Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

BSM dump ‘unappealing’ Vauxhall Corsa

July 28th, 2009 No comments

Apparently, the driving school BSM is to replace its basic vehicle for learners – the Vauxhall Corsa – after signing a deal with Fiat. The reason given is that the first car purchased by 70% of learner drivers (mainly young women it would seem*) is the same model as they learned in, although I rather think the discount offered by Fiat had more to do with BSM’s decision.

How things have changed. I learned to drive in an Austin Metro and would have never even considered such an awful car.

* obviously young men can’t afford to drive as they are discriminated against by the insurers.

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Is John Sergeant the Thorn in Strictly’s Side?

November 9th, 2008 No comments

Telephone VotingI really detest the telephone voting shows that currently pass as Saturday night ‘entertainment’, but my wife watches Strictly Come Dancing. What I do find funny, is the continued survival of John Sergeant (often misspelt ‘Sargent’) and how it’s really starting to annoy the judges.

However, it got me wondering – what if you wanted to intentionally sabotage one of these programmes? What better way to do it than to use their over-reliance on telephone voting against them.

EurovisionRemember Eurovision 2006 in Athens, when Finland group ‘Lordi’ famously won with a heavy metal rock track? Thousands of viewers across Europe saw the chance to tip the result in favour of the outsider. Whether this was the otherwise silent number of hard rocks fans or Eurovision-skeptics looking to make a fool of the competition, it is not known, but the result was a resounding win for outsider Finland.

What if John Sergeant’s survival is not entirely down to his fan-base, but is in fact due to a long awaited backlash against this kind of show? What better way to discredit Saturday night pseudo-talent-judge-vote shows than to make a complete farce of the selection process by making the judging of any actual skill irrelevant. John Sergeant even alluded to this last night, when he pointed out that they were only playing by the rules – the judges only account for 50% of the vote.

Whether John’s votes come from a disparate number of ‘mischievous viewers’, simply trying to throw a spanner in the works, or an organised number of people intentionally trying to tilt the vote (Top Gear maybe), Len Goodman’s comments last night about people voting for John making a nonsense of the show, have only served to help John’s cause by keeping him out of the bottom two for yet another week.

BBC Weather moves Bolton

October 15th, 2008 No comments

BBC Weather have a new site called Weather Beta. Unfortunately, their geography needs a little work unless Bolton has suddenly moved and displaced Blackburn. (click on the image for a larger view)

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Bank Holiday Weather

May 26th, 2008 No comments

Well apparently, we’ve had a miserable rain-drenched bank holiday weekend – that is, if you believe the southern centric ‘there’s nothing north of Watford’ UK media.

Not so – we’ve had glorious weather on all three days up here in the North West of England.

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BBC iPlayer hogs Upload Bandwidth

February 6th, 2008 4 comments

BBC iPlayerI tried BBC’s iPlayer last year, even though they still have it locked into Microsoft, but along with several others, could not get it working. All I got was meaningless error messages.

I tried again last month. This time it did give a more meaningful error “there is a problem with DRM in your Windows Media Player, click here for information on how to fix this”, except that the link only sent me to a non-responsive web server.

Last night I tried again, and the link worked, except that it didn’t take me to a solution page as expected, but to a general FAQ site on iPlayer. After several page-digging minutes later (you would expect this issue to be on the front page of the FAQ) I managed to find a page describing a solution. I tried it and, what do you know, it worked.

Not surprisingly, the problem was with Microsoft’s Media Player and the solution involved deleting some DRM system files, a visit to a Microsoft page to re-download DRM files and since we’re talking Microsoft, the obligatory reboot. Not the sort of hoops a user should have to jump through just to install a program.

I then downloaded a handful of BBC programmes without problem. (One of my daughters was especially happy to see a CBeebies programme among them.)
BBC iPlayer Swamps Upload (Red Line)After they had downloaded, I noticed the lights on the router were still flashing away. I checked my usage graphs and was surprised to see my upload was being completely swallowed up by the iPlayer software busy sharing the programmes with other users. (See red line on graph). Now before you say anything, I fully understood before I installed iPlayer that it was a peer-to-peer application, but I have downloaded linux distros before using a BitTorrent type client and have never seen my upload swamped like this. I can only assume that there are so many other users on iPlayer that any free upload seeds will be quickly picked up and hammered.

Now we come to the important missing part – there is no way to control this except the option not to share when the iPlayer download manager is closed. Any normal respectable BitTorrent client allows you to limit the number of connections and bandwidth used for upload. I presume this option is missing, because the BBC wants to maximise the number of connections available to other users, and therefore the quality of their experience.

I had similar problems installing Sky Anytime (same kontiki based engine underneath) so I thought I’d give that a go too. This time it installed OK (the BBC fix had obviously had its effect here too) and I downloaded a few programmes. However, once you shut Sky Anytime down, it does not stop sharing files with others and doesn’t give you the option to stop either, because the kontiki engine is installed as a service in Windows.

The only way to stop it, is to fire up Task Manager and kill ‘kservice.exe’ and ‘khost.exe’, however these will reappear if you reboot or restart the clients. I have since gone into services and changed ‘kservice.exe’ from Automatic to Manual start.

Apparently, uninstalling the clients will not uninstall the kontiki engine. Sky provide a downloadable program called Kclean to remove these (BBC used to, but have removed the link), but I don’t want to remove the clients, I just want software that doesn’t hog my connection.

The other missing configuration option is upload/download ratio. Normally on a Torrent client you can set the maximum ratio of upload to download, so for example for every 1MB downloaded, the client will not share that 1MB file more than twice. Both Sky and BBC clients are fixed at unlimited. That is just taking the P***.

I have found this useful piece of software from ‘the Technophile’, which monitors both iPlayer and Channel 4’s 4od player and kills the upload automatically when you close them. It doesn’t mention Sky, but it has a simple option to ‘Stop Sharing now’ which stops the kontiki service and therefore any player system relying on it. Highly recommended.


Sky Tray IconIt does work with the Sky software. When you close the Sky software (from the tray icon) BeebAnd4Monitor spots this too and stops Kontiki.

Limiting iPlayer’s use of Bandwidth

Unfortunately, when iPlayer (or 4od/Sky Anytime) are running to allow you to watch programmes, they will be hammering your connection for what they can. I can recommend NetLimiter to restrict how much bandwidth you allow them to use.

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Sky+ Series Link

January 22nd, 2008 No comments

Sky PlusSky+ is one of those rare killer apps that has actually been well designed, however there are a couple of weaknesses in one of its most useful features – Series Link.

Sky+ Series LinkFirstly, the EPG (and hence series link) can only ‘see’ 7 days in advance. As often happens on the BBC, a programme gets postponed for a week. A prime example is Doctor Who making way for something like the Eurovision Song Contest on a Saturday night. Series Link cannot see two weeks ahead, so the link gets broken, and unless you spot this, you start to miss episodes.

Secondly, and more importantly, the series link information is provided by the individual broadcaster, so whether you get the correct information about the next episode is entirely down whether the broadcaster can be bothered to provide the information in the first place, and if it does, is actually competent to do it correctly (or at least understand what constitutes the next episode).

What is really annoying, is when the broadcaster does provide information, but it is wrong. In some ways this is worse than no information at all because you are trusting them to get it right. Again, the BBC seems to be the villain here for two distinct types of false information:

Often a new series is repeated a couple of times a week (especially on BBC Three), so for example Episode 1 could be shown on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. If I record Episode 1 on the Sunday and set Series Link, I expect the next recording to be Episode 2 on the following Sunday, but I often find that the Monday repeat is the next to be recorded. Why the hell would I want to record the same thing again? Obviously someone at the BBC doesn’t understand what series link is for and is just setting the next time that ‘programme name’ is shown. The problem here is that if I cancel the rogue recording, it breaks the link, so I need to set up the Sunday recording again.

The other situation I have seen is when the person setting the series link information ignores my wishes and seems to think that I would like to record a related programme rather than the one I asked for. Typically this would be a ‘behind the scenes’ programme (BBC Three) or another programme in the ‘season’ of programmes (BBC Four), rather than what I had asked for, namely the next episode of the same programme.

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Radio 1 censors Christmas Classic

December 18th, 2007 No comments

Faggot of SticksAccording to the Register and the BBC itself, BBC Radio 1 has taken on itself to partially censor the Christmas classic “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues and the late Kirsty MacColl.

The line is question is “You scumbag, you maggot you cheap lousy faggot, Happy Christmas your arse I pray God It’s our last”. Ironically, the BBC has chosen to censor ‘faggot’ in case it may offend anyone, but considers ‘arse’ to be acceptable.

Credit: savia, Berkley, USA via FLickr (Creative Commons: Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic)Not being American, a faggot is either:

  • a bundle of sticks or
  • a meatball

so the British Broadcasting Corp is also pandering here to the American use of the word.

Hang on though, isn’t ‘Fairy’ also a derogatory term for homosexual? Shouldn’t they therefore change the title to ‘Tale of New York’ for fear of offending someone?

Interestingly, the ban does not apply to Radio 2, further showing how much Radio 1 has lost its way.


Radio 1 has now backed down.

Has BBC ‘Have Your Say’ Lost its Way?

May 9th, 2007 No comments

BBC Have Your Say ExtractBBC Have Your Say has recently started showing statistics about the posts made to a topic. Look, however, at the figures on this post. Out of 1138 posts, they have only got around to posting a measly 57. That’s only 5%. If you haven’t got the staff to moderate it, then they should make it reactively moderated or don’t bother including the topic. Very soon, people will realise there’s no point in bothering.

The implementation also fails to allow proper threaded conversation. People often quote others but because of the disjointed nature of the post order, it is not possible to see the original quoted post.

As well as recommending a post, it should also be possible to mark it negatively. A more conventional forum or newsgroup style would work better and should be adopted.

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‘Fat Gene’ is not an excuse

April 13th, 2007 No comments

ObeseApparently, researchers have identified a ‘fat gene’ which, if you have it, makes you prone to carrying more weight.

As soon as this research comes out, breakfast TV drags up a host of clearly morbidly obese people, with statements like “I always knew there was something stopping me losing weight”.

Errr… hang on a minute. The research states that this particular gene is responsible for carrying an extra 6 and a half pounds, not six and a half stone!

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Snow? What Snow?

February 8th, 2007 No comments

Well surprise surprise, London and the home counties are affected by snow, so that means it’s national headline news.

I woke this morning to a clear (but cold morning). I didn’t even have to clear the windows on the car, but according to BBC Breakfast, it’s the end of the world. They’re even talking about snowfall in centimetres. Is this to make it sound more than it really is? 5cm sounds more impressive than a measly 2 inches. The rest of Europe must be laughing at the pathetic Brits.

If the tables were turned and the North of England and Scotland were covered in snow, then it would hardly get a mention. The Scots must be even more annoyed at this southern centric reporting.

The sooner the BBC move up to Manchester, the sooner we can start to reverse this southern bias in reporting.

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