Virgin Media – Technology Win , Human Fail

Recently we have moved, with this came the opportunity to get a TV package and faster internet. Our new flat had previously had cable so Virgin Media seemed like the best option. Being a lovers of everything new, shiny and fast we decided to get Virgins new Premier Collection. This gives you the top TV package with a Tivo box + 60MB/s Internet and an old school phone line. In addition you also get a second V Box which so that you can watch the same HD TV content 0n a second TV.

Come installation day on a Friday the engineers arrived at 6pm. Due to the second V Box another cable needed to be run upstairs, this apparently caught the engineers off guard as they weren’t expecting it. The old tradesman’s saying “Measure twice cut once” doesn’t appear to be employed late on Friday afternoons. After a few minutes of hammer drilling and pinning cables we had the V Box upstairs, all it cost us was chunks of wall and badly done cabling. We now have cable curving slackly around the bottom of the stairs and pinned at an odd angle up the side of a wardrobe. After giving me the land line telephone number and connecting a laptop to the wireless the engineers prompted left. No demo of the Tivo, no signature to sign off the work.

An hour later after we have cleaned all of the brick dust of the carpets we called customer services. After a few minutes of waiting we were put through to lady who took on our concerns and said someone would call us back and arrange a visit in the next 48 hours. After two days of hearing nothing we called back. Customer service had it noted that we needed to be called back but couldn’t  give us a reason why it hadn’t been done, but we would be called back in another 48 hours. After another two days we called back again, originally “Lets get ready to rumble” whilst waiting for customer service might have been endearing but not any more. Same story again, 48 hours.

Eventually we received a call to arrange an engineer to come and inspect the work. He confirmed the state of the drilling and cabling was unacceptable, took some photos and said they would send the information back and would be in touch for when the repairs and rerunning of cable would be done. Several days later I received another call to arrange another engineer visit, apparently they need to inspect something else before the proper work could start. I asked what they needed to know, customer service didn’t know but they would find out.

After several more days of getting no where we used Twitter as Virgin have a customer service account.  After a little back and forth we were sent a form to fill in:

https://help.virginmedia.com/system/web/custom/socialMediaEnquiryForm_ssl.jsp

If you want anything done fill this in. It will take a day or two but someone with some power will call you. After doing this the ball actually started rolling, be it slowly.

Now that everything has been resolved how do I feel about Virgin Media? Although the technology and service is fine I absolutely dread ever having to deal with customer service. I would never recommend it anyone.

Stories in my ears

After a couple of months of debating it I finally got an Audible subscription today. To put it bluntly it really does sum up why DRM just doesn’t work.
For those not in the know Audible is a subscription service for audiobooks. The basic plan gives you one audiobook a month for £8 a month and a discounted rate if you want to buy more (usually £4). Considering the cost of physical audiobooks this is fairly good value, no complaints there.
The problem is the format it comes in. Audible uses its own DRM file format which a few select players can play. Now this isn’t a problem when you have an Android or iPhone which have native Audible apps but what if you want to play it in the on a Windows Phone 7 handset?
There is a way to convert the files to MP3, the Audible website even tells you how to do half of it. Burn them to CD and rip them back to MP3.
So after downloading the files to my computer I then have to download iTunes which is the only player which is actively supported. Then you can make a playlist of the audio books and burn the to disc. That said you are best checking that you have a lot of spare CDs or a virtual ISO program as an audio book in CD audio format is going to take up half a dozen discs. Once that is done you can then rip the discs back to MP3.

OR you could download a pirate copy and save yourself a couple of hours of pain. If I wanted to I could have found a pirate copy in minutes and saved myself some time and money. When will companies learn that DRM like this doesn’t work. It punishes paying customers and does nothing to stop people who want to steal it doing so.

Audible you make me want to steal

Goodbye Consoles?

Earlier generations of console offered something that wasn’t available else where. Hardware wasn’t as cheap and forthcoming as it is these days. Consoles offered a relatively cheap platform to make games on.

The modern world is heaving with easily accessible hardware. Handheld consoles which were once bespoke hardware now use the same hardware as their smartphone cousins. So if the hardware doesn’t make them unique, what does? Nintendo have become the masters of selling tried and tested electronics to the masses. While Microsoft and Sony battle it out with the powerhouse machines and lose money on hardware as they do Nintendo go about and do their own thing. The only way to win the hardware race is not to take part, there will always be something faster and better out shortly.
Sony have recently annouced their NGP, which looks very nice. Unfortunately it doesn’t really offer anything new, there is no unique selling point here. You have a very generic experience for the user, if they have used any other console before they aren’t going to find anything new here. The 3DS on the other hand offers something very unique for many consumers, just like the DS and Wii did before it.

So if we are going to see familiar games on the NGP with its off the shelf hardware why does it need to exist?The tech world seems to be moving towards a more unified environment why not just develop the Playstation Portable as a platform rather than just a set bit of hardware? Sony announced with the Xperia Play that they would also be releasing the Playstation Suite which plays playstation one games on android handsets. Why not just create a new platform which takes full advance of the power instead?

The Unity games development platform is the perfect example. It is being used to create rich games that are usable on multiple platforms with just a small client install. Why not just have a “Playstation Mobile” platform that can be installed on Android, Apple or Windows Mobile handsets?