced on modern, high density/high speed drives. What's >changed is the manufacturers are trying harder in their efforts to deal with it. Better servo control >helps, as do larger on-drive caches.

All of which explain *why* they don't have thermal recalibration issues, dillhole. "lol".

In any case, back on topic, these crappy boxes are easy enough to resuscitate if they bork due to the issues above. If you're too dim to frobnicate them and try a restore, then maybe you shouldn't be taking the top off in the first place, people. Remember, being a tinkerer isn't just for christmas.. etc etc etc.

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Happy

Not all of us...

I doubt this is Sky's attempt to nobble DIY upgrades.

I have a Pace V2 Sky+ box, I have upgraded the hard disk (with a cheapo Maxtor model) and I have the received the software update in question, but my box is continuing to function as normal.

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Law
Paris Hilton

RE: 750GB in my SKY HD box

How the hell do you navigate the awful planner if you even use half the size of that drive?!?! (I assume the HD box uses a similar crappy blue/yellow interface).

I had an odd problem the other day, I set something to record - and it recorded the 30 minute program, then the next day I'd realised it was STILL recording the 30 minute program... it managed to grab over half my drive somehow.... I stopped the recording, deleted the recording, and it free'd the space.... wtf?! Might need to diy my box with a 750GB hard disk if they keep doing it!

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Zap
Pirate

Sky better roll back

My machines areyears out of warranty and I will upgrade them as I see fit, I have two boxes both upgraded with 250gb and 500gb respectively. My family and I have hours of programmes on the boxes and Sky have enjoyed our subscription.

If Sky do not roll back I will simply cancel my £48 a month subscription.

If you are affecte by this I suggest you call Sky to put the pressure on. It manifests by giving please wait message when you access the planner. A reboot fixes for a while but then it does the same thing a few hours later. It also fails to record all programmes.

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@James Prior

Re: HD EPG.

"Sky's new EPG (for HD customers only at the moment) offers all of the features you describe - except the bit about unreserving the HDD space."

It did if they ever got their arses in gear and rolled it out, as no proper customers have it yet, only testers who work for Sky.

As I've said before, Sky promised this to their shareholders, and to us SkyHD customers for September.

It's now November - 2 months beyond launch date and no-one knows wtf is going on - there's been nothing official from Sky. Maybe their shareholders ought to do something about it? Lying to your shareholders isn't a good thing...

(Oh - and the issue here Sky isn't that us customers have upgraded our Hard Disks, it's more that they've worked fine for three years until you fucked them with a software update that we can't choose to implement.)

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THEY'VE DONE IT!

Sky have rolled back the software to the previous version overnight (26th-27th). Everyone (so far) on the Digitalspy forum is reporting that this has fixed the issues. Thanks to El Reg for running the story - I am not sure it would have happened otherwise.

Btw it was not just modified boxes. I suspect there aren't many unmodified ones around any more but there were reports that unmodified units had the same problems.

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Rolled back...

Woke up this morning to find my Pace PVR2 has had its software rolled back to the previous version.

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