PSP Internet Radio in-depth

This post was originally written on the City In The Clouds blog.

You might remember my previous look at a rather substantive PSP firmware update. So, what is new in the ever-evolving world of the PSP?

The firmware update lists the following changes

[Internet Radio] has been added as a feature under [Network].
The importing of channels in OPML format is now supported under [RSS Channel].
Photos can now be displayed under [RSS Channel].
New effects have been added to the visual player under [Music].

I was going to call this post “PSP Firmware 3.80 in-depth” and go through all the features in turn.  However in my opinion, Internet Radio is the only substantive feature that has been added- the rest are superficial yet still welcome nonetheless.

Internet Radio
This is probably THE killer feature of this particular firmware update; increasing the PSP’s ever-expanding features and value proposition. On reboot, the first thing you’ll notice is [Internet Radio] under [Network]. When you click on [Internet Radio] you’ll see [About Internet Radio] which you can click on. You are then sent to the PSP Internet Radio site, shown below:

PSP Internet Radio Webpage
You can access the page directly here.

You then click on “adding an internet radio player”, shown below:

PSP Internet Radio Webpage
You can access the page directly here.

Here you can download either player 1 or player 2.  The only difference I’ve noticed is that player 1 gets its radio list from SHOUTCAST and player 2 gets its list from ICECAST.

How it works
Depending on which one you download (or even both), the relevant icon will display within [Internet Radio].  You just click on this option, which takes you to a webpage.  But before you do so, you have to accept the message: “do you want to run the plugin embedded in this page?”

At first, the internet radio was quite slow to load up, however in successive tests (even after having the PSP turned off) performance has increased greatly (due to the player being cached in the browser’s memory.)  Internet radio works by ‘tuning’ into a broadcast streaming off the internet.  A definition/overview of internet radio is available here from Wikipedia.

Not an exact science
To select the radio station you want, you just choose your genre and then click elsewhere on the radio ‘frequency’ gaug, just like you would on a real radio.  Yet you can’t find exactly what you want.  How do I mean?  I found a helpful comment from Gaffman on PSP Fanboy:

The radio is fairly well implemented but hard to find anything specific. You have to pick a genre, then manually skip through stations without really knowing what’s coming up. Its a bummer because I was hoping to be able to search for specific stations, say if a friend had a shoutcast station setup you could tune in on PSP wherever you were. The current setup seems to be based on popularity with no regard for language or anything else.

If there ever was a criticism about the implementation of Internet- then that just about sums it up.  However Sony were probably trying to come up with a fairly simple implementation for the average consumer.  It is also interesting to note, that in theory, internet radio is not too dissimilar from streaming audio podcasts off the internet on a PSP, yet its actual implementation is quite different.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 STARS

PSP’s new killer feature.  Even if it’s not what you always desired; check it out, have a play with it.  Therefore PSP firmware 3.80 comes highly recommended.

How to watch Sky in other rooms for free

Updated June 2011:  After reading this article, please check the extensive comments section below for answers to frequently asked questions.


Want to watch Sky TV in your other rooms for free?  The solution isn’t perfect, but it works.  Please note that I have only tested this on a standard Sky box.  Could those of you with Sky+ or Sky+HD either confirm or deny whether this works for you as well?  Many thanks.  Update on 18/06/11: For Sky+ please scroll further down the article for more information.

This article assumes you already have:

  • A Sky box installed and working in one of your rooms
  • A basic working knowledge of coaxial (TV aerial) connectors


Now, you have two options;

1) Get Sky multiroom which is “£10 a month per additional box on top of your Sky TV subscription and mirrors your channel package” yet enables you to “enjoy different Sky TV programmes in different rooms at the same time”.  At £10 a month per additional box, this is quite costly, I think you’ll agree.

2) Use the method I am about to explain. below. In Sky-speak, you’ll still “get all your Sky TV channels on another TV ” like in option 1 but you won’t be able to “enjoy different Sky TV programmes in different rooms at the same time”. However, you’ll be pleased to know that after initial setup costs, this method is free; no extra subscription charge per month.

What you’ll need

Assuming you’ve chosen option 2 (good choice, I might add) then you will need to buy the following:

  • Plenty of coaxial cable for what you require
  • 1 Marmitek Powermid Receiver
  • A Marmitek Powermid Transmitter for every room you want to get Sky TV in
  • An additional ‘Rev8′ Sky remote for every room you want to get Sky TV in
  • An aerial booster which splits the signal into at least 4 more cables

Regarding the Marmitek Powermids, I recommend the Marmitek PowerMid XL infrared extender set from which gives you 1 transmitter and 1 receiver.  If your Sky box is hidden away in a cupboard then you can connect an optional Marmitek IR Eye infrared extender cable to the receiver and you can control your Sky Box without having to open the cupboard doors.  If you want to extend Sky to more than one extra room of your house, then you’re going to need additional transmitters.

The concept

You need to run a coaxial cable from one of your RF Output ports on the back of your Sky box, to the aerial input on the booster/splitter. Then you just add additional coaxial cables running off from the splitter to the different rooms in your house where you want Sky TV.

Additionally, you can also blend or merge your terrestrial signal with your Sky signal, using a simple 2-way splitter before feeding the cable into the input. This enables you to watch different terrestrial TV channels in any room with the addition of Sky.

After the Digital Switchover: If you blend your Sky signal (from the RF Output) with your terrestrial signal, you can also receive Freeview.  Even before the switchover, this is currently possible.  You just hook up a Freeview box on your other TVs like you normally would, and you’re away.  If you’ve got TVs with Freeview built-in, you don’t need a box.

A little snag

Sky of course, don’t want you to do this. They want you to get Sky Multiroom and pay them an extra £10 a month. You may need to enable RF Output on your Sky box. To do this, press ‘Services’ on the Sky remote, then type 4 0 1 and press ‘Select’ then select Option 4 “RF outlets”. This should enable you to watch Sky TV on any other room in your house via a coaxial cable.

The End Result

Remember those Marmitek Powermids? You just plug the receiver into the mains and set it up so that it is facing your Sky box. You then simply place a transmitter in each of your rooms next to your TV, facing towards you. With your additional Sky remotes, this enables you to change your Sky TV channel on your Sky box, without being in the room where the box actually it is.

Important note: If people are watching Sky TV in multiple rooms, then they will have to watch the same Sky channel, as if you change a Sky channel with the remote, you will change the Sky channel on all the TVs watching it. Feel free to do what you want with terrestrial though.

The Digital Switchover and more

Once you have all your equipment set up, you’ll have to re-scan your channels to find your Sky signal.  It will appear on analogue due to the RF Output on the Sky Box being analogue.  In areas which have not switched over to digital, you can stick the Sky channel on anything you want.  Personally, I stuck the Sky channel on channel 6.  So I had BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV 1, Channel 4, Five, and the Sky Channel on 6.

After the digital switchover, you will only be able to get channels 1 to 5 on digital through a digital set-top box (a Freeview box), or through your TV’s built-in digital capability.  Channels 1 to 5 will disappear on analogue, but your Sky channel will remain on channel 6.  So in effect, you don’t need to mess about with analogue again.  You will, however, need to re-scan for digital channels each time they alter the signal when turning analogue off in stages (as the specific frequencies of channels on digital are changed to boost signal strength).

Specifically for Sky+

Patricia got in touch with me about Sky+ and came up with the following solution:

It worked ok on my Sky+ box but it took some time to find RF outlet on the new type menu: So…SERVICES  down to OPTIONS  > SETTINGS press select  >> PICTURE…(put in )  401  ..scroll along to RF out …select

If there are any mistakes in this article, please let me know and I’ll endeavour to correct them as quickly as possible. I hope you’ve found this information useful.

See also: You might also be interested in one of my other posts, ‘Tips to speed up your home network‘.

My experience with the PlayStation Store (PC)

This post was originally written on the City In The Clouds blog.

This isn’t a review or an in-depth analysis. I just liked to get that out of the way before dispensing with some brief and concise thoughts and opinions on the availability of the PlayStation Store on the PC. Shall we begin?

Firstly, the availability of the PlayStation Store on the PC is very welcome. I had been growing increasingly frustrated that only PS3 users were able to download PSone games to their PSP. Now that the store is here though, I find my thoughts on it somewhat divided.

Whilst I now don’t feel as much as a second class PSP citizen (due to not owning a PS3), I have to admit that the site runs like Linford Christie… slipping on a banana skin. That’s just not well at all, if you need telling. It is sooo slow, which is unbelievable. Neither am I keen on the design- looks almost crude, if that makes sense.

Buying games is easy enough, if you have already have a PlayStation account. As is the download process to your PSP which is done via a special PSP download client. The other content is free, but sparse. That goes for the store as a whole (in the UK anyway), in that there is not really much there. Simply put more on there and the people will come. The store has great potential, I figure it just needs time for more content, but to be honest this should have been available a lot sooner.

The games are a different matter; I have purchased one PSP game and an original PSone game. My conclusions? Find out next time…

PSP Firmware 3.70 in-depth

Forget firmware 3.60, this is the real deal! You may recall a while back now, I recommended that firmware update 3.51 was pointless. Therefore, I have now upgraded my system from 3.50 to 3.70, and I’m expecting a large number of new features with such a version jump in the firmware. What’s going to make a look at this firmware interesting, is that I’ll be looking at the changes on an original PSP (PSP-1000). Let’s get cracking…

When updating, you’re presented with the following change log:

  • You can now set custom themes in [Theme Settings] under [Settings].
  • Support has been added for assigning buttons in [Remote Play].
  • A scene search feature has been added under [Video].
  • Sequential playback is now supported under [Video].
  • Simultaneous playback of content under [Music] and [Photo] is now supported.

However I want to see exactly how this works, and whether there’s more features (as I never installed 3.60). I’ll start from right-to-left, beginning with [Network]. The 1st thing I notice is a new funky orange and black logo for PlayStation Spot. What is PlayStation Spot? It’s a wifi spot set up by Sony in certain public locations for you to download game demos, trailers etc. Anyhow, on the PSP, clicking on PlayStation Spot creates a new wifi connection: ‘PS Spot’. Apparently, if you are in range of a PlayStation Spot, you will also be able to access the Internet for free and browse the web, and even play multiplayer games in infrastructure mode. So that’s the PSP Spot.

Moving to [Game], I thought I could delete the 3.70 file, and quickly move onto exploring what else is new. However, on hitting [triangle] to bring up the menu…something has changed. On the menu, I can either start the update, delete it, or find out information about it. However, on the ’start’ option, there is a graphical PSP ’start’ button. I’m guessing the aim of this change is to expose extra functionality, and different, perhaps easier ways of doing things. Anyhow, there’s nothing else new under [Game].

Onto [Video], as I hover over a particular video for a while, a little guide pops up in the bottom-right corner of the screen saying ‘[triangle] options’. Which again, is exposing functionality that may not be obvious to a new PSP owner. On hitting [triangle], there is again another graphical PSP ’start’ button next to ‘play’. So, I hit ‘play’ and immediately as the video started another pop up guide says ‘[triangle] control panel’. Looking at the control panel, the PSP system again exposes secondary button options that you can operate without using the control panel such as play/pause, next scene etc…

THE coolest new feature under video is ‘Scene Search’. It is a revelation; simplicity itself to use, and very very useful. It appears as a new icon top-right of the control panel, or alternatively you can hit [square]. What it does is dynamically create scenes into the videos you’re watching which is very, very handy. You can press up or down to select anything from 15 second intervals to 5 minutes (on a short video), and left and right to ’scene search’. I’ll now try the same with a UMD film. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, which is a shame because some UMD films don’t have a chapter menu, meaning you have to keep hitting [R] once you’re watching the film. Anyhow, the ’scene search’ still undoubtedly a very nifty feature.

I’ll now cover both [Music] and [Photo] together, as they now share a new, very cool feature. Now, I’ve known for sometime now that if you hit the ‘home’ button, you can jump out of the current track you’re playing, and you can view other songs you might have, and even browse the main XMB menu. However, the moment you tried to access anything else other than music, the music would stop playing. That is still the case, but now if you go into [Photo] the music keeps on playing! I have noticed one thing though, if you want to view a set of photos with the music playing, it is best to use the slideshow mode at its default setting as my system was unable to cache both the thumbnails and pictures if quickly flicking through them. Maybe that’s just because I’m using a PSP-1000? With the added RAM of the PSP-2000, those users may not experience this minor thing. Again, the pop up guide and secondary button options are present throughout.

Onto the big one- [Settings]. I find myself both disappointed and intrigued by what has changed. Under [Theme Settings] there is now ‘themes’ where you can set background, colour and most importantly… icon design! At the moment, there is only ‘original’ theme, which shows a screenshot of the XMB with a mysterious new icon between [Video] and [Game]. It could be something to do with the Japanese TV tuner, and the screenshot has got left in other regional firmware OR it could be something to do with the upcoming TV tuner for the PS3. My guesses though, are only speculative at best. And now for the disappointment- PSP-2000 users get new colour backgrounds, but it seems like we PSP-1000 users do not, which is a shame.

Under [Video Settings] there is the new ‘Sequential Playback’ feature that was mentioned- useful, but nothing spectacular. And that, my friends… is it!

If you spot any mistakes, please let me know, and remember- I have only looked at this update with the PSP-1000.

Paramore at the Manchester Academy

This post was originally written on the City In The Clouds blog.

Tickets- got yours?  ’Cause we certainly have!  We’ll be at the Manchester Academy on the 3rd of September 2007.  If there are any fellow Paramore fans coming as well, let us know by leaving a message to this post, or sending an email here (no psychos please).

Stay tuned for more Paramore goodness…

Paramore tickets

New slim line PSP info-splurge(tm) and critique

This post was originally written on the City In The Clouds blog.

It is slimmer, lighter, loads games faster (due doubling the RAM) and outputs video to TV screens etc..

But what about the owners of existing PSPs though?  Sure, you had the PSone redesign and the PS2 redesign but this is a substantial change.  All’s the PS2 redesign did was slim the unit down, add networking and get rid of the (mostly) unused hard drive expansion bay.

So, what makes the PSP so different?  Well, this time Sony makes software updates as well to its systems.  Take Sony’s upcoming 3.60 firmware upgrade for the PSP- all the features I’ve seen so far are just for the slimmer PSP (mainly due to the new hardware) like UMD-caching, and options for outputting video.  I suppose my argument is what if Sony only creates more firmware updates for the slimmer PSP or possibly even hardware that is only compatible with the new PSP?  Maybe unthinkable, but surely possible.

In the past, hardware revisions weren’t much of a problem, but now major new features are being incorporated into software updates (via firmware).  Is it really fair to (pardon my upcoming language) shaft current hardware owners in this way?  I think Microsoft has done well in this regard with its Xbox 360 revisions.

Related reading (in no particular order):
PSP firmware 3.60 reveals hidden USB Charge feature
Joystiq hands-on with the new PSP
Added RAM makes PSP games load faster
Comparing the new PSP with the old
PSP Slim Lite boxart revealed
PSP redesign revealed; Lighter, slimmer, lasts longer

PSP Camera Comprehensive Review

This post was originally written on the City In The Clouds blog.

Well, I’ve checked, and no-one seems to really have reviewed the UK version in its current configuration AND have consistently ignored something that I will mention later on…

So, it has finally touched down on the shores of the UK (and Europe for that matter).  Retailing at £34.99 (€49.99), the Go!Cam– a Playstation Portable camera adapter, is an interesting proposition for the PSP-owning, tech-savvy and bargain-sniffing consumer.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
So, what do you get for your £34.99?  Well, the Go!Cam is essentially a 1.3 megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens that plugs into the PSP’s USB port at the top.  The camera can be swivelled 180 degrees, either pointing at you (handy for self-portraits) or away, for point and click action at anything you fancy.  There’s also a microphone built into the knob that you use to swivel the camera.  There’s a link to the editing software, and a small plastic carrying case is included.  That’s all you need to know, really.

In use
All you need is your trusty PSP (with version 2.70 firmware or later), a decent-sized Memory Stick Duo (I’d recommend at least 1Gb), and your new Go!Cam.  Using the Go!Cam is simply a matter of selecting the ‘Camera’ option under ‘Photo’ on the main menu.  Do you need to plug in the camera before turning on the PSP?  Nope, I have tested this and the camera works fine in either circumstance.

The Go!Cam

Of course, only being a 1.3 megapixel camera is a major factor in the quality of the final image but the camera’s bargain price point reflects this.  Photos are saved in the JPG format and videos are saved in the AVI format.  The images, especially in low light can be quite grainy and the PSP has to be kept reasonably still, otherwise you’ll get blurred pictures.  Fast-moving objects could be a problem.

The ‘Go!Edit’ software…
Words cannot describe how much I hate this infernal piece of software.  When the Go!Cam was released in Japan, it was known as ‘Chotto Shot’ and came with editing software ‘Chotto Edit’ which came on a UMD disk.  The Go!Edit software for European consumers does not come with the the PSP camera.  Instead, you are given a link to (so I see the ‘Your PSP’ website lives on in some form), and once on your memory stick, takes up 80Mb!

What is so bad about this piece of software?  The ‘effects’ are rubbish and pointless (for both photos and videos) and videos are only limited to 15 seconds.  What most people have failed to realise is that if you shoot a video directly from the main menu instead of using the Go!Edit software, you can shoot footage for as long as you have memory left on your Memory Stick Duo.  Once you’ve run out of memory, the PSP informs you and stops the filming.

White PSP and Go!Cam

Another advantage of NOT using the Go!Edit software is that both photos and videos are available under ‘Digital Camera Images’ and ‘Digital Camera Recordings’ where you’d expect to find them on the menu.  Whilst using the Go!Edit software, I could not find where the videos were stored using the PSP’s menu.  Avoid the Go!Edit software at all costs- it’s just not worth it!

So, good enough?
As other reviews and previews have mentioned, you can get most of this functionality on a typical camera phone these days.  However the unique feature that the Go!Cam presents is instant viewing of photos and videos taken, viewable on the PSP’s big, gorgeous widescreen display.  Now, go show me a camera phone with a screen that big, and of such quality.

A fairly nifty feature, is being able to take photos with a ’sketch’ effect that is created on-the-fly.  This is easily one of the better features.  Some photos I have taken with this effect are available here.

White PSP with Go!Cam

To conclude…
Obviously the Go!Cam is not going to be your primary camera, or possibly even your second camera BUT it is serious fun.  I don’t know of any other camera or video recorder with a screen this big, for this price.  I’d say the Go!Cam is worth it just for the novelty of being able to take pics and shoot the odd video on your PSP.  Just avoid the the Go!Edit software!

Rating: 4 STARS

Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties

This post was originally written on the City In The Clouds blog.

Wow, another expansion pack!  Looking back through the Age series, there has generally only been one expansion pack per game.  Age of Empires III gets its second expansion pack!  I suppose the most interesting thing to note is that Ensemble Studios is NOT the main developer.  Instead the task has been given to Big Huge Games, the development studio responsible for Rise of Nations.  Why?  As many have suspected Ensemble Studios have got their hands full developing Halo Wars for the Xbox 360.

More details as I find them.

Press Release
GameSpot Interview
Screenshot #1
Screenshot #2