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Thread: Sky by broadband - world's first review-cum-tutorial

  1. #1
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    Apr 2005
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    Sky by broadband - world's first review-cum-tutorial

    Here's the world's first review of (and tutorial for) Sky's video download service - Sky by broadband - now available free to all Sky premium subscribers with broadband) connections.
    Doubtless I've missed some things but, hopefully, not much!

    Check it out because Sky's service is rather interesting, since it's laying the foundations for future HD download services.

  2. #2
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    Apr 2005
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    Just in case anyone noticed the deliberate omission - I do intend to add an update some time about copy-protection - including some of my own pitiful efforts to create editable (and hence, repurposable) video from the protected clips.

    Bottom line there is, currently, it's MUCH easier to start off with a movie that's on a copy-protected DVD Video disc, crack it and then squash it down - if you do want to stream video around the house or play it on a portable device.

    And, of course, the relatively low res of Sky's footage - 540x432 (3/4 PAL) - isn't the ideal starting place.

    But what BSkyB is doing is readying itself - I believe - for much more flexible (and higher-res) services that it will be launching in the near future.

  3. #3
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    May 2006
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    Just some comments - despite it being a while since this was posted, but something not mentioned in the review, which IMO should be noted.

    1. The software provided by Sky is peer to peer file-sharing (like bit torrent)
    2. No controls on this are presented to you the user

    Peer to peer file-sharing means that parts of the copy of the file you have on your hard drive is being sent to other people who have requested that file. Sky is using your upload bandwidth to send the files to other people when your PC is switched on and connected to the internet. You agreed to this when you installed the software.

    You can't adjust the bandwidth it uses and you can't decide if it is on or off. Its on and using your internet connection whenever the PC is on - after the installation.

    This is the reason that
    (a) the downloads are MUCH quicker than from a dedicated server - if the clip is popular and being shared a lot you could be downloading a little bit of the file simultaneously from thousands of people.
    (b) some files take a while to start... the system is searching the online peers for a copy of the file.
    (c) the lifetime of clips is variable. The seed from Sky may time-out but the file may exist all over the peer network and still be available for a time (until the 30 days is up and those folks remove it).

    It also probably explains the delete behaviour. If a file is not to be shared - get rid of it immediately to make space if something that can be shared, if you undelete it will have to check the hash for the file etc etc which is too complicated.

    It could be that Sky and others using this (IMO invasive) software decided that they wanted the peer network to have as many active nodes for good (to them) reasons. This would be lots of active peers sharing to make the downloads quick, plus Sky don't have to host the files themselves they just seed them and as soon as critical mass is achieved stop.
    This means, however, installing software on my PC that uses bandwidth I am paying for without letting me turn it on or off! I don't think so!!!
    This service is COSTING users its not free. Not to mention its running all the time on your PC... so your games will play a few % slower, etc etc... sign up to a few of these types of service running and depending how beefy your PC is you will start to see an effect.

    In practice this is another example of creeping invasion by companies, not just Sky, onto our machines. I hope no-one on a capped combined up/down bandwidth plan uses it without knowing... then the cost will be real and tangible rather than Sky just taking a % of your paid for bandwidth away from you.

    I tried a number of approaches to turning it on/off using registry tweaks etc but it was too much hassle for no benefit, so I simply removed the offending/offensive software.

    To make files of Sky content an HDD/DVD video recorder attached to a regular sky box will work just like SKY+ with the added advantage of having unencrypted video files that don't time-out. My Panasonic even makes a little low-quality MPEG4 copy of the file and writes it to an SD card so I can pop it straight into my PDA and watch on the tube- depending on settings its 5hrs+ on a 1GB stick - its great and not tied to any player by DRM.

    As you rightly point out the market will determine the price, but the market needs to be informed and services like Sky Broadband (and they are not alone; AOLs and the BBCs are very similar) need to be understood. The whole DRM question aside this is not free, and we are paying. I am not averse to file-sharing or paying, but, I like to remain in control of what runs on my PC and who and how my paid for network connection is being used - These "services" don't do that.


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