Ofcom Versus BSkyB: The Battle for British Media and Services

Over the course of the weekend, I starting reading an article on the BBC News site which I sent to myself to read later as it was very interesting: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/robertpeston/2010/03/ofcom_v_sky_the_epic_business.html

The article surrounds the topic of Sky (BSkyB) and their power over the British broadcasting and multimedia markets and the investigation into their tactics and control by Ofcom.

The article touches subjects I have blogged about previously and also a topic I am very passionate about. Hit the next link to see all of my posts in the media category and you will start to see the picture I am painting (http://richardjgreen.net/index.php/topics/media/).

Sky provide a lot of content but they also block and inhibit the delivery of new content. With Sky in the way, how are companies like Love Film or even the USA’s very own Netflix going to get to market here?

Where are content on-demand and internet based video streaming services like the US enjoy for us Brits? How are products like Media Center in Windows XP, Vista and 7 ever going to get a good reception when the biggest player in the media industry doesn’t allow for their product to work using Media Center because they breech a European ruling regarding open standards for television service providers? Only Freeview and Freesat are available via Media Center and the channel line-up leaves something to be desired. With beautiful products like HD HomeRun from Silicon Dust available we are severely missing out.

I really look forward to the report from Ofcom, supposedly to be released this week coming, however I wonder if it will throw as many punches as are really necessary? The author Robert Peston says,

So for BSkyB, Ofcom’s tanks are not on the lawn, but are actually bulldozing through the studios.

Unfortunately, I doubt it will get to this. Politicians are too scared to tackle the media giant in Rupert Murdoch’s pocket because of the potential political backlash he could cause, however what is most concerning are David Cameron’s comments regarding the scaling back of Ofcom and their powers.

…with a Conservative Government, Ofcom as we know it will cease to exist. Its remit will be restricted to its narrow technical and enforcement roles. It will no longer play a role in making policy.

Ofcom are critical to ensuring the growth and success of the British media markets, and couple this with the plans from the Tory’s to release figures on BBC earnings and force the BBC to scale down some of the BBC products and offerings and you have to wonder if the Tory’s actually want us to progress with the rest of the world. All they need is Mandy to join their ranks and were destined for doom. I don’t have the time to look, but I’m sure a review of a list of the Tory sponsors would quickly reveal cash injection from Mr Murdoch. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

The Anatomy of UPnP Device Discovery

Since my Cisco ICND1 training last week, I’ve become somewhat obsessed. I’ve previously been looking at NETGEAR routers to replace my current FVG318 as I am hitting the concurrent connection limit on it almost daily. Due to now seeing a little piece of Cisco, I figured why not look at getting a Cisco router so that the router will be more reliable and also will help give me some on the job training.

Everything was looking good until I thought about UPnP. I use UPnP quite heavily at home: Not for the port forwarding but for the internal advertisement of network services (namely media streaming to the PlayStation 3).

I discovered a few articles which outlined that Cisco doesn’t support UPnP on any of its devices and that it looks like there is no plan to add support for it either which is a bad thing if you are an SME looking for easy to deploy networking products but good from a security standpoint I suppose.

To test, on the FVG318, I disabled UPnP and had Nicky test the media streaming, however it didn’t work so today I took it upon myself to test this to ensure I can actually achieve full functionality using a Cisco 2651XM.

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Media Companies Still Don’t Get the Internet

I have been looking around the web the last two days for information on WOL/WOW or Wake on Lan and Wake on WAN to help support my Windows Home Server deployment, and I found the blog of Andrew Grant which had some information about WHS Add-In’s so I was looking around his blog and found this posting:

http://www.andrewgrant.org/2009/09/23/media-companies-still-dont-get-the-internet.html

Entitled Media Companies Still Don’t Get the Internet, this blog posting of his pretty much summarizes my thoughts however I do think that he is missing the point that why didn’t his PVR record it!

Music Library Masterpiece: Part 2

As my music library undertaking continues to get the better of me, I thought I’d post about a few things that have happened since I last wrote anything:

1: FLAC Vs. MP3 and CBR Vs. VBR

I have spent a lot of time reading about FLAC Vs. MP3 and come to the conclusion (with the help of GoldWave and some Bandstop filters) that I can’t tell the difference between an MP3 and a FLAC file, but let’s be clear here. When I say MP3, I don’t mean some tatty old 64 Kbps file that was thrown together the day MP3 was invented. I’m talking about an MP3 which was ripped from a FLAC file at VBR –V0 using LAME encoder.

Using the Bandstop in GoldWave and some research online, I found that the MP3 has audio data all the way up to about 20,000 Hz, which is the point at which all I start to hear is echoes  and silence which means that the extra 20MB of disk space occupied by the FLAC just isn’t worth it.

I used to rip all my old stuff in CBR 320 Kbps until I read an article online discussing the finer points of CBR Vs. VBR which lead me to realise that VBR –V0 gives the same if not better quality audio for smaller file sizes due to the variable element of it. What I think mislead me with VBR in the past is that a VBR –V0 file reports in Windows as the average bit rate of the track and not the maximum. A Texas song I have here for example shows itself as 266 Kbps but the waveform within the file proves it has the same info as the CBR 320 Kbps file.

2: Stereo Vs. Joint Stereo

It’s too complicated to go into here, but basically LAME encoder uses the better of two algorithms which means Joint Stereo  is as good as the forced stereo.

3: I think I hate Windows Media Player – Still undecided though

From my last post you will know I’m taking a lot of time to get the 500×500 px high resolution artwork for all my albums so that they will look delicious on my Zune and possibly Windows Media Center or Xbox in the future. To my disgust today, I noticed that a lot of my artworks are now 200×200 px and that a lot of the AlbumArtSmall_??????????????.jpg files have returned. My only assumption is that this is the doing of Windows Media Center when I re-added all my music to it for the purpose of streaming to the PS3.

Not impressed to say the least. Although the MP3’s have the 500×500 px versions embedded still, the folder.jpg version is still important. The next step is to re-apply the high resolution versions and then mark them as Read-Only to see if this stops Windows Media Player changing them.