Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

Freesat for free HD TV in the UK

If you haven't already heard about Freesat then you should look into it, I'm not referring to the free satellite service from Sky, but the new not-for-profit organisation set up by the BBC and ITV to help distribute digital TV to areas of the UK where Freeview signals are not strong enough.
If you also own a new high definition capable flat screen TV or are looking to buy one you should also investigate Freesat. Not only will it allow a greater percentage of British population to receive digital TV for free, it also carries free high definition content. Currently BBC HD and ITV HD channels, which are far superior to their standard definition channels.

Essentially you need a satellite dish and a new set-top box or Freesat capable TV to receive the broadcasts. The Freesat service uses the same satellite as Sky, so it is apparently possible to use a Sky dish and plug in a Freesat tuner instead of a Sky box.

According to a sales assistant in my local Richer Sounds every retailer stocking Freesat equipment has to be a registered Freesat installer and they charge a set fee of £80 to install the service for you. This install price is set by Freesat and should be the same for each registered installer.

Panasonic have announced the first TV with a Freesat tuner built-in which should be launched in time for the Olympic games, which should be broadcast in HD on the BBC HD channel.

Can Freesat and Sky Co-exist?

What I'm wondering is, can Sky and Freesat be picked up with the same dish simultaneously? If you have a quad LNB on the dish and a additional run of coaxial cable to the Freesat box?

If so, you could have high definition TV in more than one room and you wouldn't have to pay Sky's multi-room fee, you also get to keep Sky in one room so you can pick up those channels not available on Freesat, like Living TV etc.

I asked this question to the sales guys at the Panasonic stand in the Bluewater shopping centre who were demonstrating the new Freesat capable panels and although they'll admit that you can use a Sky dish to receive Freesat, they're not sure about the 2 services co-existing.

If they won't co-exist maybe they can be switched? After all how many people want a second dish stuck to their house?
Personally, I could make do without the garbage US TV shows Sky broadcasts, but it might upset my girlfriend if she's unable to watch her shows :-)

How to get the BBC iPlayer on your Nintendo Wii

You can now get the BBC iPlayer on the Nintendo Wii games console!

Before you can start watching programmes broadcast on the BBC over the last 7 days you'll need to connect your Wii console to the Internet (see instructions below) and download the Opera web browser from the Wii Store (Which costs 500 Wii points or about 3.50 Pounds Sterling).

Before you can buy Wii points to purchase the Opera web browser you'll first need to register online at www.nintendo-europe.com and "link" your Wii console to the Nintendo account you just created online, Nintendo have a guide on how to link your Wii Shop Channel Account to your Club Nintendo Account.

Once you've linked your account to your Wii console you need to go to the Wii Shop accessed from the Wii Home Menu on the console and purchase (by using a credit or debit card to buy some Wii points) and download the "Internet Channel".

Once downloaded and installed you're ready to go!

From the Wii Home Menu select "Internet Channel" and navigate to www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer, you can then use your Wii remote to zoom, pan and scroll around the web and the iPlayer.

You can read more info about the BBC iPlayer on the Wii console at BBC Internet Blog.


To connect your Nintendo Wii console to the Internet with Wi-Fi follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Wii home menu
  2. Select "Wii options" on the bottom left
  3. Click on "Wii settings" on the right
  4. Click the right arrow
  5. Select Internet
  6. Click "Connection Settings"
  7. Select "Connection 1"
  8. Choose "Wireless Connection"
  9. Select "Search for Access Point"
  10. Click "Ok"
  11. You should be presented with a list of local wireless routers, select your wireless router from the list
  12. If your wireless router is secure, you'll be prompted to enter your Wi-Fi password
  13. Click to save your connection settings
  14. Click "Ok"
  15. The Wii will now test your connection and then prompt you to perform a system update, click "Yes"
  16. Return to the Wii menu when prompted

High Definition DVD War: Good for Consumers in the Long Run?

To get the best out of your high definition TV you'll quite possibly want to invest in a next generation DVD format, but the manufacturers' unfortunately for us (the consumer) couldn't agree on a single disk format, so we are currently watching the HD-DVD and Blu-ray camps fight it out.

The consumer doesn't really care what format wins, all the consumer cares about is being able to watch high definition content. What makes matters worse is that the film studios are not releasing their movies on both formats. So no matter which one you choose, you'll only be able to get a selection of the current movies available. That is unless you purchase an expensive dual format HD-DVD and Blu-ray player.

The possible outcomes of this battle are:

  1. HD-DVD wins, we throw out our existing Blu-ray players and buy HD-DVD, but continue to pay for Blu-ray when we buy a Playstation 3.
  2. Blu-ray wins, we throw out our existing HD-DVD players and buy Blu-ray.
  3. Neither win, we all have to buy dual format machines.

One Good Outcome of the High-Def DVD Battle For Consumers

One point that Oliver Van Wynendaele, a manager at Toshiba made on a recent episode of BBC Click, is that the next-gen DVD war is causes the prices of players to drop far quicker than the cost of current standard definition DVD players did when they were first released.

"Last year we launched our product at 600 euros (£428), I knew the price would go down within a year but I didn't expect it to be so fast."
"We are half the price of where we were one year ago. The DVD took three years to cut the price in half," ~ Oliver Van Wynendaele, Toshiba

Choosing a Flat-Screen TV: Screen Size

It's coming up to Christmas time again, and lots of people are thinking of splashing out on a new flat screen TV. Prices are becoming cheaper all the time which is a good thing, but the sheer range available can make it a daunting task. Even though prices are falling each month, deciding which make, model and size is one thing, but what about resolution, high-definition (HD) readiness, connections, built-in tuners, plasma or LCD etc?

I'm going to start by finding the most suitable screen size.

What HDTV Screen Size Should I Buy?

Choosing a suitable screen size will depend on where the television will be going, and how far away from the screen you'll be sitting. Obviously for a home theatre set-up you'll be wanting a big screen, whereas for a bedroom or kitchen you'll want a smaller size.

You don't want to give yourself eyestrain, or be so close that you can see individual pixels on the screen, but on the other-hand you don't want to be so far away that you don't become immersed in the content. Luckily there are size charts available on the web that can help determine the appropriate size for different rooms and TV placements.