Broadcasting Sky Tech

Sky+, DNLA, UPnP, the iPad app and the IP control protocol

Sky launched an update to the iPad Sky+ app this week, which enables the ability to remotely control your Sky box over IP, if you’re updated to the new picasso interface. Obviously, I needed to figure out how it all works, and how I could write my own code to control it. Here are my inital findings.

The service is a DNLA/UPnP type thing, that runs on http://[sky-box-ip]:49153/

Authentication is provided simply by User-Agent. SKY_skyplus works.

More information is after the break.

Android Apple Microsoft Mobile Tech

Falling Behind

For the last 5 years, it’s felt very much like Apple was leading the way with mobile operating systems and technology, but in the last 12 months it’s very much going in the direction of Android, and in the last 24 hours, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.

The problem is Apple seem to be making very small improvements every year, which while impressive aren’t enough to keep people locked in their ecosystem.

iOS6 brings some very welcome improvements, but if all we know about from WWDC is all they’re planning on bringing to the table this fall, I think it’s time to reassess my commitment to Apple for my mobile phone.

We’ve had the same, almost completely blank, lock screen for years. It shouldn’t need to take an “event” for information to be shown on it, and it’s the same with the grid layout on the home screen – That’s not good enough for a modern phone when Microsoft are producing things like the gorgeous, 100% customisable, live updating, home screen which can contain probably up to 50 pieces of information at a glance.

Let’s hope the iPhone 6 launch event includes a significant overhaul to the at-a-glace view that it seems everyone else but Apple are able to nail at the moment.


Lost Pleasures

Two years ago, minus a little over a month, I hopped on the first train from Swindon to Bath. The commute was a regular occurrence (though usually not that early), but today was different. I had the day off, and I was heading to one of the most special events in a modern, Apple loving geeks diaries: An Apple product launch.

It was the iPhone 4. I had my reservation papers and arrived at the usual at-least-one-hour before opening time, my iPhone 3G was weeping dejectedly in my pocket while I waited second in the people with reservations line, secretly gloating at those in the longer line without reservations. About 30 minutes early, we were allowed in to start the process, and I was very quickly out with my new iPhone 4, walking past the (really rather huge) line at the O2 store in Bath’s Southgate centre.

The next part is the boring bit, 16 months of pleasure mixed with a little debating on whether leaving the usual 2-year upgrade cycle to hop on board the iPhone 4S (which didn’t happen) we’re at around October last year, and this is where things start to go down hill…


Premium TV: The thirst for a new model

Currently, the number one paid app in the UK App Store is “TV English Premium”. Since its launch 2 days ago, it provided live streaming of a number of obviously copyrighted content, such as Sky Movies and Sky Sports, all in a really rather glorious 1080p HD and AirPlay support.


Unfortunately, while it’s still available on the App Store, it doesn’t actually work. It appears the app was just streaming futubox’s streams access to which has now been pulled.

Twitter anger seems to be against Apple or Futubox. Some blame Apple for breaking it (they didn’t), others blame Futubox for shutting it down (it was using their content, presumably without permission). The app updates its channel list from a server, as well as its stream URLs. When the App was submitted to apple, it almost certainly was only displaying legal content, which is why Apple allowed it through. Apps like this need to be able to update live, it’s a risk apple have to take. Obviously by switching to stream copyright material it’s now in breach of those terms, and will no doubt be pulled once Apple realise.

The legality of Futubox is another question entirely, they seem to suggest they are legal, but i’m sure the increased spotlight on them following this weekend will soon lead to a definitive answer on that. But the popularity of the app, while partly or even mostly led by the fact it [is|was] 69p, demonstrates a thirst for premium content, without the need for satellite broadcast equipment, and the current model is just not working…


Raspberry Pi: First Impressions and Notes

I got my Raspberry Pi today, and it’s really lovely.

The first thing that struck me was how small it is – the pictures didn’t really correlate in my head, at least, to the size of the device.

I was smart enough to have pre-made my SD card, which provides its boot code as well as the filesystem containing a basic Debian Squeeze for ARM.

I’ll write up a proper post soon, but for now I wanted to share some bullet points I’ve discovered during setup:

  • You can’t really power the thing from a USB hub or computer – It needs about 700mA of power, and almost all USB sockets will provide 500mA at most, unless more is negotiated. The power port on the pi is only connected to the power rails, so can’t do that negotiation. That said, if you’re not using HDMI, aren’t really pushing the CPU and don’t have many/any USB devices attached, you’ll be fine on one.
  • With that in mind, there is a typo/mistake in the documentation from RS. One piece of paper included says you must use a 500mA max power supply, the quick start guide says it must be at least 700mA.
  • I had problems with an Ethernet cable that works fine on every other device i’ve used it on. Not sure if its a shielding issue, but swapping it out for another one worked fine. The symptoms of this including disconnections if you’re connected via. SSH, or “connection refused” error messages when you try to connect to any service.