back to article BBC iPlayer downloads BORKED by Adobe Air update

An update to Adobe's Air application has crippled the BBC's iPlayer Desktop software, which is used by telly and radio fans in the UK who want to download programmes to view and listen to offline. A sorrowful Auntie is currently advising its fans to roll back Adobe Air from version 3.5 to version 3.4 in order to get the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More Adobe BS. I had an update to Flash player the other day and it was trying to install some McAffe crap as well, so I cancelled it.

    The sooner Adobe gets its shit together the better.

    1. Evan Essence

      The sooner Adobe dies the better.

    2. kain preacher Silver badge

      You have to pay attention when at the download page. I got tricked that way once.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The computer tricked you?

        You mean you didnt pay attention and got sloppy....

        1. kain preacher Silver badge

          Re: The computer tricked you?

          yes I got tricked because I'm use to see those options at time of installation. Not aware that there are two separate installers. Strange thing that I've noticed. on IE it prompts to download the tool bar. IF you use FF it prompts you to download chrome.

  2. vagabondo


    get_iplayer seems to be working ok. Who needs/wants Adobe?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: get_iplayer

      > get_iplayer seems to be working ok

      Confirmed; working fine here. Oh wait, hang on, it's listing Bruce Almighty under the 'comedy' section.

      I'll file a bug report....

    2. The obvious

      Re: get_iplayer

      Actually I've noticed in the 2 weeks that my get_iplayer has been having problems with certain programmes and rtmpdump either locks up or the download gets corrupted (including "World's Craziest Fools" featuring Mr T which is a current favourite of my 5 year old). I wonder if that's related?

      /Bomb as the A-Team love blowing stuff up

    3. Blitterbug

      Re: get_iplayer

      Hmm. One for superior-feeling Linux beardies only, I fear...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        And semi shaven android users who were damned by the BBC from the start. 75% of the mobile phone OS market and we have to use workarounds to a) get it working b) get it working with a normal quality image.

        Using XBMC for android which happens to use the get_iplayer code if memory serves.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: get_iplayer

        There is a windows port of it. Guess you didn't look hard enough when it wasn't the first hit on google.

        1. Blitterbug

          Re: get_iplayer - There is a windows port of it.

          I know. I've 'used' it - if you can call it that. It hit the Recycle bin faster than you could shout 'beardy'....

    4. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: get_iplayer

      ...except that it can't understand R4x listings. You need --pid for most of them.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ha ha! Egg on face yet again for building upon proprietary formats. HTML5 and Theora for teh win!

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      DRM whores catch a software transmitted disease...

    2. Chris 3


      The BBC offers a perfectly workable HTML5 system based on Web standards. The Air stuff is *only* for people who want to download the programme to their machine for later viewing.

      1. Richard 33

        Re: Sigh

        Or for people who don't know how to use get_iplayer ...

        1. Jumble

          Re: Sigh

          ...or for those of us who's bandwidth is too low to support video streaming.

      2. TonyHoyle

        Re: Sigh

        "The BBC offers a perfectly workable HTML5 system based on Web standards. The Air stuff is *only* for people who want to download the programme to their machine for later viewing."

        The BBC only support HTML5 on apple devices. And it's a non-standard HTML5 too as if you change your user agent to pretend to be an ipad it doesn't work.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Testing, testing, 1-2

    So clearly the Beeb don't get advance updates from Adobe for testing purposes.

    I dunno if this is the Beeb's fault, or Adobe's fault, or both. But I do know that it's poor shit from someone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Testing, testing, 1-2

      >So clearly the Beeb don't get advance updates from Adobe for testing purposes.

      Everyone can get these well in advance - I'd guess BBC's devs were focused elsewhere - either the manglement has changed again, requiring another pointless UI re-design, or perhaps (wishful thinking) they're all too deep into the move away from Adobe.

      1. Steve Evans

        Re: Testing, testing, 1-2

        They're probably too busy w*nking over some reskin for their retina ipads/imacs whilst ignoring the non fruit majority and then fobbing them off with half-hearted efforts.

        For example, the Android BBC News app doesn't even rotate!

        Anyway, back to the subject... get_iplayer does indeed work... Very nicely thank you.

        1. sed gawk Bronze badge

          Re: Testing, testing, 1-2

          Testing within BBC is getting better, but there is still some way to go, fundamentally its still a very top down place to develop software, and the valiant efforts of the various teams can only address so much upstream cruft (e.g. third party binary blobs), The cult of agile is quite strong there, with a (non-technical) project manager for every five developers, but not very much pair-programming, TDD, code reviews or (technical) project post-mortems.

          I would say that they are genuine in there attempts, and they sincerely are trying to do the right thing but the path of advancement hinders disruptive change, (you can't really get a top job unless you have a very similar background to the people already in the top job). So the head of product (responsible for the software delivery for an entire Fiefdom of the BBC) would be an ex-journo (take Sports for example, ex-ITN and not a techie.)

          This means something "radical" like a "major" platforms test harness for mobile is seen as too disruptive to adopt, and instead the "safer" choice of outsourcing a mobile app to a third party is chosen.

          The bbc news app was built by a third party developer (fact) who has now allegedly been removed from the approved supplier list (gossip, but I believe it to be true).

          On the flip side, the BBC is a big place and a lot of very well meaning people work there, for example, I saw a demo of NativeDriver from Google, which is an automated gui testing tool for android applications, guess what android app it was being talked about deployed on (that's right the buggy android news App)

          BTW the list of things wrong when it was delivered, and the list of things that the public got to see are of markedly different lengths so don't be too hard on the mobile guys.

    2. Dave Bell

      Re: Testing, testing, 1-2

      This has happened a couple of times before this one.

      The BBC then tells you that you need a newer version of the Adobe software and gives you a link to the default Adobe download.

      They don't seem to have learned anything. Is it any wonder people use BitTorrent when the legitimate download service is run so badly?

    3. Recaf

      Re: Testing, testing, 1-2

      Pre-release versions of AIR are available from Adobe Labs website months in advance of release, so BBC have no excuses for not knowing about this sooner.

  5. Chris 3

    "El Reg asked the BBC to explain why it hadn't simply begun offering version 3.4 of Adobe Air to all new users of the service - which is also used to download and record future TV programmes - while it awaited a fix or update from the proprietary software maker. But it failed to give us an answer to that question."

    My guess is that the new version incorporates some security fixes. Can you imagine the headlines if the Beeb offered old, insecure versions of the software and someone's machine then caught something nasty? The tabloids would have a field day.

    1. Steve Evans

      You mean something like: "Jimmy Savile virus penetrated my tablet due to BBC incompetence!"


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People still ...

    ... watch the BBC?


    1. JayBizzle

      Re: People still ...

      The BBC puts out some good stuff.... ITV on the other hand...

      Fancy an Ostrich anus anyone?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: People still ...

        Ostrich anus?


        [anonymous for obvious reasons]

    2. Steve Evans

      Re: People still ...

      As opposed to what? Paying for 20 minutes of adverts per hour for sky, or lowest common denominator "reality" shows with premium rate phone ins on the commercial channels?

      Apart from the news, I watch almost 99% of TV shows "off-line" from either iplayer, PVR recordings or torrents when I've forgotten to record something, or the main UK channels stop showing a show after a couple of series and I have to resort to US recordings to keep watching.

      Generally the BBC are pretty good, but their handling of the F1 coverage (sharing it with SKY, and only showing 50% of the races, with the rest being high-lights) is just a farce. I gave up on F1 at that point. God help them if they ever screw the MotoGP up like that!

    3. Kwac

      Re: People still ...

      "... watch the BBC?


      Some actually LISTEN too.

      Quaint, eh?

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: People still ...

      If you want a barometer of how good the BBC is, have a look at eztv or similar. You've got US series (the good ones, not the crap ones), BBC series, and little else.

      Or so I heard. Allegedly.

      Trust me, you wouldn't want Spanish TV.

  7. Hugh Pumphrey

    Annoyingness ^ N for some large N

    I used to dislike iPlayer desktop because it uses Air, and Adobe stopped supporting Air for Linux, having first sold Air as "cross-platform".

    Having spent an hour this week working out what was wrong with iPlayer on the family Windows machine, I decided that I hate iPlayer desktop because it uses Air, and the combination is a bug-riddled mess on any operating system where it is still supported.

    And the reason the problem is serious is that many non-geeks (e.g. the wife, the mother-in-law) find that the "download now, watch later" service is exactly what they want, when it is working, and is therefore a huge annoyance when it is broken.

    1. Colin Miller

      Re: Annoyingness ^ N for some large N

      You can still download old versions of AdobeAir for Linux; you just have to do it manually before downloading iPlayer.

      (As of a few months ago, when I did my last reinstall).

    2. vagabondo

      Re: Annoyingness ^ N for some large N

      I do not have any Microsoftwarez; but "get_iplayer" is Perl, so you might want to look at:

      1. Steve Evans

        Re: Annoyingness ^ N for some large N

        Get_iplayer works fine in windows, although I did have to pay with it a little - manually update rtmpdump to get all the shows to download correctly...

        I wish rtmpdump would sort out the 32bit arithmetic issue (or just make it unsigned!), then it would cure the max show length issue - that only kicks in at about 3 hours (funny to watch the counter flip over the top and start descending toward zero before going boom!) so not a major issue. I only noticed it when grabbing some Olympic stuff.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Annoyingness ^ N for some large N

          yea, that was annoying, to download the full opening ceremony you had to download it in 2/3 pieces with overlap, then glue the files together in the right places.

  8. McGaz

    Adobe has produced buggy software for years. I am amazed that it has done so well.

    It (still) seems to cause more crashes and hangs than any other piece of software I use.

  9. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    Not again

    Didn't this happen a few months back as well, with just the same root cause? I have a deja-vu feeling about having to roll air back then as well.

    Plus also there was a similar glitch in one of the Adobe bits built into Chrome which similarly borked iPlayer desktop unless you went in under the hood and disabled it.

    1. Andalou

      Re: Not again

      Yes it happened before. I did not know they had even fixed the previous breakfast - I have been rejecting updates on restarts for months.

      By the way, as something similar happened before then that feeling you had was not deja vu. You appear to misunderstand the whole bleeding point of deja vu. 'Deja vu' is now used 'correctly' as often as 'literally' and 'ironically'. Auntie would not be pleased. (And, yes, I do know that usage trumps pedantry. That is why 'correctly' is in quotes.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not again

        "Déjà vu" means "seen before" linguistics trumps twaty attempts at pedantry. The whole iPlayer/air "breakfast" is giving me a feeling of reja vu.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Sadly, I have all too often seen Adobe updates wrecking important functionality in applications that depend on their software. Seriously, I used to think Adobe stuff was the future, but for a very long time now I've believed that Steve Jobs was right (and I don't often say that).

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make it harder to use

    ... than other alternatives and then complain when people turn to bittorrent, usenet, even filehosts with annoying captchas instead.

    Or just don't bother and do something in the real world instead.

  13. exexpat

    I know this isn't android but the same quality issues exist there too. Google really dropped the ball by not developing there own media solution and letting the worst company in the world do it instead.

  14. EddieD

    It's really not a problem...

    I use VirginMedia, so all I ever see on iPlayer is a swirly thing going round and upgrades necessary

  15. Alan Denman

    Revenge for the Beeb supporting Android?

    Entirely possible as Adobe's official policy is walled garden apps for mobile.

    The fact that that it works on Windows RT mobile is pure coincidence arf arf.

  16. Ilgaz

    Adobe air updated for a reason

    Version 3.4 of air includes publicly announced security flaws so 3.5 shipped.

    BBC could remember their size and demand the software to be patched immediately by adobe instead of whining& breaking security.

    I would get the entire qa team fired too.

    1. exexpat

      Re: Adobe air updated for a reason

      Yes because its bound to be the qa teams fault as opposed to BS management,

      1. Ilgaz

        Re: Adobe air updated for a reason

        Did anyone at adobe qa took time to test top 10 software for breaking something and alerted management about potential disaster?

        I am sure not.

        1. sysconfig

          Re: Adobe air updated for a reason

          "Did anyone at adobe qa" -- QA at Adobe? That would be a first.

      2. Dave Bell

        Re: Adobe air updated for a reason

        I'm just wondering what the BBC does in their software to make it break after an upgrade. Are they using the security flaws for something they're not telling us about? Is there some other oddity in the code which got fixed, and broke the BBC system?

  17. JaitcH

    AND PEOPLE question the wisdom of not ....

    putting upgrades into immediate effect but rather waiting a week, or month, or two.

    I always wait a week and wait for the 'testers' to bitch before upgrading software. Look at Firefox, rarely does a upgrade come down the wire that sn't followed by patches to patch the patch!

    1. Ilgaz

      Re: AND PEOPLE question the wisdom of not ....

      If it is adobe& web connected software which ships an update citing public security flaws, you either update or uninstall. There isn't third option.

  18. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

    What I really love about Adobe Flash

    You can sense some sarcasm coming here, can't you?

    Ok, I'll indulge.


    Is the way that even though every time I set it to 'notify me before updating', it always turns it back on to automatic updates behind my back, behind my back. Scotty barks woof woof. And I decline, no please notify me before just going ahead, just in case there is a dodgy update you know, like this one.

    Why even have the option there in the first place if they are just going to totally ignore it? Don't they realise how bad this makes them look, bullying people into submission, then again if I didn't have Winpatrol Plus installed I would be none the wiser. I mean, it's not like I run autoruns every time after starting the computer just to see if Adobe Flash has explicitly gone behind my back again, after I explicitly told it not to.

    Maybe I should just admit defeat and install google chrome - that, that thing, that has an updater and is always switched on, even though I didn't install it, in fact I uninstalled it twice, google chrome that is, and the updater, I really have just stopped bothering with wasting my time switching it off in autoruns or winpatrol or whatever, even though, at the moment I don't have chrome on my system.

    That last sentence/paragraph just about made sense to me, but I'd be surprised if it just about did for you.

    Horrid bullies, the pair of them. Flash and Chrome updaters, that is.


    Then again, it might just be me. I mean, I even get my html tags mixed up some times.

  19. Online Mark

    Pre-release testing?

    It's not just Air that Adobe seem to think doesn't need any pre-release testing. From

    "IE9 cannot display Flash-enabled web sites (EG, under NON-Administrator user profiles, after 11.4.402.265 update."


    Testing / Quality control!

    Perhaps Adobe should familiarise themselves with at least one of these new radical software development processes.


  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The sooner...

    ...everybody stops using Adobe's unreliable, bloated, overpriced clusterfuck software the better. How this company manages to survive is beyond me.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lose Adobe, increase stability

    Honestly, how can you build a stable app on a platform that changes every other day (no, not Windows, that just makes it worse, I mean Adobe Air)?

    Installing anything made by Adobe is a surefire way to make OSX behave like Windows..

  22. IanW

    Life is even worse for Sky Go customers

    A Silverlight update last May still borks the Sky Go player on Windows (7 or XP). It just declines to play any stream due to some DRM bug. I've lost count of the number of times I've rolled back the Silverlight version (finally disabled all automatic updates). The forums are full of unhappy users, Sky Customer services clueless and no word as to when developers will bring in a fix.

    The BBC appear to be far better organised.

  23. IanW

    BBC iPlayer customers more fortunate than Sky Go users

    A Silverlight update last May still borks the Sky Go player on Windows (7 or XP). It just declines to play any stream due to some DRM bug. I've lost count of the number of times I've rolled back the Silverlight version (finally disabled all automatic updates). The forums are full of unhappy users, Sky Customer services clueless and no word as to when developers will bring in a fix.

    The BBC appear to be far better organised.

    1. rurwin

      Re: BBC iPlayer customers more fortunate than Sky Go users

      Sky is indeed worse. If you go there with Linux it tells you to install Silverlight. The download link tells you to install Moonlight instead, which is the supposedly compatible Linux version (.NET is cross-platform m'kay?)

      Then you go back to Sky and it tells you to download Silverlight again.

      The BBC tried that to begin with, with exactly the same result. Fortunately they changed to something I could watch. (I stream rather than watching offline.)

  24. origins

    when i tried to install desktop iplayer a few weeks ago using chrome this problem occurred, so i tried to install it thru Firefox and it works fine...

  25. David Goadby

    Not just BBC is affected - Zinio as well

    It's not just the BBC iPlayer that is affected but Zinio too,. Zinio, an online magazine system, can no longer get library updates from magazines you already own. So, after a major upgrade/re-install you have an empty reader! Zinio too recommend installing the previous version.

    I'm getting tired of these large companies treating their users like monkey meat. And why do we keep being offered unwanted extra products by default? Even a simple update may land your PC with more bloat. I do NOT want a Yahoo bar or Ask Jeeves on my browser. Any I will decide when I want Google chrome......

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