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GNU/Linux users of BBC Websites [Nov. 1st, 2007|08:16 pm]
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In a recent article, BBC Head of Technology Ashley Highfield has claimed that the BBC websites at bbc.co.uk only have 400-600 GNU/Linux users. There's a petition going round to collect signatures from us, which I expect will get 600 signatures very quickly.

The claim is incredible - if true, it means that my office represents ~10% of the BBC's entire GNU/Linux usage. Either far more GNU/Linux users are pretending to be on Windows than I would expect, or Highfield is downplaying the number of GNU/Linux users accessing BBC services on line, in the same way that he downplays the Defective by Design protests.

It may make sense for him to do so; the BBC is coming under fire for spending £130 million of license-fee payers' money on software which is tied to Windows XP and Microsoft-specific Digital Restrictions Management. An article I linked recently shows the depth of ties between Microsoft and Auntie, and the Free the BBC campaign exists to oppose this.

Please forward the petition link to your local LUG, favorite IRC channel, LiveJournal community etc. and encourage UK GNU/Linux users to sign, and sign up to the Free the BBC Mailing List. Only when the BBC provides content in open formats without DRM which can be accessed from any platform and operating system will we have a fair, free and equal service.

Update: Since this post seems to be linked from the BBC Internet blog, I'd like to reiterate my position that really the numbers game is kind of irrelevant, but getting people involved in fighting the BBC's support of a XP-only, DRM-crippled solution is important. The cop-out that the BBC spews about rights-holders not providing content withour DRM is exactly that; the content providers know as well as the BBC does and as well as we do that DRM does not stop piracy, particularly when we have the same programming being broadcast free-to-air on Freeview. It's the BBC's job to secure reasonable terms for "foreign" content that they screen, and let's not forget that it's in the interest of content creators to get paid to have the BBC distribute their material. This isn't about GNU/Linux versus Windows, it's about the BBC stimulating a healthy ecosystem of ways to access (and to pay for) content.

And while you're here, random visitor, do feel free to join the Free Software Foundation and Electronic Frontier Foundation, two organisations which are fighting on the right side of this issue.

(Cross-posted to debian; via minnesattva; from kaet)
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: spoox
2007-11-01 10:50 pm (UTC)

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Four hundred to six hundred is just palpable rot. I have almost used that many linux machines to look at news.bbc.co.uk on my own.
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[User Picture]From: cultureofdoubt
2007-11-02 09:26 am (UTC)

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For facebonkers.

This whole deal is infuriating. I'm not as anti-DRM as you are, but when it comes to the BBC the format absolutely has to be open and portable, whether it's DRM'd or not.

At the moment, they're miserable failures.

As you say, the 4-600 claim is totally (in-/non-)credible. It makes him totally non-credible, and if a head of technology actually said that he needs to be shown the door.
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[User Picture]From: diffrentcolours
2007-11-02 10:10 am (UTC)

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Yes, because when you're trying to get as many people to sign up as possible, it makes sense to use a members-only walled garden to do so!
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[User Picture]From: cultureofdoubt
2007-11-02 10:32 am (UTC)

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That in reference to the FB page? They're generally not a bad way to point people to other places. Makes it easy to point other people to anyway.
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[User Picture]From: diffrentcolours
2007-11-02 10:33 am (UTC)

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I don't know whether the FB group links to the petition; I can't access it using my preferred browser on a GNU/Linux system. The irony, it burns!
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[User Picture]From: cultureofdoubt
2007-11-02 10:42 am (UTC)

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Heh
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[User Picture]From: evath
2007-11-02 10:42 am (UTC)

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I see more people sign facebook crap than the average petition... dunno what that means.
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[User Picture]From: stevenothing
2007-11-02 12:42 pm (UTC)

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On the other hand, at least with the facebook group you don't have to worry about idiots signing the petition multiple times, thus making the petition a bit useless.
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[User Picture]From: diffrentcolours
2007-11-02 12:44 pm (UTC)

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Looks like that petition software is a bit rubbish. Still, it should be fairly trivial to strip duplicates.
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[User Picture]From: omega_amigo
2007-11-02 12:59 pm (UTC)

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I'm wondering whether he actually meant 400-600 *thousand*. His figure of "17 million users" and "5% Mac", gives very approximately 1 million Mac users. Half that for Linux is probably not unreasonable.

Of course if he really *does* mean 400-600, then he's either a complete idiot, completely misinformed, or being deliberately deceptive.
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From: loopzilla
2007-11-03 09:41 am (UTC)

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Well, you see, this is all digital, so 400k and 400 can look so similar...
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[User Picture]From: hexadb
2007-11-06 04:51 pm (UTC)

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[User Picture]From: diffrentcolours
2007-11-06 06:06 pm (UTC)

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Thanks for the heads-up :)
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[User Picture]From: dmh
2007-11-06 09:02 pm (UTC)

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Thanks for posting this. I'm wondering, I've seen a few comments about withholding licence fees in protest, but is there any collective action being proposed? I'm thinking something along the lines of, (i) when the Windows XP player goes GA, give your TV to a friend or relative and legally cancel licence; (ii) resume licence and (try!) to get TV back when acceptable cross-platform support exists.

(To be an effective campaign, of course, a consensus would have to be reached on what "acceptable cross-platform support" meant. A minimum would be both a player that runs on the latest Mac OS X and a player that runs on the latest Ubuntu-on-Intel, without requiring Microsoft licences/DLLs. Of course there are issues of further operating systems and versions, CPU architectures, the DRM angle, and the source code/FOSS aspects.)
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[User Picture]From: diffrentcolours
2007-11-06 09:22 pm (UTC)

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Personally, I'm not going to be happy with anything which gives me less than I can already get from Freeview and a PVR - that is to say, the ability to play on any platform using any software.

Really, the BBC's going to have to make their software easier to use than what I can already do technically without feeling morally bad - i.e. downloading just about any BBC TV show I want after about ten minutes' searching on Usenet or torrent trackers.

I already use these systems, illegal though they are, for legal purposes - I use them for time-shifting shows and catching things I missed. I can use them without using proprietary software or digital restrictions management, so I'm not going to force myself into handcuffs for the BBC just for the sake of being legal.
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