12 Things Very Wrong With The New BBC Store

Introducing the BBC Store

There’s a new digital-download content provider in town. The BBC Store promises to make the “unmissable” “ownable”.
It’s Aunty’s version of iTunes, featuring only BBC programmes. But is it all that?
Unfortunately, in my opinion, no it isn’t, and here’s why:

1. DRM means you may lose what you buy.

You can only use BBC-provided software to play your purchase. What this means is that if your hard disk fails (for example) and you want to download it again and the Store has removed it in the meantime, you can’t.  You can’t even back-up your purchase.

“Downloading to DVD isn’t possible.”

Actually, Aunty, it is possible; you just don’t want your customers to do it.

“We cannot guarantee that you will be able to stream or re-download Content that’s in your BBC Store account forever. Where our right to make content available has expired, you will no longer be able to stream or download that content from your BBC Store account.”

Uh-huh. You make the content. If a brilliant company like gog.com can make DRM-free content re-downloadable forever (even after they lose the rights to sell some of it) then why can’t you?

2. Where are the extras?

Whereas DVDs have director commentaries, featurettes and other bonus content, the BBC Store seems devoid of any such perks – or, at the very least, I’ve not seen them listed.

3. I’m a geek! Is it SD or HD?

We’re not told, either way, for any particular programme. There are no previews, no review feature, no way to know what the quality will be like. Buy and try, if you dare.

4. Content will (probably) be of worse quality than the equivalent DVD/Blu.

“SD programmes typically have a resolution of up to 960×540, or 540p and a top bit rate at around 2.8Mbps”

While modern encoding is much more efficient than DVDs’, a DVD has a potential bitrate of 11Mbps, almost four times more than BBC Store’s.

“We encode HD in at least 1280×720 resolution, or 720p. We use h.264 with an encoding bit rate of 5Mbps and 192kbps audio.”

Blu rays, meanwhile, are 1920×1080, or 1080p, with a bitrate of 20Mbps for h.264, and often feature lossless audio.

5. Material has been edited.  Somewhere.

“Occasionally, for certain rights reasons, there are aspects of a televised programme such as music or footage which we are unable to offer as part of a programme made available to purchase. However, we endeavour to ensure this does not affect your overall enjoyment of the show.”

So says Help & Support. What they don’t care to say is which shows in particular have been edited. Another case of buyer beware.

6. The prices are too high.  Way too high.

Seriously, they are. If you compare to the equivalent DVD/Blu-Ray, the BBC Store is much more expensive for what it provides.
examples (prices rounded up, correct as of time of writing on 6/11/15):
Luther, series 1-3: Amazon: 10 pounds. BBC Store: 15 pounds.
Sherlock, series 1 & 2: Amazon: 8 pounds. BBC Store: 16 pounds.
The Good Life, complete: Amazon: 17 pounds. BBC Store: 36 pounds.
Bargain Hunt: Amazon doesn’t sell it. BBC Store: 469 pounds (if you really want all 248 episodes available at 1.89 each!)

Which was the format with the better quality and extras again…?

7. You can’t return purchases once you’ve seen them.

Apparently, once you’ve started the download/stream, you lose all rights to a refund*. What if whatever you bought is, um, a steaming pile of manure? *cough*UWM recons*cough*
* unless the issue is technical.

8. You can’t sell on.

If you decide you don’t like your DVD, you can always sell it on and make some money back. With the BBC Store you have no such recourse.  Forget about leaving someone your hard-bought collection in your will!

9. You can’t lend a programme to a mate.

Unless, I suppose, you lend them your iPhone or login details. Lending a DVD is just a tad safer.

10. There’s no wish-list.

Seriously? They launch a store without such a feature? If you don’t have a memory palace, you’re out of luck – and BBCWW are without some sales.

11. It’s not worldwide.

The BBC Store is a creation of BBC Worldwide, but only people living in the UK can buy from it!
What about ex-pats (like me)? Surely BBCWW can open it up to everyone? If it’s a matter of territorial licensing, that surely does not apply to all of their archive?
Fortunately, Amazon.co.uk are quite happy to send me DVDs through the post…

12. It’s not that portable.

If you ever move away from the UK (or go on holiday), you can no longer stream your purchases while abroad. If you need to re-download something from your new home in Mexico, you’re also out of luck. Compare this to popping a DVD in your luggage.

Some balance…

Okay, so many of the BBC Store’s failings (particularly, DRM and price) are also issues with iTunes. I want to mention what’s good – or potentially great – about the BBC Store:

1. There’s material on sale which you can’t buy on DVD.

Either the DVD is out of print (cf. Maid Marian and Her Merry Men) or just never been issued in the UK (cf. the Tom Baker Hound of the Baskervilles), there’s bound to be something there that will tempt you. And that will be more and more the case as the Store unearths and unlocks older content from their archives. From my perspective, I’d much rather have the DVD/Blu, but I can well understand the Beeb not wanting to commit to releasing the complete Bargain Hunt on disc. Yet, even that show must have its fans, so bully for them that they can live in (Expensive) Daytime TV Heaven if they want to.

2. New material can be released on short notice.

You don’t have to wait for the boxed set: buy the season pass and download new episodes as they appear. You don’t even have to wait for the post.

3. You can cherry-pick.

You don’t have to buy the bundle. For example, the BBC’s recent release of the old Doctor Who adventure, The Underwater Menace. This is a four-part story which unfortunately is missing the video of parts 1 & 4. Those two parts were reconstructed (apparently at minimum cost and effort) from a very limited number of stills and the original audio. I would not pay tuppence for either of them, judging from their previews on iTunes. Part 3 was also available on another DVD, Lost in Time. The recently recovered-and-restored part 2, on the other hand, can now be bought on the Store for 2.99 – which is probably the most expensive 24 minutes of anything there – but still (currently) cheaper than shelling out for the whole DVD.

4. No clutter.

The new generation of kids (and some adults) seem to like their virtual shelves. No physical product to store. Portability & convenience!
* provided you have a reliable hard disk, a solid Internet connection, and nobody hacks your account or steals your laptop!

5. You can brag to your ex-pat friends that you have access to something they don’t!


How to make the BBC Store A Whole Lot Better

  1. Go DRM-free.  Be brave.  Trust that your customers aren’t thieves.  Let them download to Linux if they want to.  Let them play video via their Raspberry Pis.  Do for video sales what mp3 did for audio.
  2. Look at how much the DVD for a series is selling on Amazon, and – at least – match it.  Don’t charge more for an inferior product with worse picture/sound and fewer/no extras.  Charge less for a superior one.  Because can’t you afford to that by cutting out the middle man?
  3. The Store’s soft-launch content is good for recent programmes but where’s all the great stuff from the 1960s and 70s?  The content people will want most of all is what they can’t obtain on DVD.
  4. The Store definitely needs some sort of subscription model for shows like Bargain Hunt, which would cost a small fortune to collect for their fans.  Rentals as well as sales.  Amazon manages it.
  5. Open up your content to the rest of the world.  Or, at the very least, put your not-on-dvd exclusives on iTunes for the rest of us.  Quite frankly, I’d much rather give you my money than Apple.
  6. We need more product information on the pages.  Whether a show has been edited.  Is it 4:3 or 16:9?  Is it mono or stereo?  Has it been remastered?  Preview clips are a must.  Ability to add to a wish list.  Customer Reviews.

End of rambling rant. 🙂

Windows 10 Installation Resolved (Phew!)

Today’s update:

I was going to wait for the silly notification thingy in Win 7, really I was.  Windows Download just wasn’t playing ball, so I tried something else:

  • I burned a Win10 DVDR from the first iso file at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10ISO (I believe that variant N is a no media player version, KN is a Korean version)
  • Then I ran that DVDR’s installation directly from Win 7.  It was an upgrade installation; it didn’t give me any other option.  It also took quite a bit longer than the upgrade I tried yesterday.  Don’t ask me why.
  • I tried to activate it, it said try again later.
  • I linked my MS account to Win 10, and pressed activate again.  This time it worked!  Phew!

Now comes the joy of reinstalling all my software…

Compatibility Troubles

So far I’ve had only one game (Escape Goat 2, a lovely puzzler), and one app (Manga Studio 5 EX) fail to work in Win 10.  I resolved both problems by right-clicking on the .exe files and selecting “Run as Administrator”.  All good! 🙂

No hardware incompatibilities found so far.  Everything else going very smoothly.

I’m loving the updated Task Manager.

It is the best Windows yet.  Having said that, I’m typing this on Yosemite and I still feel that OSX is a much more polished product.  Windows 10 is a bit, um, Fisher Price. 🙂

How *Not* To Upgrade to Windows 10

Some Background

Since Christmas I’ve been tinkering about with the Windows 10 Technical Preview, and I was quite impressed.  I’m an old school XP-SP3 user; I had Vista on a laptop and hated it, felt no compunction to upgrade to 7 and even less to upgrade to the much-maligned 8.  I decided that it was about time I upgraded my Windows OS, and that I would buy an upgrade to 10.

But then MS sneakily (or generously, depending on your viewpoint) offered a free upgrade from Win 7.1/8, so I thought, okay, I’ll buy a cheap-o copy of 7 and then update when the time comes.  Which is what I did.  Bought Win7 Pro, updated it, activated it, didn’t really use it because it was just there to be upgraded, and my main computer is a Mac.  I pressed the little Windows icon to “reserve” my copy of Win10, and that was that for then.

Roll on Today, 29th July

I woke up, saw the news that Win 10 was being rolled out and decided, yes!  Today is the day I will upgrade my Win 7.  I turned on my dusty old PC and ran Windows Update and… well, nothing.  No Windows 10 upgrade yet available.  Bah, thought I!  I went online.  Was I to wait for MS’s reservation queue in goodness-knows-how-many weeks or months to get around for me?  Or would I be a bit more proactive?

Enter the MS Media Creation Tool

Here’s the link, but read the rest of my blog first!


This tool promises the following

The media creation tool can be used to upgrade your current PC to Windows 10 or to create a USB or DVD and installWindows 10 on a different PC.

I used it to upgrade my current installation, which is what I read you need to do when you take advantage of the “free upgrade” offer.

Everything seemed to go really smoothly.  Win 10 Pro loaded, looked slick.  I updated my graphics drivers and linked my MS account.  Then I tried to activate my copy…

Activation Woes

It wouldn’t activate, and I’m not alone with this.  Either the server was getting hammered (by other frustrated upgraders) or something else was wrong.  Did the Free Upgrade somehow not apply to my copy of Win 7?

Enter MS Technical Support

The tl;dr version of this blog is the following gem from MS online support:

Well, the best thing to do is for you to go back to Previous Windows operating system and please download it through Windows Updates.
That website where you downloaded the update is for a retail copy – purchased product.
So there you have it: don’t upgrade until Microsoft says you can… The long and the short of it is that MS still has a lot to learn from Apple. 😦
Exit Me, Back to OSX

Them Germans and… Their Bike Helmets

Am I the only adult in Germany who wears a bicycle helmet while cycling?  Maybe.  What I do know is that, in my neck of the woods, I’ve never seen another man or woman ride a bike here with a helmet.

Not for the first or last time I’ll say this: Germans are crazy.

Okay, so there are bike lanes almost everywhere here.  This is a very good thing – and a great improvement over Blighty’s network (which is very much a product of old houses being built too close to each other).  But it’s not like those cycle paths are elevated or subterranean.  They cross a multitude of driveways and junctions.  Sometimes they’re heavily potholed, or some moron has parked across one.  In short: bike lanes don’t make you invulnerable.

Additionally to the potholes, sometimes the guttering here is excessive.  It can be easy to get your wheels snagged in the gap between the curb and the road.  I know, because I fell off my bike from that, the first time I went out with it.

The other time I fell off my bike was (of course) the one time I didn’t wear my helmet.  I had forgotten to put it on and I was too lazy to trudge back inside the house to get it.  Anyway, as I was cycling along, a whole host of small, kamikaze flies kept colliding with my face.  In retrospect, I think the helmet would have scared them away, had I been wearing it.  Then one fly dive-bombed straight into my eye, and I had to stop.  Unfortunately, I had stopped at a particularly bumpy section of pavement and, as I resumed, the bike caught several bumps and decided by itself to veer right, off the curb and flat down, crushing my foot.  tldr: Hospital.  X-Ray.  Bad sprain.  Crutches.

So, yeah, German cyclists have a death-wish.  The kids wear helmets (thank Goodness) but then they get to a certain age and decide they’re okay with the risk of probable brain damage, because at least they won’t look like dorks beforehand.

What makes them even crazier is this: surely they’re aware of how insane German drivers are?!  Because German drivers are insane.  They’ll overtake a tractor on a blind bend if it means they’ll save ten seconds on their journey.  And it doesn’t have to be a tractor: any car, that they think is going too slowly, they’ll try to overtake, whatever the risk.  And this along roads through forestland punctuated by multiple pink markers (to show where cars have once collided with crossing deer).

I’ll cut short this long and winding rant to say: the above is why I prefer to take the train.

Them Germans and… Their Dictionaries

This is what my Mac has to say about the definition of Dictionary

a book or electronic resource that lists the words of a language (typically in alphabetical order) and gives their meaning, or gives the equivalent words in a different language, often also providing information about pronunciation, origin, and usage.

Someone didn’t cc the Germans this.  Because Germans intrinsically – from birth – know the meanings of all of their words.  So they don’t bother putting the meanings in their dictionaries.

I kid you not.*

Their dictionaries are all about each word’s spelling and declensions.  You probably know that German nouns have one of three genders (der/die/das).  Actually they can have more than one, but then the word can then mean something else.  Here is a language that is so needlessly complicated that those complications are more important than the meanings!

(*Very well, in the interests of fairness, their really big dictionaries do have same-language definitions, but the smaller ones don’t.  If you know of a smaller, simpler one that does, comment below!  My Duden dictionary for secondary-school pupils doesn’t, and that’s just short of 700 pages)

Here’s what the English equivalent of my Duden “dictionary” would look like:

  • The cab.  Plural is cabs.  Genitive: “of the cab”
  • The cabin.  Genitive: “of the cabin”**
  • The cabinet.  Plural is cabinets.  Genitive: “of the cabinet”

(** sometimes Duden doesn’t give the plural – or the genitive – as if it’s too obvious to bother to print it.  I haven’t yet worked out whether there’s a pattern to this.  I suspect it’s random.)

So… great!  If you already know the spelling, you can look a word up!  Let’s pray/prey you do know the spelling.  You don’t want to/two/too reinforce your own ignorance, and be led/lead astray…

Them Germans and… Their Beer-Cider

We all know how much Germans love their beers.  It’s beertopia here for hop-lovers.  Unfortunately, beer ain’t my drink.  As far as I am concerned, cider rules – and that’s a very unfortunate opinion to have when you live in Germany.

If you ask most Germans about cider, they’ll look at you like you’re talking gibberish.  There’s a German word (which they don’t know), das Cidre, which their Duden dictionary informs me is a French Apfelwein.  Apfelwein is there other word for cider, and most don’t know what that is, either.  Apple-wine?  Well, of course they don’t know what it is!  They probably imagine some Wayne Roonie-lookalikes stamping on apples in huge vats to get the juice.

If you were to venture into a German supermarket looking for cider, chances are you will find the beer.  It’s everywhere.  But will you find the cider?  Will you heck.  You’ve got to be as dogged as Sherlock Holmes – and then some.

First of all, their “apple-wine” isn’t by the beer; if it’s anywhere, it’s hidden in the women’s fruity drinks section.  What you’ll find there may be one (or two, if you’re lucky) examples of “apple-wine”.  It’ll be very low-alcoholic, very sweet, very horrible.

After further investigation in the specialized drinks stores, you may be lucky enough to find something a little more alcoholic.  It’s called Blauer Bock, and it’s the best of a poor selection.  5.5% and… well, it’s like they tried really hard to make a cider that tastes like beer.  If you like cider and you like beer, you’ll probably love it.  5.5/10.

Late Entry!

Carlsberg (yes, famous for their beer) have produced another cider called “Somersby Cider”.  I was thrilled to discover this very recently in my local Rewe.  Not even in the fruity drinks section; on its own, hidden in the corner by the checkout!  4.5% and… it tastes like they added fizz and alcohol to one of those cheap “100% from concentrate” apple juices I used to drink as a nipper.  It’s not bad, but too much like soda-pop for my cider tastes.  6/10.


The cider revolution in Germany will happen.  One day.  I’m sure that all that’s stopping it is the stupid words they’ve been lumbered with here: the French one and the nonsensical one.  So here’s a better word, my gift to German culture: der Zeider.  Come on, Germans, you know it makes sense! 🙂

Them Germans and… Star Wars

By far the most difficult thing about learning German is: my brain knows I don’t really need it.  Despite the fact that I live in Germany.  I work from home, I’m not sociable, our family language is English, the Internet sites I visit are English, my dentist speaks English and so on.  By now I can just about understand most things to do with shopping in Germany, so I don’t get caught out whenever I venture beyond the front door.  What more do I actually need?!  I don’t have time to watch German TV, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on that.  I don’t read magazines.  Music here is mostly English/American imports…

So, in order to learn German, I have to find very good reasons to do so.  My Nikon D7000’s camera manual is only in German; I can download the English version but I like the hard-copy, so there’s one incentive.

Recently, my wife dug out an old sticker album she ended up with (she claims it’s not hers).  It’s a Panini Star Wars album from 1978, with German text and most of the stickers!  Of course, I love Star Wars (at least, the original, Han-shoots-first, trilogy), so this is another good incentive to learn more German words.


So, then: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?

Not according to the Germans it doesn’t!

Yes, you read that right: Star Wars takes place in the year 3000.  Not a long time ago.  Take a look!


But in a galaxy far, far, away, right?


Apparently, it takes place in the Milky Way.  Which is our galaxy!


How could the Germans get the first line of the movie so wrong?!  Is that line even on the German version?  If so, who the heck did they get to translate it?  If it was me as a baby, all is forgiven.