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Software

BBC Open Source launched 181

Elphin writes "The BBC today launched their BBC Open Source website, providing a home for projects such as their video codec dirac , TV-Anytime Java API and Kamaelia network testbed."
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BBC Open Source launched

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  • Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @01:17PM (#13044128) Homepage Journal
    Good Lord, there's enough stuff here to create a complete, high quality TIVO system with full network/P2P support! If this is any indication, BBC is taking the concept of Internet broadcasting *very* seriously.

    A question for those who are in the know: How is Dirac's performance these days? i.e. Does anyone have any good comparisons to MPEG4 compression ratios, encoding times, etc.?
    • Re:Wow (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Trigun ( 685027 )
      I certainly hope that they are taking it seriously. I'd love to be able to subscribe to their programs, instead of waiting to have them come out on Bittorrent.

      Any BBC'ers out there have some good series suggestions? I've got Little Britain, and the new Doctor Who. What else should I be looking for?
      • Re:Wow (Score:2, Interesting)

        by joebutton ( 788717 )
        Any BBC'ers out there have some good series suggestions? I've got Little Britain, and the new Doctor Who. What else should I be looking for?

        The League of Gentlemen, particularly the first series.

        • The League of Gentlemen, particularly the first series.

          IMHO, much better than Little Britain. Not that LB's less than excellent, you understand, just the LoG is even better.

          As to further suggestions, it's not BBC (it's Channel 4, which often gives the Beeb a run for its money) but "Shameless" is excellent. I doubt I could descibe it without offending entire demographics, so I'll leave it to you all to Google ;-)

          • Re:Wow (Score:3, Informative)

            Also from Channel 4 was Spaced, which if you'd probably like if you enjoyed "Shawn of the Dead".
            • Also from Channel 4 was Spaced...

              Can't argue with Spaced - superb comedy. Simon Pegg from Spaced, Shaun of the Dead was also in "Hippies", another very funny comedy (from the BBC? I can't remember - might be C4 also).

            • Unfortunately BBC will presumably not cover ITV, Granada, Channel 5 et al. Nonetheless, This move will probably spark of similar efforts from the other channels.
        • Re:Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cheesybagel ( 670288 )
          100 Greatest British Television Programmes [wikipedia.org]

          Of those in the list, I can recommend: Yes Minister; I, Claudius; Blackadder.

          • All heartily seconded. For comedy series, I'd also mention Red Dwarf, The Day Today and its successor Brass Eye. Going back a bit, everyone knows Monty Python and Fawlty Towers but The Fall And Rise of Reginald Perrin is worth a quick look, and Not the Nine O'Clock News had some excellent bits. I have a soft spot for The High Life and Big Train. And Father Ted is good enough to be honorary BBC :)

            For drama, I think Neverwhere deserves far more recognition.

            • My particular excitement as a teenager will be the ability to watch shows which aired years ago. I'd love to be able to grab the entirety of Python, Day Today, NNON and so on. Also the Vicar of Dibley, if that was on the Beeb, although I've seen a higher amount of that.
          • Doesn't seem quite right, where is Minder ?
      • Re:Wow (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Red Dwarf and Blackadder are classics

        Casanova and Hustle are probably some of the best stuff BBC has done recently.
      • I'd subscribe to things like Doctor Who in a second... I'm still a little bitter that I missed one episode of the new season.
      • Clocking Off [imdb.com]
        Attachments [imdb.com]
      • Monkey Dust [bbc.co.uk]

        where have you *really* been, clive ?
      • Have I Got News For You is topical comedy quiz show. It really is a classic, although original presenter Angus Deaton has not been hosting it since his, ahem, allegations. They have a guest presenter for each show, now.

        The show stars Paul Merton and Ian Hislop on either side of the two-team format, and each week the teams have their own guest contender (oftentimes the subject of a roasting.)

        Hilarity usually ensues.
    • If this is any indication, BBC is taking the concept of Internet broadcasting *very* seriously.

      Now if only we could get the same brains behind the BBC to take over the operations of another possibly doomed TV/tech venture [current.tv], maybe something good like this could happen in my own backyard!
    • Good Lord, there's enough stuff here to create a complete, high quality TIVO system with full network/P2P support! If this is any indication, BBC is taking the concept of Internet broadcasting *very* seriously.

      I think they are. They might also be thinking of putting Dirac into digital set-top boxes to increase capacity or quality when HDTV hits the UK.

    • I look at http://www.bbc.co.uk/opensource/projects/apache/ [bbc.co.uk]
      and I'm thinking, wow, you could really implement some stupid stuff with that.
      Some of the more asinine web templating tools available today would look like Knuth's TAoCP in comparison to the potential train wrecks.
      Which is not to say that such little gadgets don't have their time and place; my point is that somebody will always take them out of context.
    • You can find out more about it's performance and how it compares to other codecs from this lecture.

      It is in Ogg/Theora format and should be viewable with RealPlayer 10+, VLC, or Flumotion.
    • We just need to hope that people realize the power of all this software BBC is releasing and it doesn't just fade into oblivion and go unused.
      • I doubt it will if it makes a success - if you look at other things like Listen Again, Podcasting or Freeview, they will do a lot of advertising over it to make sure people know what benefits it provides.
    • Re:Wow (Score:3, Informative)

      by JazzCrazed ( 862074 )

      Its performance these days doesn't seem very encouraging [doom9.org], though it's early in development. It has some hefty competition, though - such as the Snow [doom9.org] codec, which also uses wavelets for its compression algorithms.

      Overall, the promise of wavelet codecs is high, but their quality to compression ratio vs. traditional MPEG-4 solutions (like XviD and H.264), and the convenience of encodes (Dirac lacks very many useful encoding tools outside of command line) at present leaves much to be desired.

    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Crayon Kid ( 700279 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @02:36PM (#13045054)
      If this is any indication, BBC is taking the concept of Internet broadcasting *very* seriously. I'm not very suprised about this. Great Britain is after all the country that managed a 40% switch to digital TV in only 3 years and are used as a classical example by now. Plus, the European Union intends to do a full switchover to digital for all media by 2012 and God forbid the Brits would be left behind. :)
    • Re:Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

      by natrius ( 642724 )
      There was a talk on Dirac at GUADEC, which you can watch at the bottom of this page. [fluendo.com] (Ogg Theora video)
  • I'm glad to see them doing this. Not only are they smart to support OSS, but I have a feeling they are going to get a leg up on their competion by getting excellent help and feedback from the OSS community. It seems like a win-win.
  • Three cheers! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by millennial ( 830897 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @01:20PM (#13044171) Journal
    I applaud the degree to which the BBC is embracing the open-source model. I just wish that some American groups would do the same.

    A couple questions, though. What inspired the British Broadcasting Corporation to suddenly leap into the software programming foray? Are they hoping to build some sort of new service out of all of this, or is it just going to end up as a bunch of disconnected apps?
    • Suddenly? Uh, not really. They've been a fairly serious software house for a long time, but until recently nearly all of their work has been internal-only.

      It's hardly unique... Remember, there are more programmers working on in-house projects than on commercial software.
    • Basically (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lifewish ( 724999 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @01:26PM (#13044250) Homepage Journal
      They're pissed off at having to pay ripoff prices to the people (such as Microsoft and Real) whose audio codecs they use, and they're sure as hell not keen to start paying licensing fees for video codecs as well.

      Additionally, they think they can get better performance out of Dirac than is being got out of current codecs, which will save them bandwidth.
    • Re:Three cheers! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @01:28PM (#13044272) Homepage Journal
      What inspired the British Broadcasting Corporation to suddenly leap into the software programming foray? Are they hoping to build some sort of new service out of all of this, or is it just going to end up as a bunch of disconnected apps?

      Q: What inspired Bell Labs to create Multics/Unix?
      A: Because they needed it.

      BBC has been pushing more and more toward internet-based content. While they've been struggling with legal issues, it is becoming more and more clear that they are extremely serious about this and not just blowing smoke up everyone's hind quarters.

      Put this stuff together:

      1. A highly competitive streaming video codec.
      2. A TV Listings lookup API.
      3. A distributed/P2P sharing API.

      While these could go together into a few different gizmos, it seems that they are all targetting the concept of showing television over the internet. Oh, that will be a happy day. I might even pay the British TV Tax just to get Dr. Who! ;-)
      • BBC has been pushing more and more toward internet-based content.

        Like their recent move to eliminate their "cult TV" website?

        • Or maybe they've decided to redirect the resources they spent on maintaining the cult TV website into these projects?
      • "Oh, that will be a happy day. I might even pay the British TV Tax just to get Dr. Who! ;-)"

        As an American, I would like to support the new Doctor Who show financially, especially since apparently all the American broadcasters/cable stations have passed on it, and of course, I've already viewed the entire first season (Season 27, to us old school fans) via the good ol' Torrents. If it can record that the money is coming from an American, I would prefer that approach than importing the Region 2 DVDs since
      • I might even pay the British TV Tax just to get Dr. Who!

        Well, your time has come! I'm two months behind, so I'll be happy to pass your cash on...

        ;)

    • Re:Three cheers! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ettlz ( 639203 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @01:29PM (#13044277) Journal
      What inspired the British Broadcasting Corporation to suddenly leap into the software programming foray? Are they hoping to build some sort of new service out of all of this, or is it just going to end up as a bunch of disconnected apps?

      Hopefully, the BBC will be able to forge some open standards through this approach. In the past, BBC developments have shaped (or at least steered) the adoption of technology in the UK, and I think Open Source is probably the most compatible with their remit as a public service provider.

      It appears that broadcasting today is driven by information technology --- and this means software. The two are inextricably linked. As the BBC is funded by the public (rightly or wrongly), it is good that it should release as much IP related to its technology back to a public domain, and not rely on proprietary technology (hence Dirac). I don't want my license fee going to Microsoft or Real, I paid the BBC!

    • What inspired the British Broadcasting Corporation to suddenly leap into the software programming foray?

      They needed the software. Noone else was making it the way they wanted.

      Same reason so many people got involved in the Apache project. Actually a lot of Open-Source projects come about this way.

    • "What inspired the British Broadcasting Corporation to suddenly leap into the software programming foray?"

      You do know that this is the same BBC that released the BBC Microcomputer, right? Anyway:

      • the Apache Modules are "related to the way pages are built on bbc.co.uk",
      • Dirac is video codec,
      • TV-Anywhere is "an open standard for metadata describing TV and radio programmes",
      • Media Dispatch is for transferring huge MPEGs,
      • MXF File Test Engine can perform scripted tests on MXF files (a type of media file), an
    • What inspired the British Broadcasting Corporation to suddenly leap into the software programming foray?

      Check out the page in TFS:
      Apache (BBC have a large online news presence, they have seen the need to adapt the software)
      Media Lounge (experimenting with multimedia)
      TV Anytime (PVR stuff)

      Broadcasting doesn't necessarily mean sticking to radio signal, the change to digital demonstrated further diversification of media delivery (essentially broadcasting), as does their online presence: online video
    • by grahamsz ( 150076 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @01:47PM (#13044485) Homepage Journal
      Well the didn't actually make it but they made it happen
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Micro [wikipedia.org]

      I have fond memories of my Model B
    • What inspired the British Broadcasting Corporation to suddenly leap into the software programming foray?

      I've personally thought that software should be thought of more as a broadcast medium rather than a commodity. The very nature of computers, all the way to the processor level, is to copy. A business model for applying software should take advantage of that rather than hinder it. Allowing people to copy software costs nothing in comparison to copying physical goods, and allowing it to be distributed

    • "A couple questions, though. What inspired the British Broadcasting Corporation to suddenly leap into the software programming foray?"

      Uhm, they have a long historical association with computers. Look at the BBC Micro. Of course, it wasn't marketed here in the States.

  • Apache Modules too (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @01:33PM (#13044323)
    Looks like they have also released the BBC 'programming language'

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/opensource/projects/apache/ [bbc.co.uk]

    Seems like extensions to mod_include to add more logic.

    Good Stuff
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Beeb just continue to impress me with initiatives like this - good on them!
    • I have to admit, 5 or so years ago I thought the tv licence was worthless, Now I don't mind at all.

      but.. maybe this is the bbc making a step towards a computer licence?

      Tv content over internet would certainly blur the lines; enough for the goverment to warrant it anyway.
  • here, in italy, i have to pay for our very low quality public television (more berlusconi's than public), and nothing like this is happening. They just offer a few WMV/Real videos on their website, wow. :)
  • My hopes are dashed (Score:3, Informative)

    by DragonHawk ( 21256 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @01:43PM (#13044441) Homepage Journal
    Just some stupid software? Damn! I was hoping to find some episodes of the new Doctor Who for download... ;-)
  • Dirac/Theora? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by codergeek42 ( 792304 ) <peter@thecodergeek.com> on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @01:47PM (#13044482) Homepage Journal
    How well does BBC's Dirac codec relate to Theora [theora.org]?
  • by drspliff ( 652992 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @01:47PM (#13044490)

    If only they would publicize more of the open-source projects they've been doing in order to spur more development from people who would actually benifit from them.

    Take for example the Betsie perl script (which the BBC use extensively on their websites, it's an open-source cgi script which can be used to translate pages on-the-fly into a text-only mode. This has been very helpful for me and for a suprisingly large number of other web developers trying to tackle the issue of accessablity.

    If they keep on going in this direction with opening up more projects and providing more APIs for developers to use, then I can really see in maybe as short as 2 years down the line it could be actually be worthwile to pay for that damn TV license.

  • Open Source (Score:3, Funny)

    by loconet ( 415875 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @01:48PM (#13044500) Homepage
    So has Microsoft retracted their stand [com.com] on Open Source being a a cancer? They can't possibly stick to that story, specially [google.com] after [betanews.com] so many organizations [opensolaris.org] are seeing [apple.com] the benefits [slashdot.org] of Open Source. Will MS really and their fanboys ever learn [zdnet.com.au]?
    • I'd guess that when MS sees all the organizations adapting open-source, it simply reinforces their claim that OSS is a 'cancer'.
  • BBC's Motives (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    While BBC's support of open source is to be applauded, we need to look with a bit of suspicion on their motivation.

    The BBC is funded by a tax that's mandated on all TV sets in the country and the collection and monitoring process is more than a little nasty--harassement and patrolling vans that can catalog not only that you or I are watching TV, but what we are watching.

    The Internet threatens this model. If you can stream video from somewhere else or play DVDs on your computer, what need do you have

    • Aren't there less tinfoil hat-ish ways to do this, like subscriber logins? Restrict to ranges of IPs from known service providers, and then increase the VAT on broadband internet subscriptions? In fact, using the Internet to sort out license subscriptions might require fewer strongarm tactics than currently employed by the TVLA. Someone not paid? Just block 'em. Can't do that with TV.
    • The BBC is funded by a tax that's mandated on all TV sets in the country and the collection and monitoring process is more than a little nasty--harassement and patrolling vans that can catalog not only that you or I are watching TV, but what we are watching.

      Paranoia and/or breaches of privacy notwithstanding, if what you said is really true, I do think it's absolutely correct that a public television chooses the Open Source path. It makes perfect sense.
      So, IMHO, the tax is totally justified, it seems.
      • There's some debate as to whether or not the "patrolling vans" ever existed. Certainly today, they don't seem to bother - they simply assume every household in the country has a TV, then start harrassing any households without a license.
    • Re:BBC's Motives (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @04:33PM (#13046753) Journal
      I live in the UK, and therefore pay a TV license. The last thing I watched on television was Doctor Who, and that ended ages ago. On the other hand, I am subscribed to the BBC national and regional RSS feeds. This in itself is worth the license fee. I get relatively impartial news on both a regional and national level, and I am more than happy to pay for it. The license fee works out at around 30p a day, which is hardly a lot - especially since I split it with my housemates, meaning it works out at less than the price of a daily paper.

      I would very much like to see some of the license fee go to this kind of thing. Streaming media is likely to be an even more important part of the communications infrastructure in the coming century than television was in the last one. This is something far too important to be privately owned.

  • I know this will probably fall under "whining", but I wish there was more hand-holding in the Dirac documentation. Not that there isn't plenty, but I think they could fulfill a somewhat "educational" role there, too, in the sense of bringing people "up to speed", as it were, on the techniques involved.

    They do offer some pointers, but still, stuff like wavelets is not your everyday applied math, is it? (Maybe it is, in DSP, I wouldn't know).

    What do you think? Have you looked at the documentation? What's yo
  • After the profoundly depressing news since last Thursday, it is nice to get some profoundly good news. The professionalism shown by the BeeB applied to Linux, it could lead to it getting the final polish it needs.

    Why doesn't the Beeb do a late night program with open source makers and shakers on the Beeb payroll telling us about themselves and getting people like Alan Cox to talk to us .

    This will encourage contributers.

  • BBC Page? (Score:2, Informative)

    by hazzey ( 679052 )

    It seems a little wierd to call it a page dedicated to their opensource projects. All the DIRC one serves as is link to their sourceforge project. Not too exciting.

    Home page: http://dirac.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
    Project page: http://sourceforge.net/projects/dirac [sourceforge.net]
  • Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

    BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC Five, BBC Six, BBC Seven, BBC Heaven!

    BBC, please!

    (Listen to austin power soundstrack)
  • Dirac? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Grendel Drago ( 41496 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @03:09PM (#13045394) Homepage
    They haven't had a release in nearly two months, though their CVS has activity in it as little as four days old. I wonder when it'll be usable. Sure hope it's soon.

    --grendel drago
    • It doesn't look like much has happened.. they're still talking about 'preliminary support for media player' which is what that had this time last year.

      It looks like they're having trouble getting it to run fast enough to be usable - the one I tried was unusably slow on an amd64... it isn't going to replace wmv any time soon on their current performance.

      It *does* look beautiful though. Very few artefacts.

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