Friday, October 26, 2007

angry with the BBC

It's been a while since I had a good rant, but having returned from my holiday the opportunity has arisen. Not a moment too soon, some might say.

Whilst I was away, my computer was on a timer, set to come one and off on occasion and get on with a few things for me. Videoing the Grand Prix, for example.

Unfortunately, despite explicitly ensuring that the BBC iPlayer software was not set to come on automatically , it appears that a component - the 'Delivery Manager Service' - ignored that particular instruction. This meant that huge volumes of data were transferred to and from the internet for the benefit of other BBC "customers" at my expense* and an email was received from our ISP explaining that we were near our usage limit. I made arrangements for the computer to be disconnected from the 'net, but alas it wasn't soon enough to stop us exceeding the monthly upload/download limit, and charges have been incurred.

Such deviousness and unsolicited use of the internet is bad for any bit of software, but from the BBC it's very disappointing, and completely unacceptable.

Judging by the angry forum posts, I'm not the only one who's a little bit annoyed by this.

So, I now share Shreyas' ill feeling towards the BBC and when I get around to updating it, the blacklist will soon feature the BBC. No horse is sacred, or whatever the phrase is meant to be.

>>

*technically not my expense in this case, but the expense of the billpayer in the house in which I currently reside. And yes I do ask them for permission before entering phone-in competitions. Or at least, I would if I did. As it were.

2 comments:

Caleb Woodbridge said...

I don't think it's devious or underhand: that's how peer-to-peer, such as the BBC iPlayer or Bittorrents work.

With traditional downloading, each individual user downloads the data direct from the provider (e.g. the BBC). But because the provider only has a finite amount of bandwidth, which has to be shared between each user, the more people are downloading something, the slower it gets, and if there are too many people, then it doesn't work at all.

Peer-to-peer works in a kind of pyramid scheme. You don't just download direct from the BBC, but from other people who have already downloaded more of the same file. And equally, data you've already downloaded gets sent on to other people who need it. Because it's a whole web of small connections rather than one big connection, in theory it can be faster and more reliable, and everyone gains. In principle, I think peer-to-peer is a clever system, and I think that this kind of co-operative networking is quite cool.

Of course, the BBC should make this clear to non-computer geeks when they download the iPlayer. The iPlayer doesn't give an indication of outgoing traffic, and it's easy to forget it's running in the background, which if you're on a useage-limited connection is a problem. So I think the technology is good, but the BBC not explaining it properly to users is very bad.

JP said...

Hi Caleb, good to hear from you!

Much as I don't like the way it is not made obvious to "non-experts" (for want of a better word), I don't have a problem with the peer-to-peer principle itself. My complaint is because I had followed the BBC's explicit instructions to prevent the program from running on start-up. I assumed therefore - perhaps naively - that this would mean no peer-to-peer transfers would take place unless I chose to open the software. I don't think that this was an unfair assumption, and it is the fact that the 'Khost' ("Delivery Manager Service") is set to start up - and transfer data - regardless of the settings in the iPlayer itself which has annoyed me. Furthermore, there is nothing to link 'KHost' to the BBC iPlayer so the fact that the BBC's peer-to-peer continues to run in the background regardless of the settings in the iPlayer software is not even slightly obvious.