BBC iPlayer Available on the Nintendo Wii

Gaming, Technology, The Interwebs, TV & Film No Comments »

In more news regarding the BBC iPlayer and following on from last months post about the service launching on both the iPhone and iTouch, iPlayer Launched on iPhone and iPod Touch, it seems the service has stepped up a gear and is now available on the Nintendo Wii.

Having struck deals with Apple to be the first mobile platforms to support the service, it seems the BBC is now pushing the service into living rooms of the public through the Nintendo Wii.

It has been rumoured that both Sony and Microsoft were eager to sign the iPlayer for their respective PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, but the deal feel through due to increasing demands of the games console manufacturers.

“If you want to get [iPlayer] on the PlayStation or Xbox, they want control of the look, the feel and the experience; they want it done within their shop, and their shop only.” - head of BBC Future Media and Technology Erik Huggers

Darren Waters, BBC technology editor said “The BBC’s announcement of a deal with Nintendo to put the iPlayer’s streaming service on the console makes something of a mockery of claims by Sony and Microsoft that their consoles are the true multimedia machines.”

With Xbox live having no browser it seems Microsoft are unwilling to work with the BBC without retaining control over the look and feel of content delivery, however with the ‘open platform’ of the PS3 it does seem inevitable that the iPlayer will find its way to the PS3 before long.

“[Sony] has said often that PS3 is an ‘open platform’ and all it would take is a small update to let gamers access iPlayer in the web browser.” – Darren Waters, BBC technology editor

With the majority of iPlayer customers currently accessing BBC content through a PC, the publicly funded broadcaster is taking steps to make its services available directly to the big screen television set, and it sees the Japanese games console as a means of doing so.

Currently users can view content downloaded from the iPlayer through their television sets, although it requires using the S-video output on most notebooks and a suitable S-Video to Scart cable. For LCD or plasma screen screens this could be replaced by a higher quality VGA input/ output.

The advantage of this latest deal for the iPlayer is that the Wii consoles are already rigged up to TV set, and therefore programmes can be viewed directly on the console.

Wii players will need to install the Internet Channel which will cost 500 Wii points or £3.50 but there are plans for a free alternative in the future.

The service will remain in beta initially as the BBC experiments with the optimal video encoding techniques for superior playback. The BBC already encodes all 400 hours of weekly iPlayer video, and now must do the same again for the high quality H.264 iPhone streams, and the Wii.

Wii encoding will be of a poorer quality as the Wii only supports Flash 7.This is because of the fact that initially the Wii was only designed to support lower quality Youtube style video.

“Our regular Flash content is encoded at 500Kbps. We chose that bitrate because it’s the highest quality that could be reliably streamed on pretty much any UK broadband internet connection. However, for Wii we had to increase the bitrate to 820Kbps because the Sorenson codec used by Wii simply needs more bits to achieve the same picture quality,” – BBC’s Anthony Rose

ISPs vs BBC iPlayer

Technology, The Interwebs 2 Comments »

After posted about the BBC’s new on demand iPlayer service in January ‘BBC iPlayer Offers Free On Demand TV‘, it seems not everybody is as happy with the service as others.

This week it emerged that Internet Service Providers have suggested that they should not be soley responsible for paying for the extra costs that have been highlighted as a result of the services success.

ISP providers have stated that on demand services such as the iPlayer are putting a strain on cable networks which need to be upgraded in order to cope with the increasing data that legal on demand television content brings with it.

In the first three months that the iPlayer service was live over 42 million programmes were accessed, taking up 3%-5% of the network. According to Ofcom it will cost ISPs around £830 to pay for the extra capacity needed to allow for services such as the iPlayer.

It is at this point that Simon Gunter from ISP Tiscali stated he believes that the BBC should contribute towards this cost.

With iPlayer the first major success in on demand television streaming, and other terrestrial channels all planning similar services in the future, why should the BBC as a pioneer, be responsible for the cost of this upgrade?

For a long time ISPs have had it far to easy selling ‘unlimited’ download packages to customers that in truth are not ‘unlimited’. With the users paying a broadband service fee to access such content and the BBC already paying to distribute the service, it seems now that ISPs are looking for money from the BBC for delivery of content over a connection the user is already paying for, effectively asking to be paid twice over.

The BBC hit back at the suggestions stating that it could effectively blacklist any ISP that attempted to charge it to distribute content.

“Content providers, if they find their content being specifically squeezed, shaped, or capped, could start to indicate on their sites which ISPs their content works best on (and which to avoid).” – Mr Highfield

The potential problem of clogged networks in the UK is not a new concern, for years the infrastructure of the net has been debated with a standstill predicted as early as 2010.

In the past traffic throttling has been used by ISPs to control users eating up bandwidth by downloading large amounts of material often from illegal peer to peer sites, but the legal provision of bandwidth hungry content by the BBC has changed the nature of the problem.

Users now want to use their unlimited connection that they pay for, legally!

ICO to Monitor Second BT Phorm Trial

Technology, The Interwebs No Comments »

Back in March The Shelf posted about Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his opinions on a sophisticated user tracking and ad targeting system. The Phorm system mentioned in that post has since been put increasingly under the spot light after it was divulged BT secretly trialled the software on its users in 2007, a move many believe was in fact illegal.

Backed by three leading internet service providers the system is designed to increase the relevance of online advertising by logging all the websites a particular user visits, a move the Foundation for Information Policy Research said infringed user’s privacy rights.

“Users should have to opt in to such a system, not merely be given an opportunity to opt out. Failure to establish a clear and transparent ‘opt-in’ system is likely to render the entire process illegal and open to challenge in UK and European courts.” – The FIPR

It is thought that by serving adverts based on a users browsing history, more relevant adverts will be served than if the advert was served in relation to webpage content.

A petition on the Downing Street website has now seen over 10,000 people sign it. It is to be delivered to the Prime Minister to review the country’s privacy laws.

On Friday the argument developed further when the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it would monitor a planned BT trial of the service with the FIPR claiming the ICO had simply brushed over doubts of the services legality.

“[Phorm] assure us that their system does not allow the retention of individual profiles of sites visited and adverts presented, and that they hold no personally identifiable information on web users. Indeed, Phorm assert that their system has been designed specifically to allow the appropriate targeting of adverts whilst rigorously protecting the privacy of web users.” – ICO

The FIPR responded by saying “[BT] appear to ignore the fact that they can only legalise their activity by getting express permission not just from their customers, but also from the web hosts whose pages they intercept, and from the third parties who communicate with their customers through web-based email, forums or social-networking sites. We sincerely hope that the Information Commissioner will reconsider what appears to be a green light for lawbreaking.”

Meanwhile an technical analysis of the system by Dr Richard Clayton has reinforced views that the system is in fact illegal.

Getting the Bank Account that is Right for You

Finance 1 Comment »

Recently I discovered first hand how setting up a bank account as a new customer can be fairly tricky and without the proper guidance can often feel quite daunting at times.

I would have always have suggested an account upgrade would have been a preferable option for many, but as I recently found out this is not always possible. Your bank may not be able to give you the account options you are after, or the options you want may require a monthly fee at your existing branch when they could be free with another bank meaning you may have to move banks.

One such example could include persons holding a basic workers account, essentially a first account given to a person often under 18’s. Some of these accounts don’t provide a debit cared which can be used online or on the high street.

It was only this week that as a result of this scenario somebody I knew had to visit a cash point prior to going shopping, at which time the cash point broke leaving the person cardless and cashless. This all happened because they weren’t provided with a debit card on their account, something I would suggest in this digital age is a pretty basic, not to mention essential facility these days.

As in this case I experienced that some people still have these accounts at the age of 21 (although they are essentially children’s account) because there banks have failed to upgrade their account despite good levels of weekly/ monthly earnings being paid into the account on a regular basis.

It is also the case that when you phone up the appropriate people they seen somewhat short and reluctant to fulfil your enquiry as you are not deemed a premier customers. I get the feeling that some banks are reluctant to offer new free accounts. In the words of a personal banker on my last visit to a high street bank “I think we will see an end to free banking in the next two years”.

So where does this leave people who need a bank account in order to be paid, require the facility of a debit card with it to pay for goods and services and don’t have a need for all the extras that are provided with an account with a monthly fee.

It may well be that you have to bite the bullet and move banks to find an account that is right for you, but my feeling is you have to be fairly careful when opening up a new bank account and ensure you new account is opened before the old one shut down else you could end up accountless. For many this would mean no channel through which to receive wages!

There are several big name high street banks such as Barclays and Nationwide that still offer suitable free accounts. I also found this one from HSBC that fits the above criteria.
This bank offer a range of account options and their standard bank account is a current account with free banking, internet banking facility and debit card.

It may be the case that this particular scenario doesn’t echo your problem, in which case further digging is needed I’m afraid. I did however find this additional information on the FSA website for those people in need of some clarification of which type of account is best for them.

Basic bank account
Suitable if you want to make sure you don’t go overdrawn or you might not get through the bank’s credit check to open a current account.

Current account
Suitable if you want more than a basic bank account can offer you.

Savings account
Suitable if you want to set money aside for a purchase or expense that you know will come up fairly soon (like a holiday or a deposit on a house), and you may need to get at the money quickly.

N-Gage to Re-Launch Internet Service Platform

Gaming, Mobile, The Interwebs No Comments »

Mobile phone giant Nokia has launched its revamped internet service platform know as N-Gage, which enables holders of the higher end handsets to download videogames directly to their mobile phones.

N-Gage’s growing library of games will be accessible as users download software that connects their phone to their internet platform. With 30 games expected to be available by mid-2008, it marks one of the biggest moves by a mobile handset manufacturer to get into the content market.

“The games, the devices, and the community are all here for you to finally get your teeth into. The Forums are back up and the new N-Gage application is here”. – Nokia said on the N-Gage blog.

Currently the service is only available on the N81, N81 8GB, N82, N96 and N95 8GB, but Nokia is also planning to launch N-Gage for other phone models, including the N73, N93 and N93i.

According to Nokia there is a keen interest in gaming on mobile phones.

“People have been put off mobile gaming because there is nowhere to try games, gaming experiences have been poor, and the games are difficult to use, but all these problems have been solved with the new platform” – said Nokia’s Christopher Joyau

Officially the site is not being launched until April 7th, when select Nokia mobile holders will be able access the site and choose between six games. From then onwards two to three new games a week will be added to the platform.

The release date has already been pushed back twice, originally targeted for a 2007 launch, and after the initial launch of the service in 2003 which bombed, Nokia are hoping for big things.

Game publishers including Electronic Arts, Gameloft and Glu Mobile, have signed agreements to get their games on to the N-Gage service. In the UK, launch titles include Asphalt 3: Street Rules, Hooked On: Creatures of the deep, Brain Challenge and System Rush: Evolution. Many of the games are free to try and, in the UK, cost between £6 to £8 for a full copy.

Nokia made 40% of handsets sold in the last quarter of 2007.

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