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back to article BT Vision throws Microsoft Mediaroom under a bus for Linux

UK hybrid TV service BT Vision plans to be the first customer to discard Microsoft's Mediaroom software, almost imminently, after at least a year-long effort to put in completely new software building blocks to rejuvenate the service. BT controversially refused to launch a fully-fledged IPTV service when it finally got Vision …

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Happy

I'm shocked. This will never do!

BT get something right. What on earth is the world coming to?

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Anonymous Coward

@Bob

They only got it right if you think that going with Linux is the correct answer to whatever the question was, but as I see you've got a balanced history of commenting from a neutral OS agnostic point of view, you must be right.

Oh, wait a sec...

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Well OK...

...so they are using Linux. That explains the kernel, what OS is it using (other than something from Oregan Networks)?

Some kind of BusyBox (very popular for PVRs etc?

Just saying "Linux" is not dreadfully important (a bit like saying "I run ntoskrnl"). Whatever the answer is a Linux-based system equal or beat a ntoskrnl based one. It all comes down to how well it has been designed and implemented.

For example, the V+ box is Linux based and simply dreadful to use. There again, Virgin have a long tradition of screwing up fairly decent hardware/software (SuperHub, anyone?)

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They still got the main problem wrong

By relying on DRM. Get rid of DRM, and open up the system with open standards everyone can implement and you'll have something usable.

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Anonymous Coward

@Christian

They rely upon DRM because their suppliers say they have to use DRM. If they got rid of DRM, they would be naff all content that they would be allowed to supply.

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MJI
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Dropped the VoD

Didn't use it enough, and as a Freeview PVR it is clunky.

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Anonymous Coward

i8n my opinion perhaps...

...BT vision failed not because of content, but because it was crap, or to be specific, the delivery method is crap. To clear up what i mean, many folk who live outside of the uban areas, who might not get good digital TV signal would eat this up in no time as an alternative to sky, people like choices, however, it doesnt work well outside the cities because for much of the country has shoddy BT lines. So BT Vision was launched in areas that

A can probably get Digital TV,

B, can get sky,

C might be able to get Cable,

D has access to an internet an can stream IPTV services in HD from any service on the planet

a lot of potential compertition!

Move out to the sticks and things change alot

A, might get some sort of digital TV but probably not the whole range

B, can get sky

There is little choice for many people outside of the urban areas meaning sky has a captive market, choice here would have made them a fortune, but of course they couldnt punt it there because their network is so crap, i mean comeon, i live in a very large town centre an can only get 2Mb i can barely stream SD TV iPlayer letalone anything else.

BT your content and ideas are fine, but your network is crap, get it sorted people,

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Anonymous Coward

Years ago Homechoice did it right. They used Freeview if available and automatically switched over to IP otherwise. And their box was Linux based (you could read the GPL licences on your telly if you were bored) and the EPG was really goo. Unfortunately, Talktalk seemed to just let it die to focus on Youview which BT seem to have given up on.

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Facepalm

C, can get FreeSat

You missed a bit

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FAIL

However...

Homechoice was the worst fucking service I ever had. Buggy, crashed boxes, outtages, the works. Especially useless when asking for assistance, as invariably all the customers go down at the same time, normally a Friday afternoon, as some glitch hits the system.

So glad to have gotten rid of that horrendous system.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 10:07 Homechoice RIP

Homechoice originally used a BTwholesale connectivity offering which BTwholesale withdrew without offering a comparable (never mind compatible) replacement. Hence the death of Homechoice.

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I find it hard to understand why anybody would want to have anything else. It's near perfect, except for the proprietary EPG.

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@Dazzza I find your assetion that people outside urban areas can't get Freeview a little puzzling. Freeview coverage is pretty damn good for the vast majority of the population and getting better. You also forgot Freesat.

As for broadband speeds. I live in a rural are and get 8Mb/s yet I know people who live in urban areas and get 2Mb/s or less. The issue isn't as clear cut as the media would have you believe and living an urban area does not by any means guarantee fast ADSL.

BT's biggest issue is that you can no longer get the service for a one off installation cost. I got my original box (Philips IIRC) for free and no monthly charge (it should have been a one off £30 but I managed to talk them out of it), but you could get the OD stuff for a fee if you so choose. The box was, if anything, better than the box Sky offered at the time. The UI in general and the EPG were much better. Sure you only got the Freeview channels, but if that's what you wanted that was fine. Now you get charged a monthly rate even if you only want Freeview.

It's a shame for BT really as a lot of people were switching back to BT just to get a decent PVR for very little money (free if you paid your cards right). The monthly charge for the basic package may only be £4, but it's still a monthly charge which puts a lot off people off.

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Download Limits

Watching iPlayer, 4oD, iTV etc to 'catch up' on things i've missed is great..........although the download limits that comes with broadband these days makes it not something that you can do on a regular basis.

Is BT vision excluded from your download allowance?

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Anonymous Coward

@AC - Homechoice ruled

The UI is all and Homechoice got it spot on...I miss......

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I agree

I agree with you here. I had Tiscali TV and IMO it was better than Sky and BTVision but when TalkTalk took over I had nothing but problems with it. Being able to get Skysports 1 to 4 Skynews UKGold all the main on demand channels and be able to go back in time on the menu to watch something you missied was way a head of anything Virgin BT and Sky had. The only fault it had was that you could not watch an internet channel if you were recording another.

I moved from TalkTalk TV to BTVision when I moved house as I had noting but trouble with TalkTalk and I like BT Vision but it could be better.

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Is BT vision excluded from your download allowance?

Yes.

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Anonymous Coward

freesat

your correct, whats ironic is that is what i use too!

oops, the point stands tho, if we had a decent network, then it would be used, we dont, so it isnt.

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Anonymous Coward

Mr Monkey

I gather you dont live in Scotland? or Wales for that matter?

and i didnt say they cant get freeview, im saying that due to the way the service is put together we cant get all the channels, throw in a light breeze and a couple of trees an even larger channels can fall apart.

Indeed i did forget freesat, which is odd as i use it myself.

Regarding network speeds, i know, hence my point that i live in a large town and have crap speeds, but generally speaking, up here, if you live outside of a town area, you are much more likely to have poor levels of bandwidth, possibly because the lines have been in place since the second world war....ok perhaps not that long but a long time!

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Coat

The year of Linux...

... on your Telly!

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Happy

That's not really new.

The only real choices for this kind of thing are Linux or WinCE.

- VxWorks is more of an industrial control thing, it's extremely reliable, but pricey and only just got graphical support.

Linux has been the primary OS for home electronics for at least a decade, because it's very lightweight, easy to customise and supports a vast range of hardware.

Thus if you choose LInux, you can choose cheaper hardware as well as having a free licence.

- You'll probably want development support either way, and that costs about the same.

When you go mass-market, the development cost becomes almost irrelevant, but the per-device cost becomes critical.

Saving 10p of FLASH or RAM per device saves you £100K in a run of a million. Imagine saving a $10-$25 licence fee...

The other fun fact is that WinCE6 is end-of-life, and according to the Windows Embedded Compact site it appears that you can't run WinCE6 programs under WinEC7 - it now wants Silverlight.

So for BT to keep shipping volume they'll have to redevelop everything anyway, so better pick something that supports their existing hardware - and PACE already have experience with Linux in their other STBs, probably on near-identical hardware.

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Great

The actual OS core of Win CE is fine, but the rest is rubbish.

Of course can it compete with Ethernet /IP services now integrated into so called "Smart TV" and the Freesat HD / Freeview HD boxes with Internet?

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Facepalm

First they need to sort out the network

Until they can actually provide a good network to a lot of the population then its pretty much a waste of time as you'll not be able to watch telly via the connection anyway.

I see they've taken to a new cheaper solution than actually rolling out their "Infinity" product. Now they've taken to putting bill board ads for it opposite the exchanges that don't provide it yet, even though it used to promised for October last year but has been shunted back to the end of this year.

Bill board ads to wet your appetite are obviously a great alternative for paying punters who are already pissed off they can't get it.

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Headmaster

Its Whet as in Sharpen

not wet as in water.

PS - to any journos out there - flak is AA fire, flack is a PR drone.

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Headmaster

Muphry's Law* strikes again

It's "it's" as in "it is", not "its" as in "belonging to it".

*Yes, Muphry's

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Go

Is not AAA (Anti Aircraft Artillery) also flak?

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Headmaster

Flak is actually AAC from the German for anti-aircraft cannon "{Fl}ieger{a}bwehr{k}anone"

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Bronze badge

"Now they've taken to putting bill board ads for it opposite the exchanges that don't provide it yet, even though it used to promised for October last year but has been shunted back to the end of this year."

This is no different from those LLU providers who site billboards offering broadband for under a fiver a month in areas where they actually charge at least four times that. As usual the ASA are useless.

All the ISPs are as dodgy as each other when it comes to advertising.

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Bronze badge

"Flak is actually AAC from the German for anti-aircraft cannon "{Fl}ieger{a}bwehr{k}anone"

I thought FLAC and AAC were both audio codecs.

I'm getting it (and seeing as it's friday afternoon I'll be wearing it to get to the pub).

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Thumb Up

Am I the unique customer?

I've had BT vision (*and I don't work for them or their marketing/PR team*) since it started.

Opting for this service because I refuse to pay for adverts on TV - and it's been fine.

The VOD is good (now) and the choice is good too.

I don't live in an urban area and the only problems with the network have been caused by faulty hardware (which BT replaced overnight).

I don't care what o.s drives the box (it could be BBC Basic for all I care) as long as it does the job.

Personally I think there's too much choice of channels.

Now if BT did a deal with Tivo...

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Pint

I would agree with most of that - I'm a recent Infinity-driven BT Vision customer, and I really couldn't care less what OS the box runs - I'm just not that sad. I waited for our digital switchover before going down this route, to ensure the Freeserve signal was strong enough. The service is pretty good, the only annoyance being the way VoD is presented, which is indeed a PITA - and it sounds as though that's one that will be addressed. Aside from that, it's a functional and effective, though rather unsexy, service.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes. You're the only one.

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Coat

Speaking of BT, aren't they a negative-value company?

Market Cap: £16.8 Billion

Copper scrap estimate: £50 Billion

So it's market cap is less than it's NAV.

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@Asiren

Technically yes. However you're assuming you can retrieve the copper scrap without having to reimburse customers for loss of service, which is kind of a problem.

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Headmaster

Technically probably not *

The market value of the copper is a Gross Asset Value. NAV is defined as the (Gross) value of the assets minus liabilities.

As you point out - the liability they would face to retrieve the asset would offset (probably completely wipe out) the asset value.

* only "Probably not" because you can get audiitors to say anything if you feed them enough cheese

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@Graham Bartlett

I dunno, the thieving pikies around here seem to manage it OK.

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Bronze badge

The pikeys round here and dumber than dumb. They keep stealing fibre.

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Anonymous Coward

Strange article

"Mediaroom set-top boxes and software, whose real strength was in multicast. "

Citation needed. The STB doesn't much care how the packets arrive. The ISP/network operator should, and the customer's router should. Multicast in the VoD context is almost completely irrelevant; multicast in the "TV aerial replacement" context isn't that relevant either due to the odd structure (in the UK at least) of the contentprovider->ISP->customer setup; it's arguably more relevant when BT are both content provider and ISP, but maybe not much more so (equivalence of access and all that).

"a system which [merely] used IPTV for the VoD delivery and also accepted the Freeview DVB-T linear broadcasts."

Probably the most sensible thing about BT Vision.

"Mediaroom first came to light in 2004 when it swept the honours of major tier-1 telcos who said they would use it for IPTV delivery, and most of these have been extremely successful. "

Citation (not press release, not MS webpage) needed. Who are these major tier-1 telcos, how many active customers do their services have?

Watching from outside it has always looked very much like the BT Vision deal was a deal done between two CEOs, done regardless of the products technical merits, done at a time when Gates was absolutely absolutely desperate to get a toe hold (not even a foot hold) in the STB market, done when no-one except BT could be persuaded to touch the Mediaroom concept.

"BT has amassed 6,000 VoD options."

What does this mean in English please? 6000 films? 6000 distribution agreements? 6000 programmes?

Really quite a strange article. It's almost like Alex is back (but shorter).

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"Really quite a strange article. It's almost like Alex is back (but shorter)."

Actually I found it harder reading than many academic papers.

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Thumb Up

FTTC was originally going to include CP agnostic multi-casting. I remember seeing it mentioned in an early PowerPoint presentation. If that's still in there we might finally see multicasting taking off courtesy of FTTC seeing as how everyone except VM is going to be using BT's equipment again. I vaguely recall it was being implemented at the GEA level so would have been available even to those using GEA.

Ah, here we are I think:

http://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/updates/briefings/generalbriefings/generalbriefingsarticles/gen15310.do

"FTTC/P: Multicast Product offering. GEA Multicast is an Openreach offering to enable CPs to provide multicast services over a layer 2 switch by raising an order request to activate GEA Multicast on an active GEA Cablelink.

*This story has been partially delivered. The rest of the story will be delivered in R1509 as ORC2M-11209"

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Anonymous Coward

meh!

So I can expect my currently working Win CE based BT Vision box to crash and burn when it fails mid-installation of a Linux over t'interweb.... woo hoo! Not!

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Bronze badge

Doesn't happen like that. It downloads the installer to the HDD. If the download fails it downloads again and again until it gets it right. Then it reboots to the installer. Should the installer fail it will reboot until it gets it right.

You're not talking a DVD sized distro here, it's a pretty small and uncomplicated install. Remember it's only replacing Windows CE.

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Holmes

YouView

Why no real mention of YouView? Surely this is simply a stop gap before a full YouView implementation! Transfer the back end and boxes over to a Linux based system, just like YouView, probably sharing very similar traits- then the switch to YouView can be a relatively painless process. In fact there is probably no direct means to go from MediaRoom to YouView, so you need this half way house to bridge the gap!

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MJI
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Constantly fiddling with

BT are always fiddling with it.

Not putting programmes on Replay TV (reason 1 we dropped VOD), moving from their menus to BBC Iplyer web interface (not as nice - reason 2) and of course the EPG lost previous/next day.

Saving for a Freeview HD box now

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm...

BT shoulda just used XBMC. ;)

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Alert

UK's Version of T-Box?

Telstra T-Box - available in Australia to Telstra BigPond customers - a twin-tuner, 200GB, DVR/STB with IPTV/VoD built in. Nice interface, great idea and looks good on paper. But that's the good part. The bad? It's &#^@$%^ frustrating to own and operate (excuse the muffled expletive, but I can't communicate my true meaning without it)! Many of them, including mine, are as unreliable as hell - the EPG drops programs regularly, only partly re-loads itself, and sometimes stops updating altogether, which means scheduled recordings just stop - with no ^%*!%@ warning. Then there's the unresponsive remote, system freezes, soft reboots, hard reboots and sometimes a mandatory manual reboot to get it back to working order. How often, you ask? With my system, something happens every ^#$&*@^ day!! Oh, sure, customer service is there to "help you through the problem", but that's not going to fix the firmware is it? As someone on Whirlpool put it, when they asked for advice on what to try next with their faulty remote, "Shove it sideways up a certain Telstra product manager's ****!"

Maybe part of the blame lies with NetGem, who made the underlying Linux box, or maybe it's the application developer, or something else. In any event, I sincerely hope that the BT box turns out a hell of a lot more reliable than the T-Box.

PS: I love Linux and have used it for many years, but that doesn't mean that everything that runs on Linux is good.

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Anonymous Coward

Waiting for the "if its truly linux then can I install <insert distro here>

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FAIL

right...........

BT Promised me 275 "near live" footy games, got the email, told on phone....when the product arrived they were no longer showing premiership games............and they told me I WASN'T missold it as I took out the Fim package :S

Spent £600+ over 18 months, watched it about mabe 30 hours max...........biggest pile of crap...and had to pay a SKY sub at the same time.

Only I was so busy as i'm self employed I would have taken them to small claims.

Anyways Bt Vision is a rubbish product and the box may improve with Linux but the content won't.

I will be checking the BBC observe any GPL licences, I wouldn't trust them as far as I could throw them.

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Bronze badge

No sympathy. Anybody who watches premiership games on British TV gets ripped off and deserves it.

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Meh

Freeview HD would be nice

As another BT Vision customer I'm much less interested in them screwing around with the software on the current box and much more interested in whether or not we're going to get a BT Vision 3 with DBVT2 on it for HD broadcasts. Still, it would be nice if the software update included the option of using my lovefilm account as well but I can't see that happening.

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