Free Digital TV Channels available in SA

A few weeks ago I bought a new TV. A nice shiny, new Sony Bravia 40″ EX400 series digital LCD TV. It’s a nice step up from our 28″ Philips CRT TV that we’ve had for almost eight years now.

It’s a great TV and I’m glad we made the choice. It’s a full HD digital TV with a great picture and flexible set of features. It has a digital and analogue tuner built in, multiple analogue and digital inputs as well as a USB port for watching DivX encoded movies directly off of a USB stick (I bought a 16GB memory stick just for that purpose).

But I digress – the actual reason for this post is related to the digital tuner. When I first plugged in the new TV and went through the setup process, part of which is auto-tuning, it picked up 12 over-the-air digital channels as well as the 5 terrestrial analogue channels.

I know there’s been a lot of media reports about digital TV coming to South Africa and it being a requirement for broadcasting the 2010 FIFA World Cup (which by the way got off to a cracking start, even though it’s difficult to work with vuvuzelas blaring in the city all day and night long) but I was always under the impression that you needed a set-top box to decode the over-the-air (not satellite) digital channels. So when I did the initial setup of the TV I wasn’t surprised that none of the digital channels the digital tuner in the TV picked up were not displaying, since I didn’t have a decoder.

However, this morning I happened to switch to the digital channels accidentally and they were being broadcast and displayed on my TV. The following channels are being broadcast and unscrambled by my TV’s digital tuner:

  • e-TV (a free terrestrial channel)
  • eAfri (not sure about this seems to be airing similar programs to e-TV)
  • Mstar (showing infomercials in between airing movies, not latest block-busters)
  • National Geographic (the one reason I wanted satellite TV)
  • eClassic (e-TV broadcast programs, not same airtime as e-TV)
  • BBC Lifestyle (one of my wife’s favourite satellite channels)
  • Koowe (kids channel, by the looks of it a South African channel)
  • MK (music video channel)

Yes, I know, for those who have satellite/cable TV this is nothing exciting – but for those of us, like me, that don’t think paying the premium price you have to pay to get satellite TV is worth it, without having full choice of which channels you want to watch – I think it’s great! Yes, we’ve got loads of movies on DVD but it’s now nice to have a little bit more choice in our TV viewing, and we’re not (for now) paying anything above our usual annual TV licensing fees.

I’m hoping this is not a once-off (testing) thing or at the very least it’s accessible to us through-out the broadcasting of the World Cup, and of course first-prize, available to us in future.

Are there any other South Africans out there that have seen this with their own digital TVs?

Update:  28 September 2010

It would appear that testing has resumed again since there are 8 digital channels available free over the air again. I’ve picked up the following channels again:

  • e-TV (a free terrestrial channel)
  • eAfri (not sure about this seems to be airing similar programs to e-TV)
  • VUZU (wide variety of programmes)
  • Blitz (SuperSport blitz sports news and highlights)
  • Mstar (showing infomercials in between airing movies, not latest block-busters)
  • Action TV (movies and TV-series programmes)
  • Mzanzi Magic (local music, documentaries and TV-series programmes)
  • Koowe (kids channel, by the looks of it a South African channel)

Tune in and enjoy while they’re available.

Update:  23 October 2010

For about a week now we’ve also been able to tune into MNet and CSN (Sport channel showing Supersport and Indian movies when not broadcasting sport). Not complaining, just saying 🙂

Update: 14 March 2011

For the last couple of days transmission has been scrambled and none of the channels were showing anything – not even the digital version of free channel, e-TV. Tonight, however, it appears test broadcasting has resumed – free digital TV for a little while longer – yay!

Organise your desktop, with Fences

Is your desktop a little cluttered? Are there icons all over the place, sometimes not in an organised way? My desktop sometimes gets that way, especially when I work on various different projects and things. I like to keep it as clean and organised as possible, although it sometimes needs a serious spring-clean. 

You should probably try out Fences, from StarDock – they’ve a number of other useful windows tool and utilities which you can see on their products page

At the moment it is in a public beta form – their final released product, they say, will remain free. The current beta expires at the end of August this year. I’ve just installed it on my laptop and organised my desktop into categorised sections – nice! 

fences-desktop-example

It’s fully customizable as to how you want your fences to look by changing the colour, opacity, whether or not the borded is shown or not. Another nice feature, expecially for screencasting and/or doing demos is if you double click on your desktop it hides all the icons and fences. Double click again and they’re all there again. 

fences-configuration

If you do try it out, let me kno what you think in the comments. Note that this is a windows application and will require version 2.0 of the .Net Framework pre-installed.

[via the-How-to-Geek]

Free Software: Smart Defrag

Is your hard- drive slowly becoming more and more sluggish? Is that little HDD LED almost permanently on while you work? Then it might be that your drive needs to be defragmented

As you work with files on your hard drive, creating, saving, moving, deleting, things get a little cluttered and out of order. The more cluttered things get, the longer it takes to find files on your disk. And unless you’re using Solid State Drives, it’s probably the biggest bottleneck on your system.

But wait, if you call now… no this isn’t some lame infomercial. I just want to tell you about a nice, free, hard disk defragmentation tool that I’ve been running for the last couple of days that has made an improvement on file access on the hard disk drive.

It’s called Smart Defrag. Why’s it smart, because it does the work for you, behind the scenes, even while you’re working. Yes, there is a built in defrag utility in Windows but it doesn’t work while you work. and yes there are others such utilities out there, but most want you to pay an arm and a leg for them – this one, is free!

Here’s what my hard disk looked like, in Smart Defrag, after I had just installed it – and ran it for the first time:

defrag-before

As you can see the drive was very fragmented (all those little red blocks signify that). And then after it had done it’s thing later on the next day I checked back by double clicking the Smart Defrag icon in the system tray and this was what it looked like:

defrag-after

No more red little blocks! And the response time of the drive is much quicker.  With the Smart Defrag’s options you can even set what thresholds (CPU usage and HDD activity) should be used to prevent Auto Defrag from ocurring to quickly when you might be very busy. And you can even schedule when you want it to run a full defrag.

It’s as simple as that – then forget about it, and it’ll do the work for you.

Go and download a copy now and try it out for yourself.

Handy .Net tool for you

The dev. team at FishCodeLib have put together a handly little app (less than 700kb install and less than 6MB of memory usage), called Capture.Net that offers you a calendar, ruler, screen capture, colour picker, font viewer, alarm clock and note taker, privacy tool, and file format converter, all in one. You can even measure angles 🙂

capturenet

I’m not a graphic designer, I’m a software developer, but building websites and web applications every now and again you need to capture something, or pick a colour and find out what it would be in hex, to use in your stylesheets. This is the tool for me, quicker than firing up a bulky graphics package. 

Note, however, that you need the .Net framework installed (but it’s compatible with all versions).

It’s free, so go and get your copy and try it out for yourself.  [via Lifehacker]

Make Your Own Ringtones

Are you one of those who likes changing their ringtones to your favourite song of the moment? Do you have that song you always liked but could never get on your mobile phone? Are you worried about subscription services that will hook you in after you’ve downloaded that one and only song from their service?

Yeah, I know, this is starting to sound a little like one of those infomercials. Well it’s not, it’s just me rambling.

Well there seems to be a painless, easy and FREE way to do it (and according to their registration details they’ve been around for at least 3 years). It’s not a subscription service, you don’t have to even provide your mobile number, carrier, or even your email address.

It’s called (very original) MakeYourOwnRingtone.com – It’s got a nice intuitive interface that’s easy to follow – simply click the upload (eject icon) button, pick your favourite song you want to convert (it appears to cater for a number of MP3, WMA and OGG source formats), wait for it to upload, select the start and end point and if you’re feeling adventurous, play with a few settings, click the Make Ringtone button and your file is downloaded to you in the selected format. Easy as 1, 2, MP3 🙂

make-your-own-ringtone-console2

I’m not really one of those that changes their ringtone every second week or really bothers about ring tones, in fact my ringer is set to vibrate first before ringing and some of the times it’s permanently on silent vibrate anyway – but I was asked my opinion of the website and it’s service and about mobile ringtones, so here’s my 2 cents. Maybe you’ll find it useful too.

If you have any problems, be sure to read their FAQ section for help. [via Connie]

MultiSet 6.1 – System rebuilding tool (Free, for limited time only)

The team at Almeza have developed a tool all system admins and power home users, who rebuild often, should get an use. It allows you to create a bootable DVD with the OS, default usernames as well as software you require to be installed once the OS has been installed and pre-configures, together with serial numbers and registry entries. And since the install set is not machine specific you can use it to rebuild the same machine, or others, perfect for system admins who need to build more than one machine with the same set of software and configuration. And what better than getting it for FREE, for a limited time only. 

If you head over to the Giveaway of the Day website now you can download (and activate) the software for free (normal retail price is $99.95USD). Note that you have to download and activate it within the limited time period – and as of this post, there’s still 14 hours left, so hurry!

Caveat to the free download is that you’re not eligible to support or future upgrades – but a great way to try it out and keep it if you like it.

Free alternative to Photoshop

At a fraction of the size, and incomparable in cost, since it’s available for FRE, Artweaver is a pretty good alternative to a very expensive piece of software. It supports most of the features Photoshop does, like layers, plugins, brushes, a few effects and even tablet support. !t is currently in version 0.5 and is available in English and German but since it has an SDK other languages and plugins can easily be developed and added by other developers. 

You can see the list of available features and download the application (8.8MB) to try out for yourself – no complicated installation, just download, extract and try it out. If you’ve used Photoshop before you’ll feel right at home.