BBC Live Quiz Show First to Use Java on mobile

Broadcasters have flirted with interactivity in quiz shows for a long time – and there have been a few examples lately using mobile phones to SMS answers. However, the BBC has teamed with Tailor Made Films to develop the next stage – proper interactivity on multiple platforms, including a mobile phone and web-based Java applets. The game can also be played on Freeview and through satellite set-top boxes.

The project has been on the go for about 18 months, and has evolved since its inception. SMS was considered in the early days, but was rejected as it was too restrictive.

Neil Pleasants, Managing Producer at Tailor Made Films told Digital Lifestyles why they favoured Java: ” Java is portable – you can take it to other countries and it’ll work. Digital TV platforms might as well be written in Martian, they don’t transfer — the platforms differ wildly as their capabilities.”

The BBC website explains the format of the quiz: “Come And Have A Go… offers viewers the chance to challenge the studio winners head to head. Playing on interactive TV, Java, or web, teams at home answer the same questions as the studio teams. At the end of the first part of the show a satellite camera is whisked off to join the top scoring home team – wherever they are in the UK. In the second part of the show, the home team competes live against the studio team for the cash prize.” The cameras are on motorbikes distributed around the country.

Neil went onto explain how Java has enabled them to sell the programme into other markets with the minimum of trouble: “We’re taking the programme worldwide. When we went into countries and explained the idea, they loved it. But they didn’t know about the actual technology. We’ve made the technology as simple as possible and that’s the key, because that is so essential everywhere.” Tailor Made films even have an idea for a branded phone.

Their first phase was getting the programme into Western Europe, America, Australia and Scandinavia – the second phase will be Eastern Europe, Middle East, Japan and China.

Java also allowed Tailor Made to build high levels of security into the quiz applet to prevent cheating, including timestamping. This is just as well: the guaranteed minimum prize is UK£30,000 (US$55,000, €45,000) the largest ever weekly prize ever given out on a British television programme.

Neil believes that content is maturing to match the platforms available: “This is as interactive as it gets.”

The official website

Tailor Made Films

Sun’s Java home

International Federation of the Phonographic Industry Takes Action Against 247 Music Swappers

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has begun taking action against 247 alleged illegal music sharers in four counties. They are targeting individuals making a large number of files available on a range of P2P systems including Kazaa, DirectConnect, WinMX, eMule and iMesh.

Although much of the action consists of letters threatening a legal response, individuals in Italy and Canada are already being taken to court.

Jay Berman, Chairman and CEO of IFPI. said: “Today’s announcement should come as no surprise. Over the past year the record industry has been extremely active internationally and locally, educating the public about the huge damage being done by illegal file-sharing, explaining the laws and promoting all the sites where large catalogues of copyrighted music are available for consumers to access legitimately.”

The IFPI is promising legal action against more illegal sharers in coming months – but is keen to stress that this first round of action comes only after an extensive attempt at educating the public. Yet, and independent survey reveals that some 45% of respondents did not know that downloading music from P2P sites like Kazaa is illegal.

The industry is getting tough: Peter Zombik, CEO of IFPI Germany said in a statement: “The unauthorised distribution of music on the web has increased to such an extent over the last few years that it is threatening the livelihood of the German music industry. Whilst we have so far concentrated our legal actions on illegal music offers on websites – in the last two years we were able to close down more than 2000 such websites in Germany – we also carried out an extensive public information campaign in the last year in order to increase the awareness for the legal and technical dangers involved in illegal file swapping. Excuses about being unaware of the legal position are no longer acceptable. ”

IFPI’s press release

Embedded Linux All Around You

Linux is appearing in the wild more and more – unbeknownst to most consumers. If you have a Linksys router, it’s the box’s embedded OS. If you have a Volvo, the engine management system is Linux-based. It’s even employed to enable pacemakers to transmit data wirelessly to warn of a heart attack. There’s even a Linux-based watch, but Sesame would kill me.

Linux-based kernels are favoured in these smaller systems for three key reasons:

  • they make the most of limited hardware
  • Linux is cheap (often free)
  • it is well documented and understood, not relying on proprietary code that is protected

We’d like to gather together some links here for you to explore, to find out more about Linux in the devices you use every day.

Linux is not without its problems though – some of the code in the kernel is flaky to say the least, and many things that users take for granted, such as Firewire support and drivers for common hardware, are either nightmarish to enable, or just non-existent. However, kernel support for hardware is improving and much of the more imaginative code is being weeded out rapidly.

Away from the purely embedded side, Sony have had success with the Linux development kit for the PlayStation2 – a product that only demonstrates how flexible the operating system really is. Sony produced the kit to encourage home development for the system – much like the Yaroze version of the PS1. Sadly, though, we can’t remember the last time we popped into Game and bought a title that was written on either dev system – to an extreme with the PS2, the two platforms are enormously complex and hardly the sort of things that bedroom coders will be able to produce a top-flight title with. Oh, bring back the days of Braben and Bell and Elite.

With the number of devices growing daily, Linux seems to be expanding just as fast as the whole Digital Lifestyles world – and we’ll keep you up to date with the pros and cons of this fascinating growth area.

Linux is popping up all over

Embedded Linux – see how many Linux-based items you own but didn’t know about

Building Embedded Linux Systems

Operate Your Video Recorder From Your Mobile Phone

Norwegian software developer Opera, responsible for a couple of the best internet browsers around, have announced the Mobile Interactive Programming Guide (mobileIPG) – which allows users to record TV programmes on their video recorders, even when you’re out and about and have forgotten to set the timer.

Christen Krogh, vice president of engineering at Opera said in a statement: “The mobileIPG means full freedom to see what you want when you want it, it takes just a few seconds to look up the program on the mobileIPG on your handset, and then activate your recorder at home with just a click.”

Opera hope that the new service will attract paying clients from TV operators to mobile phone networks.

Digital Lifestyles have yet to try the product out, but we’re sure they’ve come up with an imaginative was to eject the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 tape we left in the recorder last night and put a blank in.

Get your hands on an Opera browser here

3rd USENIX Conference On File And Storage Technologies (FAST ’04)

The 3rd USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies (FAST ’04) brings together storage system researchers and practitioners to explore new directions in the design, implementation, evaluation, and deployment of storage systems. The conference will consist of two and a half days of technical presentations, including refereed papers and work-in-progress sessions. San Francisco California USA

Harvard University and North Carolina: Music Sharing Doesn’t Harm CD Sales

Harvard University and the University of North Carolina have just published what they claim to be the most detailed economic modelling survey using direct data from P2P networks. The report’s authors claim: “We find that file sharing has only had a limited effect on record sales. While downloads occur on a vast scale, most users are likely individuals who would not have bought the album even in the absence of file sharing.”

The survey used 17 weeks of logs from a pair of OpenNap servers in 2002, taking a random sample of 500 albums and comparing the sales of these albums in shops.

Record labels have seen sales of CD albums and singles fall dramatically in recent years, and are keen to blame this on P2P sharing and other illegal downloads. Could it be that the real reason is that people just have more things to spend their money on, and are less interested in buying CDs than they once were? DVD and video game sales have rocketed over the past five years – and there’s only a finite amount of cash in disposable incomes – so something has got to give somewhere.

The study seems to lend weight to the argument that downloading actually helps CD sales. “Participants could substitute downloads for legal purchases, thus reducing sales. Alternatively, file sharing allows users to learn about music they would not otherwise be exposed to. In the file sharing community, it is a common practice to browse the files of other users and to discuss music in file server chat rooms. This learning may promote new sales”, says the report.

The RIAA was quick to disagree: “Countless well-respected groups and analysts, including Edison Research, Forrester, and the University of Texas, among others, have all determined that illegal file sharing has adversely impacted the sales of CDs. Our own surveys show that those who are downloading more are buying less,” spokeswoman Amy Weiss said in a statement.

The report

Preview of the Connected Home event, April 2004

By Ian Johnson, Director, Junction Ltd.

After what was perceived to be a relatively slow start for the industry – things are finally making progress.

The Connected Home Conference – September 2003 – focused on partnerships to really push the industry forward. The technologies are in place and the service aggregators are ready – the challenge is communicating this to the marketplace.

As commented by the previous review of the September event, there were a lot of top level – strategic overview speeches that really gave an important insight to what each sector was doing and allowing networking opportunities. This is great for those at a senior strategy level, and we have retained some of this for the April event. However the practical element, the hands on stuff, will also be focused on much more.

Partnering with Cedia, we’ve introduced an important section on construction and installers with a session chaired by Steve Moore outlining the latest practical projects. Also, there are two interesting speeches from Abrocour (who have partnered with the likes of Berkley Homes, Intel, HP and Microsoft to help deploy their services), and ConvergeX who are partnering with Linden Homes to launch a raft of new services.

The April event will also have some very interesting insights and learning from the US market from companies like GE Interlogix, Windows eHome, and Whirlpool, and Parks Associates all venturing over from across the Atlantic.

So, what are the current market trends?

Abracour CEO Sam Sethi explained to Digital Lifestyles: “Wireless solutions are becoming faster and safer, and are gaining in popularity with consumers, as people want access to their data, video and audio on the move. As the government pushes ahead with its new Building Regulations (Part Q) stating that all developers should provide the capability for broadband Internet in new homes, we expect to see a big uptake in housing developers installing wireless.”

This has important implications for the housing market, as Sethi pointed out, “Housing developers are realizing that wired solutions are costly and cumbersome, and that wireless home network solutions offers house builders and architects a cheaper and more efficient alternative.” (For more information on Abrocour, see the link below.)

This in turn provides a new angle for the way homes are marketed and the perceived value add it delivers for consumers. Matthew Bramble, Technical Director, Opus Technologies described that, “Its now widely accepted that modern entertainment technology genuinely attracts new home buyers and adds to a home’s perceived value. We recognized early-on that home builders were the key to getting this exciting technology into the home and have consequently striven to design products ideal for new build. We have made it a priority to partner with new-home builders world-wide and have enjoyed particular success where we have focused on creating customized solutions.”

That’s exactly what the connected home event is about – bringing together industries, and providing a useful link between home builders and technology companies, and enabling them to partner to deliver services to the marketplace.

We began the September 2003 event by defining ‘What is the connected home’?

“We believe it should be based on real people, living in real homes and not on technologies or esoteric finances, or lifestyles that don’t mean anything to people out in the street. It’s about connecting things simply and wherever I want to connect them in my home,” said David Sales, Director of Home Communications, BT.

Strategies for the market

The 2003 conference stressed that by using an ecosystem strategy to develop the home technology market – as an end-to-end service experience for the customer – it would make it simpler for them to build that system themselves.

Many speakers were thinking holistically about the broadband ecosystem in the home. They viewed broadband as feeding that system, at the heart of the connected home – bringing things alive. The Connected Home must feed consumers desire to work, play, and relax and even to be able to monitor all things going on in the home. Broadband was seen as important in setting this market alive, however, ‘partnerships’ are the key to driving the market forward.

Thomas Hott,, CEO of ProSyst Software AG, told me: “One of the discernible trends at present is a movement away from piecemeal home networking offerings to more comprehensive solutions. People realize the need for an integrated platform to connect devices of any kind and regardless of who produced them. Consequently, a standards-based approach is in the interest of all value-chain participants – from manufacturers to service providers and end users.”

What will drive the connected home?

In addition to forming alliances, many see entertainment in the connected home as the main driver. It was commented that people are willing to pay to enjoy themselves and that generating excitement and enjoyment in these services, with easy to handle technologies would be key.

“‘Enhanced features’, costs savings and ease of use are really the things that will drive this market forward” explained Michael Gannon, Senior Market Manager, Motorola Broadband. Gannon. “At the moment we are seeing competition is greater in Europe than in the US, in the connected home arena. The competition between DSL and Cable as the enabling technologies are driving the market, and we are seeing the acceptance of connected home products going down well in Europe, due to this competition. This is driving the market slightly more than in the USA.”

Looking at the different types of product on offer, “Numerous attractive new smart home products have reached the consumer in recent months. Through major contributions to such products – including a Motorola smart home gateway, the Philips iPronto and Bosch Siemens’ serve@home solution – ProSyst has played a crucial role in furthering this market with its OSGi-based end-to-end solutions,” outlined Daniel Schellhoss, ProSyst Software AG.

In order for the networked home to be a success there has to be a mass market. In the US the connected home market came to life in the retail market and online, whereas in the UK retail has not yet proved to be a very strong route to market. Many asked whether the UK retail industry would be supporting this market growth in a similar way?

Delivering Services

Entertainment, home care, remote control and security services are all becoming more important for the consumer, and the focus on these services was well received. Also, important other markets emerged in home care and control. This was highlighted by the West Lothian Council case study. This showed us the opportunity to embrace the potential of the technology in the way of changing lives of citizens, and helping to tackle social inclusion.

To make services available for the mass market, many were convinced something has to change in the market – and this was likely the role of the home service aggregator. Many cable, Telco and utility companies are looking to develop this role in the market. This involves combining portfolios of services and delivering this in an easy way to the end customer which makes higher quality of service.

“Manufacturers look for new ways to not only reduce their maintenance and development costs but also to enhance their market share by offering new and attractive services, that constantly grow in volume and content variety. An important factor that affects not only the manufacturers and operators, but also the consumers’ interest in new services and customer loyalty is the delivery, installation, activation and maintenance of new applications and services in a safe manner. By providing simple and convenient solutions we reduce barriers to adoption that remove the burden of complexity from the consumer’s hands and help manufacturers to reduce maintenance costs up to 30%.”, explained Dr. Susan Schwarze from ProSyst Software AG.

Understanding consumers

IBM outlined its role in understand the behaviour of consumers when dealing with complex technologies. “What is the reason to use these technologies – it’s all about services” commented Ralph Baral, Smart Home WW, IBM.

Understanding what exactly the consumer are doing, their behaviour and how much time they are spending using these technologies and how it is effecting their lives. The general consensus among speakers was that the consumer is becoming far more technology literate, and this is influencing the way in which technology and media companies configure their services.

Whilst they are becoming more technology literate, most speakers emphasised the need to keep the complexity for the end user at the lowest level possible – and that it was still the problem today.

April 21/22nd, Connected Home, 2004 event

The April event this year will receive yet more focus on service deployment and provisioning in the industry, but importantly will also include a focus on the construction industry. Four of the leading UK property developers will be speaking at the event, and offering their views on the different types of connected home project they have been undertaking.

ConvergeX, the digital homes solution company, is one such organisation partnering their home control middleware software with leading UK property developer Linden Homes.

Jostein Svendsen, Managing Director of ConvergeX commented that, “2004 is the year where Digital Homes will take center stage as many major companies are moving into the market place and positioning themselves to drive the market forward. But even if the larger players will supply the devices, the innovation and applications will found in the smaller companies. This is where Europe can play a main role – delivering leading edge applications to enable the digital home revolution.”

This focus on the building industry was something emphasized by Opus Technologies, and exhibitor at the 2003 event. Matthew Bramble, Technical Director, Opus Technologies described that, “Its now widely accepted that modern entertainment technology genuinely attracts new home buyers and adds to a home’s perceived value. We recognized early-on that home builders were the key to getting this exciting technology into the home and have consequently striven to design products ideal for new build. We have made it a priority to partner with new-home builders world-wide and have enjoyed particular success where we have focused on creating customized solutions; solutions which are not only product but a fully realized support package which includes marketing, project management and installation services.”

Svendsen from ConvergeX echoes this sentiment, ” We look at the market and are tying up with players in a number of ways. We are initially targeting property developers and authorized re-sellers and will later license the software to be installed in various home devices. Even though we are starting deployment in the mid to upper end of the market – we will ultimately achieve mass market adoption by being available on millions of devices being sold to the home.”


The broadband home is here today, and the connected home is coming. Everything is available today, we have connectible devices and service aggregators – the question asked was how do we move forward to this integration environment? The technology is already here, the big challenge is how we market it to the right people? How do we communicate to the marketplace?

Jostein – “The connected home of the future is not about having massive amount of technology on display. The good solutions are the invisible ones, the ones that always there to help you and make your life easier, but you don’t have to think about them.”

Consumers are getting used to the concept of the home network. “The networked home really has a future, but as far as the mass market is concerned I think we really have to find out what that is” summarised Andrew Mullen, General Manager Communications and new technologies, LG Electronics UK.

Convergence is really re-defining the industry today as connected devices are emerging and as Mask Ossel, VP and General Manager, EMEA, Echelon outlined, “many companies underestimate t he speed of change.”

As we plan for the next connected home, April 21/22nd 2004, we are considering the comments throughout out the 2 days, and are looking to help the industry understand the issues that it faces, and helping drive this market forward.

We look forward to seeing you at The Connected Home 2004.

More information on the Connected Home event – can be found at – The Connected Home or by calling Ian Johnson, Director, Junction Ltd, 0044 1179042004,


XBox: Huge US Price Cut

Microsoft have generally been slower to cut XBox prices in the US than they have in Europe – possibly because it started out at a much lower price there in the first place. Now, they’ve made a massive cut – possibly because sales of video games in the spring/summer months traditionally slump.

The XBox has been cut by $30 (UK£16.50, €24.60 ) to $149 (UK£81.75, €122.12). This makes it cheaper in the US than a GameBoy Advance SP is in the UK (a GBA-SP is currently UK£84.99 on Amazon, making it nearly US$155).

Microsoft are planning similar price cuts for Canada and Mexico, but would not say if other markets could look forward to a discount.

Many games such as Counter Strike and Project Gotham Racing will also see price cuts to $29.99.

Microsoft also released a rather striking limited edition “Crystal” XBox in the UK this week – it’s entirely transparent and is only £139, which sounds like good value until you compare the Dollar price with the new US price for the ordinary model (US$253, €207).

Crystal XBox

AT&T Introduce DIY VoIP Service

Initially only available to New Jersey residents, AT&T’s new CallVantage service allows subscribers to call other areas of the country using their broadband connection.

The service comprises of a plug in adapter that allows the user to make calls to any other telephone – and interestingly the adapter can be moved to other locations with a wired broadband connection, though the user’s number and area code stay the same.

The service is being introduced at US$19.99 (UK£11, €16.40) for the first six months, rising to US$39.99 (UK£22, €32.80) thereafter, for unlimited domestic calling. Other features to be introduced include voice mail, presence (being able to ring the phone closest to a user) and video conferencing capabilities for up to nine callers.

More details from AT&T