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Thread: Sky broadband movie & sports downloads go live

  1. #1
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    Sky broadband movie & sports downloads go live

    You'll remember that in November we brought you news of Sky's new broadband download service for (complete) movies and for sports clips.


    A number of us at HEXUS signed up back then, expressing an interest in the Sky by Broadband service - you have to be a Premium subscriber in the UK or Eire to be eligible - and today found emails from Sky in our inboxes telling us the service has gone live.

    And, indeed it has. But, from where we're sitting, it's looking a bit patchy.

    [Update - please see comments further down giving some stats - things are now looking up!]



    Some downloads seem not to be coming over and those that are, are doing so quite slowly.

    The slow downloading may be understandable - the Sky by Broadband service uses a fancy DRM-protected peer-to-peer file-sharing system and the first people working with it may only have a few others to share with.

    But we're still trying to figure out why some stuff isn't coming over (surely, we're not being restricted to downloading one file at a time?).

    We'll be looking into this through the rest of the day and will also be reporting back with details on what was involved in setting up the service.
    Last edited by Bob Crabtree; 25-01-2006 at 01:20 PM.

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    Downloads seem to be coming over MUCH better now - and multiple files are coming all at the same time!

    Among the movies available right now are Spiderman 2; Alien: Director's Cut; I, Robot; Garfield; Bad Boys II; Resident Evil: Apocalyse; The Girl Next Door; Cheaper by the Dozen; and Layer Cake.

    What's rather disappointing, though is resolution of the stuff downloaded so far - 540 x 432 pixels (5:4 aspect ratio) - and we're presuming, it's all going to be the same for the while.

    Not sure if this was one of the conditions that Sky offered or had to agree to with the movie studios and distributors.

    Whatever the case, we can't see there developing much of a traffic in illegal copies if the DRM system does ever get cracked.

    For the record, here are some more stats on one movie we've downloaded, Alien: The Director's Cut:

    Duration - 01:51:51

    Playback datarate - 505 Kbps

    File size - 411MB

    Video Codec - Windows Media Video 9

    Audio Codec - Windows Media Audio 9.1; 96 kbps, 48 kHz, stereo (A/V) 1-pass CBR

    Didn't have the wit to time the above download but another one, of 101MB, took 76min 7sec to come over.

    That's a download rate of 0.0221MB/sec - not quite up to FireWire standards but for movie downloads, it's not too bad.

    We're conducting more "trials", of course.

    And we'll be putting up some sensible info about what's involved with setting up Sky by Broadband.

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    since sky bought easynet (of whos, ukonline '8 meg' is a virtual isp) you'll presumabley get this at high speed from a nearby source if you're on their LLU broadband network.
    SmoothNuts!~yaman_an@*.dsl.pipex.com > change my rating to exceptional tbh

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    No, the internet service provider isn't the issue here at all.

    This is a peer-to-peer file sharing system.

    The way it works is that video files are downloaded not from Sky's servers but from others who are also using the system and have downloaded them already.

    Sky's servers, as I understand it, only seed the download, so the load on them, relative, say, to having to dish up a massive file every time someone wants one is very light indeed - and peer-to-peer file-sharing technology is going to be used by a lot of big companies (maybe all) who offer movie download services.

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Doesn't that suggest that everyone needs to have sdsl for it to work at its full potential? otherwise you need many more people with the file than those wanting to download it for it to download at the maximum speed of the line? Thats the main problem with the use of BitTorrent and the like in the UK, unless there are many people sharing it, then there will be a high load on the servers or the download speed will suck - and most probably both?

    I'm all for a legal movie download system, but I'd actually like something of reasonable quality rather than a crippled windows media file.

    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by dave87
    Doesn't that suggest that everyone needs to have sdsl for it to work at its full potential? otherwise you need many more people with the file than those wanting to download it for it to download at the maximum speed of the line? Thats the main problem with the use of BitTorrent and the like in the UK, unless there are many people sharing it, then there will be a high load on the servers or the download speed will suck - and most probably both?

    I'm all for a legal movie download system, but I'd actually like something of reasonable quality rather than a crippled windows media file.

    Dave
    Dave,

    With the 'S' key and the 'A' key being right next to one another, some people might think you made a typo when you said, sdsl, so I'll just clarify for their benefit.

    ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line and SDSL stands for Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line

    ADSL has faster downloads than uploads, hence Asymmetric.

    With SDSL, they're the same, hence Symmetric.

    It would be nice to have fast upload speeds, of course, and they will come - though I honestly don't know when or if the two will match up for most of us, given that the medium-term target that the industry has for download speeds is 24meg.

    But, in answer to your question - I really don't think that SDSL is needed because I don't see the relatively slow speeds of uploads necessarily being a problem.

    This isn't a streaming service where you watch as it comes down but, instead, a service where you only watch after it's been downloaded.

    That reduces the impulse nature of the watching of it (if not the downloading of it) but people either will or won't accept that download times will be measured in hours, rather than minutes - and I think they'll accept it.

    My concern is that they might not feel the effort is worthwhile as long as the resolution of the videos is relative poor compared to the PAL 720x576 TV standard and when a LOT of people now run their PC monitors at 1024x768 or a lot better better.

    What you can do - I just tried it and it seems to work okayish - is set Windows Media Player to play full screen and then sit far enough away not to see the artefacts.

    That said - and even though my monitor runs at 1280 x 1024 and I have to sit right up to the screen to watch a movie of 540x432 - I have now downloaded a couple of movies that I've not seen before, and I'm starting to find the whole thing rather compelling.

    What I can't figure out, though, is how I'd ever find time to watch any of them within the 30-day window that you're allowed after downloading!



    When I first started looking at what I could download, I'd imagined that the period available for watching was the same as the period during which the files are available for download - and it's not; as our original news story made clear; most movies will be watchable for 30days and (the story says) most sports clips for just seven days.

    I haven't done a proper check but I've noticed that some movies are available for nearly 300 days whereas others are available for nearer to 150 days. All the the movies I've looked at so far are only watchable for 30 days after the download. Until I've checked a bunch more I don't know if some have longer or shorter "shelf-lives".

    Oh, and I'm also less than struck by the idea that the only player that is able to handle these files is Microsoft's own Windows Media Player.

    Oh (2) - I've just done the maths and, double-checked it, and the figures show that there are 5.6x the number of pixels on my monitor than there are on the Sky movies, so as you can imagine, the image shown (when played 100%) isn't huge. But, playing it full-screen and sitting back does seem to work reasonably well.

    Anyway, I'm off to bed now, but will leave the PC download (and uploading) and try to report back in the afternoon.
    Last edited by Bob Crabtree; 25-01-2006 at 12:33 PM. Reason: Clarify about the 30-day watching limit for movies

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    if this is using P2P some users are going to get *really* slow doanloads, especially if they are on PlusNet

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    Quote Originally Posted by Funkstar
    if this is using P2P some users are going to get *really* slow doanloads, especially if they are on PlusNet
    Care to be specific why you think this will be the case?

    Oh, and the figures here using Pipex for my latest download - Courage Under Fire (592MByte) were 01h:56m:36s - a total of 6996 secs - so data rates were 0.085MByte/sec or 86.7KByte/sec.

    I didn't actually sit there timing the downloads - I simply right-clicked on the file after I knew it had finished downloading and picked the Properties option - which tell you size, creation date/time (ie when the download started) and modified date/time (ie when it finished).

    Interestingly, under the License tab in the Properties screen, all it says, is, "Protected Content".

    Maybe we can get an idea of the speed of downloads using different ISPs if I make available an Excel spreadsheet people can use to input their own download results?
    Last edited by Bob Crabtree; 25-01-2006 at 12:39 PM.

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    My skybroadband is playing up with me! Hopefully I'll have it up and running by the end of the day.

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    Bob, its simply because plus.net has a massive problem in the connectivity/isp forum. Loads of people are unhappy and its simply a symptom of that.

    I'm not convinced at what i've heard so far. I like the idea of broadband TV, i really do. Being able to make my own TV channel and pay for what i watch is good. but it still seems like infant days, and i'd really want full res support.

    Speed of download isn't the issue for me, its quality and choice of shows to watch imo.

    TiG
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    Does he need a reason? Funkstar's Avatar
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    Yeah, PlusNet have 'bandwidth shaping' meaning that P2P traffic is throttled back. Depending on what ports and protocal Sky use, it may escape this shaping for the time being, but will more than likely get included once PlusNet see a rise in use.

    Edit: I agree with TiG, i don't think this is for me either. There is at least one provider in the US that is doing proper IPTV using multicast MPEG-2 (at least i think it is MPEG-2, might be 4). This has been dicussed on the MythTV developers list a lot as someone is coding an extension to handle the IPTV stream as an input to the PVR.

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    The good thing about Sky's service, from a practical point of view, is that because the movies aree not of very high resolution, you won't need a state-of-art PC to play them.

    Likewise it's not using MPEG-4/AVC or any of that other cool low-data rates stuff (it uses WMV3) that typically requires a LOT of grunt from a PC (or hardware-assistance from the graphics card).

    Indeed, Sky makes no mention of CPU speed at all.

    Here's a slightly edited version of its requirements:

    Sky by broadband minimum requirements
    Before registering for and installing Sky by broadband, please check that you can meet the following requirements or recommendations.

    Your PC has...


    - Windows XP (Home or Professional)
    - Administrator privileges (to enable you to download the application)
    - A broadband internet connection of at least 512KB (1MB is recommended)
    - Minimum 250MB free disk space for the installation
    - Minimum 3GB free disk space for the media file storage (recommended 10GB)
    - Recommended screen resolution of 1024x768, plus 16-bit colour display
    - Recommended 512MB memory (RAM), or minimum 256MB memory
    - Windows Media Player 10 or higher (if you don't already have it, the installation process will help you)

    Don't have the minimum spec PC?
    Find out more about upgrading your PC with Intel

    The following applications will be installed along with Sky by broadband:

    - Microsoft.net Framework 1.1
    - Flash Player 7
    - Kontiki v51102.0 (KService/KHost)

    About you:

    - You are a Sky digital customer and you subscribe to a package which includes Sky Sports 1 & 2 and/or Sky Movies 1 & 2
    - You are based in the UK or Republic of Ireland
    - You are the named Sky digital account holder
    - You have not already downloaded Sky by broadband to another PC (you can only download Sky by broadband to one PC in your household)

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    Seething Cauldron of Hatred TheAnimus's Avatar
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    why are they using p2p, surely some clever segmented multicast would of been better given how their users up and down stream ratio is heavily biased against downloading.
    throw new ArgumentException (String, String, Exception)

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    Because P2P drastically cuts their bandwidth costs and the number of servers.

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    The sky website is awful.....I have signed up but cant even find the section on where to download sport or movies!!!!

    can anyone post a link please?

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    It's okay I guess, downloads are pretty nippy and the quality is okay if you're using a lower resolution screen. Not too sure about the DRM, I wasn't too happy about having to download Windows updates just to install the Sky software, even though it can be cracked anyway in about 10 minutes.

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