What is it?
This is a remote control that will control any Sky+ box remotely, without any wires. It's a marvel of the technological age, at the precipice of functionality, a beacon of light to anyone who sits on their sofa and can't be arsed to get up and change the channel themselves. No longer do you have to sellotape several chopsticks together. No longer do you have to order the children. No longer do you have to train several small Pygmy Marmosets to do it for you. Point this thing at the flat box in the corner and press a button. Any button, it doesn't matter (well, it does) and you're home craft / animal / children training proclivities are over.
Ah, but it does more than change channels doesn't it?
Yes, it does. It opens up a whole world of remote-controlololeredness. Not only does it have numbered buttons it also has access to other Sky and Sky+ services. Gaze in amazement as you can change the volume on your telly, any telly. Gasp in wonder as previously-recorded TV programming is displayed back at you in all that multi-coloured glory. Faint in sheer shock as live TV is paused. Yes, you can stop time with this thing. It's an actual living breathing time machine. Well, it's a controllololer for a time-machine but that's as good as ...
What does it look like?
It's an attractive grey, similar to that of skeleton bone that has been left to decay for exactly three months and 2 days. It's a peculiar shape, with a sloping front end and the sides curve inwards slightly like the figure of some non-descript female politician who wears unflattering clothes. The battery compartment is covered by 53.2% of the rear-side of the control and is made out of a synthesized rubber material. You can put your knees up and rest the remote on top and it won't slide back down. A nice touch. My 'nads have been saved plenty of time by the decent amount of non-slippage afforded by the ingenious back cover.
The cover to the infra-red light is black but the light can be seen through the smoked plastic from the top-down of the remote. This is handy so you know when a button is being depressed on the front side of the remote control. Of course, by depressing a button you have to make it happy and I suggest singing Captain Sensible's 'Happy Talk' or even playing it a DVD of 'See You Next Wednesday', that perennial, seminal surfing classic.
Buttons, lot and lots of buttons
There are 38 buttons on the remote control altogether but 3 of them are multi-function, extending the number of functions to ... erm ... 38 + (3 * 2) = 96! No, that's not right. Wait, I can do this ... erm ... 38, carry the 1, minus 17, add 102 equals 44 functions! Got it! At last.
The list of 38 buttons is thus:
1. Power - Switches off or on the Sky+ box. Please note, all the following function and buttons require the Sky+ to be switched ON. You can tell this as there is a green light on the front of the Sky+ box. A red light means it is turned OFF. This is an important thing to remember and whatever you do, don't spend hours waiting for Sky+ technical support to ring you back simply for them to ask if you've turned it on. You WILL be embarrassed.
2. TV - Switches the Sky+ box to 'TV' mode.
3. Sky - Switches the Sky+ box to 'Sky' mode. No-one knows the difference. It's a mystery you have to find out for yourself. WooOOoo.
4. TV Guide - Brings up the TV guide. This isn't a magazine that is attached to the front of the telly via selloptape. No, it brings up a proper digitial re-enactment of a TV guide onto the screen. You can move about the TV guide, select a programme to watch or even set one to record in the future. Wow. (see points 19 - 24 below).
5. Box Office - A lady wearing a strange costume and chewing gum appears magically in your home. She will charge you ten quid for a bag of popcorn and a small coke. Upgrade to a large coke for only ten pence extra, it's worth it. On some models, this button may bring up the Box Office movies section on the TV as presented by Sky.
6. Service - Order massage, pizza and other things here. It may allow you to change settings and things but those massage and pizzas always distract me first.
7. Interactive - Interact with your remote control. Take it out. Talk to it. Caress its smooth curves. Feel the synthesized rubber-back and removable battery cover. Ooh yeah, right there baby. TURN ME ON YOU DEVIL-SPAWNED SEX MONKEY.
8. Mute - Turns off the volume. Doesn't work with kids, I've tried. If the volume has previously been muted, it will un-mute. Trying it again will un-un-mute. Again and it will be un-un-un-muted. Etc.
9. i - Note the small 'i'. Not a big 'i' (I), but a small 'i'. I once knew a kid with a small eye. He used to keep dead flies in his pencil case. Strange boy. The 'i' here will give information about the current program, or something.
10 and 11. - Vol + - Right, it starts getting complicated now. This will change the volume of your telly. However, see Appendix A below to see how to make *your* telly volume work with a Sky+ remote. Pressing the '+' part of the button makes the telly get louder. Try it now. IT'S TOO LOUD. TRY PRESSING THE '-' PART OF THE BUTTON TO MAKE IT quieter. Thank you, that's better.
12,13,14,15 and 16. Centre Cluster - This is the main central cluster of the remote control and consists of UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT and SELECT buttons. These buttons act as cursor keys and allow you to move the cursor around on the TV screen. Pressing UP moves it up. Pressing DOWN moves it down. Etc. Confusingly, when you are watching a TV program, pressing UP will move the TV guide down. Pressing DOWN will move the TV guide up. And even more strangely, pressing LEFT will move the TV guide left and pressing RIGHT will move the TV guide to the right as you'd expect it to. How weird is that?
17. Text - This brings up text messages from your phone. Ho ho, I kid, no it doesn't. It brings up Sky Text, a crap service that's no use to anyone. Remove this button from your remote with a sharp knife.
18. Back Up - This has happened to everyone hasn't it? The wife's gone round to her friends for a girly night out and you're left alone with Sky+ for company. You accidentally find yourself 'browsing' the adult section of the TV guide. Before you know it, it's asking if you want to purchase 'Lonely Amateurs 4' - NO, BACK UP, BACK UP, I CAN HEAR THE DOOR BEING OPENED, CANCEL, CANCEL, ABORT, ABORT. Use this button to do that, you perv. It will also cancel any menu operation.
19. Help - Sends out a distress signal by shining a light into the cloud-covered sky. Within minutes, Rupert Murdoch himself will parachute down a zip line straight into your living room and fix whatever it is you want help on. Apart from that, it's rubbish. It offers no help whatsoever except for some garbled message in German. Or maybe that's something to do with our Sky+ being switched to the German language and we don't know how to get it back. Tip: Never let a two-year old play with the remote control. They're worse than Rhesus monkeys.
20, 21, 22, 23 << , >> , || and >. These are the important, life-changing buttons. They do what Jules Verne never could. They pause live TV. *Cue dramatic music*. Operating just like one of those old steam-powered VHS recorders from the 1850's, you can now stop what's happening mid-stroke, check to make sure no-one is coming down the gravel path, then carry on with the action. It's brilliant. Pressing the forward-wind (>>) or backward-wind (<<) several times makes the action go faster with each press. Soon, everything looks like one of those old funny Benny Hill programmes with barely-naked women chasing a lecherous bloke around a park while slapping a small bald bloke on the head. The speeds vary from x2 to x6 to x12 to a whopping x30. That's like, well fast man.
24. R - Is akin to the old-fashioned Record buttons on the afore-mentioned VCR's. This button will (R)ecord a program if you're watching it or if you're in the telly guide (see point 4 above), it will put the programme into the planner for recording later. You can even watch another channel while it's recording and you don't have to speak in whispers either - it will safely record TV without picking up your voices.
25.  - Will stop recording or playing the current TV programme. Seriously, if you need to know what a [Stop] button does, you shouldn't be allowed out of the house.
26, 27, 28 and 29. [Red] , [Yellow] , [Green] and [Blue]. - I like these buttons, they are my favourite. They're very colourful and do different things. They all press the same though and there's no discernible difference between pressage on the Red or pressage on the Blue, for example. Of course, depending on what you want Sky+ to do, they do different things. Green will set a reminder on an advert (occasionally). Blue will not only scroll 24 hours into the future and allow you to jot down the upcoming lottery results, they will also scroll through your favourite TV channels. Yellow is pretty poor and hardly does anything, the loser. Red is the big bully of the four and often makes Yellow cry. I don't like Red.
41 and 42. P+ and P-. These will change the channels on your Sky+ digi-mi-box. It only goes up or down (the plus and minus buttons you see?).
Have I miscounted somewhere?
The unit takes two triple-A batteries (AAA). They last ages but you must change them quickly when they go or the Sky+ melts like the Wicked Witch of the West does in Wizard of Oz as a bucket of water is 'accidentally' thrown over her (she meant to do it!). Helpfully, Sky+ knows when the battery power is low. Perhaps it sneaks out at night when you're in bed and attaches a battery meter so it knows?
It measures 185x52x25cm and weighs 150g unladen. It doesn't feel too heavy in the hand, I'd say about the same as 150g of flour.
Appendix A: Setting up the remote so it will change the volume on your TV
1. Google this: 'Sky+ remote control TV codes big bongos' and find a website with a list of codes on it. Try not to be distracted by everything else the Internet offers.
2. Select a channel on the TV (doesn't matter which. Don't choose 819 if you're expecting people round).
3. Press the TV button away from the Sky+ so it doesn't register the button press.
4. Now pointing at the TV, press and hold the Sky+ and Red buttons together AT THE SAME TIME. The little red light will flash twice.
5. Type in the four-digit code that matches your TV. The red light will flash twice to signify it has worked.
6. Try the volume control on the Sky+ remote. Your TV will now be magically under the power of the remote which is in the power of your hand which is in the power of your brain. YOU HAVE THE POWER. Sheesh, some people.
7. Send me copious amounts of money because I'm brilliant. I also accept cheese sandwiches.
Sometimes there is more than one code and it's a case of trying them all. It does work, honest.
I'm very happy with our replacement Sky+ remote control. It works exactly like the original one did and after a bit of faffing around with the TV codes, I can now ditch the volume control for the telly too. Button pressage is positive and everything works. It feels sturdy enough and our original one lasted many years. I expect this to do the same.
It's a remote, it controls Sky+, it won't change your life dramatically but it will set you back about £25.00. Sorted. Oh, it's pretty good too.