VOD: More on Windows-Centric DRM

An interesting article “Why TV on demand insists you use its chosen browser” by Kate Bevan in today’s TechnologyGuardian indicates that it is not only the BBC that has wedded itself to a Microsoft Windows XP/IE/Media Player solution to its Video on Demand (VOD) service. Apparently Channel 4’s 40D service has the same limitations, and I can report first hand that SKY Anytime doesn’t work on Vista either. Apparently it’s all a question of reaching the most users while satisfying the distribution restrictions of the rights holders.

There’s an additional issue that I found with Sky Anytime and that is the DRM is tied to the CPU, so make sure that you install it on a Windows XP that you don’t intend to upgrade to Vista. I upgraded my laptop, but even after uninstalling the software (which no longer worked) I couldn’t reinstall on another PC because my account was still tied to the Laptop! A long call to Customer Services is likely to be the only solution. Note to the developers: “Why can’t uninstalling reset the link to the CPU that is no longer running the software?”

Why didn’t I think of that?

In my pursuit of procrastination (I’m supposed to be writing supplementary [summer resit] examinations) I’ve been through my feeds and am now watching Stephanie Booth’s excellent Google Tech Talk on Localization (which incidentally is a trickier problem than most English speakers realise). Whilst listening, I was following the links to Stephanie’s blog Climb to the Stars and from there to her del.icio.us link collection and discovered a useful tip. She bookmarks links to the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) record for the films that she’s seen and tags them films seen cinema , films seen dvd, etc. What an elegant, great, simply superb, absurdly simple idea! Ideal for the completist who must make sure that he’s seen every one of the 1000 films to see before you die before he dies. And it’s so easily adapted to books, recordings, rugby matches or anything else you’d want to remember.

Oh … and Stephanie’s talk on the issues of localization for web application developers is also thought provoking and well worth watching.

BBC iPlayer for all: sign the petition

You may have heard about the BBC’s plans to release iPlayer which will allow license fee payers to watch BBC programs on their computers. Unfortunately, the system is targeted at Windows and uses Microsoft Media Player and Digital Rights Management (DRM) to protect the content. While the use of some form of DRM to protect the content seems to me eminently sensible (I don’t see how the BBC, which outsources most of its production, could offer any form of Video on Demand (VOD) without protecting the Artistic Property of itself and its partners), the choice of Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Media Player and Microsoft DRM does potentially disenfranchise a small but significant minority of computer users. If you are running any version of Linux, Macintosh or even Windows Vista, iPlayer will not work for you. The community of the disenfranchised have created a petition on the Prime Minister’s e-petition site

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to prevent the BBC from making its iPlayer on-demand television service available to Windows users only, and instruct the corporation to provide its service for other operating systems also.

If you care, go to the petition page and sign it yourself! The deadline is 20 August 2007 and at the time of blogging, there were 9,635 signatories.