* Posts by Matt

15 posts • joined 12 Jul 2007

What's going to power Small, Cheap Computers?

Dead Vulture

@Anonymous "Hero"

Bear in mind that most people think of Windows XP being any good is because their other points of reference are Windows 95/NT (or God forbid, Windows 3.1), which is a bit like saying herpes is good because it is a vast improvement over having syphilis.

I use Windows XP on my work laptop, which when docked is useable(-ish) at 1280 x 1024 resolution on a 21" screen. Undocked, in widescreen 1280 x 800, is just a lesson in frustration (and it's not just the number of pixels, but the physical size of the screen).

If you think that the UI experience of Windows XP will scale pleasantly to a 9" screen (or less), then you are smoking crack.

... and if you are'nt going for the Windows XP UI experience, why on earth should the operating system underneath matter at all?

... unless you are a manufacturer trying to integrate and optimise said operating system onto your hardware for maximum battery life and performance, at which point it really is much more convenient to have the source code*.

The above is presumably why the Intel MID platforms (running on Atom) have so far had wierd and wonderful UIs, with linux underneath.

* Bear in mind these will be price conscious devices: having access to (and the ability to change) the source code of the software the system you are designing means you can optimise it to run on your hardware... and then you can optimise that for performance, power consumption and cost. This is the opposite of what happens on the desktop- where hardware is designed in order to have the resources to run a "one size fits all" OS that is largely ignorant of the specific hardware features it is running on.

Dead Vulture: because that's what Windows XP experience will be like if it ever gets compared to a UI and OS actually designed for these form factors...

Becta asks EC to probe Microsoft school deals

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@Don Mitchell - Profits before children

Give useful software to kids or promote our profit margin ideology? I guess we know where Don Mitchell stands.

Seriously: Microsoft produce no software, in the education sphere, that could not be easily replaced by other competing products, except (and here's the rub) the operating system, and only there because of the legacy of educational software produced by specialist developers for the uk curriculum. and there they can't even compete fairly within themselves, since hardly any of it runs on vista.

So Don: MS are trying hard to move the uk educational sector to buy expensive software to run on a platform it can't use. Or we could save a bit of money, for useful educational spend, and find some alternatives that do the job just as well (even if the alternative is to just keep what we've already got).

Oh... and your fallacious strawman statement has reduced my respect for you (no, really).

@It's the cost of an M$ OS that's the real killer for education...

I don't know if Edubuntu meets your needs (and I know very little about it other than it exists), but it might be worth a look.

Thumbs down because Don Mitchell has no clue.

Beeb iPlayer gets Firefox-friendly

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@Paul Fleetwood

"Quite why illegally leaching shows off the internet is better than being able to watch them legally is beyond me."

Because I do not have a computer that runs Windows XP SP2 32 bit (I trust you've seen the comment from the poor soul inflicted with 64bit XP)-- my computing requirements dictate the specifications for the OS that I use on my computer (and Windows XP SP2 32bit does not meet those requirements).

Had the BBC chosen to go the standards based route then at least they would have to only worry about the server software and hardware, and trust that there will be good client applications for the viewers, regardless of the platform they run on... and they need not have wasted all this money on the iplayer client application.

My current choices are: buy another computer just to use iplayer, go the illegal route, or just not watch the programs (in practice I seem to have taken the last choice).

MP accuses BBC chief of illegally championing Microsoft

IT Angle

@Jeremy: "It isn't about pandering to MS..."

... Windows XP might currently be the largest installed base of desktop computers, but it is currently coming to its end of life. Microsoft are trying very hard to get people to use Vista instead (despite a large amount of unpopularity), and Vista itself currently has a tiny fraction of market share.

So the only supported OSes are:

* XP 32 bit with SP2 which is end of life

* Vista 32 bit, which currently has nearly no market share, and it is not clear that it eventually will have the largest market share for this purpose (I would expect largest market share would be for set top boxes / DVRs-- which pretty well all run some derivative of Linux or BSD)

One suspects that a standards based approach would have been more cost effective and future proof for the BBC, even if they have to push some of the standards themselves (e.g. MP4 supports DRM, if not right now in the exact way the BBC required).

PS @James Bryant "Why?": Your analogy is erroneous. Should I choose to get broadband, I can get it from several suppliers and choose the best one for my purpose. If I want to use iPlayer my choice is limited to MS.

BBC Trust to hear open sourcers' iPlayer gripes



I dunno if anyone is still reading this, but...

Craig wrote: "A J Stiles Wrote: To the best of my knowledge, anybody can purchase the necessary parts and schematics to build a digital TV receiver.

This is why its pointless making logical arguments against some people.

Honestly! Who in actual fact is going to do that?"

It's not so much that people can build their own aerials/receivers, its the fact that they are permitted to either do it themselves or engage someone to do it for them (i.e. an aerial contractor). This is the analogy of the BBC using a standard open format.

With the BBC using the closed format they currently have a solution, not only is the source code closed (i.e. not available to anyone to modify), but the format itself is closed and I understand their are laws against reverse engineering the format and the encryption. This is analogically (real word?) the same as saying that you are not even permitted to try and get an aerial built to receive the signal.


Re: 92% do not use Windows *XP*

(Incidentally, for anyone under the suspicion that there is someone with a split personality disorder posting, here there are actually two seperate "Matt"s.)

... all of which does not change the fact that if the BBC had gone with a Standards based approach they could provide feeds that pretty well everyone could use; and not be tied to clients using only Window XP SP2 & Internet Explorer.

The BBC should not be in the business of either specifying, promoting or supporting a particular client side technology. They should be in the business of providing support for a single standards based format-- if the available formats do not meet their needs then they should be considering the development of such formats (and not picking a closed of the shelf solution that locks everyone into a particular client platform. Particularly an obsolete one).


Re :Errm

" "For new shows they could be careful to retain the rights to geographically limited (by IP address) distribution over the Internet. This would require no DRM at all."

and what stops someone torrenting it to be downloaded by people outside this geographic region?"

Absolutely nothing. But then that does not change the current situation at all. I can already download via torrent pretty well all the BBC shows at the moment anyway, free of DRM.


Re: Microsoft paying BBC? BBC paying Microsoft?

What, you think that MS is giving their DRM encryption/encoding software to the BBC for free? Or is the BBC pirating it?


Re: Money again

"Fair enough, but you can't have unlimited perpetual access to the shows available on it as the licence fee can *never* cover the cost!"

That really depends on who owns the rights and on what terms they license them. The BBC for instance does actually still produce a lot of shows itself, sometimes in partnership with other Public Service Broadcasters (today I learnt that Dr Who is produced in partnership with CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation another public funded, public service broadcaster).

For new shows they could be careful to retain the rights to geographically limited (by IP address) distribution over the Internet. This would require no DRM at all. Then there is presumably a whole bunch of out of copyright stuff they could distribute...

The reason why we don't bang on about Sky and C4 is that

a. Sky is a subscription service-- you have to pay to use it, and you also have the option of not paying to not use it (unlike the BBC-- I can't just get Sky without the BBC License fee for instance)

b. C4 is paid for by advertising or subscription. Again I have the option to not pay or not watch the adverts.

The BBC is Our Public Service broadcaster. It does a fantastic job, but it should be held to higher standards, and it should remember that it is a service for the citizens of the UK, not a corporation seeking to maximise it's profits.

Another thing I learnt today: 95% of BBC funding still comes from the license fee, only 5% from licensing of its output to other broadcasters...


RE: At Fraiser

" @Matt "DRM systems will run perfectly well on any operating system, and there are DRM supporting video player systems available that are multi-platform."

No there aren't. There aren't any available DRM systems on other operating systems that support timed expiry of files, which is what the BBC needs since it can only afford to buy 7 days worth of rights. "

So what's this expiry date property in the MP4 files that shows up in the media player in my phone? It's also got a 'number of plays' permitted property as well...

Oh hang on, and whats this trivial Google search turned up?


Seems to bang on about time based rights quite a lot. Oh and Qt and Qtopia are pretty well cross platform... (I mean Qtopia doesn't run on my router, and I think it is pretty hard to install on my phone, but beyond that pretty well everything seems to be covered).

I think someone has been drinking the Microsoft Marketting KoolAid a little too long...



Following up my own thoughts-- another problem with going the Windows only route is that it is likely that the whole BBC infrastructure for providing the DRM'd files will have to be updated when the next version of Windows or Windows media player comes out, since that will no longer support the old DRM formats (especially since these will have long been cracked).

Doing it properly with an openly defined standard (even if that standard caters for secrets such as the encryption keys for DRM) means that you only have to build the infrastructure once, and not continue paying MS for new encoders when ever they update their operating system...

It should not ever be about the BBC supporting more than one system of video/DRM, it's justs that the one system they support should be widely available for implementation on any OS.

Oh... and Don Mitchell: you pretty funny guy, RATFLMAO!!



... but the point is, there are a large fraction of people who do not use Windows... and there is no reason to make Windows a requirement. DRM systems will run perfectly well on any operating system, and there are DRM supporting video player systems available that are multi-platform.

There is no technical reason for following the Windows only route (my phone for instance is running Symbian/Nokia S60 and has a DRM'd media player that works perfectly well). I would be surprised if there is a compelling financial reason for following the Windows only route...

This smells like a middle or upper management decision imposed on the technical people to me: nobody has actually been told to find the best solution for the problem, they have been told to implement it on Windows and Internet Explorer, because that's what the PHB has got on his desk and at home.

Regardless-- I still think using DRM at all for this is a waste of license fees.


Various replies...


"Problem is everyone is assuming it's their god given right to get this service, but legally internet TV is not broadcast TV in the UK. The BBC are not required to provide this service at all, let alone for any particular platform. The licence fee pays for it, but then it pays for the cleaners at the BBC but that doesn't give me the right to have the BBC cleaners clean my house!"

To twist your analogy to it's logical end: I have no problem with the license fee paying for the cleaners at the BBC... it's when the license fee is being used to pay for the cleaners at YOUR house (and a lot of other peoples houses) but not at my house (in fact to take the analogy to where the situation actually is: your house is being cleaned and it is not even permitted for my house to have cleaners at all, even if I pay for them). The BBC should not be wasting their money on this-- if the only way to do it is with Internet Explorer/Windows/Windows Media DRM, then it should not be done at all. The money wasted should instead be spent on good programming available to all and/or archiving this material to proper open formats so that when the copyrights expire it will be permanently available to all (and not locked into some proprietary format that we will not be able to open in 20 years time).


"Umm, If I know the pixel values by modifying an open source DRM sdk, what's to prevent me from saving to file. There is no way to do DRM and Open Source. If I have the code, I can do what I want with it unless you are distributing parts of it as compiled libs."

The above works for proprietary systems as well, although a DRM sdk is not needed-- all you need is to be able to snoop the pixel values. The DRM is going to be broken whatever OS it is running on. I would rather the BBC was not wasting its money on stupid systems that don't work (e.g. the DRM), and either post it DRM free, or not provide it all and spend the money that would be spent on some worthwhile programming.


Re: The real problem here...

"... is that DRM is NEEDED"

I I agree that's a real problem. The BBC should stop wasting our money (both in

Lawyers fees and in fees to MS for the DRM software) on trying to make available

via iPlayer things it does not have full rights to, and just put things it does have the full rights to (or for which copyright has expired, e.g. anything more than 75 yars old) on t'internet, with no DRM, in a openly defined standard format. That way everyone will be able to get access regardless of their OS choice, without anyone, including the BBC having to pony up a load of cash

Note there are so called "Open Source" DRM systems available, which will run on any operating system (there's one from Sun I believe), and there's always Flex/LM from MacroVision which runs on absolutely everything.

Actually the real problem is that the BBC has forgotten it's prime mission is as a public service broadcaster to all citizens of the UK, and seems to think it is a coomercial entity hch should turn a profit. Oh and someone must have taken a massive back-hander to saddle us with a restrictive, closed, expensive solution.


Re: As a Win, Mac, Linux, Solaris and AIX user...

Frazer, you dolt: at least the people who have bad reception are not prevented by the BBC from actually putting up an aerial on their cliff or hilltop.

The problem is not that the BBC are saying they will only support and provide software for Windows and Internet Explorer users, but that they are saying that no-one else is permitted to even attempt to "put up their own aerial" (or write their own software, or engage someone to write it for them), despite the fact they must still contribute to the licensing costs to MS for the software they cannot use.

If the BBC insist on make this service so that the only people permitted to access it are Windows/Internet Explorer users, then in my opinion it should not be funded by the license fee, but should be funded by pay to use.


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