I wrote a post a couple of months ago after discovering Channel 4s 4OD service (via an in-built p2p application) was using my PC as a download server. That is to say, it was using my PC to distribute the files to other 4OD users even after I’d quit the application. Now I discover the BBC iPlayer is using the same intrusive, bandwidth sapping “malware” to manage their downloads. Woops.
I held out installing the iPlayer for a couple of weeks, even though I’d initially been pretty excited about it. I’d heard that the BBC were using the notorious kontiki p2p software, but assumed (or maybe hoped) that it might have been a little more flexible this time round – even if it just allowed me to change the port, or stop the uploading without having to add rules to my firewall. «sigh» I was wrong.
4OD were lucky, comparatively, not to get as much attention drawn to them as the iPlayer has. The key difference between 4OD and the iPlayer situations is the media coverage around the launch of the BBC app, both positive and negative. All the buzz around the fact the iPlayer would only work on Windows XP, the debates surrounding the DRM choices they made and the fact that its the BBC – if you live in the UK you’ve probably already paid your license fee, so essentially you’ve already paid to use it – all meant the critics were out in force looking for something to jump on. So the fact users are deceived into allowing their PCs to be used as an unofficial download server was always going to be portrayed as being a massive issue, and quite rightly so. Various groups have launched websites to protest the BBCs choice of Microsoft as a DRM software partner, and BT have even had to deny reports that they, along with other ISPs, are piling on the pressure to charge more for iPlayer content to deal with the upsurge in downloading from home PCs.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not specifically a BBC/4OD hater or lover – I’m more of a Kontiki hater 😉 But I’m not willing to become one of the bandwagon crowd, shouting about how they’ll refuse to use the software because of it, blah blah blah – the words “cutting”, “nose”, “spite” and “face” instantly spring to mind. I didn’t stop using the web because pop-ups were getting on my nerves, and likewise I won’t miss out on watching something I want to see, just because the BBC use software provided by an unscrupulous company. There are ways around having the constant uploading or the 100% CPU usage, so its not a worry to me (although it is getting a bit tiring having to mess with firewall settings every time I want to use it). The problem is the hundreds of thousands of people that won’t know what to do, or won’t even realise. Remember how bad the spyware “epidemic” got before people started taking notice?
If you’re noticing any random firewall activity or high CPU usage (PC freezing, lagging, etc) since installing the iPlayer or 4OD, you can follow these instructions to configure a ZoneAlarm firewall to block the traffic when you’re not using the software. The instructions were written for 4OD, but adapting them for the iPlayer is straightforward enough. Let me know if you need any help.
In my opinion, CNET sum it up best when they say “We want to love iPlayer, we really do”… But they’re doing their best to make it as difficult as possible! Fingers crossed this is a BETA issue, but judging by the fact its now apparent in at least 3 TV on demand services (Sky By Broadband, 4OD and the iPlayer), I’m not holding out too much hope.
— Update 1 – 30/8/2007 —
For anyone technically minded that wants more information on the workings of the iPlayer/Kontiki P2P software, check out strix.org.uk/posts/The-BBC-iPlayer. It may be a bit daunting to anyone with no interest how software works, but I’d recommend it to anyone that does!
— Update 2 – 19/2/2008 —
Murad has come up with an application to stop kservice running completely, which could prove to be useful if you want to keep using iPlayer/4OD. Click here for more details.