Updating Remote Recorder

My job has recently changed from mostly programming in Perl to mostly Java. As such I’ve been playing around with Java at home a bit too.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from someone who bought my Sky+ Remote Recorder app asking if I’d be updating it. I replied saying that I wouldn’t because I didn’t think it was worth the effort when Sky have their own app and at least my asp still worked for people with older versions of Android.

A couple of days ago I read that Sky’s apps got pulled because they got hacked. I cursed myself for not having bothered to update my own app and decided it would be good practice at Java and would be a welcome improvement to the people who still use my app regularly.

I’ve spent my evenings working on a new version this week. It’s coming along quite slowly because I’ve got no experience of most of the new Android development practises or designs.

I hope to have a very basic ugly version working by the middle of next week and then spend some time polishing it and doing what testing I can on the devices at my disposal before releasing it.

Renting out my house

On Christmas Day Chloe informed me that she’d be moving out of my house shortly into the new year. She has now officially moved out, and so I’ve begun trying to get rid of all of the bills and my belongings so that I can rent it out.

I spent 75 minutes on hold with Sky when I called them 4 or 5 days ago. I sent them an email while I was on hold, but I haven’t received a reply to that. I spent another 50 minutes on hold when I called today. After the fiasco of getting the phone line sorted when I moved in I was not looking forward to calling BT, however, they completely surprised me by performing the entire procedure in 4 minutes and 47 seconds! Impressive.

Today I contacted Mansfield District Council to see about stopping paying council tax while I don’t live there. I received an email from a lady a couple of minutes ago that surprised me in a completely different way to BT.

Dear Mr Gilbert

Further to your recent enquiry regarding council tax. Whilst the property is still furnished you will be able to claim a 50% discount. If you remove the furniture you will be able to claim full exemption for a period of 6 months. Please supply the date you vacated the property and your current home address in Nottingham and we will amend your liability accordingly. If you decide to remove the furniture please inform us and we will then be able to awarded the exemption.

Yours sincerely
Ms. Council Employee

This seemed a little strange, and quite annoying, so I wrote this email that I am probably not going to send to them:

Hi Council Employee,

I’m just double-checking, if I leave the furniture there because I’ll be renting out the house furnished I still have to pay 50% council tax?

If this is so can I have a break-down of the services my furniture will be receiving from the council for my money?

I have spoken to my sofa and it has agreed not to put any of the rubbish it generates into the bins, and my wardrobes have kindly agreed not to use the roads any more.

If this is still not acceptable then please let me know which items of furniture will be using the services I’ll be paying for and I’ll see if I can get them to agree not to.

Stuart Gilbert.


Remote Recorder, again

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time working on the next version of Remote Recorder (my Android app for recording TV programmes with Sky+). I’ve listened to a lot of feedback and the main thing requested by people was the availability of listings for TV channels, rather than just a search interface. When I originally made the app I just wanted to be able to search, so I made it just for myself. That’s no longer the case though, as there are quite a few users of the app, and that number is growing every day.

So I have spent quite a bit of time looking at how best to implement this feature and the video below is what I’ve come up with. Keep in mind that it’s incomplete, and excuse the elevator music πŸ™‚

So yeah, that’s the basics of how it will work. There will be some minor differences that I have in mind, like the ability to filter the channels/programmes by typing the name into the box at the top. This next version should go a long way towards making Remote Recorder a much more stable and usable Android app. πŸ™‚

Oh yeah, I also registered a domain name: Remote Recorder. πŸ˜€

Remote Recorder Sky login issues

I received a notification from a user last night saying that there were problems sending remote record requests because of a login issue. I just wanted to update to say that I have replicated the problem with my own account, and so I plan to work on fixing this issue this evening, as soon as I get home.

Based on a tiny bit of checking I think it should be a fairly trivial fix, but that’s without knowing the true details of the problem.

I will update again when I know more, and will get a working version on the Android Market as soon as possible.

Apologies for the down-time.

Sky Broadband ADSL username/password hardware lock-in

NOTE:Β This post is very outdated. I’m no longer sure that the instructions would be correct, and the sites I linked to seem to be down now. I have modified the link to point to an archived copy of the page.

β€”Stu, 2016-12-24

I’ve been a satisfied customer of Sky Broadband for the last couple of years now. The router/modem you get sent is usually either rebranded Netgear or Sagem hardware, which is good. The problem with this hardware is that Sky modify it in such a way that they hardcode the username and password for the actual ADSL connection, and never reveal it to the users.

The other week my router decided not to work any more. Luckily I had a spare that my dad bought on eBay for Β£1 once. I plugged it in and that’s when I realised I didn’t have to enter any details to connect. Very strange. I contacted Sky to get a replacement router and I never got it. It was delivered to me, but I never went to fetch it from the Post Office because I thought I’d be fine with the spare. I regretted that decision last week when the spare died on me too. I now suspect a faulty power cable, for both to die in such a short time.

I contacted Sky and asked them to resend another one so I could connect again. I still hadn’t heard anything back from them by today, and I was getting bored, and fed up of using 3G on my phone for everything, so I went to Argos and bought myself a nice new Linksys router.

After I’d plugged it in I was prompted for a username and password for the ADSL. I typed in my Sky.com user details as they were the only details I thought would be even close to correct, even though I doubted that. When it didn’t work I did a little bit of a search from my phone and found lots of people with the same problem.

I decided to call Sky Broadband technical support to see if they could give me the information I needed to connect. I spoke to a very nice man on the other end of the phone who didn’t really have a clue what I was talking about. He kept saying that Sky can’t offer support for other routers, and I kept saying that I understand how a router works and I just needed my ADSL username and password. Eventually he said there was absolutely no way of him finding out any details that I could use to connect, and that by not using a Sky router I’d be breaking the terms and services. I told him that was ridiculous.

I then complained about ordering a router last week and not having heard anything back. He put me on hold and got one dispatched for me right away. Why had I been waiting so long if it only takes a couple of seconds?

After hanging up I did a bit more searching online and discovered that there way to find your login details is actually very basic. As long as you still have a Sky router/modem around somewhere you can use the details on the label printed on the bottom to generate the same details on this extremely useful website.

I entered the details for one of my Sky routers on the site, then entered the generated details on my Linksys configuration page and everything worked perfectly! πŸ™‚ I now have a working Sky Broadband Internet connection with a non-crippled router.

The only reason I can think of for this whole setup is to prevent Sky from getting support calls for problems that are nothing to do with their hardware from people who don’t know what they’re doing. This is fine for most people, but they shouldn’t be forcing people to use only their equipment. Sky should have a way of generating a username and password for users of non-Sky-branded routers, and they should provide them to customers who call and request them. It wouldn’t be that hard, and the people who would buy another router and configure it themselves are the people who are intelligent enough not to call Sky when something goes wrong with their Belkin router.

Sky Remote Recorder update for Android

I made some changes to my Sky remote record app for Android available on the market today. The changes are fairly basic, and are mostly there to make the user experience a bit better.

For example, if your recording fails then you receive a screen where you can choose to test your login details on Sky’s website to make sure you’ve got them correct, you can also view the help on my site, or open the preferences to change your username and/or password.

The update will make it much easier for people to be sure their details are correct and solve any problems they may encounter when setting up remote record requests with Sky.

Remote Recorder trial version

I’ve decided to release a trial version of my Sky+ Android application Remote Recorder so that it’s a bit more accessible to people who want to try it out before they commit to a (refundable) purchase.

The trial version is limited to one recording request for now, but that may change in the future if people want to try it a bit more. For now I believe that one recording is all it takes to get a feel for the application.

Along with this new trial version I have made some minor changes to the full version of the app. There are now some more robust checks in place to see if your login details are correct, and to find out if your remote record request was properly received by Sky.

To find either version search for Remote Recorder on the Android Market and pick the one you want. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Sky website problems

My Remote Recorder application got a bad review earlier because the search was too slow. It turns out that the section of the Sky website that deals with remote recording is actually down. There’s not really a great deal I can do to make my app work when Sky is down, but I really should have had some more sturdy error handling in place.

The MySky section of Sky.com

The MySky section of Sky.com

As I was in the middle of testing a couple of quick changes Sky seem to be attempting to fix this now, and the service keeps going up and down.

I’m pushing out an updated version now with a more helpful message in the event of a communication failure.

Remote Recorder Android app for Sky+ (and Sky+ HD)

A month ago I wanted to set something on TV to record from my phone because I was out of the house. I was aware of the Remote Record option available on the Sky website, and that I could send an SMS to a specific number to set it up, but the website is a real pain to use on my phone, and I couldn’t remember the phone number, or what to send to it anyway.

I figured there was probably an Android application for sending a remote record request via the web, and there actually was. I was very pleased, until I saw that is cost quite a bit of money. This was when I came up with the idea of writing my own Remote Recorder application.

After a lot of my evenings and weekends spent on it I finally have a working application that I’m satisfied with enough to release to the general public.

Search the Android App Store for “Remote Recorder” and give it a go!

Remote Recorder has a very basic interface. You enter the name of the show you want to record into the search box and results are returned for you to choose from. Once you’ve chosen a show a list of show times and channels is retrieved and displayed to you. If you long-click on the show description then a remote record request is sent to Sky and they forward it to your Sky+ or Sky+ HD box. Hey presto, your show gets recorded. πŸ™‚

Your search results

Your search results

A list of showings

A list of showings

Sending your remote record request

Sending your remote record request