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Topics - mtb

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Looking at the various posts in the forums and knowing the nature of the (commercial channel) beast, I think it is safe to say that one of the biggest issues any FTA viewer in Oz has is catering for the appalling time-keeping of TV shows.

I've been thinking about the problems associated with scheduling across multiple timers and tuners for a while now.  As our household has become more reliant on the BW/Interactive combination and less on the Toppy, I've missed some of the more advanced features of Trapper's TED/s and decided to re-open the whole padding and clashes issue again for further discussion.  After all, IceTV tell us that "you’ll never miss a show again", something that is starting to sound a little hollow as the number of channels increase.

First up, I believe that the current Interactive interface is a total failure when it comes to clash detection/notification - the user has to drill down into failed recording only identified by icons and check multiple recordings to conclude that a clash has occurred.  What is needed is an in-your-face warning (window or div or whatever)...

"Warning, Danger, Will Robinson!
Clash Detected - some of the following 3 recordings will fail due to schedule overlaps
20:00-21:30, ABC, Series recording, blah blah...
20:30-21:30, C7, Keyword recording, blah blah...
20:00-22:30, Ten, Keyword recording, blah blah...

(or something like that!)

Clash detection is critical to good scheduling and has the added benefit (for the user) of enabling more accurate/advanced scheduling options.  To better understand what overlap issues might occur on the device due to padding you need to know what it is doing - if you can't interrogate the device to get this information then you should interrogate the user.  Once you know how the device is configured to behave you can then work with it, rather than against it.

So what is Ice's argument against these advanced features?  They seem to tell us that the padding should be left to the device as each is different and there is no guaranteed way to get feedback between the device and Ice.  Well I'm sorry, but as a professional software developer of 25+ years industry experience, that sounds like someone has simply placed it in the "too hard" basket without thinking it all the way through.  I've worked on many real-time process control systems - scheduling biscuit production across multiple production lines (much harder than you might think!) and controlling steel bloom casting amongst other things - scheduling and padding TV programmes across multiple tuners and devices is not too hard, if there is a willingness to do it. More likely the concerns about additional storage and processing are the main driving force rather than a real inability to perform the task;  I'm sorry if that sounds cynical but it is how it appears to me.

So here is my proposal on a methodology which, I believe, would deliver a far more comprehensive scheduling solution using padding within Interactive.  I'm happy to admit that it isn't perfect because it relies on the user ensuring that settings in both Interactive and the device are kept in step and being aware of the limitations in the approach, but it is not uncommon in the I.T. industry to have these sort of issues when synchronising between disparate systems - I've done it myself on a number of occasions;  the point is that it can be done.

The following outlines how I see the Nirvana of IceTV Interactive, where all the scheduling, padding and clash handling is controlled by Interactive rather than the device and with minimal user intervention.  That said, I'm sure you will see how the simpler issue of clash detection and notification is just one component of this design and could easily be implemented as an initial phase in itself, while still allowing for the more advanced features to be added later.  By being aware of the users' device settings, Interactive could identify far more potential scheduling problems which could be brought to the user's attention via the Interactive interface and/or other means.

So, on to the design...

When the user adds a new Interactive enabled device (or updates a device) on their IceTV account, they would have the option of setting what the default padding settings are that the device is configured to apply itself, this could be preset to the default values known for each type of device. This is the only critical setting that Ice is incapable of easily determining and which needs to be kept in sync., no other settings are as important.  It could easily be hidden away in an Advanced section so that the naive user doesn't play with it unintentionally.

For the naive user who doesn't know to keep Ice and the device in sync. with regard to this setting it will be set to zero padding with no priority (or whatever the device defaults to) and the result will be no different to what we currently have - so no loss there.  The more knowledgeable user will appreciate the benefits and keep things in sync.  Users who can override the Ice timings on a more individual basis (e.g. Windows MCE) should also be unaffected.

Additionally, the user could specify the DESIRED padding for programs - this will be used by Ice to extend the timers it sends to the device so that it mimics the current situation that the device based padding currently produces.  Having set the padding and desired values per device, it is now a relatively simple task to allow for those values when scheduling programs to ensure that the timers that reach the device result in the same recordings that we currently obtain using just device based settings.

Clear as mud?  Yeah, ok, perhaps some examples will help.

I normally use -5 min. pre- and +30 min. post-padding with no priority on my B/W - adequate for the late night programmes but overkill for early evening and for manually set programmes when I can set the start and length myself.  Under my design I would probably reduce these to -2 and +10 on the device but set the desired padding to -5 and +30 in Interactive.  The only thing I would have to remember, apart from keeping these values the same on the device and Interactive, is that locally set timers will have a shorter padding set by default - but I always check them anyway when the screen appears  

Hopefully the following scenarios will explain how the Interactive side of things would work.

Device - has -2 and +10 post-padding set, no pre/post priority.
IceTV  - has -2 and +10 configured for the device and has -5 and +30 DESIRED padding set, no pre/post priority.

CASE 1 - simple case:
To be recorded...
* Programme 1, Ch.1, 18:00-18:30
Interactive would send the following timer to the Device...
* Ch.1, 17:57-18:50.
This would result in the desired/expected 17:55-19:00 because the device would pad -2 mins. to the start of the timer and +10 mins. to the end, thus mimicking my current -5/+30 padding on my current BW setup.

CASE 2 - slight padding clash:
To be recorded...
* Programme 1, Ch.1, 18:00-18:30
* Programme 2, Ch.2, 18:30-19:30
* Programme 3, Ch.3, 19:00-19:30
While there are no clashes in the programmes themselves, P1 and P3 clash (on a two tuner recorder) with their padding.  In this situation, my current BW, with no pre/post priority, would resolve this by recording the following...
* Ch.1, 17:55-19:00 - all padding applied
* Ch.2, 18:25-20:00 - all padding applied
* Ch.3, 19:00-20:00 - pre-padding ignored, starts at programme start time
So the proposed Interactive could send the following timers...
* Ch.1, 17:57-18:50 - results in Ch.1, 17:55-19:00 with the device -2/+10 applied
* Ch.2, 18:27-19:50 - results in Ch.2, 18:25-20:00 with the device -2/+10 applied
* Ch.3, 19:02-19:50 - results in Ch.3, 19:00-20:00 with the device -2/+10 applied

CASE 3 - back-to-back programme clash:
To be recorded...
* Programme 1, Ch.1, 18:00-18:30
* Programme 2, Ch.2, 18:00-19:00
* Programme 3, Ch.3, 18:30-19:30
While again there are no clashes in the programmes themselves, P1 and P3 are back-to-back on one tuner (on a two tuner recorder).  In this situation, my current BW with no pre/post priority, would resolve this by recording the following...
* Ch.1, 17:55-18:30 - post-padding ignored
* Ch.2, 17:55-19:30 - all padding applied
* Ch.3, 18:30-20:00 - pre-padding ignored
So the proposed Interactive could send the following timers...
* Ch.1, 17:57-18:20 - results in Ch.1, 17:55-18:30 with the device -2/+10 applied
* Ch.2, 18:27-19:20 - results in Ch.2, 18:25-19:30 with the device -2/+10 applied
* Ch.3, 18:32-19:50 - results in Ch.3, 18:30-20:00 with the device -2/+10 applied

Now one outcome of this approach is that the user would not ever see the recording conflict screen presented on the device/TV - I am going on my experience with the BW and Toppy here, I presume all devices have some form of warning.  Perhaps this is not a good thing and we would need to add a one minute overlap in situations of clash to make the viewer aware of the potential problem if they happen to be watching as the timer problem approaches.

Nonetheless, we would end up with the same recordings being made on the device through Interactive controlling the padding that we currently do with Interactive being oblivious to the device settings.  The obvious advantage for the users is that Interactive can now be far more proactive in advising the user of potential clashes - via the website, RSS, e-mail or even SMS (for a service cost, of course).

The benefit of this design is that it can be implemented in multiple stages (e.g clash detection first) and allows for further value-adding features...
* Multiple Device Handling - allows the user to nominate a primary device and use the secondary as a fallback for clash resolution, allowing the user to name "Either" as the recording device for a show;
* Prioritise Shows - nominate which shows MUST be recorded and which are to be dropped in an irreconcilable situation (unless the user intervenes);
* Show By Show Padding - allows specific shows to be given extra time, because we know what the networks are like;
* Time Of Day Padding - evening padding requirements should be different to daytime which are, in turn, different to late night, set padding by time of day.

There may, of course, be a number of other new user preferences added to the user profile to record what the user wants to do when clashes are detected but these are likely to be set once and left alone e.g. priority to earlier/later programme, switch at scheduled time, priority to channel(?), priority to new show/repeat, require manual resolution - the options could be quite flexible.  Dare I suggest that some of these features could be optional premium services, providing an additional revenue stream to cover the additional data processing and storage overheads required?  Nah, we just want it all!

The point is that Ice have a great start point here but users want/need more.  While we only had five channels and two tuners it was adequate.  Now we have 15 channels - excluding the digital radio (anyone thought of including that!?!) and the new BW which can record external sources such as Fox - and possibility of multiple devices and/or four tuner devices - suddenly Interactive seems not to be coping quite so well.

So there you have it, my Grand Design for what Interactive could be... with a little (ok, quite a lot) more effort.  The point is that I do not see this as in any way unachievable, certainly from a technology point of view - this sort of thing is going on all the time in I.T. and I think that this level of control could make Ice a true world leader in EPG technology.

Sorry for the length of the post - let the discussions begin!

Up until today we didn't have multiple Interactive capable devices, so the nuances and idiosyncrasies of scheduling across multiple devices were unknown to us - not any more!

The first thing that struck us was the requirement to have to repeatedly select the device to be used for each operation.  I appreciate that setting timers might be something that you need to stipulate a device for (though, now we have two BW, we can stream between so it isn't a problem) but I think that the TV Guide and My Upcoming Shows are in desperate need of an "All" device view, particularly since My Shows already has this feature.  Having to flick between devices to view the recordings set in TV Guide and My Upcoming Shows is akin to having to swap newspapers for each device to see what you've highlighted - it's positively arcane.

I would also like to see a default device setting, rather than it using the currently viewed device.  More than that, however, I should like to see options to use multiple devices to overcome scheduling issues i.e. you have a clash and it offers you a simple one-off "push to other device" function, or better still it does it for you.  I'd far prefer to have to use the other recorder to see a programme (as we have done with the old Toppy, recording manually), rather than miss it

General Discussions / CompNow competition
« on: August 29, 2009, 01:11:45 PM »
Seems the competition is only open to NSW or VIC residents, either that or the website has a problem - the State drop-down only shows NSW and VIC.

General Discussions / So when might we see Ice list again?
« on: June 19, 2009, 11:37:59 AM »
Is there any indication when we might see IceTV offer shares again, now that the Nein fiasco is behind us?

IceTV EPG Content / Top Gear (Australia) is back
« on: May 11, 2009, 01:06:01 AM »
The first episode of series two of Top Gear Australia appears to be starting this week on SBS, Monday at 19:30.  Unfortunately, this is being shown as Top Gear rather than Top Gear Australia so it no longer distunguishes between the two productions (I've reported this to Ice directly). 

Personally, I would like the full "Top Gear Australia" title returned so than my PVR doesn't waste disk space by recording the local rubbish, only recording the original series from the UK.

Sunday 10:00 - I think this should be flagged as a repeat. 

I'm sure I remember it and at that time of day it is unlikely to be a new one.

On a number of occasions, we find shows being scheduled via keyword searches (it shows the magnifying glass) for which we can see no rhyme or reason for being set.  Looking at all the details for the shows in question we simply cannot see any reason for the show being matched against any of our keyword recordings.

Would it be possible to add the matching criteria to the diplayed details (in the RSS feed as well as the web page) to show which keyword search was deemed to match the show?  This would help fine tune existing ones as well as correct erroneous ones.

I just made a few simply changes to my pending recordings ( - I deleted the HD episodes of a recording picked up on HD and SD - and found that the screen refresh seemed to take an awfully long time, even on work's big, fat network (nice and quick).

Turns out that the reason is that the size of the page is about 7Mb!!  That's right... despite only having 15 shows showing for the entire week ahead, a whopping 7+Mb of data is being pulled down to the browser each time I make a change.  That can't be right?!?!  Surely there's something wrong there?  I certainly don't recall the refresh taking this long in the past, so what has changed and why is so much bandwidth being used to pull a simply screen? 

I looked at the page source and it would appear that the entire EPG is being downloaded with each screen refresh then rendered by a little bit of JavaScript.  Methinks someone has made a little error somewhere, hmm?

I'm guessing that someone has updated something recently which has resulted in this altered behaviour and presume that it is not correct.  I doubt you want to be pushing that amount of data at each user request - bad for you and bad for the user - so I would respectfully suggest that someone needs to fix it rather quickly.

IceTV EPG Content / Content (In)consistency
« on: January 03, 2009, 12:13:50 AM »
Hi folks

I know it's just a kids' show but...

Wed, 7 Jan, 7:00am - [REC] Toasted TV - Toasted TV 'The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron - Boy Genius / ...
Tue, 6 Jan, 7:00am - [REC] Toasted TV - Toasted TV 'Jimmy Neutron/ ...
Mon, 5 Jan, 7:00am - [REC] Toasted TV - Toasted TV 'Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (r)

It doesn't take a boy genius to perceive a marked lack of consistency in the Jimmy Neutron content of the programme and the question remains as to whether they are repeats or not.  While not of earth shattering consequences to me, my son might have other opinions and if it can happen to a kids' show it could easily happen to a more popular adult series.  Please can you review how you address content consistancy.

I've been trying to determine why some of my recordings are appearing on both SD and HD, whereas most do not.  However I've been frustrated by the fact that the only options available for existing recordings are Cancel Episode and Cancel Series. 

Could I ask that this be changed to (re)offer the same options as are available when you initially set the recording (obviously showing the current configuration).  Apart from hindering in these situations the current approach makes correcting options a pain - delete series, find series, add series.

Selecting "The Rest of the Day" for "Today" displays the entire guide from now to midnight and used to work well for future days too.

Not sure exactly when this changed/stopped working but it used to be that, if you selected to display the guide for "The Rest of the Day" for any day in the future, it would show all details from midnight to midnight - a very useful way of scanning the whole day. 

Now, however, it seemes to only to display from midnight to about 18:00.  Is this a deliberate change or accidental?

IceTV EPG Content / "Spoiler" content included in EPG
« on: July 08, 2008, 02:56:52 PM »
Just a general comment regarding the synopsis information which gets sent out in the EPG. 

Could you please avoid giving "spoiler" type information for future programmes such as was given in the synopsis which accompanied the first episode of the current Dr. Who series (Shown on the 6th) - the final sentence gave away a little more than I would have liked to see and did not relate the the episode in question but to future episodes.


Beyonwiz / Interactive and DP-S1 Standby...
« on: July 07, 2008, 12:13:02 AM »
Just got ourselves one of these boxes, updated the firmware and it's all ready to go with Interactive - seems to work well, all loaded with EPG and timers from the on-line guide.

But... what I can't find out anywhere (so far) is if I need to leave the thing switched on or can it be on standby for Interactive to work?  I presume it must poll Ice about every 15 minutes to update the timers (going by the "How long does it take to remotely schedule a show?" article) but can it do this while in standby?

IceTV EPG Content / Life on Mars, new season - 14th, ABC
« on: February 09, 2008, 11:36:54 PM »
Hi folks,

Life on Mars on the 14th of February, ABC, Perth, is being flagged as a repeat.  I believe this is the first episode of the second season and therefore should not be flagged as a repeat.

IceTV EPG Content / rage: 20 Years Of rage
« on: April 27, 2007, 10:10:30 PM »
The last four weeks on ABC, we have had "rage: 20 Years Of rage" as a five hour slot across midnight of Friday/Saturday - this week it starts at midnight and is just called rage.  There is, however a one hour "20 years..." slot now appearing on Saturday mornings at 08:00.

I know that this is the same details shown on other TV guides (so it isn't your fault) but could someone please clarify if the ABC have stopped the "20 years..." five hour show or just stopped calling it "20 years..." or whatever?


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