Open Letter and Questions to Piers Lomax re article in Techradar

Lbear1Lbear1 Member Posts: 741
edited 3 May 2017, 11:39PM in Archived Posts
Piers,

I see you and Susie Buckridge were interviewed by Techradar and they published the resulting article on 22/11.

http://www.techradar.com/news/televis...

Perhaps I should go through the points arising from your section and, with your indulgence. makes some comments on the other areas covered which may be your area. If it would be more appropriate for Susie to answer, perhaps you could make her aware of those matters. Apologies for the length but there is a lot to cover.

The report seemed refreshingly frank and informative in comparison to the "official" statements we get here - until you read it closely. There are some clarifications that I would like to ask you as a result of further questions the article raises and specifically about an inconsistency in the article which could be them paraphrasing your comment. So let me quote the section of the article and set out the related issues I really feel you need to make entirely clear once and for all. We are again close to the situation where best consumer relations practice mean frankness or the reputation of the companies will be damaged further.
This striving for normalcy, according to Lomax, is the reason given for YouView not yet offering Wi-Fi on its boxes. He believes that Wi-Fi works in some places but "in an awful lot of households, Wi-Fi just isn't reliable yet."
"There isn't the consistently high bandwidth to offer high-definition pictures and it is really important that we have a reliable service. People are used to TV pictures that don't break up so with this in mind wired, for us, is the best solution at the moment," said Lomax
"If YouView boxes do become Wi-Fi enabled it is because we have worked out how to deliver really great quality pictures through a wireless connection."
Two little words, "yet" and "if", send a completely contradictory message and three interpretations of your plans for the future are possible. "Yet" is not shown as a direct quote from you however there is a significant difference between "not yet available" and "if YouView boxes do become". I believe none of the currently available boxes have a wifi circuit built in (or do they?) The base specification requires wifi connectivity either built in or available using a USB dongle so that "If" really ought to have been "when".

That extract seems to have the following interpretations :

1. We have no intention of enabling current models to be able to use a wifi dongle ever and have ceased development - forget wifi, your only option is ethernet cable.

2. When a manufacturer comes to market with a box including a built in wifi circuit, we think we will have enabled the software to use it.

3. We are still actively working on a wifi solution for use by boxes our customers have acquired over the last year or so.

Which is nearest to the real situation or is it different from them all?

There follow some questions I really think you must give an answer to regarding your statements about wifi.

Many of us are very well aware of the constraints of distance between the router and box and of other factors that can compromise the quality or strength of the received signal however I use it to connect my router to YV box on the other side of my small flat and I have never had any problems since I installed a Virginmedia Superhub 3

1. It says you believe "in an awful lot of households, WiFi just isn't reliable". Have you any actual data from real world tests or is this belief the same sort that devotees use to assert the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? What's "an awful lot" and how does this break down - did you do your tests in a variety of properties, methods of construction etc to ensure no experimental bias? Is that "lot" 10,000 households but that's extrapolated from tests to estimate the effect on the whole user base, under 1% is hardly a lot. What's the super-majority needed before we all get wifi enabled even if we are warned about reliability?

2. Apart from those boxes which do have built-in wifi (none of them?) and assuming the circuity and software is not faulty and causing the unreliability - what can you do possibly to our box's innards to improve the reliability of the signal leaving the router and arriving at the dongle's aerial?

3. Is the reality that the hardware or software or some other element (multicast?) in one of the partner ISP's signal chain is causing it? I use VM cable broadband (30Mb/S) with no problem. Sky's latest connected boxes have built in wifi and Humax happily sell you a dongle for the rest of their connected range. What are they doing right?

4. Were any changes made to the wifi channel settings in your tests? TT's routers seem to default to Ch11 and BT & Orange to Ch 6. How about getting these ISPs to ensure their installers are changing from the defaults to a less busy channel or onto the 5GHz band if the conditions are suitable?

5. The REALLY BIG QUESTION is how do you know this applies to a USB dongle used with either of the YouView boxes? To run those tests, you would have had to activate the USB sockets on (how many?) YouView boxes to get enough data to assess "a lot", Did you use a range of the available boxes to confirm it was not one design or build that was causing the trouble? What other functions does this pre-release version activate in the USB sockets? What are the target dates for general release and do you want any final beta testers?

Obviously the USB circuits would have to be activated and drivers installed to take the signals to and from a suitable dongle. But they also need to be activated in order to use them for the other purposes in the basic spec - MEDIA PLAYBACK - or has this too been consigned to oblivion?

I've had my box for a year and a half (starting 1 July 2012 with the trial although that box was replaced under warranty). and have been on several forums including this one discussing the box, service, etc so I know about a number of the problems encountered with the Humax. You will see the first comment on the article is hardly complimentary and I hope we do not revert to a similar situation I had last year when trying to get from Humax a straight answer (not an irrelevant boilerplate response) to what should be a simple, if technical, question about the file storage system and the YV interface, I received a 15 word email containing 3 factual errors regarding the box. Thank goodness for the telephone support guys who were able to let me know the correct although my wallet did not appreciate their using a premium rate number.

In very general terms, many of the ongoing grievances which I know have caused some to ditch YouView in favour of alternatives fall under the heading
How can YouView authorize the makers to use their logo badge on their existing boxes when they (still) do not meet the basic specification published in 2011?
or, to take account of recent developments:
Why is there a YouView badge on the new "half hour catchup" box available from TalkTalk (and YV negotiating to put their GUI on televisions) when the base specification mandates two tuners and a minimum size hard drive?
The other authorizing bodies like Freeview and Freesat would never allow that if lab testing indicated a box failed to meet the minimum specifications they lay down, why has YouView?</>. A newly designed Freeview HD receiver cannot get the sticker without having MHEG-IC . Yes we old hands are very well aware that YouView boxes are not Freeview HD compliant because of this and you use an incompatible IPTV protocol (you seem unwilling to name) but, to paraphrase, you hope that the IPTV channels on the Freeview HD platform will be available to YouView soon. That one of the companies running these portals is now owned by a YV partner, Arqiva, is public knowledge which gives two roadmaps for YV box compatibility. Either YouView adds MHEG-IC or Arqiva make changes to their portals . Are you willing to give any update or this position? These channels would provide additional resources for those of us who are not with a partner ISP.)

You might have picked up that I and many others have had a good trawl to find out the technical specifications of our YV boxes and, without a consumer specification we have been forced to go to the base specification posted on your non-consumer site and make presumptions about the implications of a feature being listed on their as "required" (USB playback); "not required" (record to USB) or "not allowed" (HD out other than via HDMI). Other parts of the spec make provision for maker or machine specific sub-menus which has been semi implemented for "retail" Humax boxes with the accessibility options and presumably if a maker did implement a "not required" feature for their boxes these would appear on the special YV sub-menu (?)
Are we right in what appears to be the meaning of the wording that a feature which is "not required" is also "not forbidden" or did the drafters get bored and drop in two wordings that both mean "not allowed"?

There are other serious implications resulting from this lack of consumer information - there is only one manufacturer of a retail box, differing from those it supplies to ISPs for tied deals only in having a different case and offering a huge choice of two disc sizes. ISP's TV deal customers don't get a choice and with BT they cannot even buy a replacement box with a larger hard drive for more storage and still get the full BT offer. I fully understand why no other manufacturer has released a retail YV box and Humax have released a new Freeview HD+ box despite what must be almost their maximum YV production going to BT.

Have you ever worked in a retail shop trying to sell equipment like this? Although it was decades ago, I have. To sell an item, you have to know what its features are and its "unique selling points". Without that spec sheet for the particular model, how can you compare? Say Huawei released a retail model based on their latest YV box but with a white plastic case and a choice of 500Gb and 1Tb drives. Without knowing that "white Huawei" might have a faster processor and bigger RAM (and what this did) or that the Humax retail boxes already have the accessibility options - hopefully included in the maker's spec sheet - what's the difference? Is it down to choosing between a white box with flashing lights and a square remote control or a sliver box with a clock and a curvy side remote with fewer buttons ?

What if another maker brought a second generation YV box with extra memory, MHEC-IC and with all the bells and whistles - like fully wired and active USBs capable of exporting perhaps - in the basic spec more than adequately covered? I'll dub it a Phillips (but I seriously doubt that they would ever again consider a project where half a PVR's software is the responsibility of their team but the other half is somebody else's after what occurred with their Pace manufactured FVHD recorder.) Would you allow them to include a spec sheet? Would you permit them to activate their extra features?

I suspect the answer is wrapped up in Susie's words in the article:

"The user doesn't care where the channels come from and that is the absolute ambition for YouView: that they don't know where the content is coming from," explained Susie Buckridge, Director of Product at YouView, to TechRadar.

Nice conflation Susie; content is not only "channels" it is also digital media played back from a USB memory device. Something that is in the base specification but very obviously the user will know where that content is coming from. So does Susie's proclamation mean the "required" USB playback has been expunged from the YV base spec? (It also brings up the persistent question of copying recordings to a USB drive which Humax and others achieve perfectly happily on less powerful PVRs without any DRM problems and which in the base spec. is "not required".) There was about 16 months between Humax announcing at the press launch that the HD Fox T2 would have recording to USB added and the date the software was released.. Since it is now a similar period since YouView's public launch and the only use I have for them is to supply 5v electricity: an update or definite statement would treat your customers like grown ups.

Susie, not all of your customers, especially the ones buying their boxes retail, are women living on the 17th floor in Brent - Some of us are big boys (on a diet) and are perfectly capable of inserting a USB device in a socket. Since you have drunk the Sugar-aid; let me remind you of something else the Candyman said at launch:

"Our target audience is anyone who has Freeview. Anyone who doesn't want to be tied in to a subscription service. This is the only box you need."


Would you like to make any modification to your company's claim in that last sentence bearing in mind your product's inability to perform a number of functions which you need have another box to use?

WHEN will you allow different manufacturers to have machine specific sub-menus for otherwise unimplemented features so, for example, users could access the Humax engineers reset menu from the GUI so they do not have to go through that clunky multi button press routine? Using the overall graphics scheme for these would be nice but not essential. At launch, it was a good idea to restrict the GUI so there was a single "look and feel" but that time is way past with the different looks resulting from additional channels or not, if its a retail Humax in accessibility colours, omits the recording routines like the TT zapper.

You boast that you listen to your customers. How about listening to those who for the last 11 months or so since you fixed the major bugs, have been begging you to focus your development work on bringing the boxes up to their original specification before you faff about doing things like copying Sky with an App so you can boast about it to journos.?

We are also very well aware that there must be a new base specification at least doing the rounds in draft to take account of the "zapper" single tuner no drive boxes coming from TT and to allow you to market the EPG for use on televisions. Where (or when) will this be published?

I have already pointed out the problems with not having model spec sheets from a sales point of view. Now let me tell you the implications your CEO making "overenthusiastic" claims for your product of not having a consumer spec sheet with the only technical specification available being a) not easily available and b) out of date, .

There's an interesting piece of legislation that has been going since the 19th century called the Sale of Goods Act (or Acts as there have been many changes).

The best known provision is that any item a retailer sells must be "fit for purpose". So if you buy car, find it will not start as there was no engine, you would be able to get your money back as it was incomplete. Neither would the saleroom have any protection if they breezily told you "yes, the maker has not completed the ignition control software but will let you download a copy when it's finished sometime next year, we think", they could not force you to wait because they sold you a car; the purpose of a car is to transport the driver plus passengers etc. A new car that does not do this is "unfit for purpose". But if they said "we can install that software in 2 days time, they have taken reasonable measures to remedy the problem and may well offer something for the inconvenience. and breaking their original contract.

There's also associated legislation that strike down unfair terms and conditions in a contract. That showroom could claim that their standard sales contract has in the small print a condition that they is not liable for any loss if the maker failed to provide any software essential for it to function, if it had not been written and there was no limit of time for you to wait. They would not get very far in court by stating the contract meant you to wait for vehicular transport an indefinite time. It would be ruled unreasonable.

Which raises another interesting question - what is the purpose of a YouView box?

Scroll back a year or so and there is someone looking for a new TV recorder for the Olympics. They've read what the YouView CEO said.at launch and want a device that will, as part of its other function of recording off-air do other things. He asks the shop if the YouView box will play back from USB. He is also clear to the shop that he wants a wi-fi, not Homeplug or ethernet connection with a router located about 10ft away but fixed to the wall. You do not provide the shop with any other sales literature besides what is in the box. They go on line and find the base specification. That very clearly states the file formats any YouView device is expected to play back and mandates a wifi circuit or ability to use a USB dongle. How long was it reasonable to wait before returning the item to the shop for a refund on the basis that it does not do the two functions he asked for? Just what would you say to that customer? Of course his contract is with the shop, their's with Humax - which company undertook to write the USB software?

Comments

  • edited 8 January 2015, 3:55PM
    This post is an un-focussed, self-indulgent ramble.
    I will be amazed if anyone from YouView responds to it.
  • redchizredchiz Member, Super User Posts: 5,454 ✭✭✭
    edited 28 February 2017, 2:05PM
    You can already use wifi with a YouView box if you wish, a simple search of the forums would tell you that.

    Other than that I agree with gwatuk, my eyes glazed over at the sheer length of the post, I couldn't be arsed reading it and I can't imagine many others will either.
  • MadcottoMadcotto Member Posts: 580 ✭✭
    edited 25 November 2013, 8:31PM
    TLDNR
  • RoyRoy Member, Super User Posts: 17,656 ✭✭✭
    edited 6 March 2017, 9:48PM
    YCTU12, chaps.
    ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’ Wm Morris
  • churchwardenchurchwarden Member Posts: 795
    edited 3 May 2017, 11:39PM
    I just lost the will to live....
  • edited 8 January 2015, 3:54PM

    I just lost the will to live....

  • D'@veD'@ve Member Posts: 62
    edited 26 November 2013, 11:57AM
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