Webometric Thoughts

May 20, 2009

Daily Mail v. the iPlayer

Filed under: Daily Mail,iPlayer,tv licence — admin @ 9:22 am

Back in January 2008, Ashley Highfield claimed that:

…the number of homes that currently have no television licence, but that do have broadband subscription is currently estimated to be infinitesimally small.

It didn’t take a genius to recognize that this group would increase; in fact I said as much in December when I no longer needed a TV licence myself (although I still buy one). Unsurprisingly, as the ‘infinitesimally small’ group shows signs of increasing suggestions are being made about needing a licence for iPlayer content. According to the Daily Mail:

BBC technology chief Erik Huggers said: ‘My view is that if you are using the iPlayer you have to be a television licence fee payer.

‘I don’t believe in a free ride. If you are consuming BBC services then you have to be a licence holder.’

A fairly reasonable position in my view. In the changing world of television and news production and consumption we rely increasingly on services like the BBC to produce high-quality content; the commercial models are increasingly failing. In fact I would personally go further, arguing for an increase in the licence fee.

However, such a position puts me in opposition to the always-irrational Daily Mail. Until the BBC replace the ONE show with ‘Asylum Criminals: The truth about illegal immigrants’, the Daily Mail will always hate the Beeb. Huggers suggestion that iPlayer viewers pay a licence fee quickly gets expanded upon:

If he were to have his way, possible changes to the fee could include:

* Viewers having to buy an extra licence just for the iPlayer
* Increasing the cost of the current TV licence to include the iPlayer
* Forcing viewers to pay a subscription to use the iPlayer service

If Huggers was suggesting any of these changes the Daily Mail failed to include the appropriate quotes. It would be equally meaningful to say possible changes could include “Hanging for watching iPlayer without TV licence”; possible, but highly unlikely. The second suggestion “Increasing the cost of the current TV licence to include the iPlayer” is particularly stupid as the current TV licence already includes the cost of the iPlayer!

Obviously the Daily Mail readers read the article rationally and take the Daily Mail bias into consideration:

Obviously not.
[Disclaimer: As a licence fee payer interested in quality TV and news I have a vested interested in the BBC. As a human being I have a vested interest in pointing out that the Daily Mail is a piece of crap written for idiots.]

January 2, 2009

Blog on 2009

The choice of January 1st as New Year’s day always annoys me, but as virtually no one else in the Western World questions the choice I reluctantly go along with the general concensus (albeit in the most miserable manner possible). It is, therefore, an appropriate time to think about the year ahead and like so many other bloggers make a few predictions/uneducated-guesses/pointless-meanderings about the world of technology. [Basically a long rambling random selection of my current thoughts on technology summed up in a simple list].

The Good News
1. The N97 takes Nokia back to the top of the pile
At the end of this month my N95 contract will finally be over. The problem I have is that there isn’t really a better phone on the market:
- The improvements on the N96 are negligible, and are not worth another 12/18-month contract.
- The G1 is missing a decent camera, GPS, and most importantly a large enough user base to create all those extra applications I want.
- The iPhone…well I just don’t understand why anyone would get such an over-hyped, locked-down, touchscreen-only phone.
Whilst the N97 is likely to be the best smartphone on the market in 2009 (whenever it emerges) that is no guarantee of success, but hopefully a move to more austere times in 2009 will be a set-back to Apple, the epitome of style over substance.

2. Distributed social networks will shrink Facebook traffic
I am hoping for a distributed future for social networks; one where I am in control of my account, my data, my applications. Be it a desire for photos of breastfeeding mothers, playing games that infringe intellectual copyright, or pretending to be the president of Guyana. Whilst I don’t disagree with any of the decisions Facebook has made on these particular issues, there may on occasion be times that I do disagree with Facebook. If you are on Facebook you have to abide by Facebook’s arbitrary rules and the rules of your own country; if you are on a distributed social network you only have to abide by the rules of your own country.

3. Project Kangaroo will hit UK desktops
It was back in 2007 that I first heard about the proposed single on-demand player for BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, and whilst it all seems to have been bad news in 2008 with the Competition Commission complaining about a lack of rivalry, I think 2009 will be the year it moves/jumps forwards. The idea that a rivalry between the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, is driving innovation in video-on-demand in the UK is best described as ‘bollocks’. Obviously the organisations will make comparisons with one another, but they are equally concerned about comparing themselves with international competitors (e.g., YouTube). 2009 will either be the year that the Competition Commission realises this, the Competition Commission fails to realise but bows to public demand for a single player, or the BBC freely share the technology in such a way as to circumvent the Competition Commission’s ruling.

The Bad News
4. The general public continue to ignore QR codes
It was also back in 2007 that I first discovered QR codes, and the Sun told the masses all about them. During 2008 the masses have continued to ignore them, and I think 2009 will be much the same. Whilst the Pepsi Max campaign will, no-doubt, increase QR code awareness amongst certain sections of the population, there is not yet a killer application for the mass of the population. The question is whether QR codes will be able to carve out a niche before RFID tags become more widespread, if not it may be a technology that just passes the UK by; the moment of truth probably won’t come until 2010.

5. No Google alternative will emerge
I have been disliking Google for many years now, and I don’t expect 2009 to see a change in my attitude: no single company should have so much control on what people see on the internet. Yahoo will continue to shrink, Live will slow their loss of market share by throwing money at it, but eventually Google will know everything and control everything you know. Alongside this pessimistic view, it is worth noting that if a markedly better search engine does emerge, and spreads virally as an embedded application in a social networking site (the only way to compete against the Google-do-all-portal), then the Google fortunes could fall over night.

nb. I do realise that January 1st would have been a more appropriate day for such meanderings, but yesterday was spent lounging around watching ‘family’ movies….why I never went to the cinema to watch “The Shaggy Dog” will forever remain a mystery.

October 2, 2008

De-branding my N95 for the BBC iPlayer

Filed under: N95,debrand,iPlayer,s60 — admin @ 8:53 am

I have had my N95 for over a year, but until yesterday I had left it as a crumby T-mobile N95 with the appropriately out-dated branded firmware. I had tried to change it once, but the required software refused to recognise my phone. It was annoying but I put up with it, until yesterday’s announcement on All About Symbian that the BBC iPlayer was available for the S60.

I have been waiting for an S60 version of the iPlayer since it was made available for the over-hyped iPhone back in March. Unfortunately the iPlayer application (which can be downloaded here) takes the form of a Nokia Web Runtime (a Nokia Widget) rather than an S60 application, the difference being that the Nokia Web Runtime framework comes with the Nokia update software that wasn’t yet built into the T-mobile firmware. Whilst I have put up with missing out on lots of exciting developments because of the T-mobile firmware, the BBC iPlayer is not just any old new software, its a new way to access the greatest television on Earth! (I may have mentioned previously that I am possibly the BBC’s biggest fan). This time when I tried to de-brand my phone it all went smoothly.

If you have yet to de-brand, and want access to the iPlayer on your N95, then there is a detailed post on how to de-brand over at Simply Symbian.

As for the S60 iPlayer, my only criticism is the “Sorry, television programmes can only be watched over a wifi connection”. My 3G connection is often faster than my wifi connection, I pay for an ‘unlimited’ data plan and it’s about time there was a program that could make use of it.

Firmware offered for T-mobile phone yesterday: 14.0.001
Firmware offered for de-branded phone yesterday: 30.0.015

July 30, 2008

When will ITV.com join Virgin Catch Up TV?

Filed under: 4OD,BBC,ITV.com,Virgin Media,iPlayer — admin @ 8:26 am

Whilst having a look at the new Blinx Remote this morning (via The Guardian), I suddenly realised that I no longer watch ITV (with the exception of watching the over-paid tax-dodging Formula 1 drivers). Over the last couple of years my TV habits have changed beyond all recognition, and ITV has failed to keep pace.

First I started watching TV programmes online. Whilst 4OD and the iPlayer both offered downloads, ITV offered streaming which was not particularly practical as I started to suffer from my old ISP’s throttling measures.

Then I subscribed to Virgin TV which has given me the iPlayer and 4OD programmes on my TV with Virgin’s TV Catchup: Anytime with no download problems. Unfortunately ITV hasn’t signed up, and despite my best efforts I couldn’t find any indication online that they plan to.

Whilst I find myself streaming the BBC on my Eee PC whilst doing the cooking, catching up on the TV, and even watching live for those can’t wait programmes (such as last night’s Summer Heights High), ITV has been relegated to point where I don’t even know what is on anymore.

Whilst I have never been a fan of ITV, it is important to have a competitive domestic market, so they need to start catching up!

June 7, 2008

Virgin TV…extremely tempting

Filed under: Virgin Media,iPlayer — admin @ 4:00 pm

After finally having enough of my old broadband provider, I got Virgin Media installed yesterday. However, the free Virgin TV has quickly become very expensive. Whilst you can theoretically get the medium package installed for free, it was only a matter of hours before I had convinced myself to upgrade to the XL package!

Whilst I have previously managed to resist the temptation of subscription TV, when it was made so easily accessible I quickly succumbed, especially with all the added bits and pieces:
-TV Choice On Demand- a lot of TV series that you can watch as and when you want.
-Music On Demand- the important leverage in persuading my girlfriend that she needed the XL package too.

Access to the BBC’s iPlayer makes Virgin TV a great service, but unless you have better self control than me, you’re better-off accessing it online.

April 9, 2008

iPlayer on the Wii: Now where should I put my Wii?

Filed under: BBC,iPlayer,wii — admin @ 2:42 pm

The BBC’s iPlayer can now be streamed on the Wii, currently through the Opera browser, but eventually with its own channel. Whilst the public will generally welcome the move, the ISPs will continue their whinging after selling packages that they can’t afford honour properly. Suggestions from the ISPs that the BBC should help pay for the rising costs are idiotic; services like the iPlayer will help push the UK’s internet infrastructure to higher standards and shouldn’t be penalised.

My own problems with the iPlayer will be less costly than it will be for the ISPs. My biggest problem is that I don’t know where to put my Wii now. I currently can’t get the iPlayer on my TV as the files refuse to be routed via the Netgear EVA 700, but at the same time I like my current PC/Wii all-in-one set-up. Nonetheless I think the latest platfirn has partly placated my wrath from when they rolled out on the iPhone before the N95.

Whilst I have found that the iPlayer on the Wii isn’t as good a picture as on the PC, this is probably due to it being routed via a TVBOX to my PC screen, and will probably improve when it gets its own channel.

March 8, 2008

iPlayer on the iPhone: Does the BBC believe the hype?

Filed under: BBC,iPlayer,iphone — admin @ 8:22 pm

I am probably the world’s biggest BBC fan, and think they have made some great moves on the internet, especially with the rolling out of the iPlayer. But now they have managed to annoy me. Just catching up on my RSS feeds, and found that yesterday the iPlayer became accessible on the iPhone. Whilst I look forward to the BBC rolling out on mobile devices, choosing the iPhone first is just annoying.

I appreciate that they have to roll the services out across the different systems one at a time, but I don’t understand why they chose the iPhone over the S60 based devices, specifically the N95 which would have made the service available to many more times the customers. It is not a repeat of the Linux/Apple/Windows debate as Windows was always the dominant platform. The iPhone is only the dominant device in the minds of certain sections of the blogosphere.

“We started with iPhone because it is the device most optimised for high quality video currently available”…seems a pretty lame excuse to me, especially as the N95 would have allowed for true mobile viewing as it could utilise 3G rather than being limited to Wi-Fi.

Obviously part of my annoyance is due to my having an N95, but in my defense I haven’t moaned about the lack of access on the Wii or the fact that when I try to access BBC files on the Netgear EVA 700 it refuses to give me a picture (unlike the Channel 4 programmes which work perfectly). I think this time it’s a legitimate whinge.

February 19, 2008

Dailymotion offers HD Videos

Filed under: Dailymotion,HD,ISP,iPlayer — admin @ 9:16 am

TechCrunch are reporting that Dailymotion are starting to offer HD videos, streamrate 2 megabits per second. Whilst it is great that these services are starting to be offered, we are a long way from the ISPs being able to deal with any sudden surge in traffic. Currently the UK ISPs struggle to deal with the bandwidth-friendly streaming of the iPlayer!

January 15, 2008

BBC iPlayer gets people interested, but are the ISPs up to the job?

Filed under: ISP,ITV.com,Kingdom,iPlayer — admin @ 5:02 pm

I have just been reading the BBC’s post about the success of the iPlayer since its official Christmas launch. Although, whilst I am extremely happy for their success, I fear that there is little room for growth, in fact after a couple of months there may even be a slow down in usage, especially with streaming programmes, as the ISPs start to throttle people’s internet.

As a user who has been using the iPlayer for months, my broadband seems to be constantly throttled these days. It got to the point the other night that I was downloading a file at an extremely feeble 6k rather than the supposed 2Mb (unlimited) I am subscribed to! The fair use limits can not be considered fair use in any true sense of the word, as they have failed to respond to changing habits in internet use. Although in truth I can’t say that they are “unfair” as it is extremely hard to find out exactly what they are, and you are given no warning the throttling is coming.

Whilst we have been hearing a lot about the government’s concern with broadband speeds not living up to the advertised speeds, they really need to be stepping in and knocking some ISP heads together. Leave it to the market when it works, but the ISP market is not working.

Whilst it will probably all be sorted at some vague point in the future, it really doesn’t help with the missed episode of Kingdom that is currently only available in a streaming format on ITV.com (although ITV.com have noticeable improved the finding of programmes I can no-longer stream).

December 12, 2007

BBC iPlayer Flash streams: Linux friendly

Filed under: BBC,Eee PC,Firefox,Flash,Linux,RM minibook,iPlayer — admin @ 11:17 pm

The Beeb have been promising flash streams for a while, and when I went to download some programmes on the iPlayer tonight, I found it had already rolled out. This should go some way to placating the linux hoardes who have been complaining. As the picture below shows it now works on firefox/linux, even on the much maligned Eee PC/RM Minibook (the rather poor quality is because I sent the picture to myself via MMS rather than messing about with a wire or bluetooth).

(nb. its Peggy and Phil in the Queen Vic kitchen).

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