Sky Stream, first look

Sky (known for the satellite broadcast system) introduced Sky Glass a while back which is a TV with integrated Sky that uses broadband to deliver Sky content, no dish/satellite required (Sky also own Now TV which is a subset of Sky's services also delivered over broadband using an app or puck/box).

Now Sky has introduced Sky Stream which is the same as Sky Glass (in terms of services), but is only a puck/box and a remote (and a power supply and HDMI cable). It connects via Ethernet or WiFi to a home network. The puck is actually running Linux so there are probably some hacks around.

Sky puck

The basic service is HD (1080) but a service upgrade allows UHD. Netflix (basic) is included (watch on a single device), but there are two upgrade options for Netflix Standard (2 devices) and Netflix Premium (4 devices).

TV upgrade packages are Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, BT Sport and Sky Kids.

The packages can be bought on an 18 month contract or 31 days rolling (the later being more expensive).

The box arrives pre-configured with the account set-up, just plug it in to the TV via the HDMI cable, if there's Ethernet, plug that in and let it boot, the can then be set-up in the settings.

It takes a while to boot and a Sky logo will be in white on a black background and when up and running the screen will go to the standard Sky blue colour with white lettering for the options.

Sky initial screen

Then get the remote and press buttons 1 and 3 simultaneously (you have to hold them for a while) and the box will ask if you wish to connect the remote (by pressing the middle button on the remote to agree).

If Ethernet is being used, the settings should automatically be picked up (i.e. IP address/etc), otherwise the WiFi needs to be configured.

If the UHD package has been selected, then the default mode can be moved the UHD rather than HD. Various audio options are also available (as is what format is sent to the TV).

Once that's done, hit the Home button and all the channels are available (including terrestrial channels).

Then there are "apps" for Netflix, iPlayer, ALL4, My5, Disney+, Apple TV+ etc.

Paramount+ is also available and the app  accessed through the Sky system, then an account set-up (again while in the Sky/Paramount app). The price will then be set to £0 per month (i.e. free) when a subscription is taken out.

If a current subscription to Netflix is in use, signing in through Sky means the billing is moved to Sky (i.e. free for Basic). Netflix will keep the current billing method "on file" such that if the Sky subscription ends, it will revert to the original.

The picture is very good and services work very smoothly, though using UHD means that at least 25Mb/s is required from the broadband service.

The packages are: -

18 month contract per month cost

  • Sky Entertainment and Netflix (basic) £26
  • Sky Sports £20 (offer)
  • Sky Cinema £11
  • BT Sport £30
  • Sky Kids £6
  • UHD and Dolby Atmos £6
  • Netflix basic SD (included, watch on 1 device) £0
  • Netflix Standard HD (watch on 2 devices) £4
  • Netflix Premium UHD (watch on 4 devices) £8

Getting everything would be £107 pm

31 day rolling cost

  • Sky Entertainment and Netflix (basic) £29
  • Sky Sports £22 (offer)
  • Sky Cinema £13
  • BT Sport £30
  • Sky Kids £6
  • UHD and Dolby Atmos £6
  • Netflix basic SD (included, watch on 1 device) £0
  • Netflix Standard HD (watch on 2 devices) £4
  • Netflix Premium UHD (watch on 4 devices) £8
Getting everything would be £114

Can then add whole home for £12 pm which allows additional pucks in the home (the first puck is free, more are £39 each).

Getting the full package on an 18 month contract saves £7 per month which is £126 over the lifetime of the contract.

Netflix have announced their new plans (from November) which correspond tp the Sky plans (including resolution and devices) i.e. Basic, Standard and Premium. There is an advertising supported basic plan for £4.99 per month, while the ad free services are £6.99, £10.99 and £15.99 per month respectively. So taking the Sky bundle is a saving if already a subscriber.

There are a few quirks with the system (hopefully they will be resolved in a future software update), the main bug bear is parental control. When accessing a channel where a program is designated that it needs parental control (12+ during the day), a PIN is required even if parental controls/daytime control have been disabled. If the program then changes to another (which also is deemed to require parental control), then the PIN needs entering again as the program changes.

The default PIN is the the last 4 digits of the mobile number registered with the service, but can be changed easily. Parental controls can be set to standard ages (U, PG, 12, 15, 18 or None)  and also all apps or individual apps may be PIN protected.

There's also voice control so it's possible to say "Watch BBC 1" and it will change to that channel (by pressing the microphone symbol on the remote).

Sky Stream remote
The buttons nicely light up when the remote is moved making it easy to find what you're doing even in a dark environment.

Another niggle is that it can take a while for the Sky puck to turn on even after the power button is pressed on the remote, but it tends to work after a few goes.

All in all, this is a nice way to get Sky without having to faff with satellite dishes if your Internet connection can cope.

p.s. the Sky links are referral but if signing up through it, you get discounts too.


Apple Photos does OCR

This feature seems to have appeared in Apple Photos.

Find a picture with some text in it, highlight the text and it's copied to the clipboard.

original picture

then highlight it

bounded box

The box will appear over the text when the mouse is selected at the start. Copy to clipboard.

The result of the clipboard is "BELSIZE PARK"

It works on horizontal and vertical text too.


It's bigger and brighter, the new Xiaomi Smart Band 7

Xiaomi (Mi) have refreshed their fitness tracker the Xiaomi SmartBand 7. It comes in China and Global versions, the only real difference is that the Chinese version supports NFC payments (through Alipay). If you're lucky Alipay may accept your credit card as a payment type and then you can use it through the band. Both versions support multiple languages.

The 326 ppi AMOLED screen has been increased to 1.62 inches and is now much brighter (it can be distractingly bright), which is a 25% increase over the Band 6 display. The included USB cable has a magnetic connector on the end which aligns the connector with the band and holds it in place to charge.

Battery life is stated at 15 days, but that will be greatly reduced if various functions are turned on, such as some continuous readings.

Band 7 next to Apple Watch

There are a variety of straps that can be purchased apart form the standard black.

Watch faces are download to the watch (over 100 of them) via the Mi Fit app (now rebranded as the Zepp Life app). Some of them maybe quite Chinese in personality and seem quite odd to a western market.

The band has the following "health" functions: -

  • SpO2 Monitoring
  • Breathing Training
  • Heart Rate Monitoring
  • Sleep Monitoring
  • Pressure Monitoring
  • Female Health

SpO2 (blood oxygen content) and heart rate monitoring are continuous as is sleep monitoring (i.e. no need to tell the band you're going to sleep).

Band 7 supports 120 sports modes, some of which it will try and switch into automatically and it can be used for swimming down to 50m (but not diving). While training VO2 is estimated and time to recovery as well as aerobic and anaerobic exercise times.  Standard sports are directly accessed while others via the All Workouts.

They are: -

  • Running
    •     Outdoor running
    •     Walking
    •     Treadmill
    •     Indoor walking
    •     Race walk
  • Cycling
    •     Outdoor cycling
    •     Indoor cycling
    •     BMX
  • Swimming
    •     Pool swimming
    •     Fin swimming
    •     Artistic swimming
  • Outdoor workout
    •     Fishing
    •     Skateboarding
    •     Roller skating
    •     Rock climbing
    •     Parkour
  • Indoor workout
    •     Freestyle
    •     Elliptical training
    •     Rower
    •     Indoor fitness
    •     HIIT
    •     Core training
    •     Aerobic combo
    •     Strength
    •     Stretching
    •     Stair climbing
    •     Flexibility
    •     Stepper (forward)
    •     Stepper (backwards)
    •     Gymnastic
    •     Yoga
    •     Pilates
    •     Aerobics
    •     Mass gymnastics
    •     Cardio Combo
    •     Cross training
    •     Spinning
    •     Horizontal bar
    •     Parallel bars
    •     Battle rope
  • Dance
    •     Ballet
    •     Belly dance
    •     Square dancing
    •     Street dancing
    •     Ballroom
    •     Dance
    •     Zumba
    •     Latin dancing
    •     Jazz dancing
    •     Folk dance
    •     Hip Hop
    •     Pole dance
    •     Break dance
    •     Modern dance
  • Combat workout
    •     Kendo
    •     Karate
    •     Boxing
    •     Judo
    •     Wrestling
    •     Tai chi
    •     Muay Thai
    •     Taekwondo
    •     Martial arts
    •     Kick boxing
    •     Jujitsu
    •     Fencing
  • Ball workouts
    •     Tennis
    •     Football (soccer)
    •     Cricket
    •     Baseball
    •     Bowling
    •     Squash
    •     Basketball
    •     Softball
    •     Gateball
    •     Volleyball
    •     Table tennis
    •     Handball
    •     Badminton
    •     Beach volleyball
    •     Wall ball
    •     Billiards
    •     Sepak takrav
    •     Dodgeball
    •     Water polo
    •     Ice hockey
    •     Shuttlecock
    •     Futsal
    •     Hacky sack
    •     Bocce
    •     Jal alai
  • Water workouts
    •     Sailing
    •     Rowing
    •     Dragon boat
    •     Kayaking
    •     Snorkeling
    •     Flowriding
  • Winter workouts
    •     Curling
    •     Ice skating
    •     Indoor ice skating
  • Leisure workouts
    •     Hula hoop
    •     Frisbee
    •     Darts
    •     Kite flying
    •     Tug of war
    •     Shuttlecock
    •     Esports
    •     Airwalker
    •     Swinging
    •     Shuffleboard
    •     Table football
    •     Somatosens
  • Board and cards
    •     Chess
    •     Checkers
    •     Weigl
    •     Bridge
    •     Board game
  • Others
    •     Jump rope
    •     Archery
    •     Equestrian

What the band can actually measure during say a board game is questionable to say the least. Other sports modes to seem to work and it will pick-up walking and running without having to actually switch to that mode. 

Tracking is reasonable and compares to other much more expensive devices.

Nicely Xiaomi have now added a lot of products to their international store, including the Smart Band 7 which retails for £54.99 in the UK version (mi.com detects your location and uses that to deliver a local store). Straps costs £9.99 (they do break and the button on the clasp can break too).

It is also possible to go to your friendly Chinese site and buy it considerably cheaper (though pricing has changed recently and shipping charges can be more expensive and there will be VAT/Tax added at the point of sale).