Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/21/comments/

SP1 drops, iPlayer falls over and Phorm is less than legal

And bees as far as the eye can see

By Robin Lettice

Posted in Bootnotes, 21st March 2008 16:02 GMT

Comments On Friday the BBC's iPlayer went down because of a back-end database failure. It has since come back online, but the Beeb nevertheless earned your scorn:

The irony is that while they are doing all they can to stop the likes of me from using an illicit method to get the programmes, if they produced a Linux version, with the 30 day restriction built in, I would start using it immediately. I don't really want to keep the programmes after watching them once.

Anonymous Coward

Once upon a time the BBC produced a survey to collect views about the proposed iPlayer. The result was overwhelming support for platform independant download.

The BBC chose to ignore the results of their own survey, and launched a DRM crippled MS only service.

After a huge backlash, they then grudgingly offered poor quality streaming, which nobody wanted in the first place. The BBC only have themselves to blame.

Time for a relaunch - iPlayer2.0


Encoded in H264

Downloadable files using BitTorrent


It's already happening unofficialy, it won't go away, time for the BBC to give in and provde the service everybody asked for in the first place. there was plenty of time after the survey to arrange for DRM free content, after all broadcasting using a transmitter is not very different from providing the same program over cable or the internet.

Anonymous Coward

How much do those fools spend on overly expensive and not very good equipment?

Was there anything about their various incarnations of their weather presentation IP on The Register?

It all started in the 1970's when an apparent need was first observed. This was in the days before overhead cameras evidently:


The BBC's problem in the old days was that they felt the need to present technical stuff. And of course with progress, that meant lots of studio acreage:


Something had to give.

So what was the answer? Behold, the green-screen:


You can see the problem straight away, yes, it is an ideal format for presenting technical stuff but do away with the meteorology aspect and there is room for larger maps so people can see where they live.

Free mugs for anyone who spotted the NZ in the above links. Here is an expensive alternative to weather presentation:


If you pay careful attention you can see a female presenter wondering where all the petty cash went.

And then pointing to New Zealand. The piss taking kiwi bastards!

I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

"The BBC chose to ignore the results of their own survey, and launched a DRM crippled MS only service."

The BBC didn't do any survey - the regulator, the BBC Trust did. Sadly the BBC Trust didn't ask the right question, which is what they'd rather have - DRM and the current licence fee or no DRM and the licence fee increased to £800 - £900 per year so the BBC can acquire the extra rights, because that's how much it would cost.

I suspect that, using this slightly more realistic question, the BBC Trust would have gotten a very clear answer that the general public are quite happy with the iPlayer's DRM over the alternative, thanks.

Anonymous Coward

There's no need whatsoever for the BBC to create this service.

About all the BBC can do is code up and release all their copyrighted work (a la Pathe News) and charge rent for those works the BBC holds but other part-owners don't want released without DRM.

The BBC has the requirement to release what they can because copyright is an exchange of rights with the public. Eventually, the copyright expires and the sea of works available to enrich society and be a base for new works to delight us is increased. And if the BBC don't want to make money from it any more, why not release it from copyright so our society is enriched and the BBC don't have to pay to keep it available until copyright eventually does expire (remember that in the UK we aren't supposed to keep copies, so only those purchased and still readable copies are available to us, and we aren't allowed to format shift to a newer more durable form [or even just to the same form but newer]).


BT has admitted secretly using customer info to test Phorm's advertising tech, and of providing a misleading response after a stink was raised over questionable redirects.

Seems extremely unlikely that only one exchange of the five thousand or so broadband-enabled exchanges was involved *in any way* the trial, because to do so would require shall we say "unusual" changes to the way BT's broadband systems work.

BT Retail's broadband service is based on BTwholesale's BT CentralPlus product which afaik only BT Retail uses, so other ISPs customers needn't be too concerned yet, apart perhaps from Plusnet customers who have chosen to use BT -based Plusnet's RIN option (and they've been offered a free ticket back to the classic Plusnet network).

Maybe the full data gathering and analysis process was only applied to punters on one exchange? Aiui BT CentralPlus can use the phone number for authentication, rather than the usual username/password stuff, so maybe that was used as a selection criteria... presumably phone numbers aren't classed as personally identifiable in this picture (maybe they lose the last few digits at some stage of the process, that would be perfectly OK, right????)

Phorm still sucks bigtime and it's nice to see BT have been caught out bigtime.

Anonymous Coward

At what point is a technology not going to be used to make a profit at the expense of those who require that technology?

The internet is meant to be a global network of computers that allows everyone to connect to everyone (within reason, of course). At what point does the very fact that you are connected mean you automatically have to be a source of revenue for your broadband provider? They already get our money each month. If that's not enough, they shouldn't sell access at that price. If they want more money, they most certainly should not be simply taking our data and pimping it to anyone who'll pay for it.

I look forward to the day when the internet is "just there" - ubiquitous, and left alone to help people, not stiff them for every penny they can get.

Chris Haynes

Looks like the ISP's are taking some notice, especially about opt out. I got a nice reply last week from BT's MD and the "Director of Value Added Services" who assure me they are reviewing this all the time.

I did put to them the point that has been made on El Reg several times:

If this 'Service' is so compelling then advertise it and allow users to subscribe, only those who subscribe get routed through the profilers and everyone else just gets on with their surfing.

Not had a reply to that one yet, still watching and waiting to see if I need to cancel my new contract with BT

Andy ORourke

Opt-out cookies are a sham anyway. Sure it would be trivial for the cookie to be read by the ad server and for it then not to serve ads or, more likely, not targeted ones.

In order for the cookie to be read when the information is gathered something is going to have to be sitting in the middle of all connections, editing the HTML to query the cookie then deciding whether to profile the page. Unless, of course, the ISP and Phorm think it would just be easier to profile everything then sort it out later. Forgive me for not believing that "opting-out" will stop Phorm from seeing my data and IP address.

Nine more days until my new IDNet broadband goes in. Virgin, I'm going to miss you like a hole in the head.

Paul Stimpson

Phorm just can't catch a break these days. The Foundation for Information Policy Research has advised the government that the company's ad-targetting system is illegal. The problem, they say, is that the consent of the people hosting visited websites is needed in addition to that of the users.

In the long run I think this whole situation will have been less harmful to the ISP's in question to give them a chance to back down a bit rather than if they had gone blindly ahead and suffered the lawsuits after the fact - but I doubt they will see it that way somehow.

Anonymous Coward

Have I missed something?

Where is the home office advice that this is OK?

Who wrote that?

Can they be placed in the stocks and pelted with rotten veg?

What's in a name? [That's a name, not a further question]

I think the Home Office advice was quite clever.

While one suspects that the author was under a certain amount of pressure to come up wit the 'right' answer - one that would not leave BT wide open after last year's covert illegal trials of the Phorm technology - he has listed all the reasons why Phorm might be illegal, and the exact parts of RIPA that they fall under, effectively channelling Phorm into the one path of possible legality which requires the 'implied consent' of visited websites.

And then briefly suggests that this may be the case, and closes.

But as Professor Peter Sommer points out, and as the raft of 'denial of RIPA consent' headings on Phorm-aware websites is now making explicitly clear, such consent cannot be presumed.

So whither now, for Phorm?


Got my first "Phorm" call today on the BT helldesk.

There hasn't been any word from above on it yet (there has on every, single, little thing else, like wi-fi's safe, don't mention "watchdog" etc.), so asked for our stance.

The product specailist just shrugged as did the manager, and his manager, who serious aksed why someone was asking about "Porn".

It's the blind leading the inept- if we get a stirring from Upstairs on this, I'll be surprised.

Everything we've heard about this is off El Reg.


Microsoft has missed its mid-March deadline for a manual download of Vista Service Pack 1 for most of its customers. The software giant did squeeze it out eventually, but it has a tendency to break a number of security products.

I was in a branch of a well known high-street retailer @ the weekend and I'm sure I saw a "computer mag" (can't remember which one) with a "Vista SP1" CD as part of its packaging.


The "Vista SP1" CD you saw in the mag is actually PC Pro magazine - when you look closely at it you dont actually get the CD/DVD - what you get is a postcard that you fill in your details and mail to MS - when SP1 is released publicly to all, within a few weeks you should then recieve it on disk - no charge for any of it :)

James Townsend

The reason it is so large on disk (according to Microsoft sources) is that they decided to roll up all the different language versions and other variations into a single image, instead of making different images for different systems. If downloading the updates required for a single system, no system requires more than 100MB to be updated (according to Microsoft sources).

I say good idea to stop having a myriad of different version to confuse, but I would hate to be someone who has to download that giant stand-alone installation image.

Anonymous Coward

Bitter experience of MS's previous Service Packs means I will be quietly sitting back and watching the forums etc. for news of which apps/drivers/hardware get broken by this pack. In about 6 months I will start to consider the option but not before and I will still continue to dual boot with XP. Take your time MS.

Graham Lockley

Working for a volume customer does have its perks - I've had SP1 at home for a month and a bit now. It fixes a LOT of bugs with Vista, including the long, drawnout file copying issue.

Michael Greenhill

It's all very worrying isn't it when a project starts/continues to miss its deadlines and milestones slip by with nothing to show. When that happens it punches holes in your confidence that the people running the project know what they're doing and how they're going to do it. In fact, it suggests to me that the developers on this project have little confidence in the product themselves and are now likely to rush things in order to achieve delivery.

In a way this is a good thing from a consumer perspective because if you see problems at this stage then it saves you the effort of making the purchase and going through the stresses and strains afterwards. Kind of like going to an electrical store and looking at a rather shonky toaster, you can immediately see that there were problems designing and manufacturing the thing and steer well clear.

Note specifically that I wanted to keep away from bashing Microsoft, the above comment should apply to most projects where you as the consumer have the choice not to buy the end result.

Robert Harrison

Cheerful hackers found a way to snag high-quality, DRM-free files from the BBC's iPhone streaming service for their computers, but Auntie has already shut it down. Party's over, fellas.

They put all the episodes up on day one, and they could be downloaded simply by making your own page of links and incrementing one number per link.

Ah yes, great security.

For me this removed the worry of missing an episode, since I was due to be away for one week of the show. Didn't stop me buying the CD version the day it came out though.

carey pridgeon

"The BBC played the beta card yesterday, telling it was aware of the hack, that it was "nothing unusual", and it was already working to block it. The contracts with third party production companies that allow the national broadcaster to offer downloads insist that DRM that locks the files down after 30 days is part of the package."

Doesn't the H264 stream service already break these contracts in any case - how do they expect to control what happens? A stream is just a download which isn't stored. Let alone a stream in a standard format which only needs to be saved and can then be easily played back without needing to re-encode or modify the container format.

People are only interested in hacking around because this is the kind of service they want, not that horrible kontiki rubbish. The flash streams look terrible plus adobe has awful support for anything other than macOS or windows.

If they need to have DRM (I'm a realist - these things may be necessary temporarily) then they should be helping to define an open system which would allow desktop and mobile (and set-top) clients to be written.

This proprietary crap is never going to support everything - people only work on it if they get paid, they only get paid if there's a demand, there's only enough demand to justify development if the device is vastly popular. Unfortunately, lots of software seems to cost more to develop than it's notionally worth by orders of magnitude. See how much freeware/open source there is around which could never generate enough income for the primary developers to support themselves doing only that. Even open source has to fall back on support contracts and integration work to make the ends meet.

If the BBC want to see their content available to the public (as they are supposed to) then they should be working on an open spec for 3rd party apps to interface with - Google understands this, hence the recent release of the YouTube APIs.

Anonymous Coward

Why fix what wasn't broken? They had DRM, it was restricted to UK only IP addresses, that was the only DRM needed and it worked fine. It's the *extra* *crappy* *Microsoft* DRM that causes all the problems. It has never worked anyway, and just makes it difficult to play on all sorts of non Microsoft devices. Largely because Microsoft refuses to disclose how it works doing it's usual attempt at platform lockin.

Sure UK Linux users could play the files, but then UK Linux users also pay the TV license. So what's the problem with that?

Look at it this way, they delivered it in a standard format, Linux users put together a player within a few days. So set top boxes, and UK Tivos and games consoles and networked video players would all be able to play that content, and just like the Linux guys could add support very very quickly.

This is exactly what the BBC wants!

The IP address restriction is all the DRM they need. It restricts the digital rights to the UK IP addresses without restricting it to Microsoft computers only, which is exactly what is required.

Ditch the *Microsoft* DRM, keep the IP address verification DRM.

Anonymous Coward

Meanwhile the buzz in California is that a bumbling truck driver has stung locals by spilling 440 colonies' worth of bees across Highway 99. The bee-zarre incident saw apiarists and Romanians sorting through the mega-swarm before the colonies could be once more on their way. The Reg hive mind sprang into action, creating a honeypot of puns:

not buzz-iness as usual then...

mines the yellow and black one :D

Anonymous Coward

Well done on that headline, it'll create quite a buzz I'm sure. The Reg editorial office is clearly a hive of activity today.

IGM heavy canvas & mesh coat, hat, veil, gloves and smoke machine.


Sorry, too late in the day to come up with a real stinging comment.

Mine's the one with the gauze helmet..


I am reminded of returning home late one night to find that a truck loaded with sheep had overturned on the M61/A580 junction in Manchester. While feeling very sorry for the poor sheep, the sight of some 30 + policemen - some wearing wellies - chasing terrified sheep all over the motorway and surrounding fields was priceless.

Where is the videocam when you need it.


reminds me of when a sales girl phoned saying she'll be late because she was stuck behind a lorry load of blood which had popped on the m6

when she did arrive everybody popped down to take a look at the car, it looked like an extra from death race, theres only so much squirty wipers can manage

not sure if it was black pudding related or not

Anonymous Coward

Bloody traffic jams... ®