Configuring get_iplayer

There are lots of ways of setting up get_iplayer. Here’s mine.

It means that filenames work across Windows and Linux, removes underscores from names, never deletes old episodes and downloads episodes into a directory named after the series and names the files with the series’ episode number.

Your own options file is in ~/.get_iplayer or c:usersusername.get_iplayer depending on your operating system.

Raspberry Pi, my media centre at last

my raspberry pi is here

My Raspberry Pi has arrived, and not only is it one of the nice new rev2 hardware revisions, it’s also been manufactured in the UK, which if you’ve followed their trials, you’ll realise is a big deal.

Anyway, mine is here, and one short hunt for a spare SD card later I’d got the installation of RaspBMC, a port of XBMC, started. It took probably about ten minutes to complete, with no intervention from me.

Then I SSHd in (the default username is ‘pi’ and the password ‘raspberry’), and set about installing get_iplayer using these instructions. I had to also install make and gcc before rtmpdump would build but other than that it all worked perfectly. I plugged in my 500GB hard drive and I now have something which:

  • is a BBC PVR
  • is a good household-friendly playback device for recorded tv, films and music
  • can act as an AirPlay server for our iPad, iPhone and iPod touch
  • uses HDMI-CEC and therefore responds to my normal TV remote
  • can join my local network and play back media from other devices
  • probably loads more, I’ve only had a couple of hours!

Next step will be to get a suitable case. Maybe something custom etched?

What’s playing now on BBC 6music?

I don’t know how to add a link to the Amazon MP3 store for a given song. If I did then I would add that to and its purpose of letting me easily find out what song is currently playing and then buying it, would be complete.

As it is, it is merely a useful tool to be able to tell, pulling data from and twitter, what the current track being played on 6music is, and which show is playing it.

The BBC are the ones pushing the “now playing” data to but the name of the show comes from a robot built by Nigel Crawley. At no point does my code look at any of the BBC sites or services directly.

If only I could get the link to Amazon working then my sofa-based listening and purchasing experience would be complete.

I have forked Charbot Green

About a year ago Libby Miller wrote Charbot Green, a BBC Radio 4 announcement bot for Twitter. It’s written in JRuby, uses the H2 database and the source code is in SVN here.

A screenshot of CharbotGreen on Twitter

It’s a really great app and I thought I’d have a play, but half-way through the install I realised that setting up an H2 DB server was a step too far, so instead I rewrote it to be a pure Ruby app using the SQLite3 database. Using SQLite3 keeps it a self-contained app in a single directory without the need to run a database server.

You can get the code from GitHub here.

My small changelist looks like this:

  • H2 replaced by SQLite3
  • links to iPlayer use the short form of the URL
  • if available, the subtitle, such as episode number is displayed
  • now a pure ruby app!

I haven’t tested it very hard, just run it up a couple of times, so please do let me know of bugs or feel free to go fork it yourself!

Micropayments are a mistake

The other day some idiot suggested micropayments for online newspapers (single page version here).

Apparently it has only taken five years or so for everyone to forget that this was exactly the model many papers were adopting online in the early noughties.

Except of course that they may as well not have been because no-one could link to their content, meaning no-one saw it and meaning they were wholly reliant on the payment model of mostly existing customers for their income. For the printed press, subscription accounts for about 10% of their income, advertising the rest. They tried to reverse this with subscription-only model online. It failed.

There are some nice quotes in the abstract for this IEEE article Micropayments: An idea whose time has passed twice? but rather amusingly the rest of the content is behind a paywall which individuals don’t seem to be able to circumnavigate without becoming an IEEE member. I will let you guess whether I signed (and paid) up.

Of course, some of the concerns about payments really can be addressed but the fundamental issues just haven’t gone away.

There are some reasonably serious mistakes in TIME’s article but the biggest oversight for me is where Isaacson mentions Amazon’s Kindle in passing, saying how it’s great that people can now buy electronic content easily – well, the Kindle gives people two weeks’ free access to newspaper and magazine subscriptions including TIME. So how much are they making from people who’ve now decided to actually pay for that content (remember of course that on the Kindle you can only view the content Amazon allow you to view and not the whole web) ? My feeling is "not much" although I am happy to be shown the evidence otherwise. For the record, the Kindle version of TIME is $1.49 a month and is rated 2.5/5.

I have no idea whether newspapers are doomed are not, but I do know that trying to charge me on a basis that doesn’t let me read an article first or prevents linking for casual readers or doesn’t have excellent provision for fair dealing reproduction isn’t going to lead to me paying for online newspapers, it’s going to lead to better advertising-led "amateur" news sources and a bolstering of the BBC.

Mai blog! It is back!

So, I finally finished the move from one host to another. It should not have taken as long as it did but after a frustrating night with the nginx config I spent a few days unwinding and catching up with the BBC’s new light entertainment series for Saturday nights, Merlin by watching it on iPlayer. My god I love iPlayer. It’s amazing. Even though I already have a PVR which the wife and I use heavily, iPlayer has still changed how we think about and watch TV. Awesome.


In the process of moving server I also moved from my blog being served from Apache+mod_php to Nginx+fastcgi (in particular I followed these instructions: Perfect Setup: Ubuntu Hardy+Nginx+MySQL5+PHP5+Wordress). I learnt a few things, although I’m sure most lessons will become apparent over the coming weeks. 😉

Firstly, nginx is amazing. In-place binary upgrades; simpler (to me) config files; faster; smaller; less memory overheard. If memory is no object to you, then you’re probably safe staying with Apache2, otherwise I’d recommend the switch.

fastcgi is less good, taking more memory than I’d like, although it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison because of course Apache2 masks the PHP usage. This may also be throwing off the nginx vs. Apache2 comparisons between my servers but only by a small amount I hope.

Another reason I’ve taken to nginx is that the documentation seems to have made a leap that Apache2’s never seems to have managed. That is to say, it is a user-friendly wiki with sections for both user-contributed recipes as well as a complete config reference. Apache’s documentation has always been a source of pain to me, and it’s almost always guaranteed that the answer you’re looking for is on someone’s blog or in a mailing list somewhere rather than closer to the main docs and having some vague authority of being halfway accurate.

Of course, this may just be because Apache2 is now a venerable beast (or at least the docs that also apply to Apache are), but it makes a big difference.

Anyway, I look forward to a world of excitement with my new nginx setup. I have yet to set up proper logging (like filtering 404s and logrotate for specific site logs) and I have a mass of images and videos still to bring over from my old site, plus wordpress maintenance like theme-munging and plugin installation, and at some point it might be nice to actually have a home page…

All BBC programmes have a QR code

Want an easy way to pass around a long and hard-to-remember URL for a BBC programme?bbc-qrcode

As of six months ago, and apparently unadvertised, the BBC started providing QR codes for every page in their /programmes section – just add /qrcode to any existing /programmes link.

The page for recent episodes of Doctor Who is and so the QR code is available on – the same holds true for individual episodes.

Members of the Future Media and Technology group have blogged about it here and here.