Useful iPlayer addition

I currently have 2 laptops, an iMac, a PS3, an Xbox 360, Cheryl’s laptop, and Cheryl’s PS3 all capable of playing content from BBC iPlayer. If I want to view HD content I have to download it using the desktop app. This is available on the computers and laptops regardless of the operating system, which is very nice as I have Linux, Mac, and Windows installations at the moment.

My improvement comes from a situation I have found myself in a couple of times since Cheryl and I got the iMac the other day. I can download HD content on here, but if I do then I have no way of playing it on my TVs. The iMac has a nice 27 inch screen, but the dining chairs aren’t anywhere near as comfortable as the sofa.

When I’ve downloaded the HD copy of some media it would be great if I could connect to my BBC iPlayer installation on any of my other devices and stream that content over my local network. The DRM can all be handled in the same way it is by the app on the PS3 or whatever. It’s just a locally-hosted copy of the exact same file. They could even make it so that you can only stream the content from within the iPlayer app if they wanted.

I don’t want to pirate anything, I just want to be able to play media I’ve downloaded on one device on another. This would be possible if I did illegally download a copy of the media, I shouldn’t be punished for being honest.

New job

Since Cheryl was looking like getting a job in London I’ve been looking for one myself. I sent an application to LoveFilm after thinking about how much of a good fit it would be for my interests. They’re a Perl house, so I know the language. They’re a company that deals with films, which I spend a lot of time and money on. The Playstation 3 app kind of made my mind up because I thought that it would be something I would like to work on.

I had to complete a programming test before anything else. After doing that I thought that I hadn’t done very well, but apparently I was worrying over nothing. I was offered an interview last Friday and so I went out and bought a new suit, got a haircut, had a shave, and went down there.

The interview itself went pretty well. I had a technical test/interview with two of the developers there, and then I had an interview with the head of the digital distribution team. I felt fairly comfortable during most of this process. The only issue was the pressure of being tested on programming stuff without a computer nearby. I don’t like writing SQL on paper. I much prefer to try a query once, then adjust it if it’s wrong, but oh well.

After the interview I was told that I should hear back fairly soon, so I went away not knowing what would happen, or how long it would really take.

I met up with JonP and we went for some drinks before my train at 20:30. At around 20:15 we realised that there was no chance of me making the train to Nottingham, so JonP offered to let me stay at his. We left the Bull in Shepherd’s Bush and went to the London Cocktail Club for a couple of drinks. Then we headed to Soho to a weird bar that serves drinks infused with garlic and stuff. We each had a shot of tequila infused with chilli. It was disgusting, so we chased it down with a beer.

On the way out of that bad JonP realised that he no longer had his bag. We headed back to the London Cocktail Club, which was closed. JonP rang their phone and left a message while I banged on the shutter door. Eventually someone came to the door to clean the steps with a mop, and thankfully JonP’s bag was still in there.

We caught a bus back to JonP and Emma’s apartment and I fell asleep fully suited up. I woke up a few times the next morning, then eventually noticed that I had a missed call from my contact at the agency. He said he’d got some feedback for me, and asked me to call him when possible.

I called him back and he told me that the interview was positive and that I had been offered the job. 😀

I rang Cheryl and my immediate family to let them know how it went, and started to feel pretty happy.

We decided to go and get some Mexican breakfast at Wahaca. JonP got as far as the DLR station before he decided to go back home to sleep. Emma and I powered on through. We decided to begin the drinking straight away. We ordered a tequila and a Corona, and during the course of eating our lunch we also ordered another tequila.

At about 2:30 Emma had to go to meet some of her friends so I decided to wander around London on my own for a while.

Cheryl called just as Emma left and said that she was thinking of coming down to London for the night. We discovered that the coach would be much cheaper, and Emma and JonP were fine with it, so we made plans.

I decided that I wanted to read a book and enjoy the day. I bought A Room with a View by E. M. Forster and made myself comfortable in Costa Coffee. I was reading in there for about 4 hours while Cheryl made her way to London. JonP’s band were playing a gig in Camden so we arranged to meet over there. I set off for Camden and met Cheryl at the tube station. She’d just seen JonP walk by with his guitar, so we headed off looking for the pub.

The venue was pretty small and incredibly warm, but the gig itself was good. 🙂

After the gig we went back to JonP’s apartment and Emma was asleep on the couch. She woke up after a little while and went to bed instead. We stayed up and had some pizza and stuff from Pizza Planet, and then called it a night.

We left fairly early on Sunday so that we could have some of the weekend chilling out at home. It was a really good weekend. 😀

Problems with LOVEFiLM on PS3

I recently subscribed to LOVEFiLM again because I saw that I could stream movies to my PS3. I was mostly pleased with how the application worked initially, but now I’ve been using it for a while there are a few things that bother me about it.

A-Z should mean A-Z
When you view a genre of movies you can view the most popular ones, the highest rated ones (usually pretty much the same list), or you can choose to view the entire genre A-Z. I decided I wanted to view all of the comedy movies on there to look for something a bit less popular. I scrolled down until I reached somewhere in the B section of the list and then it stopped scrolling. The problem is that the application only lets you view 100 movies in a list. No more get added to the list when you near the bottom, and there’s no pagination at all. This means you have to search for a film specifically if its title comes after the beginning 2 letters of the alphabet and it’s not in the popular/highest rated lists. That brings me neatly to my next gripe.

Searching is clunky
Rather than use the PS3 system keyboard there is a very limited keyboard in the application. Every time you press any key the list of matching movies is fetched again. When the list of movies is being fetched the keyboard no longer responds properly. If I have filtered the results by clicking on the “Watch Now” tab then it flicks back to all movies before showing me the results. On most sites with an auto-complete field on the web there is a delay of half a second or so before the search begins. This helps to prevent extraneous searches, and improve the experience for the user. A delay of a second or so without the focus moving or a button being pressed on the keyboard before a search is sent would help greatly. I could type in a more specific search and find what I’m looking for much more quickly. If I’ve previously chosen the “Watch Now” tab then this should be the default tab that I’m shown when the results are returned.

I can understand that the keyboard isn’t the default system keyboard for the PS3 because LOVEFiLM’s keyboard allows a narrowing down of results in something like real-time, whereas the PS3 keyboard takes over the whole screen and only fills in the text field after you’ve finished typing. So perhaps there’s some work that could be done by Sony there to have a keyboard as a popup when in a text field or something. Perhaps LOVEFiLM could allow me to use the system keyboard if I want to. It would certainly make the search section easier to use for now.

Default PS3 controls are replaced
I use my Playstation to play a lot of media. Whether I am watching a DVD, Blu Ray, or downloaded video I know I can fast forward by holding down R2, rewind using L2, and pause by pressing Start, which is pretty much universal in the console world. In the LOVEFiLM application fast forward is the right-direction on the d-pad, rewind is left, and pause is the X button. This was quite confusing at first and I always pressed the wrong button the first time. Why is there a disagreement? Don’t Sony have guidelines similar to Apple/Google when it comes to apps for their systems? Things should behave in a similar way across a platform. To do otherwise just adds problems for the user.

No personal recommendations
When it comes to picking movies to watch you’ve either got to know what you want and search for it, or find it in the Most Popular section, the Highest Rated Section, or the collections. LOVEFiLM have a bunch of ratings from films I’ve rented from them. They suggest films that I might like to watch when I visit their website. Why not pass that information over to the PS3 application? In fact, why not just return a section called “Films on your Rental List” that are available to Watch Now? The information is available with a simple call to their API.

I’m sure the whole thing will get better with updated versions of the software, and it is usable for now, but it could be so much better.

Subscription TV over the Internet

I recently signed up for Lovefilm again when I saw that I can stream a bunch of stuff via my PS3. They’ll also send me DVD/Blu-ray/PS3 games in the post and I can send them back when I’m done. I pay £14 a month no matter how much I watch, which seems like a good deal to me.

I pay for an Unlimited card at Cineworld so that I can go and see as many films as I like at the cinema for £13.50 a month. Cheryl and I tend to go to 4 or 5 films a month, which makes it considerably cheaper per film than not having the card and seeing the same number of films. We get to see all of the latest films as they come out in awesome quality complete with surround sound (and idiots with their phones on).

I pay £10 a month to Spotify so that I can stream whatever music I like (with very few limitations) to my work and home computers, and also my mobile phone without any advertising, at a high quality.

When I want to watch a TV show I have to watch it as it plays out on TV with advertising, or record it with a DVR when it’s on so I can watch it later. Other than sometimes on Virgin there seems to be no concept of an on demand catalogue of shows. Why? I would quite happily pay £15 a month or so for an archive of TV shows to be available at the press of a button on a variety of my devices in different locations. If LoveFilm had rights to more shows I would definitely go there for them, but sadly they don’t.

An additional problem is that I am a fan of shows on Facebook, so I get all sorts of updates as the latest episodes of How I Met Your Mother or House get shown over there, and then I get to wait 6 months for the episode to air over here on a channel (as part of a package) I have to pay Sky to watch even though I only want 1 or 2 shows.

Why would I do that? Why should I do that? If I want I can download the entire episode within hours of it airing in the US with ads removed and play it on my PS3, my phone, burn it to DVD and play it basically anywhere, etc..

It is obvious that the subscriber model works, I subscribe to almost all of my media these days. If you guys make it available in a sensible way then I will happily give you my money for it. If you continue doing it this way then people will continue to make it freely available. If you want to succeed you have to make your stuff as available as TeH pIrAtEz do, but legally and for a decent price.

London, staying up late, Assassin’s Creed, the wait for GT5

Just over a week ago Cheryl, Hayley, Dave, and I went on a road trip to London to watch the last F1 race of the season with JonP and Alex. We all made mix CDs to play on the journeys, which was cool. We also played the psychic game, where only one of us was allowed to put The Chain by Fleetwood Mac onto their mix CD but we couldn’t discuss it. If more than one of us put it on then we all lost, if none of us put it on then we all lost. somewhat amazingly I was the only one who put it on their CD, although Dave did put it on a secret CD by itself because he doesn’t believe in our psychic powers. 😉

The time in London was fun. We mostly just had some drinks and watched TV and films into the night. Very relaxed (and cheap!) compared to most of my trips to London. We watched the race on the Sunday and we were all pleased that Fernando Alonso did not win the championship, because he’s a wanker.

Cheryl’s friend Holly came to visit over the weekend. We all ended up staying up until about 8:30 in the morning watching random movies and just generally chatting, drinking, and stuff. It was fun even if the movie choices were a bit dubious.

The other day I bought Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I had no intention of buying it until a little while before I got it from HMV, but oh well. It’s actually a really enjoyable game. I’m just hoping I can finish it tonight because I should finally get Gran Turismo 5 tomorrow! 😀

I’ve been waiting for Gran Turismo 5 since I first got my Playstation 3 a few years ago. It’s been delayed many times, but this time there are no more delays. It is out tomorrow and I should get my copy in the post really soon. 😀 I was kinda hoping it would arrive a day early because it was sent on Saturday, but no such luck. If it doesn’t arrive tomorrow I will probably go on a killing spree… I hope I don’t lose my job and get taken to court for saying that, as it’s obviously a joke.