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BBC Offers iPhone Version of iPlayer, Accessible to Linux Users Too 187

smallfries writes "After a long battle with Linux users in the UK, the BBC was forced into releasing a flash version of the iPlayer streaming service to fulfill their obligations to license-fee payers. After claiming that development of Linux and Mac versions of the iPlayer would take two years, Auntie Beeb has rushed to support the iPhone. iPhone users 'can be trusted' because their platform is locked down ... so the beeb opened a non-DRM hole in the iPlayer to support them. This was guarded by the extreme security of User Agent strings! Long story short, Linux and Mac users have made their own non-DRM, non-Microsoft platform from firebug and wget. UK users can now watch (and keep) their favorite BBC shows."
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BBC Offers iPhone Version of iPlayer, Accessible to Linux Users Too

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  • How long? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pipatron ( 966506 ) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @04:41PM (#22732422) Homepage
    And how long will this stay?
    • by reezle ( 239894 )
      Nothing Stays....

      Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    • Not for long. The beeb will certainly close this hole quickly - but it weakens their argument that they can't provide a decent service to linux/mac users. Of course once it is closed people will start looking for other holes.

      What I don't understand is why Zonk moved the link from the text at the end of the summary about people downloading it for themselves, and placed it on the unrelated text about about the bbc opening up the streaming version? Is this the famous Zonk editing technique that I've heard so m
      • I take it "auntie beeb" means the BBC?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

        It doesn't weaken their position. The BBC have always been very up front in saying that they are having difficulty allowing Linux users to download tv shows in the same way that they allow Windows users because only on Windows are they able to ensure that the video is not redistributed. They have done their best in allowing streaming of the shows which is as good in many circumstances and have stated that they are trying to find ways of offering the full service to Linux users. Given the tiny fraction of co
        • Re:How long? (Score:5, Informative)

          by RalphSleigh ( 899929 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @05:59PM (#22733210) Homepage
          Yes they do use windows DRM, but they also make sure that their customers are educated on all sides of the issus

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6944830.stm [bbc.co.uk]

          Various tools have been created to strip files of the DRM, such as FairUse4WM, a program released in August 2006 by a hacker named Viodentia. Nine days after the crack first appeared, Microsoft released a new version to prevent FairUse4WM from working. Within three days hackers released a new version of the tool. The tool can be used to strip DRM from programmes with the BBC iPlayer.
        • Re:How long? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by smallfries ( 601545 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @06:09PM (#22733278) Homepage

          The article summary is hopelessly inflammatory.

          Thank you, I do try my best although Zonk has ruined it in a couple of places.

          The basis of the BBC's argument has been (as you've stated) that platforms without DRM cannot be trusted. But the reason that this argument is false, and why it is now weakened in the light of their iPhone hole is that you're not worried about redistribution within the trusted enironment. The point is that once something has been stripped out of its DRM covering it can be freely passed around. The idea that Linux is less capable of supporting DRM than windows is a Red Herring. They are both equally capable when it comes to running snakeoil.

          The "strong" DRM that the BBC relies on is in fact security through obscurity. The annoying features (such as downloads timing out and self-destructing) can be worked around easily. The "protection" that the BBC has for content distributed through the windows platform is illusionary. Plenty of people had already extracted the FLAC containers from the streaming service before, it was just more of a pain in he arse to do so.

          The real point is that it can be done, there is no real protection (only obscurity) and publically stating that there are technical barriers to Mac and Linux support that would take 2 years is laughable. I don't know if you had a look at the three source pages (they're on the second page of the reg article), but the people that are doing this have an agenda. They pay a license fee and they want support. Being told that artificial barriers have been erected to separate them from what they've paid for will not go down well. And if the beeb wants to continue support for the iPhone then they'll need to keep punching holes in the DRM that will be found and exploited.

          Lastly, I've already bitched a couple of times about Zonk's incompetence but seriously: The Apple Section? This was supposed to be under YRO as it is a story about DRM being circumvented.
          • http://xbmc.org/forum/showthread.php?t=27063&page=13 [xbmc.org]

            There's BBC's download service (obviously DRM-ridden) and there's the BBC streaming TV service (can't really see why shouldn't be open).
            This "hole" is talking about the latter.
            On the plus side, we now have BBC playback in XBMC, which is amazingly cool...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WombatDeath ( 681651 )
          That would be a reasonable position if their content wasn't already being 'redistributed' all over the place. Back in reality, they're pissing off Linux users in exchange for a piracy reduction of zero per cent.

          On the plus side, they can at least claim to be preventing 'redistribution' and people who don't understand the technology will believe them.
        • by baadger ( 764884 )

          ...on Windows are they able to ensure that the video is not redistributed.
          Yep...except they aren't. Windows Media DRM can be stripped (on Windows) losslessly with 2 clicks of a mouse. It is nothing more than a waste of resources even bothering with it.
        • Re:How long? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by grahamm ( 8844 ) <gmurray@webwayone.co.uk> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @05:18AM (#22737040) Homepage

          It doesn't weaken their position. The BBC have always been very up front in saying that they are having difficulty allowing Linux users to download tv shows in the same way that they allow Windows users because only on Windows are they able to ensure that the video is not redistributed.
          And what they, and most other broadcasters forget, is that they have already broadcast the show in DRM free digital format. So anyone with a PVR which can transfer files to a computer, as the better ones can, is able to (illegally) redistribute it. So putting DRM on the 'download later' files is like bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by phyphor ( 450142 )
        It's already been "closed", apparently - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7293988.stm [bbc.co.uk]
        Obviously the BBC's take on the issue is slightly biased, but that's unsurprising.
        • It's unsurprising but still an abuse of their position. I've already complained to them about the way that article is written.

          The interesting question is does it still work on a real iPhone? If it does the hole will be reopening again soon...
    • Re:How long? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) * on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:48AM (#22737344) Homepage

      And how long will this stay?
      Interesting is, it is open to UK IPs only so even while you are "cheating" "hacking" user agent and taking time to do it, you are trying to get the content you already paid for.

      I still think whole iPlayer thing should be reason for a huge government investigation. If it was 2002-2003, it would be OK to put a windows media only thing as a service but if they did after OS X/iPhone/iPod video/mp4 compatible zillions of devices with _very tough_ DRM (if needed) built in, some "exclusive agreement" under the table is going on.

      We all keep forgetting about J2ME too. Youtube already has a working J2ME player which runs all fine on my Nokia E65. It plays better than Desktop/Flash sometimes. http://www.youtube.com/yt_mobile_app [youtube.com] . BTW I invite those iPhone guys to see it to figure what is possible with that "ugly" Java Apple hiding from them.
  • iLawsuit (Score:5, Funny)

    by goatpunch ( 668594 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @04:43PM (#22732444)
    in other news, Apple rewards the BBC by suing over their use of the 'i' prefix, on which iApple has an iMonopoly
    • by arivanov ( 12034 )
      A better description will be:

      1. Take an iBazooka
      2. Load with iPhone
      3. Shoot
      5. Profit

      Though I clearly do not see how to get from 3 to 5... Probably lack of Imagination 2.0.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Don't you mean iMagination 2.0?
        • by arivanov ( 12034 )
          As a matter of fact, I did. It is strange how adult people completely lose their mind around the iPhone. It is just a phone after all. It is not the second coming.
          • To some people it's a tiny little computer that happens to make phone calls.
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Delkster ( 820935 )

              A little computer that isn't much of a computer due to the lock-down. Just a fancy-looking phone, perhaps with a couple more applications than in other non-smartphones.

              • Re:iLawsuit (Score:5, Insightful)

                by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) <.gundbear. .at. .pacbell.net.> on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @07:43PM (#22734184) Homepage
                You're too cynical. For many people, a computer is something to browse the web, check your email, take a few notes, watch YouTube, some movie trailers, listen to music, check the weather, and some stock prices. For those people, the iPhone is a perfect "little computer". If you think of a computer as something to write term papers on, analyze large datasets, develop software, or control robots, the iPhone is a horrible computer.

                So for the people who love the iPhone, it's a perfect "little computer" with phone functionality. For people who don't see that, well, it means they want more out of the iPhone, first, I think.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      in other news, Apple rewards the BBC by suing over their use of the 'i' prefix, on which iApple has an iMonopoly
      Did the license that from Parker iBrothers?
  • Nokia E65 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsa ( 15680 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @04:43PM (#22732446) Homepage
    I have a Nolia E65. Can I have an iPlayer for my phone? What makes the iPhone more special than my E65 which can do more out of the box, is smaller and cheaper and isn't crippled?

    Can we please stop hearing about the iPhone?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by goatpunch ( 668594 )
      Apple products are intrinsicly 'cool' and there's nothing you can do to change that, in the same way that smoking will always be cool, no matter how many more sensible things you could be doing with your time and money.
      • by tsa ( 15680 )
        We can only hope the thing will be replaced soon by a phone that is cool even without Steve's RDF.
      • Just between you and me, given the choice, iPhone or Smoking, choose iPhone. It's cheaper, cooler and takes longer to cause cancer.
        • by Firehed ( 942385 )
          I'll give you the first two, but the third remains to be seen. Smoking has been on the market for a lot longer.

          *takes iPhone out of pocket and places on desk*
        • Eh, I'll take the cigarettes and keep on using my Windoze phone (hey, WM5 and WM6 are Microsoft's only good products).

          Mmm...Djarum cigarette in my mouth, HTC phone in my hand. Yummy.
      • Anybody using other phones in the UK have paid (in a compulsory fashion mind you) the BBC license fee.

        The BBC can't you say "we will support the cool phone, the rest be damned", specially when this phone is not even the market leader!

        Somebody in the BBC needs to be called to task. The role of the BBC should be to ensure *all* license payers can access their services, this is best achieved by using open standards.

        The BBC playing to the fiddle of MS, Apple or any other company in detriment of the people that
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 )
      If you are happy with the E65, then you probably aren't in the market for an iPhone. Tiny screen, standard phone keypad - it's more of a standard phone than the iPhone. For web browsing, watching movies/music, or typing emails, it's not as useful. On the other hand, it's probably a better telephone.

      For the record, I'm more in the E65 demographic. The iPhone doesn't really get my juices flowing - but I can see the appeal.
      • Re:Nokia E65 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rrkap ( 634128 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @05:18PM (#22732832) Homepage
        I didn't think I was in the iPhone's demographic until my wife got one. The good web browsing experience (which requires the big screen) as well as the nicely integrated e-mail and visual voice mail are on the verge of getting me to convert from my venerable razor in exactly the way her previous smartphone (a HTC Hermes for what it's worth) wasn't.
        • Yeah, my Mom has one and I had a lot of fun playing with it - but I really don't surf the web much from my phone. I work from a laptop, so I mostly have that with me. Then add the high cost of the phone and the considerably higher cost of the $20 AT&T data plan vs. the $7 T-Mobile data plan... it just ain't gonna happen yet :)
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      the iPhone is a better viewer for movies, by a long shot.
    • Probably because the iPhone doesn't shut itself off at random like my and all my co-worker's E65s do.

      Sorry, couldn't resist using this thread as a rant against the E65.
  • by nevali ( 942731 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @04:44PM (#22732456) Homepage
    ...as there are only about 400 Linux users in the UK, this hole won't get abused much.
    • Re:Fortunately... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @05:06PM (#22732714) Homepage
      You know that Windows users can fake a user agent string and download the DRM-less movies too, right?

      I hope that the UK DMCA doesn't apply to me...
    • Re:Fortunately... (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @05:55PM (#22733174) Journal
      It's actually easier to 'exploit' on the Mac. Just go to Safari's debug menu (Developer if you are using the 3.1 betas), set the user agent to 'Mobile Safari 1.0' and you get the iPhone version of the site. Then you can just right click on the videos and select save. Another nice benefit is that the H.264 version uses about 25% of the CPU of the flash version so you won't have fan noise in the background when you're watching videos on a laptop.
  • Flash sucks. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lancejjj ( 924211 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @05:07PM (#22732730) Homepage
    I understand why Apple doesn't support Flash on the iPhone: Because Flash sucks. And I say that even knowing that you love it.

    Yeah, it is a great software platform for your Webkinz and your ability to deliver those super-fancy web advertisements that everyone likes. It's also a cool platform for those awesome games, like the one where if you shoot a duck you'll be a winner of a fabulous prize. And the one where you have to choose the right urinal.

    For me, believe it or not, I'm not into lousy web games. I don't like three (or more) animated ads on a web page. And I don't like my CPU chugging at 100% just because a crap web site wants to deliver a singing, dancing Flash-based ad to me.

    So Apple: Good for you. I agree - Flash is merely a battery killer; a misused web technology that is much more often used for junk than for quality content. On a small-screen platform it would be unbearable. Adobe needs to address these issues before Flash gets ported to the iPhone.

    I turned off Flash long ago - I'm surprised more people haven't done so.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by blhack ( 921171 )
      Flash is great because its standard.

      Nearly every graphics based browser out there can (and does) support flash. This is great because of the huge online video craze going on right now. Do you remember the days of some websites using quicktime, others using real player, some using windows media, some just streaming MPGs etc? Have you ever tried getting mplayer to actually PLAY all of those things in your browser?

      Streaming video (and audio) using flash is great because it just works.
      • Re:Flash sucks. (Score:4, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @06:00PM (#22733214) Journal
        Flash is not a standard, it just has a lot of implementations. H.264, in contrast is a real, documented, standard. Having tried the H.264 and flash versions on the same machine, it's quite obvious why Apple wanted to use it. The H.264 version takes about a quarter as much CPU power to decode. On the iPhone, which has a hardware decoder chip for the format (as do quite a few mobile devices), the difference will be more pronounced.
        • by blhack ( 921171 )

          Flash is not a standard, it just has a lot of implementations.
          Let me clarify:
          Flash is standard. In this case "standard" is being used as an adjective, not a noun. As in "this new dodge viper comes with a stearing wheel; standard"

          As far as CPU goes. Yes, flash requires more CPU than just a raw video stream does. I think that this goes without saying.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ksheff ( 2406 )
            but many sites often require you to have the latest & greatest version of flash to watch their little movies when previous versions would otherwise work just fine. This can pose a problem for some users when Adobe doesn't bring out new versions of flash for all platforms at the same time. Another thing I don't like about flash is that when you have multiple web pages open in multiple tabs, the stupid flash ads on each page are still running even though they aren't being viewed. I'm not sure if there
            • by blhack ( 921171 )
              Here [mozdev.org] you go.

              This doesn't prompt you (that would be annoying) but prevents any flash from playing until you click an icon to enable it.

              #1 best FF extension out there in my opinion.
      • by croddy ( 659025 ) *
        A standard video format is one for which there exists a specification, that one might implement a player or encoder. The Flash license specifically forbids the development of players. At best it is what we call "a de facto standard".
      • by guruevi ( 827432 )
        Flash is as much standard for web as the DOC format is standard for documents. It's not, it's a closed source, memory and resource-hogging, monopolistic format attempted to control the market.

        The 'huge online video craze' could be done without Flash and is being done for the iPhone and other dedicated or portable players. Why? Flash is a resource hog. My G4 1,2GHz is using between 20% and 75% of the CPU with some intensive flash. In the mean time we now have open, standard and compatible formats and contain
    • Re:Flash sucks. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Maxwell ( 13985 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @05:53PM (#22733156) Homepage
      I removed flash from my PC and laptop *after* getting an iPhone. I didn't realzie how annoying flash is until I got a taste of life without it...
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )
      If all advertisers had to use was the <blink&;gt tag, they'd use the blink tag. In short, the only way you'd make dynamic ads go away was if there was no way to deliver animations or sound to the browser. And you'd probably have to disable any other scripting like javascript too, so that you're back to the web being a dead-tree look-a-like of static pages. And disable animated .gifs so they can't be used for dynamic banner ads. In fact, I'd probably recommend Lynx but you might still run into google'
    • Flash is a great platform; parent is wrong (as are most respondents so far)

      ---Flash Video

      Flash Video is a wrapper, not a codec. H.264 is in many ways superior to H.263 (Flash7+) or VP6 (Flash8+) However, Flash Player 9+ natively supports H.264, so whether H.264 is the right codec isn't really the issue here; you can certainly only distribute H.264 if you like.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FLV [wikipedia.org]

      Flash Video is highly standard; in addition to Flash itself, a significant number of other players can play it.

      --- F
  • The link in TFA was dead, so here's the Google Cache
    cache:www.triffid.org/blog/2008/03/download-drm-free-video-from-bbc.html []
    FYI - It seems like the bookmarklet isn't complete in the cache

    Unfortunately, I get "Sorry, this programme is only available to download in the UK (why?)"
  • How to do this (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cal Paterson ( 881180 ) * on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @05:35PM (#22733012)
    1. Get Iceweasel/Firefox and the extensions User Agent Switcher and Firebug
    2. Use UAS to switch your browser's http user agent string to "Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 Mobile/1A543a Safari/419.3" (you'll have to add this as a new option through the menus)
    3. Go to the BBC video web page; here's an example [bbc.co.uk]
    4. Open the firebug tab; Tools > Firebug > Open Firebug
    5. Use the search bar to search the HTML tab for video/mp4
    6. You should find a tag like "object width="512" height="288" type="video/mp4" Expand it.
    7. Copy the http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/3/auth/iplayer_streaming_http_mp4/* [bbc.co.uk] URL to the clipboard
    8. Use wget to fetch it, using the command "wget --user-agent="Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 Mobile/1A543a Safari/419.3 http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/3/auth/iplayer_streaming_http_mp4/* [bbc.co.uk]"
    9. ???
    10. Profit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
      How to do this on OS X / Safari:
      1. Go to Debug menu and set the user agent to 'Mobile Safari 1.0.'
      2. Go to the BBC site and select a video.
      3. Right click and say 'Save as source...'
    • Or you can copy/paste the URL into firefox and go Control-S, but you don't need linux for that...
    • But will this get me around the whole "You may only access this content in Great Britain?" That's my biggest beef: the BBC doesn't allow anyone to access their content when they're out of the country. This applies not only to people who are not British residents, but also to those who are and happen to be out of the country for a brief time.

      Even for people who aren't British residents, I wish that people could subscribe (yes, for a fee) to the BBC and access their domestic content. I hate only being able
      • "You may only access this content in Great Britain?"
        Technically, you need only be in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, I suspect the Republic of Ireland can access the BBC also.
  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @05:37PM (#22733020) Journal

    Seriously, was there no other source for this news than one which has the headline:

    Steve Jobs rescues freetards from BBC iPlayer wilderness (for now)
  • Konqueror (Score:2, Informative)

    by Teppic_52 ( 982950 )
    It's actually easier to do in konq than firefox, put the user agent string in ~/.kde/share/config/kio_httprc against bbc.co.uk and it asks you what to do with the file when you click play.
    I'm off to download a weeks worth of In The Night Garden....
  • Unacceptable. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xest ( 935314 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @06:11PM (#22733310)
    As a UK TV license payer I find it entirely unacceptable that the BBC is using our money to further Apple's profits over other companies by releasing only for their mobile handset. We do not pay the BBC to further Apple and Microsoft's profits, whilst I applaud their attempts at getting the content accessible for Linux users it's a half-assed measure at best.

    Whilst the iPhone is popular in the US, it's not that popular here in the UK and as such there is not even the excuse that it's got a large majority of the market segment.

    The BBC seems too easily influenced by large corporations and frankly, something needs to be done about it because they are accountable to us - the British citizens that pay the license equally and as such we should be treated equally in how we can access our content. If this is not to be the case, we should have the choice of using our TVs but not watching the BBC and hence opt out of the TV license.
    • Re:Unacceptable. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by satellite17 ( 816105 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:41PM (#22734592) Homepage
      I can understand your point of view, but I have to say that as a licence payer who also owns an iPod touch I'm pretty happy about this. I suspect that this is an experiment in how to deliver high quality video to mobile devices and it won't be long before the service is opened up to other MPEG4 enabled devices.

      Your point about the licence fee and different ways of accessing content is correct, we should be treated equally, regardless of OS / Browser / Device. Having said that I'm happy to cut the BBC a little slack in this. It's only been in the last couple of years that non techies have been able to access this kind of media on anything other than a TV and at least the BBC have recognised that internet distribution is the future (unlike the majority of the media industry who still seem to have their heads buried in the sand).

      iPlayer is far from perfect but it's a step in the right direction and as my father is fond of saying "Rome wasn't built in a day". If we get to 2009 the only supported platforms are owned by MS and Apple then I'll give you a shout and we can storm Television Centre and start the revolution ourselves.
      • ...then I'll give you a shout and we can storm Television Centre and start the revolution ourselves.

        Assuming they haven't sold it by then.

    • by aslate ( 675607 )
      Okay, i haven't tried this in a Linux distro but...

      There's been a Flash in-browser streaming version available for months (Basically since the official release after the beta). The downloadable versions don't work as they are WMV DRMd, but the flash version is multiplatform with no DRM!

      The only story here is that the iPhone version, released last week, is the same as the flash version. All the BBC are doing is re-encoding the videos to WMV DRM, Flash and H.264, the latter two available as streaming versions
    • You do realise that you don't need a license to use the iPlayer service, don't you? I mean, I get your point (the BBC is supposed to be impartial, damnit, not that you'd realise it when they report Apple's latest iPod model update as news), but the license fee is one thing that isn't relevant here.
  • by mrthoughtful ( 466814 ) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @09:08AM (#22738030) Journal
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7293988.stm [bbc.co.uk]
    So, according to bbc news, they have stopped it working.
    It works fine still on the iPod..

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.