Sky+ on the cheap – my quest for a new PVR

Here in the UK the multi-channel world arrived many years ago. These days it’s gone far and beyond mental. There’s dozens and dozens and dozens of shopping channels, plus dozens more gaming channels crammed full with talentless presenters doing their best to make some cup or piece of jewellery look like the most amazing and lusted-after object in the world. People may have seen these channels, and sometimes you stop off to wonder why hundreds and hundreds of people seem to be buying the “Weightgain 4000” product that’s being sold… A countdown clock shows how many are being sold and within seconds 50 or 60 have gone… Who’s buying this stuff ?! Go down McDonalds and get a nice fattening McSalad or something! :)

TV channels which are quite good – like E4 – are actually aware of the amount of crap that’s shown on TV. In fact when advertising shows E4 actually take the p*ss out of themselves. For example, they’ve recently put Ghostbusters on. You remember that film don’t you? They advertise it by saying…

“You could put something else on, but you might as well watch Ghostbusters. You could go out, rent a DVD… or you could just watch Ghostbusters… tonight at 9” that’s honesty you’ve got to admire. “We’re putting a 22 year old film on. You’ve seen it a hundred times, but it’s still worth a watch if you’re not doing anything else”

There’s ger-zillions of channels to choose from. I’ve tried to find a way of getting myself a PVR – Personal Video Recorder – to grab my favourite shows which I nearly always miss because Emily is watching some girly rubbish or I’m at work… or I’m doing this. I’ve taken my usual “tight arse” approach to this. I tried this DVD recorder and a Phantom PVR to automatically start the recording. This is good, however you can’t watch one show and record another. Next up I tried Windows Media Center, which involved a weekend of sheer hell building one from scratch. This has been working very well indeed but – and this is a bit of a big “but” – other than get two Sky TV boxes and two TV cards for the Media Center it just didn’t quite cut the mustard. In fact, I did love the Windows Media Center and – if you’ve got Freeview – it’s brilliant, but there’s a flood of hard-disk recorders and DVD recorders coming on the market now. Surely there’s only one solution…

I need to watch Sky TV, and record Sky TV shows… at the same time…

Yup, I’m gonna have to spend some cash and get Sky+. For those who aren’t in the know, it’s a regular Sky TV receiver with a hard drive inside… in fact, it’s two Sky TV receivers with a HD inside. This means you can record stuff whilst watching other stuff and you get the benefit of a very easy-to-use interface.

We’re on a fairly low Sky package – just the regular TV channels without Movies or Sports. According to Sky I can get the Sky+ box and the installation (it needs an extra LNB on the dish, which lets you get two signals instead of one – it’s that nobbly thing on the end that “collects” the signal from the satellite) for 89 quid. Not bad! But wait…. that’s if I have a “Multi Room” subscription, which lets me use my old Sky box in another room … But, I don’t want that. I don’t really want to pay 10 quid a month on top of what I’m paying for the other box, plus yet another tenner for the Sky+ service (I have to pay more because I’m not on a “Premium Package” – i.e. Sports or Movies). So, 89 quid up front and 20 quid a month ? Nah… Don’t think so! Right, what’s option B ? Well, that’s to have the box WITHOUT the multi-room service.. Price ? 199 quid for the Sky+ box, then another ten quid for the Sky+ service because I’m not on a Premium service..

This goes against my principles.. I want cheap, I’m a tight arse… so, my solution is to get a Sky+ box off ebay, along with a new quad LNB wotsit to go on the end of the dish and an extra length of cable from the new LNB to the ebay Sky box. Then I need to pay the extra tenner a month (or go for the “Movies Mix” package at an extra 15 quid a month)

In theory at least my 50 quid ebay Sky+ box should arrive shortly, then I just need to get up the ladder and break the satellite dish and run some cable around the house. Easy huh? Sure, it could all go pear-shaped and I could end up breaking everything but.. heck.. if you don’t try you’ll never know! :)

I’ll keep you posted on this :)