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BBC iPlayer Welcomes Linux (and Macs) 259

Posted by kdawson
from the audi-vox-populi dept.
h4rm0ny writes "After previously limiting their iPlayer to only the Windows platform (as we discussed earlier here and here), the BBC's content is now available to UK-based users of Linux and Mac OS X. From their site: 'From today we are pleased to announce that streaming is now available on BBC iPlayer. This means that Windows, Mac and Linux users can stream programs on iPlayer as long as their computer has the latest version of Flash. Another change is that you do not have to register or sign in any more to download programs ...' It seems that the BBC have listened to people who petitioned them for broader support and an open format. Well, Flash isn't exactly open, but its a lot more ubiquitous than Windows Media and Real Player formats."
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BBC iPlayer Welcomes Linux (and Macs)

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  • An Improvement (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benbean (8595) on Monday December 17, 2007 @08:56AM (#21724194)
    For the purposes of just quickly catching up with a programme you've missed, in my (admittedly brief) testing since it went live, it's much more convenient to use the live streaming than have to go through all the fuss and bother of the proper Windows-based download client.

    Even if there were a Mac/Linux version available, I think I'd still lean more towards the Flash service for the odd times I need it since the downloadable version will get torpedoed after seven days anyway.
    • by wasabii (693236)
      I'm the exact opposite. Windows Media streaming has worked great for me on Linux for a long while now, as long as DRM isn't at play. Flash however works not at all. 64 bit box.
  • i use iplayer on windows, and while there are programmes i want to see that aren't in the catelog, i think they've done an awesome job of tv on demand given the current infrastructure of the internet.
  • ... I guess. So then, I'd just need Flash, my absolute favorite proprietary piece of software. And I need Linux or OS X; not FreeBSD, Plan9 or bOS.

    I don't know -- I probably won't be using the service anyway, and I'm not a British citizen anyway, so I don't really feel that I have the right to complain, but it still bothers me when public services don't actually make their service free for real. I know I'd be bothered for real if my own government did something like it, at least.

    • by wwmedia (950346) on Monday December 17, 2007 @09:21AM (#21724346)
      instead of moaning about it

      can you suggest an open source solution that the BBC can use instead of iPlayer that is not proprietary and works on Windows/Mac and Linux???
      • by AusIV (950840) on Monday December 17, 2007 @09:35AM (#21724426)

        can you suggest an open source solution that the BBC can use instead of iPlayer that is not proprietary and works on Windows/Mac and Linux???

        Exactly. Flash is probably on at least 95% of PC's, and probably 99% of the people who don't have flash can install it with a few clicks. The BBC could have used something like Ogg Theora, but then 95% of users would have had to download and install something to play it.

        The thing that always gets me about open source zealots who complain "Flash is proprietary" is that they offer no solution. There's Gnash, which is a re-implementation of Flash, but people complain about disseminating documents in MS Office formats even though they can read them with open source suites, so I can't imagine Gnash being full featured would stop the complaints about Flash. If people in the open source community want to complain about websites using flash for various reasons, they need to offer up an alternative that would be acceptable to them.

        For what it's worth, I'm a Linux user and avoid proprietary software wherever possible, but I've been taught not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and not to complain when you can't offer an alternative.

        • Not a gift horse (Score:5, Informative)

          by McDutchie (151611) on Monday December 17, 2007 @09:46AM (#21724496) Homepage

          For what it's worth, I'm a Linux user and avoid proprietary software wherever possible, but I've been taught not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and not to complain when you can't offer an alternative.

          It's not a gift horse. Access is restricted (at least in theory) to UK citizens, who have already paid for this service through their TV licence fees.

        • For example, German ZDF [1] uses flash only for its front page (due to ill-advised web design) and utilizes windows media player, quicktime or vlc browser plugins for video content. so much for actual solution (one guy of the streaming company even said they would probably also offer theora the moment software patents are legal in europe).

          [1] http://mediathek.zdf.de/ [mediathek.zdf.de]
        • The problematic part is that flash won't run on anything but an Intel-compatible processor, and the "proprietary" nature of flash makes sure that no-one else can adapt flash for another kind of machine. Not everybody have or wish to use an intel PC, as ubiquitous as it may be.
          • The problematic part is that flash won't run on anything but an Intel-compatible processor

            Crap, I guess I should just throw out this G5 iMac then...
            • By heck, that Beige G3 PowerPC Mac I had a few years back was doing well for itself, then.

              But that's nothing compared to what this guy [ilovett.com] did...

              I took the build-your-own approach using Macromedia Flash. My target machine is a PowerMac 7200 of approximately 10 years of age, with a 12-inch, 640x480 fixed resolution monitor.
        • by MartinG (52587)
          I don't like having to install non-free flash. I would have no complaints if a free implementation worked for me, but it doesn't. (And my reasons for complaining about MS office documents go way beyond it being a proprietry format, but I won't go into that - its a different subject and a poor comparison anyway)

          Now that Sun's Java is open source, wouldn't it be great if there was an open source Java applet that could download streaming video and audio in an open format that could then be used by everyone, w
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by bwbadger (706071)
          >The BBC could have used something like Ogg Theora, but then 95% of users would have had to
          >download and install something to play it.

          >The thing that always gets me about open source zealots who complain "Flash is proprietary"
          >is that they offer no solution.

          Theora (or something like it) was indeed the right solution, or at least the foundation for one. If anyone could make that happen, the BBC could. They certainly had the budget and the staff. The BBC could then have made a browser plugin av
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by owlnation (858981)

          For what it's worth, I'm a Linux user and avoid proprietary software wherever possible, but I've been taught not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and not to complain when you can't offer an alternative.

          I hate this attitude. Corporations are full of people who spout this nonsense. It is the guaranteed path to mediocrity and dissatisfaction. It is a form of censorship and should be abhorred. It is a mechanism that the weak use to protect their mediocre ideas. It is a way of suppressing great ideas, better

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ilgaz (86384) *

        instead of moaning about it

        can you suggest an open source solution that the BBC can use instead of iPlayer that is not proprietary and works on Windows/Mac and Linux???

        Just don't suggest any TV professional to use Ogg Theora format. They have given up VP3 (the actual format) some years ago. :)

        There are 3 issues here:

        1) Allergy to Real Networks who produces a media player down to AIX. Even after they opened entire source excluding codecs.l
        2) Apple's Allergy to Linux/BSD and not producing Quicktime for those platforms.
        3) Open Source Linux users allergy to closed source since Apple will want to keep Quicktime closed source binary.

        So it is Flash. Flash container became stand

        • by Asmodai (13932)
          And just how does Flash support BSD, Haiku and other BeOS derivatives and a bunch of other operating systems? No, Linux emulation still leaves a lot to be desired with Flash playback...
      • by Paul Jakma (2677)
        MPEG-4 + H.264
        • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
          You need a fairly beefy PC to decode that and a lot of non-geeks just don't have that kind of power - and the BBC want the format to be readable on as many (UK based) PC's as they can.
          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            My iPod Nano can decode MPEG-4 + H.264. Granted, it probably has some special chip, specifically designed to decode it, but I'm sure even a 5-6 year old computer could decode it. Now it might have problems with 1080p MPEG4 files, but for some reason I don't think that's the quality level we're talking about in this case. Flash video is extremely CPU hungry, even with it's terrible encoding quality. I can't imagine that MPEG4 would be any harder on a computer than flash video at the same bit rate.
          • by Paul Jakma (2677)
            I'd be surprised if Flash had significantly lower processing requirements than H.264 (bear in mind that a lot of flash video on the web tends to be very resolution). I'd be willing to be referred to some comparisons (a quick google doesnt show anything useful), but till then I call bullshit on your claim.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by karmatic (776420)
            That's not entirely accurate - a lot of it depends on the codecs you use.

            I have a demo I like to do where I decode and play back 1080p HD using CoreAVC [coreavc.com], on a 1GHz laptop (downclocked - it's hard to find a PC with a native resolution of 1920x1200 and a clock speed of 1GHz). Yes, it drops some frames, but it's quite watchable.

            I also do 320x[240-320] H.264 (full screen) playback on a Treo 650. It's got a 312MHz ARM processor, and 32MB of RAM (~24 available).

            None of this is hardware accelerated.

            BenchMarks her [behardware.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by WK2 (1072560)
        For video:

        theora (not recommended. not ready yet)
        x.263
        x.264
        whatever realplayer uses.

        For audio:

        vorbis (recommended. free, open, patent license is free for all)
        mp3 (almost everybody has it on their computers already. I prefer vorbis over mp3, but mp3 over flash)
        flac (much too big for downloads. just saying it is there)
        aac

        The real problem is DRM. The BBC does not want you to be able to keep the file on your computer. If they would forgo that requirement, then they could just use AV files, rather than using an
        • He asks for some recommendations and the first thing you list says "not recommended, not ready yet". I fully agree with the rest of your post, but I just thought that first line (in this context) was pretty funny.
        • by IndieKid (1061106)

          The real problem is DRM. The BBC does not want you to be able to keep the file on your computer. If they would forgo that requirement, then they could just use AV files, rather than using an intentionally limiting solution.

          It's not about what the BBC wants, it's about what the content owners will allow them to do. The BBC doesn't make much of its content in house these days, and the production companies aren't going to give away for free (apart from the licence fee) content that people will happily buy on DVD. I'd rather have a system where I can download/stream a whole bunch of stuff for 7 days after broadcast than a system where I can watch next to nothing indefinitely.

      • by FrostedWheat (172733) on Monday December 17, 2007 @11:34AM (#21725514)

        can you suggest an open source solution that the BBC can use instead of iPlayer that is not proprietary and works on Windows/Mac and Linux???
        How about the BBC's *own* open source codec ... Dirac [sourceforge.net].
      • There are all kinds of things they could do. And they certainly didn't seem to be opposed to people downloading things.

        There are mpeg2 decoders everywhere -- it's just about as ubiquitous as Flash. And there's no reason they can't do both.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MoonBuggy (611105)
      I think it comes down to pragmatism vs. idealism here. A Windows only client blocks a significant minority of users (Mac, Linux, BSD as well as various embedded devices such as phones or dedicated web terminals). A flash client is not ideal - it is still non-free and non-open as well as blocking a very small number of users - but is still probably the simplest and most widely usable streaming system using currently established technology.
    • by tsa (15680)
      O boy did the BBC do it wrong! Now there is still 0.1 % of the people left without iPlayer! Terrible! Let's all raid their headquarters and demand better service for our tax money.
    • by gsslay (807818) on Monday December 17, 2007 @09:57AM (#21724590)
      It's like the whole PAL [wikipedia.org] outrage all over again! You should have heard me complain back then when I discovered that the supposedly free BBC service required that I buy a television equipped with the proprietary format PAL.


      So that meant I was denied access from my 8 track [wikipedia.org] simply because they refused to supply the broadcasts on it! Boy, was I mad! How was this TV service supposed to be free if they make you buy certain equipment first?!


      And now they're demanding that I go out of my way to download a free software package! Their thoughtless arrogance knows no bounds!

    • the BBC isn't free. I (as an owner of a piece of equipment capable of receiving the BBC), have to pay a license fee each year (whether I actually decide to watch it or not).
      Now personally I'm more than happy to pay, but it does mean it can't just be broadcast free to anybody on the planet with an internet connection.
      • by robably (1044462)

        I (as an owner of a piece of equipment capable of receiving the BBC), have to pay a license fee each year (whether I actually decide to watch it or not)

        Wrong. [tvlicensing.co.uk]

        "You need a TV Licence to use any television receiving equipment such as a TV set, set-top boxes, video or DVD recorders, computers or mobile phones to watch or record TV programmes as they are being shown on TV." (my emphasis)

        Just to reiterate, you don't need a license to just own a television.

  • rippage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cally (10873) on Monday December 17, 2007 @08:59AM (#21724212) Homepage
    ...and does

    mplayer -dumpstream -dumpfile $outfile.ra $thestream

    rip the stream like what the Real stream can be ripped? (Yes I'm talking radio, it's Radio Four Boy here and without being able to rip I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue [wikipedia.org], as I've been doing for the last few years, having migrated from the Mark II Compact Cassette Tape that worked so well throughout the 80s and 90s, life ain't gonna be worth living.) Samantha agrees - the wow and flutter of older technology is a real turn-off, although she does enjoy flicking through some favourite flash videos.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by caluml (551744)
      Or, if you have a DVB card [calum.org]: mplayer dvb://BBC\ ONE -dumpstream, and you get the pure MP2 that your TV sees. You can them encode it down to whatever you like.
      I've set up an email address that calls a script which takes the start time, duration, and channel name from the subject of the email, and schedules a cron job for that. Voila. I'm on the other side of the world, and I forgot that I wanted to record Peep Show [calum.org]? (Not from the Beeb, but..) A simple email from anywhere does it.
      • Very cool. What's the email address? : D
        • by caluml (551744)
          There's a contact-me thinggy on my site.
    • by Instine (963303)
      to rip you'll be wanting the old version of net transporter: http://www.oldversion.com/download.php?idlong=d70cd18f417fb7e93c0d1dbe897708bf [oldversion.com] Simply open bbc radio iplayer page in ff with firebug installed, look in net tab in firebug for the .rpm file, look at its response, in it should be the actual stream path. Downlod using net transporter, or listen and transcode into format of your choice using VLC media player... If thats legal of course. If its not, forget all that.
  • kudos to the BBC.

    Flash may not be open or perfect - but there are enough cross platform implementations to make it nearly ubiquitous. Given the choice between windows DRMware or Flash I would of made the same choice any day of the week. I am linux only at home, so I'm happy about this.
    • German ZDF [1] uses flash only for its front page due to ill-advised web design and utilizes windows media player, quicktime or vlc browser plugins for video content. so much for actual consumer friendly solutions.

      [1] http://mediathek.zdf.de/ [mediathek.zdf.de]
      • by Slashcrap (869349)
        German ZDF [1] uses flash only for its front page due to ill-advised web design and utilizes windows media player, quicktime or vlc browser plugins for video content. so much for actual consumer friendly solutions.

        That's awesome! Now, can you come back and let us know when they produce something we might want to watch?
  • I think that this will be a lot more popular with everyone, not just Linux/Mac users. I haven't tried it myself (being a Linux geek), but by all accounts the iPlayer is a PITA. I suspect that in a couple of years time the iPlayer will be quietly dropped due to lack of interest leaving just the Flash player.
    • Hear, hear. I can't comment on what the old iPlayer is like, because having downloaded the installer, I then read the attached Ts&Cs. I'm hardly a picky licensing geek, but some of the conditions were pretty much outrageous, and no sane person with a clue about technology would ever agree to them if they read them.

      A TV repeat service like this is a great move by the BBC, but only if it's not a serious threat to anyone who installs their damageware player. This move neatly avoids the latter problem ent

  • by Anonymous Coward
  • Misleading summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by ebcdic (39948) on Monday December 17, 2007 @09:09AM (#21724292)
    This is *not* the BBC making iPlayer available for non-Windows platforms. They are only providing a *streaming* service, instead of the ability to download programs, which is what they are using DRM for.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday December 17, 2007 @09:36AM (#21724446) Homepage
    Quit with the bullshit formats and half assed attempts. If you are really that desperate to protect your precious from the Evil consumers then get it on iTunes and be done with it. I am sick of having to go to random websites and having to use the half-assed players you guys think are acceptable.

    If you must have DRM in it, then have your crap in iTunes. if you are one of the few smart companies and dont care about DRM, then a podcast with a format that plays on an iPod will do nicely.

    This will get the largest possible market for your video. and 320X240 is acceptable on a ipod and not desired o be traded by pirates (yarr! It's low res, off to greener lands me matyes! yarr!)

    As a consumer that is interested in actually watching TV the way it should be here in 2007/2008 I dont want your website, I want it in a way I can download it and play it on my ipod or phone, not your crappy website.
    • by chrb (1083577)

      I dont want your website, I want it in a way I can download it and play it on my ipod or phone, not your crappy website.

      Maybe you do, but the success of YouTube has shown that many people find a web accessible service easier to use than a download service. I just watched this debate [bbc.co.uk] and found it acceptable - the video quality seems better than YouTube. I think the BBC just killed their iPlayer download software; most people aren't going to bother messing about with p2p download software when the have a high quality streaming alternative.

      Now we just need an open source flash... gnash, anyone?

    • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday December 17, 2007 @09:55AM (#21724574) Homepage
      How would having it in iTunes help Linux users? BBC would still lose. Flash is the only cross-platform solution to streaming video that has some kind of DRM in it.
    • by mpe (36238) on Monday December 17, 2007 @10:46AM (#21725006)
      If you are really that desperate to protect your precious from the Evil consumers then get it on iTunes and be done with it.

      Or even accept that trying to use "DRM" is rather daft after you have broadcast it.

      I am sick of having to go to random websites and having to use the half-assed players you guys think are acceptable.

      It really disn't make any sense if these are harder to use than the "pirate option".
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MrNemesis (587188)
        Or even accept that trying to use "DRM" is rather daft after you have broadcast it in unencrypted near-DVD quality full PAL resolution MPEG2 that can be saved to disk with a £30 TV card.

        There, fixed that for you ;)

        As a long time supporter of the BBC (or "TV tax" as most Americans like to call it), I'm not quite sure what the insistence on DRM is either. Auntie says their partners (NBC and CBC possibly) demand it for online content, but what pirate in his right mind will bother trying to strip the DRM
    • Quit with the bullshit formats and half assed attempts.

      With you here.

      If you are really that desperate to protect your precious from the Evil consumers then get it on iTunes and be done with it. I am sick of having to go to random websites and having to use the half-assed players you guys think are acceptable.

      What? There is nothing more evil than that POS iTunes on Windows. They must have used the million monkey method to develop that thing, then cheaped out on the monkeys. It's even worse than the

    • by drspliff (652992)

      If you are really that desperate to protect your precious from the Evil consumers then get it on iTunes and be done with it.

      and then...

      I am sick of having to go to random websites and having to use the half-assed players you guys think are acceptable.

      As far as I'm concerned iTunes is a half-assed player and really isn't of acceptable quality (compared to say.. mplayer or Media Player Classic).

      Just release everything in a non-drm format and be done with it; people will pirate it regardless of if it's DRM'd or not. There's absolutely no point in trying to stop a glacier from moving, once the momentum is in place you can only watch what happens.

      Personally I think the results will be beautiful and result in much more social value, rather than m

  • Good news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Monday December 17, 2007 @09:50AM (#21724518) Homepage
    I wasn't about to install kontiki based software on any of my machines, even the ones with Windows on them.

    Flash will suit me fine. Almost every device I have can play it in some form (except the iphone, but hopefully that's coming one day).
    • by horza (87255)
      So still nothing for me then, as all my computers are 64-bit and Flash isn't available.

      Phillip.
  • Not good enough. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mortice (467747) on Monday December 17, 2007 @09:50AM (#21724524)
    Many people in the UK are subject to transfer limits, and certain periods of the day when they can transfer as much as they like without this contributing to their quota. Example: I am limited to 20GB of transfers each month, but can download without restriction between midnight and 8am. With the Windows client, it is (relatively) easy to set up a schedule to start and stop the program at the appropriate times. With the streaming content, it is much more of a pain.

    Just one reason amongst many why I hope this is not the end of the BBC's plan to open up the iPlayer content to other platforms, although I expect that it probably is.
  • Uk only (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr Europe (657225) on Monday December 17, 2007 @10:08AM (#21724670)
    Why on earth BBC makes a system to be used from UK only ?!
    "Can I download programmes from outside the UK?

    The BBC uses Geo-IP technology to identify where your are based on the location of your internet service provider (ISP). This ensures that only internet users in the UK can enjoy programmes on BBC iPlayer.

    If you download a programme to your laptop or a portable hard drive, you can watch this wherever you are in the world. However, you will only be able to download new programmes once you return to the UK.

    Why do I need to be in the UK to use BBC iPlayer?

    Rights agreements mean that BBC iPlayer is only available to users in the UK. However, BBC Worldwide is working on an international version, which we will make available as soon as possible."

    • Re:Uk only (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cally (10873) on Monday December 17, 2007 @10:14AM (#21724716) Homepage
      Because Johnny Foreigner doesn't pay the TV license fee [tvlicensing.co.uk]. Yes, my stunned American friends, we UK-ers have to have a government license to legally watch TV or listen to the radio! We tend to think it's fair exchange for the fantastic programmes they've given us over the years, though, not least Blake's 7 of course ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sosigenes (950988)
        Actually, it is more likely the reason is what BBC state themselves. It's not to do with the license fee, but more to do with the fact that the BBC only have rights agreements to show things in the UK. The same reason us in the UK can't watch programs from American television networks and websites. If the BBC can't get the right to show it outside of the UK, then they can't legally allow people to watch it outside of the UK on its web based service. This is an entirely different issue to that of the license
        • by GauteL (29207)
          No. They could easily let foreigners see only the BBC owned material. The reason they do not is that while the UK TV-viewer has paid for the content through TV-licensing, the foreign TV viewers have not. Instead the foreign TV-viewers may watch the programs on local channels that purchase content from the BBC.
      • by MadJo (674225)
        I'd be willing to pay a subscription fee if it means I can download for instance QI episodes or Doctor Who episodes, and play it on my iAudio player without going through the more questionable alleyways of the Internet.
        Why not have that GEO-loc system give UK residents 'free' access, and the rest of the world a paywall? That would mean even more money for the Beeb (and other tv-networks that get behind this). More money for quality programming.
        Seems to me to be a win-win situation.
      • by hcdejong (561314)
        Because Johnny Foreigner doesn't pay the TV license fee.

        Speak for yourself. My TV provider [1] offers BBC 1 and 2 plus several BBC radio channels. They pay the BBC for the privilege. Why shouldn't I be able to access the same programming via the Web?

        1: and pretty much every TV provider in the Netherlands
  • Anyone notice that the volume control goes up to 11?

    That's for watching TV really loud :p
    • Nigel: You see, most blokes will be playing at 10. Youre on 10, all the way up, all the way up...Where can you go from there? Nowhere. What we do, is if we need that extra push over the cliff...Eleven. One louder.

      DiBergi: Why dont you just make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number, and make that a little louder?

      (small pause)

      Nigel: These go to 11.

  • "This means that Windows, Mac and Linux users can stream programs on iPlayer as long as their computer has the latest version of Flash."

    So, we're just waiting on Adobe to release Flash for Linux/x86-64, Linux/PPC, Linux/Alpha, Linux/Sparc, Linux/ARM, etc...

    *tumbleweed rolls by...*

    Yeah, right. Thought so.

    After all, it's not like there aren't truly cross-platform streaming formats out there. Oh no, wait, there are!

    Aaaaaarrrghhhhh!!!!

    AND STOP SAYING "LINUX" WHEN YOU MEAN LINUX/X86-32 . Linux is *so* much more
  • Is there anything in any user agreement that prohibits me renting a server in the UK, running their "UK only" iPlayer there, and retransmitting the stream over the Net to another server outside the UK for rebroadcast?

    Maybe a copyright? Under UK law, don't I have a protected ability to retransmit content from one place to another for my personal consumption, the way I do in US law (if not always in US courts)?

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