Services Technology

Mr Robot on Amazon Instant Video: Love it!

I’m usually a Netflix of a BBC iPlayer person. I have long been an Amazon Prime customer but it’s only recently that I’ve started to bother with the company’s Instant Video streaming service.

I really enjoyed watching ‘The Vikings’ on Amazon’s Instant Video service but because there’s not been a download function, I’ve used the service intermittently.

That changed when I bought an Amazon Fire TV. It’s now the third ‘box’ in our house — that is, the Sky+ satellite Pay TV box is probably still primary. Although it’s a close call between that and the Apple TV. We access Netflix through the Apple TV. And then the children use the Amazon Fire TV a lot.

Now and again I’ve had a look at some of the movies.

However when I got notification from Amazon that they’d added a download option for Instant Video, I changed my tune.

All of a sudden I felt the service was significantly improved: Offline viewing is sadly still a very, very important feature despite what the mobile networks would have us all believe.

I happened to flick up the Amazon Instant Video app when I was on the train to Scotland last week. I did a bit of work for half the journey then I decided to try it out. I’d downloaded a 90 second trailer of “Mr Robot” to watch.

This is a new series just released on Amazon produced by USA Networks. It follows “Elliot”, a cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, who gets recruited by a mysterious underground group to destroy the firm he is paid to protect. That’s what the blurb said.

I watched the trailer and thought, “You know what, that is rather good.”

So I hit “stream” on the first episode.

I happened to be in a main station on the way up to Scotland — Darlington I think it might have been, so the train wasn’t moving. I was astonished when the first episode began to stream… in what looked like high quality.

I was further astonished to be able to watch the first episode, end-to-end, without any gaps… ON THE TRAIN! I think Amazon must have built in a heck of a lot of compression and smart algorithms combined with their AWS heritage to get the data to the Three mobile network as fast as possible.

My signal was up and down like a YoYo as you’d expect on the way up to Scotland. Yet I ended up watching almost three episodes in quick succession — all of them streamed.

I’ve obviously now downloaded the rest ready for further viewing. I would like to recommend you take a look at Mr Robot if you’re a bit of a geek.

I’ve really appreciated the virtual realism that they’ve displayed. Everything I’ve seen in the episodes is a heck of a lot more relevant and real than any of the ‘Hollywood hacker’ scenes I’ve seen before in other movies and TV shows. It’s also got some good pace about it — a bit like the energy I saw in The Social Network.

If you haven’t checked out Mr Robot, have a look. And if you are a Prime customer and haven’t tried Amazon Instant Video can I recommend downloading the app and having a play?

Observations Technology

Sky hasn’t quite reached the connected age yet

Screen Shot 2012 06 03 at 23 23 11

I’ve been a Sky customer for ages. Now and again when I’ve been living in an apartment that didn’t have a dish attached, I’ve had to put up with Virgin but I’ve always come back to Sky when possible. I like their set-top box approach.

I’m pretty content with the service.

Granted, the set-top box interface is, I feel, looking a little bit dated in today’s connected world. It’s also getting quite a bit of competition from all the integrated features of the new Sony TV I bought a little while ago.

I realised this afternoon that I never bother using the Sky Movies package that I added on a while ago.

I used to sit back and flick to 301 (the start of the movie channels) when I wanted a bit of downtime for a few minutes. It was always useful to be able to jump straight into a reasonably popular movie. Sometimes I might watch 10 minutes. Sometimes I might watch the whole thing. I valued the service.

I can’t remember how much it costs except that it was a bit of a hefty add-on to the existing subscription.

I resolved to spend the cash on iTunes movies and TV episodes rather than on Sky Movies. I have far more use for iTunes — I can watch that content anywhere. I don’t want to be chained to the TV nowadays.

So this evening I visited and logged in.

Clicking about it looked like it would be impossible to change my account package online. I clicked some more and found that it was only possible to add to my package. Arses. Failure point #1. But a little obvious. Of COURSE they will make it difficult. They live for the subscription revenue.

A little pop-up window then appeared asking if I’d like to chat.

Yes I would, I thought. I clicked.

The chap who greeted me asked for my name. That was annoying. Failure point #2. If I’ve logged into your secure account system, I expect you to know who I am. And yes, Sky, I mean building a little bit of code to pass my details to your LivePerson instance.

I got straight into it with the chap:

Screen Shot 2012 06 03 at 22 47 47

I found it fascinating that the chap characterised my motivation as ‘thinking of downgrading’.

I didn’t think of it that way.

I certainly recognise that this is how it will seem from Sky’s point of view. I think this was a canned response.

It tells you something though.

I thought I was making a change on my account. The chap tells me I’m downgrading. Twice, actually. Failure point #3 — there’s no need to go negative. You’re reinforcing the action in my mind. I’m being told that I’m downgrading. I’m being asked to call ‘to downgrade’. You’re helping me continue my course of action.

I was actually a customer ready to buy. I know that’s not what I wrote at the start of the post but if you think about it, there could have been an opportunity for a bit of negotiation. An engaged sales person could have run rings around me.

“So you want to remove the movies? Ok. Well sir I’ve just noticed that for an extra £2 you could actually have movies, sports and blah-blah-blah on our special deal.”

Before you know it, I’ve actually paid more (and perhaps got a bit of a discount or a deal).

However I was moved into the ‘downgrade’ mindset this way.

I was already cooking though. I was already annoyed.

That’s because despite reaching ‘someone at Sky’ didn’t help. I doubt the chap worked in the Sky UK call centre) — the experience felt like a someone was operating canned responses from a call centre somewhere in the world, I could be wrong.

As far as I’m concerned, Sky, I talked to you this evening at 11pm. It was great to get some interaction, but it was almost pointless.

I talked to you today by ‘chat’ and you told me to phone you.

Ridiculous. That’s Failure Point #4 — making me PHONE you.

Failure Point #5 is answering my second question (“So I’ve got to phone someone to downgrade?”) with another stupid canned response that didn’t even have a “Yes” or “I’m afraid you’ll have to call our team..”

Failure Point #6 was asking me to type in my home phone number when I called customer services. As IF I remember that. Yes, I know all Sky customers are meant to have a home phone number but goodness me, how arcane. I wouldn’t have minded typing in my stupidly long customer number.

I pressed hash and star a load of times and eventually managed to skip that bit. All I wanted to know was whether a human was available at 11pm to handle my ‘downgrade’.

I waited 3 minutes paying stupid amounts via my Three phone and then hung up. The 0844 number that Sky uses costs me £0.20 per minute. I wonder how many people phone Sky from a mobile? When most people either have unlimited landline calls from their home phone (and similar on their mobile) why bother using 0844 numbers?


I hung up and then thought I’d check the right address was on my account. It turns out it’s the old address. I thought my wife had changed it. Apparently not.

I clicked the link to change the address. Gahh. Failure point #7: I have to PHONE them to change my address.

Come on!

If I can *ADD* packages online (you can, I added the movies online about a year ago) then you obviously accept legal instructions via the web. Upgrading my package is a legal instruction. Changing my address is the same flipping thing.

But then it’s probably something that the team want to ‘control’ (read: Make a bit more complicated) because there’s a lot of work involved in moving house and ensuring you have a Sky dish at the other end. Blah blah blah.

I think my key point here is that I have limited amounts of time to deal with this kind of life admin. Or, to be clear, I wish to ensure I have limited amounts of time wasted, in my view. (I am happy to spend a few minutes writing a blog post — but that’s different!)

I just want it done, Sky. I want to click a few buttons and be done.

Why not show me a few special offers when I click ‘downgrade’? I was totally susceptible at that point. But putting me through the ringer and forcing me to have to fit to your business models was rather frustrating. It’s also ensured I’ll be a lot cooler on the phone tomorrow.

Update on 8th June: I managed to get through to Sky. The chap I spoke to in “disconnections” was not happy at the prospect of my downgrade. He eventually offered me a 10% discount on my whole package for 6 months, unprompted. I thanked him but declined. Is that it, Sky? Goodness me.

“So you’re wanting to save money?” the chap said.

“No, I’m just choosing not to spend it with you,” I clarified, “I’m spending far more with iTunes.”


Eventually after the chap realised I wasn’t to be swayed with a 10% short-term discount (A whopping £22 across 6 months) he processed the downgrade. Job done.


I do like the look of IKEA’s UPPLEVA TV solution

Have you come across UPPLEVA from IKEA yet? It’s a rather stimulating new piece of furniture with an integrated flat screen television — with all the trimmings, including Blue-ray DVD player, ‘internet’, WiFi and zero clutter.

It’s the zero clutter thing that’s likely to get a lot of folk interested. Indeed, if you’re bothering to walk around IKEA and you’re evaluating different TV cabinets, I think you might find it really easy to up-sell yourself to one of these, particularly as a secondary television.

From the blurb on the Youtube video, it doesn’t look as though it’ll be hitting the UK until well into 2013. However IKEA stores in Stockholm, Milan, Paris, Gdansk and Berlin will all be getting it in June.

The introductory Youtube video is definitely worth a few minutes of your time. I like their explanation and background — and the delivery of the presenter!

Accessories Technology

Clear your Christmas List for Bang & Olufsen

Hello to the team at Bang & Olufsen.

I have a confession to make in this regard. I walked past the Bang & Olufsen shop almost every weekend for about a year when I lived in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. I walked straight past. I didn’t go in.

This is because a) I didn’t want to be tempted and b) I had the wee man (Archie) in the buggy and didn’t think he’d appreciate having to watch me stare at technology for hours.

So Hello to Bang & Olufsen — especially the team at the company’s Glasgow Merchant City store. (By the way, I do recommend checking out their gallery demonstrating the installation of Scotland’s biggest TV — in a room that, if you ask me, really should be a lot bigger). They’ve put together a rather handy Christmas Wish List for tech lovers.

You know what’s coming, right?

Yes. A litany of gorgeous looking, super-expensive technology.

First up? They recommend BeoSound 8. This is precisely what you need if you’ve been thinking about getting a speaker dock for your iPad, iPod or iPhone. Here’s the science bit:

It’s conical speaker eliminates internal resonances and also creates a sleek and unobtrusive design which will suit any room in the home.

I’d buy one. Speaking of which, it’s retailing for £935. Now let’s have a picture of it:

BeoSound 8 in yellow

Next up, the team recommend the BeoCom 2 as “a conversation piece”. I like what they did there — the BeoCom is a phone. But, yes — this is Bang & Olufsen we’re talking about so it’s It’s crafted from a single piece of aluminium, sits naturally in your hand and the gentle curve matches your face. Useful and stylish. £735. I think I need a few of these.

Let’s have a photo of that:

BeoCom 2

I would really like to check out the next gizmo on the list: The BeoTime Alarm Clock. It will, the team at Glasgow reliably state, transform your traditional morning ritual into an extraordinary experience. It’s got a built-in motion sensor along with subtle automatic backlighting. I do very much like the look of this sitting on the bedside table. £299. Here’s the photo (in-situ):


Next, the team list the highly reasonable £105 Form 2 headphones. I’ll just do a link for this one as I’d like to move over to BeoVision now.


BeoVision looks to be the ultimate for me. It’s the last item on the list.

First though, seriously — watch this introductory video:

Now I’ve bought the concept, what’s the BeoVision 4 all about? Well it comes in two sizes: 85″ and 103″.

I automatically want the 103″, obviously.

I won’t bore you with the specs except to quote the BeoVision introductory paragraph:

In BeoVision 4, Bang & Olufsen’s advanced picture engines are combined with the best Full HD 3D plasma screens in 85 or 103 inches, to achieve a phenomenal viewing experience. No ordinary plasma screen can beat BeoVision 4 in terms of long term picture quality. All plasmas degrade with time, but BeoVision 4 has the remedy – in the form of Automatic Colour Management, a unique system that compensates for the effects of aging. A tiny built-in camera serves as your in-house technician, checking your screen after every 100 hours of use and adjusting the colour balance accordingly

Ah I think I need a BeoVision. With my existing setup I can’t tell you how flipping annoying it is having to arse around with the picture/contrast settings every time I want to watch something properly. And then trying to choose between LIVE or SURROUND or ROCK or whatever audio profiles, none of which really seem that good. I won’t admit to you just how embarrassing my existing solution is. It’s shocking. It’s about a billion miles from BeoVision. Suffice to say I had to augment the sound on my existing TV with a set of JBL Creature III speakers.

Besides offering a Full HD 3D “phenomenal viewing experience”, what’s the retail price for the BeoVision then? Care to hazard a guess? Well, I think you’d need to make a choice between either a full spec Range Rover or the BeoVision 4 103″ model.

The 85″ BeoVision 4 is £52,150.

The 103″ BeoVision 4 is £82,085.

This is how it should look in your house:

BeoVision 4

Very, very nice.