TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington calls for an end to the BBC

Michael Arrington of recently came out with the bold statement that “the BBC should be dissolved“. The BBC’s Backstage Blog has a bit more information. He was taking part in a panel debate, ‘European start-up culture: playing catch-up to the US?’ at the Future of Web Apps conference on 22nd of February in London. He claimed that the BBC’s activities were harmful to the startup culture in the UK, he specifically mentioned a project called ‘CBBC World’. His opinion was that the BBC launching CBBC World was harming the efforts of at least three startup companies trying to get into the virtual world space, that the BBC is basically anti-competitive to the open market due to being funded by the licence fee.

He loves me, he loves me not…

There was an article published on by Michael Arrington in January titled ‘BBC Announces?What?‘ which was all about the CBBC World project. Interestingly he opened the article saying “As much as I love the BBC…“, which is a link to the ‘CrunchNotes’ blog discussing the Top 11 sources of referral traffic to The article gives the initial impression that he’s a big fan of the BBC. However, with the BBC being the 5th largest source of referrals I think he’s perhaps more a fan of the BBC due to the high amount of traffic (or ad revenue!) brought in by the BBC! ;) His comments at the Future of Web Apps seem to indicate that he doesn’t love the BBC at all!

The fee keeps it free (of ads!)

I’m definitely a supporter of the BBC, I support the licence fee model, the TV production output and the value I get for it, more specifically I like the commercial free environment it provides. I left a comment on the ‘BBC Announces…What?’ article at the time:

My experience of US / Canadian broadcasting is a huge quantity of channels but dreadful quality, the same is true of what?s available on the Cable and Satellite channels here in the UK. I just yesterday cancelled my full TV package that I have with Telewest primarily due to the poor quality of shows and endless repeats (and they thought it was ok to ?increase? the price for that?!!).

The BBC channels give much better programming than the commercial channels. Speaking as a parent of a 4 year old, the CBeebies channel is excellent as my 4 year old is not barraged with adverts every 10 minutes like it tends to be on the commercial channels.

I hold really strongly to that, the commercial channels just have a whole other feel to them, they may be ‘free’ but the exposure to all the adverts, including all the constant breaks is a bad user experience to put it mildly!

Ok, I know the context Michael Arrington was speaking was more related to online web application development perhaps more than traditional TV programming, however, I still think the whole ethos of the BBC is a positive thing.

Clarifying a few points

The BBC’s Backstage Blog writes that some points of clarification were made to Michael Arrington afterwards, namely:

  • CBBC World is actually created by an independent company and not the BBC, so the BBC is actually supporting external developers. (Apparently CBBC World is based on this: ‘KetnetKick‘)
  • Everything the BBC does must pass the public value test and is therefore assessed for it’s potential commercial impact.

The BBC’s remit is that at least 25% of production of their New Media (web & online) content has to be provided by external companies. The BBC are actually a great source of opportunity for many external companies rather than being a competitor. Additionally, the remit of working with external companies is something that is spreading through all areas of production, not just New Media. It’s a big cultural change that is spreading through the BBC.

Taking a good look around the BBC Backstage website also shows a great deal of interesting innovation going based around open standards. The ‘More about BBC Backstage‘ page states: attempts to encourage and support those who have provided most of the innovation on the internet – the passionate, highly-skilled & public-spirited developers and designers many of whom volunteer their time and effort.

In the past the BBC has not always encouraged such “amateur innovators”, however public-spirited their intentions and products. aims to foster a newly constructive and open dialogue with the wider development community using BBC content and tools to deliver public value.

So I think Michael Arrington perhaps needs to do a bit more research!

Pageing Mr Arrington…

The Backstage Blog also writes that they would like to discuss his comments with them:

We would publicly love to invite Michael Arrington to come in, talk with people and for us to talk about some of his comments, as its obvious he has the wrong end of the stick.

In light of the ignorance of the BBC that Michael Arrington has shown with his statement I hope that he’ll take the opportunity to do so, I look forward to reading the TechCrunch article all about it ;)

[Incidentally, where is the TechCrunch article all about the BBC iPlayer plans? I’m surprised there’s not been anything written about this on TechCrunch.]

Related links:

~Rick to go DRM free – tipping the balance? [updated]

With all the recent hubbub about DRM and downloadable Music tracks it has perhaps comes across as purely rhetoric by a lot of the record labels.

Some people have called into question Steve Jobs’ motives over the whole ‘Thoughts on Music’ letter as being simply a smokescreen to deflect the grumblings within various European companies.

Whatever your opinion on the matter there is some positive movements happening within the Music download industry, money being put where their mouth is so to speak.

PureTracks. reports that has announced the removal of DRM from their music files, starting with the Independent labels and adding more DRM-free tracks as time goes on.

Interestingly PureTracks previously used Windows DRM for their files which means the tracks would have been in Windows Media Audio format files, this move indicates that it will make use of pure MP3 format files as PureTracks have indicated that the will work on iPods. It does appear there will be a mix of both DRM’ed and DRM-free tracks available depending on the Record Label’s preference.

If PureTracks can mix it up, why not iTunes?

I’m playing devils advocate here I guess but I’m wondering if there’s no way that the iTunes Store couldn’t offer a mix of track types? My original thought is that Apple would prefer to keep the user experience simple, so offering some tracks with DRM and some without would be a bit confusing for the user. However, John Gruber of wrote an interesting article “Would Apple Mix DRM and Non-DRM Music at the iTunes Store?” which has some interesting points. Maybe there’s scope for a mixture after all?

Update: A couple of interesting links…

Rick Moynihan left a comment pointing to an article by Cory Doctorow regarding Steve Job’s call for removal of DRM from music tracks. I also came across an interesting article on the LA Times website which gives another interesting perspective on the call for removal of DRM, both definitely worth reading.


Another way to let your voice be heard about the BBC iPlayer proposal

There’s another way to let your voice be heard about the BBC’s iPlayer plans, I’ve previously written a few posts about this whole issue and linked to the BBC Trust’s Open Consultation. If you’ve not looked at this already then have a look here:

Now tell Tony Blair!

The other way to let your voice be heard is to sign the online petition over on the 10 Downing Street website, the petition summary is:

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.

Further details specfied by the creator of the petition are:

The BBC plans to launch an on-demand tv service which uses software that will only be available to Windows users. The BBC should not be allowed to show commercial bias in this way, or to exclude certain groups of the population from using its services. The BBC say that they provide ‘services for everyone, free of commercial interests and political bias’. Locking the new service’s users into Microsoft Windows whilst ignoring those members of society who use other operating systems should does not fit in with the BBC’s ethos and should not be allowed.

The petition is found here:


Interesting articles about DRM on

There’s a couple of interesting articles about DRM on The first :’DRM: The state of disrepair‘ mentions a few of the various views voiced since Steve Jobs’ ‘Thoughts on Music’ post on A really interesting part is a table showing the state of DRM on various physical and digital media.

Chart displaying 'the state of disrepair' of Digital Rights Management schemes

The second article: ‘Microsoft announces another new DRM: PlayReady‘ is about a new DRM scheme introduced by Microsoft which is intended for the mobile device market. It’s intended to bring DRM capabilities not just for their own formats but for other codecs as well such as H.264 or AAC.

So much for Bill Gates’ perspective that DRM has “huge problems“!


Flash: Can it be a viable alternative to Windows Media DRM for the BBC? [updated]

This post continues my ongoing theme of the last few posts which is in response to the issues raised by the BBC choosing to use Digital Rights Managed Microsoft Windows Media format for their new iPlayer initiative. Please read the previous post ‘Dear BBC…‘ for more background information about it.

Where are the alternative formats?

I wrote in my last post about trying to find alternative formats to use instead of Windows Media DRM that could be used to deliver the BBC iPlayer initiative, I didn’t find any real solutions that could compete. I’ve been looking into it a bit more and I still don’t think I’ve found anything. One thing that comes to mind when thinking about video on the web these days is of course Flash video, sites like YouTube and Google Video have meant a huge upturn in the amount of Flash based video content available. What’s more it’s also incredibly easy for people to get it into Flash format thanks to these sites.

Why not use Flash Video for the iPlayer?

If Flash video is so popular then why doesn’t the BBC use Flash for the iPlayer initiative? A good question, and I’ve found a few answers that give some explanation to the reason. I found a post on the website entitled “‘Why we don’t use Flash (video)’ – The BBC speaks up“, the article and the comments left by various people make for interesting reading. This article in turn references a response from the Editor of the BBC News website Steve Herrman regarding changes to the way audio / video is used in the BBC News website. FlashComGuru highlights that the overwhelming reason not to use Flash for video is simply the cost implications of shifting over to a whole new format and delivery method, particularly due to the invested use of RealPlayer format content.

The reponse from Steve Herrman titled “In response to site changes” contains a technical response as to why they don’t use Flash, one reason is:

“The BBC is trying to make its video available to the widest possible audience. This means that when we choose the formats in which to stream our audio and video clips and live programmes, we have to take account of: All the operating systems in use, and the number of people who use them (this is not just desktop operating systems – we need to take account of mobiles too); whether a player is available for that format on a particular operating system; and whether it is easy to play that video on an operating system.”

These are all good intentions obviously, the BBC has a remit where it has to be available to the widest possible audience and this is clearly stated in the first sentence. However, taken in the context of the iPlayer initiative which locks you into Windows Media DRM format and excludes Mac OSX and Linux OS users then this is obviously not the widest possible audience being catered for! Admittedly the article this quote from is specifically talking about the use of RealPlayer and Windows Media format on the BBC News website, but the remit there is the same as for the rest of the BBC.

So ultimately it is an issue of it being too costly to replace all of the existing infrastructure with a Flash based system due to the previous investment in the RealPlayer over the last 10 years. Now I can appreciate that, obviously the BBC don’t want to go wasting the investment previously made, plus they could be perhaps criticised for wasting Licence payers money too. However, why get into a relationship with Microsoft on this? There’s really no likelyhood that they will ever do much to help the fact that DRM’ed Windows Media content can’t be played on Mac OSX or Linux. I can’t see how this represents any kind of good investment of my Licence fee?

Surely there must be an alternative?

I keep coming back to that question, however, I can’t really find any viable alternatives. However, that is not a reason to let the BBC of the hook here. The best thing I can possibly think of is that this is time for Adobe to step up and take on Microsoft in this area, there’s a long game afoot here which Microsoft are pushing with the BBC. If the BBC can’t just dump the investment into RealPlayer technology overnight then how is it going to be any easier to dump investment into the Windows Media format and it’s DRM?

Calling Adobe! Time to get ‘mobile’…

There are obviously big issues going on here, advocating one commercial companies format over another isn’t necessarily the answer. For some this definitely isn’t the answer, especially with the use of DRM within the files. However, despite the prospect of perhaps seeing music available for purchase DRM free, I don’t think we’ll be seeing this happening as easily or so quickly where video is concerned. With that said I think the best option here is for Adobe to get the Flash video format positioned much better as a viable format to compete Windows Media DRM’ed content.

The previous quote from the BBC above mentions the use of Mobile devices as a target end user of the BBC’s content, yet again Windows Media is no solution here at all either with or without DRM. The point is interesting though because Adobe have just made an announcement at the annual 3GSM conference that version 3 of their Flash Lite mobile platform will support Flash video. This provides a vital piece of the puzzle that the BBC is trying to piece together, and a much more platform friendly method at that.

I think the only technical challenge left to fill in is the provision of a decent DRM scheme to use within Flash video, if Adobe can provide that piece of the puzzle then there’s absolutely no reason for the BBC to use Windows Media DRM and cause thousands of licence payers to be locked out of using a service they are entitled to use.

So, Dear BBC, time to think again…


  • Flash format can work for other TV channels such as ABC around the world,
  • a growing amount of people use non-Microsoft operating systems on their computers,
  • more and more people are looking to access content online via mobile devices

then how can you consider Windows Media DRM a viable solution that is compatible with the remit of the BBC?


Bruce Schneier has written a great article about the DRM restrictions in Windows Vista, more reasons why a lock-in to Microsoft DRM is a bad choice for the BBC: [Via DaringFireball]

This isn’t even about Microsoft satisfying its Hollywood customers at the expense of those of us paying for the privilege of using Vista. This is about the overwhelming majority of honest users and who owns the distribution channels to them. And while it may have started as a partnership, in the end Microsoft is going to end up locking the movie companies into selling content in its proprietary formats.

I think you can replace the words movie companies at the end there with BBC instead. Microsoft desperately wants to have control of the DRM used in TV / Movie / Video distribution, the control they never managed to gain in the Music industry.

Vista: the longest suicide note in history

There’s an interesting article by Peter Guttman I just saw a link to: A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection. It gives a lot of indepth information about Vista’s Content Protection, it’s quite scary reading, the heading above kind of sums it up.


Open doors, not closed Windows?

This post is a bit of a follow-up to my last post ‘Dear BBC…‘ regarding the BBC’s new iPlayer proposal which is going to use Windows Media DRM to deliver the files. This is basically just a few thoughts / ponderings based on things I’ve been reading related to this whole issue.

Windows Media DRM, is it the only solution to the iPlayer requirements?

I’ve been looking around a little bit to see if there are any alternatives to using Windows Media DRM (I’m going to refer to this as WMDRM for short herein) for delivering the media that the BBC want to make available. The main reason that WMDRM has been chosen is that it is apparently the only form of DRM that will provide the means for the content to time out at the appropriate point. The BBC’s proposal suggests that programmes will be available to download for up to seven days after original broadcast but that the files will be valid for up to thirty days after downloading.

Now what I wondered is whether WMDRM really is the only option available for delivering this kind of time-sensitive protection, so far though I haven’t really found an alternative DRM. I have heard rumours that Apple’s FairPlay DRM has this kind of development in the pipeline though, the more I think about it I reckon Apple already has something like this working. However, given that Apple’s model of selling content on the iTunes Store is purely for outright purchase rather than ‘renting’ content coupled with the fact that Apple don’t currently licence their DRM to anyone else there is no need for Apple to implement this kind of model in practice. But I’m pretty sure they’ve got this kind of function written into FairPlay if / when they want to use it.

A couple of points of possible interest for alternative DRMs I found are:

  • Real Networks Helix – Real Helix platform (of note is that Real for a while managed to reverse engineer Apple’s FairPlay and offered the only online music store that could deliver Music using their own format as well as DRM’ed Windows Media and FairPlay’ed DRM tracks for use on iPods, however Apple put a stop to that functionality in various software updates, plus Real generally got slated for their accompanying PR campaign.)
  • OpenIPMP – Described as ‘Open source DRM for MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 adhering to ISO/MPEG IPMP open standards (MPEG IPMP Hooks and IPMP-X), ISMAcryp and OMA DRM 2 specs. Includes CA, PKI, DOI mgmt, ISMA streaming, license server, encoding/encryption, player, plugin architecture, etc‘.

The only good DRM is NO DRM?

Perhaps a better option is to not use DRM at all? A growing number of companies, organisations and people seem to think so. About a year ago the British Library expressed concern about the impact DRM has on their ability to ensure long-term access to copyrighted content, part of the British Library’s role is to catalogue everything published in the UK. DRM makes this difficult or impossible and getting round it, perhaps, illegal.

At the recent Midem music trade fair in Cannes the topic of selling music without DRM was discussed, perhaps this shows a turning of the tide by the Labels considering DRM-free distribution as the way forward. EMI has already experimented with DRM free music sales through Yahoo Music using raw MP3 format audio files.

There are perhaps several reasons why the Record Labels may be interested in selling tracks without DRM, one of which is the Labels’ desire to have better control over the music market, something that DRM stops them from doing. Another reason is that some Labels seem to perceive the iTunes Store market dominance as some kind of monopoly hold over the labels, this is true to the extent that Steve Jobs has resisted the Label’s demands for a different pricing structure based on popularity of tracks rather than the standard $0.99 / £0.79 per track model used by iTunes and many other online music stores. There are growing calls from European countries for Apple to open up their FairPlay DRM to licensing, Norway being the most recent country to rule that the FairPlay DRM terms and conditions violates local laws.

I’ve heard and read people say that Apple want to keep FairPlay DRM in place without licensing as it ensures their iPod hardware and iTunes Store sales continue to be successful. However, I’ve always felt that FairPlay DRM’s restrictions are about the least restrictive out there, couple this with Steve Jobs resistance to the Record Labels’ attempts to place further restrictions (albeit with some compromise regarding CD burning) and it’s never appeared to me that Apple would enforce DRM if they had a choice, they did promote the ‘Rip, Mix and Burn’ meme after all!

Joking aside though, my feeling on this seems to be confirmed by an article by Steve Jobs posted on on 6th February entitled ‘Thoughts on Music’. The article contains a lot of interesting bits of information, it gives a background to how we got to the current state we are in regarding DRM and music. Steve also proposes three possible ways forward regading selling music online:

  1. Continue with the way things are with multiple competing DRM schemes.
  2. Apple to open up FairPlay DRM.
  3. Abolish DRM entirely.

Steve gives a good explanation of what is involved for options 1 & 2, however, the third option is the most interesting:

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

So, there it is, straight from the horses mouth so to speak. If there was ever any doubt about Apple’s thoughts / motives regarding DRM I think Steve Jobs just made it quite clear.

What’s this got to do with iPlayer? Is DRM a necessary evil in this instance?

I think it highlights the two different functions or types of DRM in use: One for outright purchased content and one for leased or time-sensitive content. It does appear potentially that there is no need for DRM on purchased content but that there is a need for protecting content that publishers want to make available for a limited period of time. Mmm, so, I’m not really any further forward at presenting an alternative solution for the BBC in regards to the iPlayer’s DRM am I? Here’s a few thoughts:

  • Apple could step up to the mark and make a version of FairPlay available to the BBC that allows time-sensitive content.
  • Adobe could step in here and make a DRM method for their Flash player format, especially ideal with the recent launch of the Flash player for Linux

Apart from those couple of thoughts I’m not sure of a way forward, so I’m still not very happy with the current BBC iPlayer proposal. Amongst the details of the BBC Trust’s proposal is discussion of other methods of delivery such as peer-to-peer file sharing, according to Wikipedia the BBC have done some tests using a peer-to-peer system called Kontiki. I’m not sure this really offers anything other than a different method of delivery rather than an alternative DRM method though. Of interest though is a new venture called Joost that was created by the original founders of Skype, their ‘About us’ page states:

Joost™ is a new way to watch TV, free of the schedules and restrictions that come with traditional television. Combining the best of TV with the best of the internet, Joost™ gives you more control and freedom than ever before – control over what you watch, and freedom to watch it whenever you like. We’re providing a platform for the best television content on the planet – a platform that will bring you the biggest and best shows from the TV studios, as well as the specialist programs created by professionals and enthusiasts. It’s all overlaid with a raft of nifty features that help you find the shows you love, watch and chat with friends, and even create your own TV channels.

So, an interesting delivery model but it doesn’t provide an answer to the challenge of finding an alternative DRM for use with the BBC iPlayer proposal.

Perhaps if Music becomes DRM-free, TV / Video will follow suit?

Steve Jobs’ article cites the fact that 90% of music sold is via CD format that contains no DRM whatsoever and this is the reason why DRM for music online makes no sense as it is so readily available in non-drm form. In contrast TV shows and Movies on DVD are primarily in a protected format so that argument doesn’t hold up there. Is it really feasible to expect the BBC and any other provider of TV / Video content to make it available without DRM? I can’t really see it happening, although anything that is distributed using those methods is sure to have it’s DRM circumvented and the content finding it’s way onto sites such as YouTube, Google video and other web sites. It’s still probably a losing battle for the Movie / TV industry but one that I don’t think they’ll yield too in a hurry.

Finishing up, any ideas?

Researching and writing this has made me have a little empathy with the BBC’s situation. They are facing, like Apple did with the big music labels when they proposed the iTunes Store, the requirement to provide a protected way to distribute digital files to satisfy the holders of the copyrighted material. I haven’t really found an obvious viable alternative, other than just dropping DRM altogether.

Anybody got any other ideas / suggestions? If you do then don’t forget you have an opportunity to give feedback on the BBC Trust’s proposals. I encourage you to check out the questionnaire on the BBC Trust website, paying particular attention to question #5:

"How important is it that the proposed seven-day catch-up service over the internet is available to consumers who are not using Microsoft software?"

Don’t forget that the Microsoft DRM the BBC iPlayer will use will also limit functionality for certain older Windows OS’s too, so it’s not just an issue for Mac OSX and Linux users!

I’m of course interested to hear people’s thoughts on this in the comments below too :)

Update: Interesting links


Dear BBC… [updated]

The licence fee charged by the BBC in the UK certainly has it’s share of people for and against it. Personally I am very favourable towards it, I think the output of the BBC is very creative and of a high quality. If anyone is reading this wants more infomation about how it works then go check out the TV Licensing website at In a nutshell if you own a TV in the UK then you are required to pay £131.50 per year (or just £44.00 if you have a black & white TV!!!). As I said I have no problem with the licence fee, it provides a public service with aims very different from commercial channels. In particular as a parent I find the children’s channel ‘CBeebies’ to be a safehaven for my daughter, especially in contrast to the incessant advertisements on other channels!

Another aspect that I think is great about the BBC is the increasing range of alternative ways of listening or viewing content. The website has for sometime had various news clips etc available to watch and more recently has added on-demand viewing of shows, sometimes before they actually appear on air. Podcasting has also been embraced by the BBC with a quite a few Radio shows now available to download every week. The Digital Planet and Mark Kermode Film Review podcasts are both a regular part of my podcast consumption.

However, all is not well with the future of BBC’s on-demand service.

Introducing BBC ‘iPlayer’…

Ok, it’s not a new joint product by the BBC and Apple, it’s the name of the BBC’s proposed new on-demand service. There is now an open consultation into these new on-demand services being provided by the BBC Trust [Link edited to point to consultation conclusions as open consultation is now closed]. The ‘Public Value Test’ as it’s known is intended to allow the public to give feedback on the BBC Trust’s initial conclusions for the on-demand service.

The main components of this proposed service are:

  • Seven-day TV catch-up over the internet
  • Seven-day TV catch-up over cable
  • Simulcast TV over the internet (streaming of live television networks)
  • Non-digital rights management (DRM) audio downloads over the internet (podcasting of selected radio programmes)

With the exception of the second item they are all to be delivered over the internet, and they sound great in principle. There’s even talk about the possibilities of ‘series stacking’ where entire series will be available to view online. However, the last item in the list hints at where the vision starts to fall apart, DRM.

Doh Rae Me?

Nope, nothing to do with musical scales, DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. Basically DRM is intended to control the usage of content such as audio and video files, in the case of BBC iPlayer it is intended to control the duration the files held on people’s computers.

Now, I don’t have an issue with the use of DRM in itself, but when you read into the details of the iPlayer proposal you find that the BBC are proposing using Microsoft’s DRM system to control the audio and video. Basically this means the content will only be playable on computers running the Windows operating system, so if you’re like me and use an Apple computer running Mac OSX it means that we (along with anyone using Linux OS) will be unable to watch any of this content due to the fact that Windows Media Player is now discontinued on OSX (and has never existed for those on Linux!) and there is no support for Windows DRM available.

So, what can be done?

Well, remember the BBC Trust’s proposals are undergoing the Public Value Test process, so you have an opportunity to give feedback on their proposals. So, if you care about this even just a little bit then I’d encourage you to check out the questionnaire on the BBC Trust website, pay particular attention to question #5:

"How important is it that the proposed seven-day catch-up service over the internet is available to consumers who are not using Microsoft software?"

You can find the questionnaire and more information on the BBC Trust website by following this link [Link edited to point to consultation conclusions as open consultation is now closed].

Some related links / articles


What’s the future for ‘iTunes’?

Ever since Macworld San Francisco I’ve been wondering about the future strategy for the iTunes application in regards to it’s name. I mean I know that the Store is known just as the ‘iTunes Store’ and not the ‘iTunes Music Store now but ‘iTunes’ is still a pretty specific reference to Music really.

Not just music…

As the iTunes Store has for a while sold TV Shows and Movies (at least if you live in the US, not for me in the UK though) then it’s pretty obvious that there’s more to it than just music. However, what I’m really talking about is the actual iTunes application. For the last couple of major versions it has supported playback of video as well as audio, this hasn’t been hard to miss. However, the changes that have been slightly under the radar has been the fact that synchronisation of non-music features such as Contacts from the Mac OSX Address Book application, once something handled by the (increasingly redundant!) iSync application, is now handled inside iTunes.

The iPhone effect

With the announcement of the iPhone then it’s a no-brainer that this handling of Contact information is going to be even more important, perhaps even genuinely useful! (I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve looked up contacts on my iPod).

One of the innovative aspects of the iPhone is the visual voicemail feature which allows you to browse a list of all the voicemails you’ve received. It’s just a guess but I would imagine that this will be added to the list of things that may be synchronised to your computer via iTunes. Ok, so adding audio voicemail into iTunes is still just dealing with audio files, but I reckon it’s just just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the data that will be contained on the iPhone.

Name dropping?

So, with all these different data types in the mix it’s interesting to ponder how the name ‘iTunes’ fits in amongst all of this. Will we see a change of name? Perhaps there is a different iApp required? Maybe, but perhaps it’s a likely outcome that it’s just a further evolution of the iTunes app name to encompass the broader capabilities and functions it contains? Ok, doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with that theory I guess.

What’s in iName?

Anyway, let’s see the names in use amongst the iLife / iWork apps already:

  • iTunes
  • iMovie
  • iPhoto
  • iDVD
  • iWeb
  • GarageBand
  • Pages
  • Keynote

Ok, there’s not a completely consistent ‘iName‘ format here so it doesn’t mean that any new name would have to be in that format. However, I think it probably would be purely because of the core association of iPod and iPhone with iTunes as it is now.

GarageBand as a name is a bit of an odd one out really as it’s the only app in the iLife suite to to have the ‘iName’ format. Of course neither of the iWork apps are in that format either but they are part of the iWork package, I wonder if this is a possible scenario for iTunes as an app? Perhaps it could split off into two or more apps as part of a renamed ‘iTunes’ package? Maybe…

Educated guesses?

This is just my little bit of idle pondering, but I’m really not sure what the future of the iTunes application and/or name is. Any ideas?


The Nike+iPod Sports Kit on a budget (or ‘How to get a non-running geek interested in running’)

So, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, actually it was last year! Anyway, asides from *not* blogging I had a great break over the Christmas holidays. I had a good bit of time off work which gave me a chance to really chill out and just relax. I’m now back at work and feeling quite refreshed and focused now.

Being a big fan of all things Apple I was intrigued when they brought out the Nike+iPod sports kit as to how it worked, not being into running or owning an iPod Nano I didn’t think much more about it. Anyway, one of the things I got for Christmas ’06 was an iPod Nano (it was actually a present to myself, ahem…), I’m not really much of a runner, much preferring things with wheels or that go on snow or water, but with the winter weather making it hard to find time to skate I thought it would be a good way to get into better shape. Also I was amused by a blog post by Cabel Sasser so I got more interested in getting one. Go read Cabel’s blog post as it really is quite funny and kind of echoes my experience. Anyway, on with the main point of this blog entry which is mainly to take a wee look at how you can do the Nike+iPod thing on a budget!

Part of the deal with the kit is that it’s intended to work with particular shoes that Nike make, however, not wanting to spend like £60+ on a pair of running shoes I knew there would be a way to do it using any pair of running shoes. Ok, the ingredients I found for cheap running experience:

Shiny new iPod Nano
Brand new shiny iPod Nano
(2GB basic model) £90.00
iPod+Nike Sports kit
Nike+iPod Sports kit, sensor on the left,
iPod attachment on the right. £20.00

The Nano was purchased on for about £90 delivered, I managed to find the Nike+iPod kit in a local sports shop so no delivery cost there.

The sensor for your shoe
The sensor for your shoe.
The receiver attached to the iPod
The receiver attached to the iPod

The kit comprises a sensor that you put in your shoe and a receiver that attaches to your iPod Nano, information about your running progress is transmitted from the sensor to the receiver (via some form of bluetooth protocol). You get audio feedback in your headphones as you run telling you how far you’ve gone, and if you run longer than you have before you get a nice little message from a famous athlete (I’ve heard Paula Radcliffe and Lance Armstrong so far!).

The handy 'iStrap'!
The handy ‘iStrap’! (Please note,
this is not an Apple product!) £1.00
The iStrap's velcro disk attached  to the back of the sensor
The iStrap’s velcro disk attached
to the back of the sensor.

Now, the key ingredient to do the ‘Nike+iPod on a budget’ thing. Presentiing the ‘iStrap’, which is basically a velcro strap and disk that you use to attach the sensor to your shoe. Cost benefit of this over paying £60+ on a pair of the proper Nike+ running shoes? The iStrap is £1.00. Savings? At least £59.00 ;)

The right-hand image above shows the velcro disk attached to the sensor.

The Asics running shoes
The Asics running shoes (looking
very new and shiny still). £20.00
Shoes with iStrap fitted under the laces
Closeup of the iStrap fitted under
the laces of the running shoes.

Ok, to be fair I have to offset the £59.00 saving with the cost of a ‘normal’ pair of running shoes. So, in the January sales I got a great pair of Asics shoes for £20, so that brings the savings to about £39.00 I guess.

The image to the right above shows the iStrap fitted under the laces of the shoe.

Nike+iPod sensor stuck on the velcro
Nike+iPod sensor stuck on the velcro
via the already applied velcro disc.
The sensor enclosed by the iStrap
The sensor enclosed by the iStrap, it’s
held in place quite securely.

The sensor is then attached to the velcro strap which is folded over the top and fastened securely. I was a bit worried about how secure it would be but it’s actually pretty solid, which is good because the sensor doesn’t want to be rattling around as it can affect the measurements taken from it.

Screenshot of additional Nike+iPod menu item
Plugging in the sensor results in an
Additional Nike+iPod Menu item.
Screenshot of content items of Nike+iPod menu item
Some of the menu items found within
the new Nike+iPod Menu item.

On the iPod itself you get a new entry appearing in the options, once you select the Nike+iPod option you then get other options for choosing the type of workout you want to do. You can choose workouts based on Time, Distance or Calories and you can view past workouts.

Screenshot of runs viewed in shows the details of the runs that you upload via iTunes.
Screenshot of detail of run in
You can view the progression
made on your individual runs.

Once you’ve completed a run you then hook up your iPod and the data taken from your run is synced up to the website, you can then log in and view the progress of your run in the form of a graph. The graph is accompanied in text form with details like distance, time, pace, calories, type of workout and playlist chosen for the run.

Total cost of my running kit…

  • iPod Nano – £90
  • Nike+iPod Sports Kit – £20
  • iStrap – £1
  • Asics running shoes – £20
  • Reebok running pants – £15
  • Total: £146.00

That’s great, but does it help you run?

That’s a question you might ask, but it really does help you run. As the title of this post states, I’m kind of a non running geek (not that I’m inactive by any means, just never been into running!) but the kit makes running much more interesting for me, the audio feedback for each kilometre (I run in metric!) you run helps you to see the goal you’re aiming for rather than kind of aimlessly running around! So yes, it’s not just a gimmick, it really does help!


‘Stories can be either bacteria or light, they can infect a system or illuminate a world’

I was just reading the recent post on Cameron Moll’s website about the first domain name he registered, it set off a discussion in the comments about people’s early website design. It reminded me of a bunch of my early web designs, I enjoyed the nostalgic reminder so I went and had a look at some of it. I’m fortunate to have stayed a part-time employee since I graduated art college in 1997 so all of the stuff I did whilst a student / intern there is still there.

Here’s a few choice items I enjoyed looking at:


Suburbia as a name was kicking around in my head way before this blog came into being as you can see from this site under my personal webspace at the college.

Red dust, Roadtrains and redbacks:

This was a travel diary I wrote whilst in Western Australia for the first time. This predates the term ‘blog’ so it’s a ‘travel diary’!


This was a site designed for my class at college, it was originally very bright with multi-coloured textured graphics (photoshop filter overdose!). After a while I changed it to this monotone version after I grew tired of the colours! Click on the OK button to enter, then click on the ‘Enter the body’ link to meet all my classmates. Ah the memories!

Time flies when you’re having fun…

I can’t believe it’s been almost 10 years since I graduated and almost 12 years since I first designed a website!

In case you’re wondering about the title of this blog it’s a quote from a writer called Ben Okri who I read a lot around the time I was at college, I came across the following image whilst looking through these old websites:

Stories can be either bacteria or light, they can infect a systeom or illuminate a world.

For Grandma:

According to my Mother-in-law my “Website needs more Nat pictures, less computer stuff”! So, for her here are a few pictures of my daughter Natalie to end this post, these are from 21st Nov 2003 – just to keep with the nostalgic tone of this post!

Natalie #1

Natalie #2

Natalie #3

Natalie #4