Sky HD box shows FAILED a lot, and broken picture

Sky HD box internals (thanks to Satcure)

My second gadget-related failure of the weekend was my Sky HD box, which had spent the last two days showing a couple of problems: scheduled recordings were showing “FAILED” even though their transmission time hadn’t been reached yet; and the picture was breaking up, but oddly only on certain channels. Of course, nobody buys Sky’s expensive warranties, and they charge £65 to come and take a look, so as ever with these things, it’s off to Google. This was a hard one to track down, because it’s difficult to describe the problems in the same way as everyone else, but it turns out that loads (and I mean loads) of people are having the same problem. It’s caused by some cheap capacitors in the Sky HD box power supply unit failing: this apparently leads to interference with specific channels, and the clock racing ahead into the future, so that recordings appear to have failed even though the time to record them hasn’t actually happened yet.

Here is a long discussion about Sky HD and Sky+ power supply failures and here is another one about the same subject of Sky HD recording and picture blocking failures. However, you may wish to jump straight to the solutions, which come from a company called Satcure in Telford, which is behind the first discussion forum above.

  1. If you’re a dab hand with a soldering iron, read the notes and for £10.95 buy a capacitor upgrade kit from Satcure and replace the offending components with some decent ones;
  2. If you’re OK with a screwdriver and some fiddly stuff, extract your power supply unit and send it back to Satcure to replace the offending components with some decent ones for £32.95;
  3. Find a local repairer who is familiar with the problem (don’t just go to any old TV shop) – there’s a list here – I guess this’ll cost at least £50, but get a quote based on the information above;
  4. Buy a new Sky HD box – £199 (see the small print there);

I opted for the second option, using these great notes here. It only took 5 minutes to remove the power supply, although I’ve always been someone who takes electronic stuff to bits, so the operation didn’t hold any fear. It took longer to package it all up safely, and longer still to walk down to the post office and queue up to post it. Fortunately we have our old Sky+ box from pre-HD days, so that’s now resumed service in the lounge. I’ll report back on Satcure’s service.

2nd Gen iPod Nano Red gets red hot

Very hot 2nd Generation iPod Nano

Two electronic gadget failures on the same day, and in both cases the solution was online. I’ll blog about my Sky+ HD box showing “FAILED” recordings in a moment, but first, my second generation red iPod Nano from early 2007, which this morning showed a “Sad Mac” icon, something I hadn’t seen on an Apple product since an old Quadra 840AV back in the 90s. I assumed it would need some sort of hard reset, but the normal reboot (press the menu and select buttons together for 6 seconds) wasn’t working, so I thought it was probably discharged, and not even recharging via the usual USB connection to my iMac. Acting on some advice online, I tried recharging using a mains-connected dock, and although I got the Sad Mac when I plugged it in, I just left it for a bit.

Fortunately I didn’t leave it for too long, because I’m impatient and wanted to reset it. When I returned after an hour, the iPod was red hot to the touch and I almost burned myself. Gingerly unplugging the mains dock, I let the iPod cool and then removed it, before heading back to the web to Google this new turn of events. And wouldn’t you know it, there seems to be a rare but documented fault with 2G iPod Nanos bursting into flames because of faulty batteries. Whether this is my problem or not, I’m not sure, but I knew that having an Apple Store here in Cambridge would turn out to be useful one day. I’m off down there when I get a spare hour, and will report back below.

UPDATE (1):
“Do you have an appointment at the Genius Bar, Sir?”
“No, I have a faulty iPod which I’d like to talk to you about.”
“Ah, sorry, you’ll need an appointment, would you like to book an appointment on this computer?”
“Er, not really. Would the appointment be like, er, now?
“Well, if you book in, it’ll tell you”
“Can’t you just ask one of your colleagues if they’re free?”
“Look, just type your name and details here Sir …thank you… and… sorry, there’s nobody free until next week”
“What do you mean? If I’d bought this from John Lewis I wouldn’t be asked to come back next week by a bloody iMac”
“Look, I tell you what, I’ll see if I can interrupt one of my colleagues in the back room and maybe they can take a look”
(A couple of minutes later)
“Hello again Sir, well, this is not a unit corresponding to the serial numbers of those with reported problems, so I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do, as it’s out of warranty”
“OK, but can it be fixed?”
“That’s not something we can do. But I can give you the number of AppleCare, here we go. They might help.”
Moral of the story so far: buy Apple products, because they’re great, but buy them from a retailer which cares about its customers, not the manufacturer direct…

Best of 2008. No arguments.

half-man-half-bsicuit-csi-ambleside-cd-cover.jpg

My cultural highlights of the year were probably the Saw Doctors at Cambridge, Roger Waters at the O2, Kylie (aw, bless) at the O2, Simon Day at Cambridge, Happy Go Lucky, Iron Man, Juno, There Will Be Blood, all of the great medal-winning performances at the Olympics, Ebbsfleet United winning at Wembley, England beating Croatia, Holland at the European Championships, the Wimbledon final, the end of the last Grand Prix of the season, Essex beating Kent to win the FP Trophy final at Lord’s, Cricinfo’s County Championship Fantasy Cricket, Gavin and Stacey, Outnumbered, The Apprentice, Little Dorrit (except the rubbish ending), Danny Baker on 6-0-6, Kermode and Mayo on Five Live, the TWTD Naked Football podcast, Stephen Fry’s podcasts, PhotoshopDisasters.com, b3ta, Lifehacker.com, The Half Man Half Biscuit Lyrics Project, The Internet Now In Handy Book Form!, Word magazine, Christian Wolmar’s Fire and Steam, John O’Farrell’s An Utterly Impartial History of Britain – Or 2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots In Charge, Half Man Half Biscuit’s CSI:Ambleside, Sigur Rós’s Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust and the fantastic The Promise single from Girls Aloud. Make of that what you will. Alex has just reminded me how brilliant Wall-E was too, but Dawn will never convince me that either Sex and the City or Mamma Mia! were any good, sorry.

Best live band in the world

Saw Doctors Live

If there’s a better live band in the world than the Saw Doctors, I’d travel a long, long way to see them. I’ve seen great bands with fanatical local following (Ezio etc) and great bands with fanatical worldwide following (Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, etc) but I’ve never seen a band make a crowd as happy as the Saw Doctors do. The last time I got as excited as I did at tonight’s Saw Doctors gig was probably a couple of years ago – the last time I saw them. They make you so happy you almost want to cry. Honestly, if you said I had only two hours to live and could spend it any way I wanted, this would be the way I’d choose to go out.

PS: And although they didn’t play it tonight, I’d like I hope we’ll meet again played at my funeral one day.

Say it with Tommy. Or Ben.

Sayitmessages.com screenshot

The more I think about this, the more I think it’s a great idea. Say It is a excellently-designed (technically and aesthetically) site with a really fun product too – what’s not to like? The site allows you to send a professionally-recorded poem or song to someone, and to have their name inserted into it as appropriate too. Sounds corny? Yep. Does it work? Oh yes. I sent a song to the missus and watched as she played it – and her expression went from “huh?” slowly to “aaaahhh…” (in a good way) in 20 seconds. It’s brilliant, and compared to the money people readily burn on ringtones, not bad value either. The next best thing to sending Tommy Blaize or Ben Mills round personally.