Friday, April 25, 2008

HD TV keeps getting better!

If you havn't made the jump to Hi-definition television yet things are certainly improving!

At the moment the only option is from Sky. A handful of new channels have recently launched, with another 2 expected within weeks.

My favourite channel is BBC HD. It only broadcasts each evening but the picture quality is always exellent. They are running shows like Torchwood, Last of the summer wine, The green green grass plus various nature programs like Tiger Spy in the jungle, Planet Earth and The power of the planet.

Discovery HD and National Geographic HD are also favourites of mine. History HD also carries interesting stuff about space and the universe. Sky Arts is also available in HD.

There are now 3 HD sports channels if you subscribe to Sky Sports. A third movie channel has just launched in HD. Previously there were 2 channels showing movies in HD. There was often a wait of a month or two before new movies on Sky Premiere were available on the HD channels. We now have the Premiere channel broadcasting simulcast in HD. There are also 2 box office movie channels in HD.

Sky one HD and Channel 4 HD are a waste of time. They are simulcast of the SD channels, and 90% of programmes on the HD versions are not broadcast in Hi-def.

Lux HD launched a couple of months back but seems to be permanent repeats and I have not worked out its intended subject.

Some of the best programmes I have seen on National Geographic have been about outdoor pursuits - kayaking, surfing, base jumping etc. There is now a new HD channel called Rush HD that is devoted to programmes like this. I have seen nothing in the press about this amazing new channel - which has prompted this posting on my blog.

The 2 I mentioned that are due any day are FX HD (I don't ever remember watching the normal FX channel, but it has things like family guy) and ITV HD. Hopefully the ITV channel will be a different schedule to the normal ITV but with plenty of programmes actually in HD.

If you are not prepared to pay Sky the extra £10 for the HD content I have some good news. Within the next couple of months a new satellite TV service will be launching called Freesat. This will carry BBC HD, ITV HD and eventually Channel4 HD that can be received completely free. Freesat receivers are fully compatible with an existing Sky dish.

Getting accurate technical information about the new Freesat is difficult because Sky also have a free service they market as Freesat. At present it is my understanding that the new Freesat service uses exactly the same satellite signal as Sky. By this I understand that if the Sky transmitters that beam TV to the satellite were to go offline, all satellite TV services would break. Basically Freesat is a brand. They will sell you a different set-top box that will have a Freesat logo on the screen instead of a Sky one! Pretty pointless!

The choice is to get a Freesat box that cannot decode the Sky services, or get a Sky box without a subscription. At least with the latter option you can add a Sky subscription if you so wish in the future without buying a new box.

Having said that the more HD programmes I can receive the better - so I shouldn't complain!!!

Will update this if I get any more info:
1. Freesat will launch on 6th May. As I thought they are only broadcasting their own 'metadata' which is the tv schedule and teletext type services in english. Unconfirmed prices are £50 for SD or £120 for HD set top box, plus installation if required.

Last thing - there are a few pictures on the net of a new version of the Sky TV guide that will be pushed to the HD boxes in the next couple of months. Will keep my ear to the ground if I find any more details of the changes! (Here it is - link)


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Global warming???? Yes please!

It is the first week in April and the UK is experiencing sub-zero temperatures and snow. Over the last 12 months we have had more serious floods than I can remember in the last 30 years.

I have worked out why. Because everyone is driving round in puny 'green' modern cars that have low carbon emissions. Everyone has got to do their bit to prevent global warming! Jeremy Clarkson sums the problem up well in his latest video 'Super car showdown' where he races the environmentally friendly G-whiz against a table. And the table wins :)!! He concludes the reason the weather in the UK is so bad is because people are buying these unsafe and slow vehicles.

I don't buy this latest political crap about preventing carbon emissions for 3 reasons:

1. Every living creature on the planet turns Oxygen into Carbon Dioxide. I am waiting for a rationing system where we are all told which day(s) of the week we are permitted to breathe! Soon it will be politically incorrect to have children because they breathe and the whole human race will die anyway!

2. All the hippies are wanting us to stop using oil and switch to biofuels. I have just read an interesting article in Time about how much DAMAGE biofuel farming causes to the climate.
Have you noticed how food prices have risen lately? This is because farmers can make more money selling crop for biofuel production than food. This in turns means more people will die of hunger. "The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year". The Amazon is being cleared to make way for growing grain for biofuels. These forests would have removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. There was a flaw in the science reports about how green biofuels were - "It was as if the science world assumed biofuels would be grown in parking lots". It is actually now believed it is greener to leave the forests and burn oil rather than biofuel.

3. Looking back through history at recent climate change reveals that the temperature rose prior to 1940 but unexpectedly dropped in the post-war economic boom, when carbon dioxide emissions rose dramatically.

I think all these climate change advocates should learn about the 'Muller' principle! So much pleasure where is the pain? All the inventions in the last few years that will save the world turn out to cause more problems when you look into their complete lifecycle. For example how much energy is needed to make these low energy bulbs that contain a significant amount of poisonous mercury?

The climate will change anyway and there is nothing we can do to control nature. Leave me alone to light my flat and drive my car! I had a good drive this weekend so if the weather warms up and we have lots of sun - please blame me.


Update: One more point - the UK is a very small country. Our contribution to world carbon levels is negligible at present. Even if our country emitted no carbon at all this would have no effect on the global carbon levels.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Police send RAF Tornado a speeding ticket.

Just had this through one of my email lists....

Two British traffic patrol officers from North Berwick, east of Edinburgh, were involved in an unusual incident while checking for speeding motorists on the A1 Great North Road.

One of the officers used a hand-held radar device to check the speed of a vehicle approaching over the crest of a hill, and was surprised when the speed was recorded at over 300mph. The machine then stopped working and the officers were not able to reset it.

The radar had in fact locked on to a NATO Tornado fighter jet over the North Sea, which was engaged in a low-flying exercise over the Borders district.

Back at police headquarters the chief constable fired off a stiff complaint to the RAF Liaison office.

Back came the reply:
" Thank you for your message, which allows us to complete the file on this incident. You may be interested to know that the tactical computer in the Tornado had automatically locked on to your 'hostile radar equipment' and sent a jamming signal back to it. Furthermore, the Sidewinder air-to-ground missiles aboard the fully-armed aircraft had also locked on to the target. Fortunately the Dutch pilot flying the Tornado responded to the missile status alert intelligently and was able to override the automatic protection system before the missile was launched."

Happy 90th birthday to the RAF and and 100th birthday to the TA! hehe