BBC get with the times

BBC LogoThe Beeb announced yesterday a couple of new services they’ll be offering before the end of the year. Firstly, and the one which has got the most publicity is that the BBC websites will be available free via The Cloud wifi hotspots. The Cloud have had quite a bit of publicity recently – first a partnership with O2 to provide access to iPhone users and then one with McDonald’s to provide free wifi access in their restaurants.

There have been the usual mumblings about anti-competitive behaviour and the dominant position that the BBC’s online services have in the market but I’m not so interested in that – I’m more interested in the proliferation of wifi access. With the iPhone due to launch in the UK next month, the majority of students coming to university with a laptop and a wider awareness of wireless networks, there is potential do do a bit more in this area.

If iPhone users are going to be actively looking for wifi connections, why not give them one? Why not open up our wireless network to offer easy access to content for visitors to the campus? When we host conferences we could publish the programme via wifi. During open days we could give access to campus maps and guides. The rest of the time staff and students could get access to GO and other services without the need to log in to the hotspot.

The other announcement was more interesting to me:

The broadcaster has signed a deal with Adobe to provide Flash video for the whole of the BBC’s video services, including a streaming version of its iPlayer.

Finally after 10 years of RealAudio/Video and many years of Windows Media Audio/Video have they decided to adopt the one system that has proven itself to be stable across multiple platforms while offering high quality at relatively low bandwidths. Many people’s opinion of Flash video is tainted by the poor quality (in every sense) YouTube experience but it’s actually a very good format and if you’re not being stingy with bandwidth, quality is very good. An update to to Flash Version 9 including H.264 support will boost this even further.

Some have said that the BBC has been slow to adopt new technologies and adapt to all this new fangled Web 2.0 lark but these announcements show that maybe Auntie has just woken up from her afternoon nap…

Homeward Bound

Not content with putting server rooms in shipping containers, I’d love to see student housing making use of them. Boing Boing featured them and have even produced a list of examples ranging from Florida suburban houses to Russian market stalls. From accounts coming out of Amsterdam they seem to be pretty attractive and popular as student housing.

There are apparently 700,000 unused shipping containers in US ports – I imagine there’s a fair few around the UK. Other than exporting rubbish (actual waste – I’m not taking a shot at UK manufacturing!) there’s not a lot that can be done with them so this seems like a great, environmentally friendly and economical use for them.

Just for Fun

Keeping on top of your feeds can be hard work – all that news and analysis flooding in every day can be a bit heavy so I subscribe to some which are a bit more light hearted.

As I mentioned previously I’m going to self-censor

  • Dilbert – I sometimes worry that I’m becoming more and more like Dilbert and frequently the comics mirror my own life. I just wish I had a tie that curled up.
  • User Friendly – if Dilbert isn’t quite geeky enough then try out User Friendly. It’s set in an ISP and it’s easy to identify some of the character flaws^H^H^H^H^H traits in the Real World.
  • Rusty Lime – this is one of those sites I stumbled across quite a while ago and subscribed to just to see what came along – it’s not disappointed and has a steady stream of off-beat news stories that slip under the normal news agenda. I’m sure it’s all stuff you could find by watching digg, but why waste time sorting through the crud when someone else can pick out bits for you? Rusty Lime have also had some really nice designs for their blog which unfortunately you miss out on in the RSS feed.
  • explodingdog – you send in the titles, sam draws the pictures.

What feeds do you subscribe to just for fun?