Friday, 19 June 2009

The Sky is limited

Pop quiz: you need to solve a problem with your Sky TV service. Do you:

a) Call the helpline telephone number that appeared along with the error message on your Sky box


b) Google the fault, and solve it yourself with the aid of the first three results it finds?

I, being in a really silly mood, decided to try option "a" - and that's why I'm blogging today.

To all companies that provide "helplines": if no-one on the other end of the phone has even the slightest ability to "help" me, you're on the verge of being reported for false advertising.

Why was I calling Sky in the first place? It's all John Barrowman's fault.

The dates for series three of Torchwood have been announced. The entire series is being stripped across a week of BBC1's schedule - and it's the second week of our Italy holiday next month. The Sky+ planner only lets you programme recordings up to seven days in advance. Seven days before the series starts, we'll also be in Italy. Bugger.

No problem, all I need to do is set my set-top box up to use the "remote recording" application that I have on my mobile phone. Previously this was done by logging into Sky's website, but now it needs to be done using the Sky Active service on my set-top box.

And here was the problem; the set-top box was refusing to connect to Sky Active through the phone line. I was getting the wonderfully-ambiguous "error 106", and given an 0844-number to call for help.

If I'd just dialled "123" and listened to the speaking clock for half an hour, I'd have received just as much assistance.

After giving my details and explaining my problem, the Sky person said that an error 106 means the problem is with the connection between my Sky box and the phone line. Did I have a message waiting on 1571? No. Oh.

Well, maybe I have outgoing number witholding turned on. No, I don't - when I call my mobile, my number comes through. I ask the Sky person if their system shows them the number that I've called them from. "Yes, sir," they reply, and read my phone number out from their display. Well, it's not bloody blocked then, is it?

"Ah, well, some telephone service providers only stop your number being sent to 08- and 09-numbers."

YOU are on the other end of an 08-number, you bloody prat, and you have my number. So let's stop suggesting stuff that you can already see isn't my problem and try something else, eh?

In the end, the best they could suggest was disconnecting all of my other telephone equipment and ADSL filters, connecting my Sky box directly to the phone line and trying that. Well, sod that for a game of soldiers - if I have to essentially rewire my house in order to access Sky Active, then I'll just not bother.

One quick Google search later, and I have a plan of action of my own:
  1. Do a random product search using QVC Active on the Sky box, and see if that works. If it does, then there's nothing wrong with the set-top box or phone line.
  2. Access the Sky box installer menu, and tell the box to dial using the prefix 1615 - this is Tiscali's "bypass all settings" prefix, and Tiscali are my phone line provider.
  3. Try it again.
Guess what? After following those three steps, it all worked perfectly. In case you're wondering, to access the Sky installer menu, press Services, 4, 0, 1, Select on your Sky remote.

The moral of this story is that Google is more helpful than any so-called helpline. But heaven help you if you're not technically minded.

When the analogue TV signal is switched off, the fun will truly begin...

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