Archive for the ‘DRM’ Category

Yes, there are English subtitles for un village français.

un village francais screen cap

Screen cap from S2E1: La loterie

I found it amusing that the first DVD I popped into my player had an anti-piracy warning since getting subtitles for this series is an “after market” affair. There are subtitles available on the internet. Not the best, but subtitles nonetheless.

And they are free.

Unfortunately, the DVDs don’t make it easy to use the subtitles since there is copy protection which makes it hard to use something like VLC media player to watch them (and load the subtitle track). Although, one can download the subtitle file from the internet, which makes me wonder why the people who sell the disks didn’t put them on in the first place. After all, there was an article in the New York Times that praised this series.

That means that you have to make the episodes viewable in a source that can load a separate subtitle track since the DVD is unplayable as is through VLC.  As I said, VLC media player allows you to load a subtitle by going to menu>video>subtitle track  or subtitle>add subtitle track and then selecting the appropriate subtitle file.

Don’t complain about piracy as a reason for losing sales if you are not catering to the marketplace. Especially if the customer has to go elsewhere for the subtitles!  Even worse if the best way to watch your series is using a copy that was ripped, or even downloaded (I bought mine and do not advocate using downloaded copies if “official” versions are available).

I found the subtitles I use here:  These subtitles are by R. Clarke of Whitby, Ontario, Canada.

As I said, these are OK.  They were free and you get what you pay for.   They were not that helpful during the picnic scene since they either weren’t present or were up for too short a time.  I could probably make do without subtitles, but I find having English subtitles are far more helpful than the French ones were.   The French ones were more annoying than helpful.

But given that I paid 58.49 for the set (US$83.33, £47.60), I’m not unhappy with the end result.  I am unhappy that  have to take up hard disk space to be able to watch something I have on DVD.

Addition: as I’ve been ripping my disks for VLC, I’ve noticed that some of the subtitles aren’t very complete, but it seems that the addic7ed site has the only “complete” set of subtitles for this series.  I can’t vouch for how good they all are as I have only seen one complete episode, but these are (1) available and (2) somewhat complete.  Perhaps, the subtitle files may be updated at addic7ed to fix the incomplete/inaccurate ones.  At this point, the addic7ed site is the best source I’ve found.

Another note: I was QCing S5E3 and noticed that the subtitles were off timing.  There was Another scene which was not on the official DVD that was subtitled before the action began.  I’m not sure how to edit these, but that might be what needs to be done.

Further observation:  Actually, the subtitles work very well if you watch this using VLC media player in Linux.  I’ve been watching the episodes where I had problems and there are no problems when one uses Linux.

Also, the subtitles end at Series 5 episode 7 at this time (29 May 14).  Maybe some of the corrections will be made by someone.  I’d like to figure out how to edit the subtitles.  I just downloaded Jubler and may work on fixing these.  I will post them at addicted if I do (a) fix or (b) create subtitles.

As of now (18 Aug 14), the complete series subtitles are available.  I haven’t QC’d them, but they are available in English for the full series.  Thank you, R. Clarke of Whitby, Ontario, Canada.

SWF verification change at the Beeb?

Disclaimer: yes, I could use the official BBC iPlayer programme, but it isn’t as fun.  not to mention that the BBC shouldn’t be blocking open source software per its charter. Not to mention SWF verification doesn’t really work.

It seems that the Beeb has once again changed the SWF verification URL meaning that get_iplayer is acting up and I am receiving this error message:

WARNING: Your version of rtmpdump/flvstreamer does not support SWF Verification
WARNING: rtmpdump/flvstreamer 1.8 or later is required – please upgrade

This is nonsensical for several reasons: the major one being that there was no problem earlier in the day.  I am also using the latest update for all the components of get-iplayer.  On the other hand, the last time this happened, the Beeb had changed the SWF verification URL and there was the simple fix of:

get_iplayer –prefs-add –rtmp-tv-opts=”–swfVfy=”

Yes, the issue is a changes SWF verification URL since I tried it in my browser and received a 404 error and then a “this content doesn’t seem to be working” error:

swfurl 404

Of course, the simple fix was provided by the good people who have been maintaining get_iplayer lately.  I did a search to try and locate a newer patch, but there are a few problems here which are:

1) I received an e-mail saying that get_iplayer forum digests were no longer being sent out.
2) I searched the get_iplayer forum and didn’t see a recent post on this (Latest was December 2013).
3) I couldn’t post to the get_iplayer Forum even though I was on the get_iplayer mailing list

I was hoping to receive the new swfvfy url patch from a get_iplayer list mailing, but that hasn’t happened.  I tried to login to the forum, but received a message asking me to supplicate the forum mods to join (even though I’ve been on the list for yonks).

In short,  I’ve done everything dinkypumpkin says to do in the “When SWF Verification Attacks” post and am reckoning the issue is a change in the SWF URL.  OTH, I haven’t seen anything in the get_iplayer forum to tell me there has been:

1) a change in the URL
2) a new patch issued
3) if I am the only person with this problem.

I’m not sitting around on my thumbs here and have been trying to find some way to learn the new SWF verification URL, but I think that may be covered by the Official Secrets Act (after all, BBC employees are government workers).  I should also add that I tried playing with the RTMPdump commands that are listed here: in particular:

−−swfVfy −W url
URL of the SWF player for this media. This option replaces all three of the −−swfUrl, −−swfhash, and −−swfsize options. When this option is used, the SWF player is retrieved from the specified URL and the hash and size are computed automatically. Also the information is cached in a .swfinfo file in the user’s home directory, so that it doesn’t need to be retrieved and recalculated every time rtmpdump is run. The .swfinfo file records the URL, the time it was fetched, the modification timestamp of the SWF file, its size, and its hash. By default, the cached info will be used for 30 days before re-checking.

Only to get more error messages about RTMPdump and that I am not using the correct URL.

I know that this will all pass, as it has in the past, but the problem is that this is yet another annoyance which will be overcome.  As I said in my disclaimer, SWF verification doesn’t work.

And it sure as hell doesn’t stop the pirates.

(Give up and allow for a PBS style donation licence fee system for those outside the UK, but that raises other issues with DRM).

Conspiracy to defraud?

I think that copyright matters, and is important. Creators ought to be legally able to give their work away freely, as so many do for the betterment of humankind, and to set certain conditions on how their work is used. And I think creators ought to be able to release their work under traditional copyright and have legal recourse against those who are illegally profiting from it.

There have been a couple of cases here relating to sites which offered links to TV and video content: Anton Vickerman and Sheffield student Richard O’Dwyer.  I have to admit that I find these prosecutions to be disturbing.  Although, I do find solace in this comment:

“This was not a case brought using copyright law. The interest groups involved couldn’t present a case of copyright infringement and instead decided to press for the use of the common law offence of ‘conspiracy to defraud’,” said UK Pirate party leader Loz Kaye. “This is one of the most controversial crimes in English law – it criminalises conduct by two or more people that would not be criminal when performed by an individual.

The offence was notoriously used in the 1970s to prevent people sharing film cassettes as the TV and film industry believed video was a threat to their existence.”

Since I do talk a lot about downloading material, but usually for my own personal use. I also talk about feeling somewhat guilty that I can’t pay more than my fair share for the material I download–although I am more than covered under the UK TV licensing scheme.  I can add in that these people were doing this for profit, and I’m just linking back to official sites where the material can be found.

I will also add that I do not like downloading via Torrent, but would prefer if archived material were better available.  Although, if someone is inclined to go that route, it is far more available than I would like.

Graham Linehan, writer of the sitcoms The IT Crowd, Black Books and Father Ted,  said the prosecution itself – not just the potential extradition – was a cause for alarm.

“It just seems to me that people like Richard are being punished for being able to navigate the modern world,” said Linehan. “The internet has changed everything, they’re doing what comes naturally in these new, uncharted waters and suddenly they’re getting their collars felt by people who still have Hotmail addresses.

And then [there’s] the sheer shocking arbitrary nature of it all … to be told that you could face up to 10 years for sharing links? When I heard that Nora Ephron died, I shared on Twitter a link to the full version of When Harry Met Sally on YouTube. Am I a criminal now? Why? Why not?”

The strange this is that US authorities become concerned about a site linking to content often still within copyright. To sell a counterfeit CD or DVD of a copyrighted work is an offence, as is deliberately uploading such a work to the internet. On the other hand, they are now hitting people who link to copyrighted material. The whole thing makes absolutely no sense on its face.

Additionally, the prosecutions are happening for events happening outside of the US with no direct connection to US territory.

I can add in that Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, launched a petition against the O’Dwyer extradition attempt. Naturally, I signed it. This is too frightening to not sign.

Read more:

Way to go, Aussies!

Australian ISP iiNet  won a legal victory against the Hollywood studios who wanted to hold the ISP liable for its client’s downloads.  Australia’s highest federal court today found in a unanimous decision that Perth-based iiNet could not be held responsible for the trade of thousands of pirate movies and music files by its customers.

I have to ad that iiNet has a similar attitude toward the illegal download issue as I do–make this materially available at a reasonable price. Stop looking the other way and start providing this to people who don’t have access to this material in their countries,

Nordic Noir

My wife was asking me about when the latest series of the Killing (aka Forbrydelsen, meaning The Crime) was going to appear on BBC Four.  Alas, that is yet to come, but the Radio Times has announced that more Nordic Noir will be hitting the airwaves soon.  The only one of these new series with a definite start date is the Bridge, which is coming to BBC4 on 21 April at 21:00.

On the other hand, the Radio Times mentions a few other series which have made it to the airwaves on both sides of the pond, Lilyhammer, which was put out by Netflix in the US and NRK in Norway, will show up sometime in the future on BBC4.  The plot line is somewhat hackneyed–Criminal gets put in witness protection, but in this case, he finds himself in a totally different culture.  Steven Van Zandt is basically rediong his role as Silvio Dante from the Sopranos.  The series is OK, but a bit of a stretch.  Jonseing Sopranos fans tend to like it though.

The Danish version of the Killing has not officially made it to the US, which is why I mention DRM here.  Also, its relevant since Lillyhammer was “broadcast” by Netflix over its internet streaming service.  Likewise, the US version of the Killing showed up on the US Cable channel AMC.  It was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4.  Although, I gave the US version a pass. Fans of the Danish series felt let down since the US series tried to make it a cliffhanger and not announce whodunit.

Of course, all the networks would prefer that you watch the version officially sanctioned for your locale.  That means people in the US should not have seen the Danish version of the Killing, or they caught it through the grey areas of distribution: buying another region’s DVDs or downloading from the BBC.  Although, the Killing is readily available in the bit-torrent underground, as I found whilst researching this piece.

Of course, buying another region’s DVDs is the best way for the studios to make their money, short of the BBC coming up with a scheme for non-UK residents to get a licence which doesn’t hit the UK licence holders.  Although, there is still the download underground, whether directly from the BBC or via bit-torrent.

It doesn’t take too long for a show to appear as a bit-torrent after it has been broadcast in the UK.  In fact, one episode of  BBC 2’s White Heat didn’t appear immediately after broadcast on BBC iPlayer.  I almost googled (or used a bit-torrent search engine) it to see if it was on bit torrent.  Although, I can come up with more reasons not to want to go the bit torrent route than to do it.

Amusingly enough, BBC world service radio is rebroadcast through Sirius/XM and Vermont Public Radio in the States, which makes me wonder why they aren’t blocking it to US IP addresses.  World Service TV is not available in UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany and Japan.  I know it is rebroadcast via cable in the US on Xfinity (at least WDC). Although, I am not sure the situation in other US media markets.

Personally, I prefer to remain within the law rather than skirt it.  Although, I would feel much better if I could make a contribution to the BBC for all their material that I use.  But, I have no television reception meaning I can’t access the material short of satellite or cable–which I am not paying for! Radio reception in my area is poor, and I access that material through the internet while broadcast.  No “live” viewing–no licence necessary!

Somehow, I find DRM blocking the end user from accessing the material as being counterproductive.  The entire idea is to make sure that the rights holder makes money, but if it isn’t reaching as large an audience as possible–are they really making as much money as they could? And while the free market system talks about personal choice, the ultimate person who should be able to choose is the consumer–not the producer.

Complaints about the Official iPlayer Desktop

I am going to come straight out and say that I have disliked the official iPlayer programme since it became “user unfriendly” due to various attempts at DRM. For the most part, I prefer to use the third party programmes such as get_iplayer and the now defunct ipdl.exe for their flexibility.

I do use the official iPlayer site to keep up with the latest BBC programmes and news, but that is pretty much it. Except for this case, I wanted to see Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotland. It was originally broadcast on BBC One, but lately it was rebroadcast on BBC HD. Sometimes, get_iplayer will record HD material, but Grand Tours of Scotland was not recording not matter what I did.

An alternate choice is to buy the DVD, but that doesn’t seem to be available. Neither does the download avenue, which is my ultimate last resort (trust me, if ITV would package Time Team on DVD…).

Well, my real last resort actually was the official iPlayer programme.

First off, I do not like official iPlayer programme’s DRM which requires that I watch the downloaded material within a 30 day period (which goes to 7 days once one begins to watch the episode). The main reason is that it forces me to watch the material which can build up. There are other reasons as well dealing with portability of material since I have to watch any downloaded material on a TV attached to a computer. This is instead of using a UPnP device to view the material.

Secondly, The quality of the official iPlayer programme in HD leaves quite a bit to be desired. While the audio can play fairly reasonably, the video quality is jumpy. I place this on the official iPlayer programme rather than my computer since HD material which has been downloaded with get_iplayer will play using VideoLan’s VLC Media Player Software with the type of results I would expect from an HD broadcast. Of course, DRM precludes me watching this BBC iPlayer material with third party software.

I thought the BBC wanted to get this material out to as many eyes as possible, which I would like to think they would prefer to do in a quality manner. That is that the material is playable in a manner which is acceptable. It’s annoying that the HD quality of the official iPlayer programme is this poor. I’m hoping that this will be rebroadcast in standard definition sometime soon. At least before I cry Ruth from the motion sickness caused by the official iPlayer programme’s HD quality.

I know you read this (part 2)

Especially since I know how to get your attention, but it isn’t something that my relations who work for Auntie haven’t heard until they are sick of it.

I know the BBC’s (and ITV’s) point of view about preserving digital rights and all that. It’s not just the BBC since other entities are involved (E.g., US Public Broadcasting and The Discovery Network). The problem is that there is still revenue haemorrhaging which can’t be blamed on the BBC iPlayer being pirated to the Internet.

Whilst the boffins are trying to keep people from downloading material which bypassed the iPlayer’s Adobe Air DRM, the material still makes it to the internet on Pirate Bay and Files Tube. It doesn’t take too long for something like a Being Human, the Tudors, or Even the Michael Portillo Great British Railway Journeys to show up as downloads in HD format. One site,, sells the material.

The other gripe I have with the official iPlayer is how the catch up service tends to be erratic, with episodes being up for a week to much longer. Not to mention that there is a 7 day lifespan once an episode has begun to be watched, and 30 day lifespan without viewing. I reckon that Michael Portillo Great British Railway Journeys runs anywhere from 10-32 1/2 hours (10 for series one 22 1/2 for series two) which is far more of Michael than I want to sit through at once.

I realise that it is blasphemy to suggest that the iPlayer material should have an additional charge in addition to the licence fee, but there must be a way that this material can be delivered digitally in a reliable manner that earns money for the BBC. Why should something like make money selling this material whilst the BBC loses out?

And the regional issue, couldn’t you also look the other way at that? After all, the official iPlayer material plays anywhere once it has been downloaded. Likewise, one can buy the Region 2 DVDs and watch them anywhere in the world with a region free player. I have to admit that the regional restriction isn’t that much of an issue, but any pay service should be a bit more liberal in who can access the material.

My preference is to acquire this material from legitimate means, usually iPlayer or purchase of the DVD. On the other hand, it is annoying to find that this material is freely available (in fact more freely available–e.g., the Goodies complete and Time Team) via download.

There is a market for this which can earn money for the BBC. It is a shame that the BBC is not working to exploit it: both in terms of revenue and increased audience for its products

Posted 16/02/2011 by lacithedog in BBC, BBC iplayer, DRM, get_iplayer, iplayer, ITN, ITV, Piracy

To BT or not to BT, that is the question

When I say BT, I mean BitTorrent, which is a peer-to-peer, open source file-sharing application effective for distributing very large software and media files. In my case, video files.

My preferred method is to download directly from the BBC site (or in the past ITV and Channel 4), but the problem is that some programmes are no longer available for download. Or they may be at the end of their life for download (e.g., they reran Professor Robert Bartlett’s The Normans, or Dig 1940) where download availability is spotty. The best example is Two Men in a Trench, Tony Pollard’s and Neil Oliver’s battlefield archaeology programme.

Unfortunately, this one is almost totally unavailable through official channels (there is a small flash version of the Battle of Britain Episode), but is available as a download: in particular, bittorrent downloads.

OK,it’s nice to be able to see these programmes, but I’m none too happy with bittorrents. First off, they take forever to download. One episode downloads in no time, while the rest take weeks to download.

Personally, I would prefer to be able to download this material from the BBC even if I had to pay anything from 99p to £1.99. Of course, there is the proviso that I would prefer to download a high quality version without DRM if I am paying more money for the download.

Anyway, the BBC is losing money as this material still shows up in the various download sites not matter how much they hope their DRM will prevent this activity.

I Know you read this

Since I see links coming in from the BBC when I mention various programmes.

…And I know you buggers hate things such as get_iPlayer since you just did something to block ipdl.exe downloads.

On the other hand, there is still the problem of “video piracy” and that people can still download using tools other than the official BBC iPlayer. For example, I wanted a HD download of Howard Goodall’s The Truth About Christmas Carols. Despite your best efforts, I was able to download an HD version which had some pixel errors. Still, I was able to locate HD copies with the following filenames:

And I am annoyed as hell about the official iPlayer since I favourited Dig 1940, but I missed episode 2. The series Catch up seems to be missing for some reason (never mind episode 1 will rebroadcast this Tuesday). No matter, a quick search came up with a download, in HD, for the show.

Unlike the official iPlayer with its attempts at DRM, the unofficial downloads out there are freely available. And sometimes much more reliable than the official downloads!

So, your efforts at blocking the third party software seems to be a total flop since someone with a DVR can record a programme in HD and then broadcast it to the world via the internet.

Anyway, none of this should be news to you lot, but it annoys me that the official iPlayer is fairly useless. Not to mention that one came come up with the material through other means anyway. Enough of my rant, but the effort should work on the quality of the iPlayer rather than trying to prevent people from having access to the material.

BTW, I see Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeysis being rebroadcast, which I should have been clued into since my Michael Portillo, Bradshaw’s Guide, and Great British Railway Journeys post is receiving more hits than usual. That’s because I link to a PDF of the Bradshaw’s Guide Portillo uses.

Why don’t you sell a reprint of that guide??????

Censorship, DRM, and the news

Fat Headed White Moron made the comment over at MikeB’s about someone’s not being able to see a video since they were out of the video’s region.

He said something about Censorship.

Sorry, it’s not Censorship, it’s DRM: Digital Rights management.

It’s also not about the government, but business practises.

If one wants to watch the TV show Timewatch in the UK on iPlayer, the BBC’s Internet TV and Radio service, you will see the following screen:

On the other hand, if you are outside the UK, you will see the following screen:

The BBC isn’t censoring Timewatch, but telling you that you need to watch it on a source which is within your local media market. There are two reasons for this. One, BBC TV productions are paid for by the UK television licence fee. The second is rights agreements with third parties. For example, BBC programmes in the US are co-produced with Public Broadcasting and the Discovery Channel (BBC America is run by BBC World Wide, but is Distributed by Discovery Networks and Timewatch was coproduced with the Discovery Channel). On the other hand, most radio programmes can be accessed universally, with the exception of a few programmes, mainly some sports broadcasts, that are affected by rights issues.

I gave the example of Desperate Housewives, which is broadcast in the UK by Channel 4. The British Government is not censoring Desperate Housewives in the US, it has to do with rights agreements.

You see this if you are in the US:
Desperate NonUK

And this in the UK:

Now, you can watch Desperate Housewives in the US, which means that Desperate Housewives isn’t being “censored”. The viewer is being shunted to the “appropriate” media market.

See also DVD region coding. This is an aspect of DRM designed to allow motion picture studios and other rights holders control aspects of a release, including content, release date, and price, according to the region. DVD video discs may be encoded with a region code restricting the area of the world in which they can be played.

On the other hand, it seems that the BBC is now adding additional lines to the news to make it harder to download! Now, the BBC is using 640×372 lines instead of 640×360. This causes playback issues for at least AppleTV, XBMC on XBOX, and even the official iPlayer. The problem appears to be there for all modes flashstd and better. The new flashlow mode strangely does not have these extra lines and therefore plays back OK. Although, I have been having problems with downloading the news even on official iPlayer.

Personally, I am against DRM.

So, there you go!

Posted 03/06/2010 by lacithedog in BBC, BBC iplayer, Censorship, DRM, iplayer

Good news, Bad news

I am pleased to say that my most popular posts deal with the BBC’s iPlayer.

Even though Second Amendment posts tend to attract the most comments, but that is due to the commenters being astro-turf.  There are a lot of Second Amendment keyboard warriors out there.

But there are far more frustrated BBC licence holders out there than “gunloons”.  It’s just that the BBC is being very stupid about how they are handling iPlayer, which ends up hurting the licence holder who is screwed since they can’t get BBC Content. The BBC ranks low on customer satisfaction, especially if you consider the customers are forced to pay for programming.

As I said, the BBC should make iPlayer a subscription service and not really bother with DRM, or the regional limitations.

Get_iplayer WAS a solution to this problem, but it’s creator yanked it because of BBC’s lack of support for open source.  Forget, lack of support, the Beeb was openly hostile to get_iplayer making it impossible to download the iPlayer streams using the get_iplayer programme.   It used to be that get_iplayer would have been updated to work around this problem, but it is no longer supported by its creator.

Nevermind, there are other solutions.

One is the iPlayer Downloader, ipdl.exe.  It’s OK for downloading iPlayer streams.  It uses the old iPhone method for dowloading the material.  while the quality isn’t as nice as the HD versions that were downloaded by get_iplayer, the Beeb has improved the quality enough so that it’s like standard defintition TV.

There are people who are maintaining the get_iplayer software at this site.  The owner of this site “forked” get_iplayer, which I guess means he improved the code.  Bad news, he did it in Linux format

Then there is this workaround. It seems that rtmpdump can still be used to record iPlayer streams, but this also seems to be more complicated than I wish to deal with right now. Well, it’s not that complicated, but I have other things I want to do than toy around trying to download material from iPlayer.

On thing I do have to say is avoid Daniusoft media converter since it does not remove iPlayer’s DRM. The Daniusoft folks should get whapped for false advertising since they push their software as being able to do this.

Anyway, the nice thing about get_iplayer was that it pretty much did what you wanted. Although, as far as I am concerned it was a bit more complicated than the actual BBC iPlayer desktop. What the BBC iPlayer people need to realise is that it is extremely limited.

Personally, I want to be be able to able to use my brite view cinematube as if it were a Tivo premier. It should be able to do so since it is a UPnP device. But somehow, iPlayer won’t allow for the UPnP functionality.

Unfortunately, Britain, despite its attempts to play catch up, is pretty much behind the rest of the world. In this case, Britain still hasn’t caught on that DRM hurts far more than it helps in allowing for access to material.

I really wish the Beeb would consider making iPlayer a subscription service since it makes far more sense to me to use iPlayer than it does to get “cable” or “satellite”.

Also, please comment if you know of other methods which work for downloading BBC iPlayer material. Thank you.

Posted 13/05/2010 by lacithedog in 4oD, BBC, BBC iplayer, British TV, DRM, get_iplayer, iplayer, ITV

Tagged with


OK, It seems that the Beeb has decided that they want to cut off the streaming of some of its programmes using third-party software according to the get_iplayer site. Again, it’s the DRM bullshit. Unfortunately, this change is hurting the folk who have poor reception amongst others.

Also, it seems that get_iplayer is no longer being supported: or is downloadable. The developer does not want to upset the Beeb.

Of course, the official iPlayer is still out there, but I have loads of problems with it. The main one being that it only works on my computer. Also, the Digital Rights Management system is sheer crap. To be honest, it won’t take too long until someone figures out how to crack it.

The plus for the official version is that it has really super resolution. The down is that it is really limited in its use: takes forever to download, isn’t portable, deletes after a certain time period, and so on. The forever to download is the real bite to me: especially if I am watching the news in real-time. It’s the usual crap you get when you’re streaming a video using flash: watch for a few seconds, stop & buffer, watch for a few seconds, stop & buffer, watch for a few seconds, stop & buffer, watch for a few seconds, stop & buffer, and so on until you turn off the programme.

I’m not paying licence fees for that crap!

Baldrick has a cunning plan to rip up your back garden!

The fact is that the Beeb is becoming like ITV and channel four, which is another related rant.  Both of these services make it impossible to watch streams on anything other than a computer.  Not that I am much of a fan of the commercial services since they usually dish up pure crap (unlike the Beeb that dishes up some crap).

But, sometimes the pay services have really neat programmes such as Channel 4’s Time Team hosted by Tony Robinson (whom most people in the US know as Baldric from the Blackadder Series). It’s a brilliant series and the people at Channel 4 have all the episodes available on 4oD. The problem is that you have to stream them to a computer. The ninnies have a few DVDs of the “Best of” Time Team, but that ends up being about 24 out of 140 some odd shows.

I think The Discovery Channel in the rebroadcast the series in the US (I know UK Discovery Channel broadcast it).  PBS in the States has a version of Time Team (Time Team America), but somehow it just isn’t the same.  Maybe there’s more history lying around in the UK, or maybe people in the UK are such media whores that they will allow three days for  the Time team crew to rip up their back gardens.  I can’t really say since I haven’t seen enough of the US version to comment on it, although what I have seen gives the impression that the two programmes are similar in concept and different in execution.

Again, I’m all for history.  Personally, people in the US should take far more interest in their history than they do.  Lots of things are torn down in the US without proper archaeological surveys being done: although the UK series shows it’s never too late to dig.

BBC Top Tweet!

It came to my attention that the BBC (yes, THE British Broadcasting Corporation) is one of the top tweets. One source said it was number one and the other at 6th and 8th position. Perhaps source one combined the second sources tweets to give the Beeb number one status. Either way, I had to verify this weird factoid as a lifelong Beeb fan.

Nevermind that the Beeb itself says that Twitter tweets are 40% ‘babble’. I also become a true Luddite when it comes to things such as Twitter. I am a quasi-Luddite when it comes to modern technology, grudgingly accepting some things (e.g., computers, blogs, and e-mail). Otherwise going whole hog about things such as the internet, MP3 players, and PVRs (I include iPlayer in that category). Anything which gives me access to “Culture” wherever I may be is more than acceptable to me. The BBC’s motto is “Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation” which strikes a chord in me.

Anyway, part of the reason for all the Tweets is that the BBC has announced budget cutbacks. It has proposed closing two radio stations (The closing of Radio 6 causing a fair amount of tweets), half its website, and cut spending heavily on imported American programmes (not much of a loss in my opinion) in an overhaul of services to be announced next month.

Personally, I think the Beeb should introduce external licence fees for all those people who use proxy server to access iPlayer from outside the UK. Sure, there’s a get out clause about people who watch delayed programmes which is hinted at in this blurb:

If you watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown on TV you must, by law, be covered by a TV Licence, no matter what device you’re using.

Go a little further on the licencing fees website and you see:

However, you don’t need to be covered by a licence if you’re only using ‘on-demand’ services to watch programmes after they have been shown on TV. So, you need a licence to watch any channel live online, but you wouldn’t need one to use BBC iPlayer to catch up on an episode of a programme you missed, for example.

Although, I did have a detector van person knock on my door and ask if I had a Television 20 years ago. I told him that I didn’t, but I did have a computer. That was before access to the internet was widespread. Britain didn’t have much in the ways of dial-up BBSs either at that time. Soooo…

Anyway, The people using iPlayer as more than just a “catch up service”, but as their primary source for receiving the Beeb should be able to access the service directly. Of course, that gets in to all those DRM aspects that I personally detest: in particular, region coded DVDs (or other region blocked material). There are so many ways to get around these things that most Blu-Ray discs AREN’T region coded. So, region coding with me is a topic that truly raises my hackles, but it is also very easy to circumvent. Information should be without borders: especially music and other artistic performances.

So, if the good people at the Beeb would listen to me, maybe they may consider making iPlayer a pay service without borders and time limits. How many Americans are going to want to watch Rab C. Nesbitt? Better yet, how many can understand what he’s saying? It’s idiotic to make Rab C. Nesbitt DVDs (or other shows with “limited appeal”) region coded to the UK or Antipodes (DVD regions 2 and 4). And BBC America is a joke (along with being part of the Discovery Network). If the Beeb won’t look to other sources of income, they should stop bitching about licence fees.

Or being broke.

Personally, I’d pay to be able to download from iPlayer if they would cut the DRM crap. Otherwise, get-iplayer does the trick quite nicely for me: especially since get_iplayer gets rid of the DRM!

Raiding the BBC Archives: DRM, iPlayer, and other things

Anyone familiar with UK TV knows that the powers that be were terrible about archiving shows. It was common UK television practice up until the late 1970s to destroy videotapes because of agreements with actors’ and musicians’ unions that limited the number of repeats. Fortunately, the policy of wiping recordings ceased in 1978. When Peter Cook learned the series Not Only… But Also was to be destroyed, he offered to buy the tapes from the BBC but was refused because of copyright issues. He then suggested that he purchase new tapes, so that the BBC would have no need to erase the originals, but inexplicably this was also turned down. We are fortunate that some series managed to survive this dark period of ignorance. I believe that some programmes, such as Doctor Who and the Goon Show managed to survive because the tapes were shipped to other countries that were more enlightened regarding archiving (e.g., Canada and Australia).

This wasn’t just a UK problem since Lathe of Heaven had various issues regarding its rebroadcast, this was despite it being the most requested PBS programme of all time. Even the remake had to have the Beatles “A Little help from My Friends” redone to enable the show’s rerelease. WNET has not said how much it cost to re-release Lathe of Heaven, stating simply that it “wasn’t cheap,” and that hopefully royalties would help recoup the expense.

Anyway, This comes from one issue I have with iPlayer: they don’t archive the shows for very long. The 7 day limit is annoying: especially when they rebroadcast the show. Also, the rebroadcast of Hamlet was in standard def rather than hi-def. The good folks at the Beeb have said that they are making the quality of standard programmes better, which they are. But, hi-def is indeed much clearer, which is important when you are watching the programme on a 1080p 37″ LCD-TV! Also, some of the later archived versions of iPlayer vids are signed.

Being signed is acceptable if you are deaf, but it’s a bit like watching someone playing charades for those who do not sign. This is especially true since the interpreters tend to emote whilst signing. It could be worse, the described programmes for the blind are a bit annoying as well. The Goons used to point out the advantage of the radio for using your imagination. As they would say “try doing that on Television” after some bizarre description of their activities.

You can find Goon Show Scripts here:
If you are too cheap to buy the books.

The next annoyance is DRM, which isn’t limited to iPlayer. Neither is it really relevant since there are ways to get around that nonsense. It seems to me that these people could make more money by allowing people to subscribe to the iPlayer service and download away. Better yet, get rid of the geographic restrictions on this material anyway since that can be circumvented as well.

It’s a bit like the cartoon where the person is saying “Not many people pirate CDs of Buxtehude” (although I did hear that Tallis’s Spem in Alium was pirated as Spam in Allium, or Spam in Garlic in translation–not sure if that was a joke or not after this reference). How many people are going to pirate Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys? Anyway, it seems that regional encoding has gone the way of the Dodo with blu-ray since people who want to watch programmes such as Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys will do so.

Never underestimate a determined Anorak!

The New Toy

I am having great fun with the Cinema Tube, although most of my viewing has been material which is on some form of drive: in particular iPlayer downloads. Get-iPlayer is a whole lot better than the actual BBC iPlayer for the fact that the downloads don’t have the annoying DRM. IPlayer’s DRM makes no sense, but neither does DRM in general. The particulars of iPlayer DRM being that the downloads must be played within a week if you begin to view the programme. Otherwise, the thing can sit for months so it seems. I have Rick Stein’s Christmas Odyssey waiting to be played on the official iPlayer from late December 09!

Although, up and coming goodies are David Tennant’s Hamlet is being repeated. I’ll download that in hi-def(another complaint about the official iPlayer). There is also a programme, The Virtual Revolution, which is coming up as well that sounds interesting.

Back to iPlayer DRM, the official player blocks the end users ability to do things with DRM, yet get-iPlayer can download the programmes without the DRM. Even better, it can do so in hi-def! The hi-def versions usually play much better than their other versions. In some manner, get-iPlayer does a sound taxi trick to remove the DRM. Nice!

Although, I did record an episode of Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys (Todmorden to York) which was unplayable. Somehow, when the show came to the City walls bit there was this message that the sound had a difference in speed. Not sure what that means. The Beeb’s archives mean that this show is only available in a signed version (as opposed to the hi-def versions availble a little while back).

Not sure if the original version can be fixed, but I am going to give it a try.

In future, I will download the flash versions with get-iplayer since they usually come out better.

Well, so much for reviewing the media server software. I’ll save that for a future post.

Posted 31/01/2010 by lacithedog in BBC iplayer, DRM, iplayer