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Mass Sony DVR seppuku riddle: Freeview EPG update fingered

Virtual relocation to France brings back vanished English channels

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There’s still no word from Sony to indicate when it will fix a glitch that put many of its hard-drive-equipped Freeview video recorders out of action this weekend.

The problem affects Sony’s HXD series of digital video recorders (DVRs) located across the length and breadth of Britain. Many owners arrived home on Friday evening to find their HXDs were unable to show any of the Freeview channels and presented only an empty Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). For some, the EPG vanished after a few seconds when listing channels but not programmes.

Neither resetting the boxes nor retuning them appeared to solve the problem, users reported. Worse, when folk tried their machines again on Saturday morning, rather a lot of the DVRs appeared to have frozen during the middle of an automatic update procedure leaving nothing but the word “Update” on the screen.

Some users report that forcing the DVR to do a soft reset - hold in the power button for five seconds - then cutting the power as it starts to reboot gets the Sony boxes out of the “Update” lock, but not everyone who tried this trick found it worked successfully.

Other experimenters have claimed that re-initialising their boxes as if they were located in France helped by switching to an alternative EPG: Guide Plus+, which Sony presumably uses in France in place of a local equivalent of the Freeview EPG. You can still select English as language the the box uses for its UI.

Sony admitted the issue this weekend on Twitter. “A major technical issue has been flagged to our dedicated team. We will update you ASAP,” it said in a stock response to all. But it has said nothing more since.

The affected Sony boxes were actually made by Pioneer on Sony’s behalf, so Sony will have to pass the buck to its supplier and await a response before it can report on what caused the outage. That explains its reticence to discuss the matter further, but that’s of little consolation to punters unable to watch their favourite TV shows in the meantime.

With no further commment from Sony and the appearance of the “Update” message on screens, some users suggested that the company had caused the problem rolling out a dodgy firmware update.

However, other, more technical users - among them respected BBC staffer and Doctor Who Restoration Team member Steve Roberts - suggested that the glitch was the result of a Freeview EPG change with which the Sony software was unable to cope.

“The firmware hasn‘t updated, it‘s a change to the EPG being transmitted by Freeview that is the problem,” Roberts claimed on AVForums.

And there seems to be no basis to some bizarre allegations that the glitch was an attempt to inject malware into the boxes via the EPG. ®

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