Sky Player Rant

August 24, 2008 at 9:51 pm | Posted in General, Random, rant, Television, TV | Leave a comment
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Sky is currently advertising the benefits of its Sky Player, a downloadable piece of software that allows you to watch Sky programming without having a connection at home (with a small payment).

I wanted to be a good net citizen so rather than using alternate arrangements to watch a particular show I chose to go through all the steps and hoops in order to access the player. They were advertising the show on the main page so everything should be fine, right?

Not really, Sky Player is almost a front for a phishing scam. To download the player you have to provide a date of birth and place of birth. Then to access the payment system you have to answer the mandatory question of stating your mother’s maiden name.

While concerned about the ultimate fate of my data I provided this information because I wanted to do the right thing. I completed the steps and put some money onto my account. I clicked onto my preferred show only to be told that this program is restricted to Sky subscribers and specifically those with a particular Sky bolt-on package.

I rang them up and was told licensing restrictions meant some shows can only be streamed to certain Sky subscribers. As an aside if you do successfully pay for a program it will be streamed once; you can pay more for additional rental periods. You have to wonder what happens if there is a problem during the streaming.

I can appreciate that there will always be licensing issues but Sky should not be offering a service – promoting that you don’t need to be a subscriber – let alone a specific package if you can’t follow through. At the very least don’t prominently display shows with specific subscription requirements.

I’ve now deleted the player and I tried to cancel the account but there is no delete account function in the profile settings section.

In the end my efforts fell flat and Sky has more details about me than they really should. It’s a good thing that they’re a benevolent corporation right? Then again data security at Sky and it’s parent company can’t be any worse than the British government.  

I wonder if Hulu in the US is as bad?

Pride 2008

August 24, 2008 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Gay and Lesbian, General, London, Out and About, Sydney, Tourism, UK | Leave a comment
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One sunny Saturday in July (5th) was London’s gay pride parade.

I was surprised when I arrived at Oxford Street shortly before it began and found a spot along the route only one person back from the road. In Sydney when Mardi Gras rolls around in order to get a decent view you have to know someone with a balcony or mark out a spot early in the day. Perhaps London’s route is longer and so the crowd can spread out more? That or fewer spectators….

Pride 2008

Boris, Mayor of London, leads the parade

In my area the crowd and passer-bys were mostly into it and supportive. Some staff from Carphone Warehouse were outside snickering – but I guess it’s good that they stayed and watched. About 50 metres further on was a Christian fundamentalist preaching that homosexuality equals death. I don’t know whether he was moved on but once the parade started I didn’t hear him anymore.

Free speech and all that…

London’s parade seemed pretty moderate with equal amounts of skin and community groups. Comparing with Mardi Gras again, I find Sydney’s parade a lot sluttier than London. I suspect that this is because Sydney’s is held at night with a lot more alcohol having being consumed. By the same token, London’s parde is longer and set during the middle of the day – out of the shadows, into the light and proud.

Trafalgar Square  and Old Compton Street were even busier – easily bigger than Canada Day. The Square’s main stage had performances with food and community stalls around the edges. I think the latter is one of the major differences (and benefits) compared with Sydney.

In Sydney things quickly shift to clubbing and partying with limited attempts to expand the community (excluding the parade floats). In Sydney (as with London) there are activities on many days but the parade is ultimately the main day, the day most of the public acknowledge.

London starts during the middle of the day and has plenty of energy to go on through the afternoon and late into the night.

On that note London clearly wins out.

I had a lot of problems including photos into this entry so you’ll find them all at Flickr.

Canada Day 2008

August 3, 2008 at 9:38 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Random, UK | 1 Comment
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At the beginning of July (Tuesday 1st July to be exact) and if you were in the vicinity of Trafalgar Square or the Maple Leaf Bar in Covent Garden you would have seen a throng of red and white as Canadians celebrated their national day.

Canada Day 2008 001

Dominating the Square was a stage. The night before it featured some bigger acts at a free concert but tonight the line up seemed to be more folksy.

I stopped by briefly and was surprised by the number of people – certainly more than at the Korean festival from a few weeks ago. There were long queues at the food and beverage stalls so I skipped them but the burgers did smell delicious.

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On one side of the square were a few stalls showcasing tourism (mainly Alberta as the key sponsor) and food (like cookies and breads). The upper level had a long line of information booths. At least that’s what I think they were because by 6 they’d packed up. Montreal had a tent, which one presenter pointed out, was set apart all by itself. Even on Canada Day everyone can’t get along.

Canada Day 2008 008

After my lap of the square I made my way home but it definitely looked as though the Canadians and their supporters were having a good time.

Canada Day 2008 007

The Victoria and Albert Museum plus China Design Now exhibit

August 3, 2008 at 9:08 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Located in Kensington, adjacent to the Natural History and Science Museums is the Victoria and Albert Museum (or the V&A if you’re a local).

It has an enormous collection spanning time periods from across the globe. Walking through the exhibits will take a few hours – more if you plan to read in depth on the plentiful display boards.

Generally, the items on display are object d’art and re-creations of living environments with period pieces. Most are exquisitely crafted and it is interesting to see how these skills have developed and the quality of the craftsmens’ abilities.

Easily one of my favourite areas was the plaster cast section, where they have copies of some impressive statues and monuments (such as Trajan’s column). Granted it is all fake but still very cool. Another notable attraction is the Ardabil Carpet in the Middle Eastern section. It is the world’s oldest carpet and is only illuminated for 10 minutes every hour to help preserve its quality.

My main purpose in coming to the V&A was to see the China Design Now exhibit. I’d been meaning to see it for ages, procrastinated and then hurriedly made my way here on its penultimate day. The entry cost was reasonable and I also paid an additional fee for the audio guide. This was a mistake. I’m sure the content was fantastic but standing in front of a single panel for ten minutes is not my idea of engaging content. I quickly stopped using the guide and read the fairly informative display panels instead.

In large part the exhibit focused on the development of Chinese graphic design in print, clothing, music and emerging trends in architecture. I’m pleased that I went as it was fairly engaging. The youth branding areas of design were particularly fun, while their more mundane uses in areas such as school construction was interesting.

Other than special exhibits it is free, which is another huge bonus. Even the size isn’t too much of an issue however it was at times a challenge to navigate. I was frequently looking at my map and doubling back on myself as the wings don’t necessarily interconnect (not to mention all of the side galleries).

At the end of the day don’t let that put you off. The V&A is a fantastic museum that you should see. If museums aren’t your thing you might want to consider coming on one of the late night adults only openings (with DJ’s and bar).

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