Totem BBC plugin

As I mentioned in my previous blog post here at Collabora Multimedia we have been working with Canonical and the BBC to create a plugin for Totem which plays BBC content. This work is progressing well and with the recent patches we made for Totem to sort out python threading issues are looking really good. I really recommend that people running the latest Ubuntu test releases grab this for some testing. I attached a screenshot of Totem playing a Dirac stream from the BBC showing Big Buck bunny.

Big Buck Bunny

Big Buck Bunny

Update:: I noticed a lot of people commenting on the user interface. We are aware that the current user interface is far from perfect and a lot of the requested features are planed. So far we have focused on getting the base technology working smoothly which I think you will agree is the most important first step. A nice looking user interface is of little value if the application locks up :)


#1 Jon Wood on 10.08.08 at 17:28

You might not be able to say, but is this iPlayer content by any chance? I saw something on the iPlayer blog this afternoon saying “something” was coming soon for other platforms – if it turns out to be a Totem plugin, you’ll have made me a very happy man :)

#2 Harm Hilvers on 10.08.08 at 17:37

A question I have been having since I first heard about this plugin is: is this BBC content available for those who are living outside Great Brittain? I.e. can I when I live in the Netherlands use this plugin to view the BBC content?

#3 Christoph on 10.08.08 at 18:15

As far as i know BBC allows only viewing the content inside the UK. When i try the BBC plugin, i see the following error message

** Message: Error: “”: Not Found
gstsouphttpsrc.c(898): gst_soup_http_src_parse_status (): /GstPlayBin:play/GstSoupHTTPSrc:source:
404 Not Found

So, no BBC for the rest of the world…

#4 Martin on 10.08.08 at 18:19

Ugh! I hope this isn’t the final UI design?

Perhaps you can borrow one interaction designer or two from Canonical (like e.g. Matthew Paul Thomas) to design a better UI than a tree-view.

Otherwise, nice work… I guess… (I don’t live in the UK :)

#5 Andrew Wafaa on 10.08.08 at 19:08

Hopefully it will be included in openSUSE 11.1, it has been submitted to the GNOME maintainers for inclusion.

Cracking job on this, and thanks.

#6 Onkar on 10.08.08 at 20:07

I do not live in in UK, but I am listening to a ‘6 Minute English’ episode. :-)

#7 oliver on 10.08.08 at 20:36

I do not live in UK either, and didn’t have any problems accessing the streams. Nice work overall!

Regarding the treeview: enabling type-as-you-find could make it easier to find a specific stream; but a UI re-thinking might be even better :-)

Regarding Dirac: I’ve tried to watch Big Buck Bunny inside Virtualbox (on a Athlon 2600, so probably way too slow for this), and even got some frames and sound; but it continuously started the buffering again, and after a few seconds the stream froze completely, and the Play/Pause button also didn’t have any effect any more. But I suppose this is caused by the extremely slow system, so not really important for now.

Finally, there’s the minor quirk that the codec search dialog appeared twice (first for some Fluendo MPEG demuxer? and then for the Dirac video codec). Downloading and installing worked like a charm; and I suppose the first codec is required to find out the type of the embedded video data; but do you see a way to combine these two into one dialog?

Anyway, thanks for making this work so far!

#8 George Wright on 10.08.08 at 22:05

Hi there

I run the small team at the BBC that’s been working with the folks at Collabora, Canonical, and our partners in MetaBroadcast on this plugin.

Some quick answers (remember still beta :)

Jon – no, this isn’t iPlayer content. It’s content that’s DRM-free – this service isn’t (in any way!) a competitor to iPlayer, just different. Lots of the content is, in the first instance, our Radio podcasts, but there’s video in there too. We hope to extend this content range during, and after, the build up to Intrepid’s release

Harm – lots of this content *will* be available outside the UK. We have to work with the rights framework negotiated for our output, but in this case lots of it is indeed available abroad. Some isn’t – sorry. We’ve aimed, with the plugin and some server side stuff, to only display content in the client that you can view/ listen to, depending on your location.

Christoph – you might have seen one of the bugs we’ve been squashing. A rogue line in our squid config meant that some ‘stale’ content was presented. This is fixed now (we hope) – on the other hand, perhaps you were seeing content that wasn’t playable outside the UK. I can’t be sure.

Martin – yes, we aren’t huge fans of tree view either. Our work on this was focussed on a) getting our stack playing nice with gstreamer and Totem and the work done by Collabra and b) getting content into the system. We will be actively reviewing the UI to make it less, um, tree like. We have UI folk too and will be looking at this before release.

Andrew – good. We like free software and always wanted this to be pushed upstream and into other distros.

Oliver – think that’s your VM – it played nice on a 2 year old sucky-ish HP laptop (can’t remember spec) that we’re testing on at work. We’re also looking at the codec install stuff and hope it’s easier. BBB played with just the one click on my (wiped and reinstalled almost daily atm for testing) intrepid box.

I’ll be blogging a bit about this, and some other stuff we’re doing with free software, over on the BBC Internet Blog – sorry to hijack this one but I hope that cleared up some questions


George Wright
Portfolio Manager, BBC Research and Innovation

#9 Matthew on 10.09.08 at 00:15

Hi from New Zealand,
Great plugin. I love the BBC! Couple of points:

1) A search filter would a nice touch, as there is a lot of content listed already.
2) Perhaps an icon indicating the media type (Audio|Video) Or separate the content in two main categories of Audio and Video…
3) Maybe links to the shows websites, perhaps in a popup menu if you right click on a program? i.e. “Read more” or “Learn more” or “Visit webpage”

Some bugs (i am using Intrepid):
1) I am getting the same video file playing under the BBC News section, regardless of the title i select. i.e. i select “Amateur film of plane crash…” and i get a video playing of the eurotunnel closed (or something) with trucks parking… (its actually humorously appropriate), i get the same video played if i select “Central banks cut interest rates…”

2) The Totem root window title doesn’t update after selecting new content. So first thing i tried was listening to Russel Brand’s radio show. Well the window title remained “Brand: 04 October 08” regardless of the subsequent content that i viewed.

Anywho, very impressed and so happy to see a wonderful partnership between Open Source and one of the worlds greatest public broadcasters. I only hope NZ state broadcasters were as enlightened!

#10 ssam on 10.09.08 at 09:59

thanks. good stuff. looking forward to seeing more content on there.

i wonder if video/audio sources could be done in a generic way so that they could be plugged into totem/rhythmbox/elisa/miro etc. currently it seems that everyone implements a youtube pluggin from scratch.


if you look at the tooltip for those videos, it says “please note video attached to this story is for test purposes only…”

#11 Ben on 10.27.08 at 13:44

Will this be comeing to KDE media players anytime soon?

#12 uraeus on 10.30.08 at 17:27

@Ben: we do not have any porting plans, but it is all open source so anyone can port the functionality over if they want to.

#13 Research on BBC content for GNU/Linux | News on Internet on 10.30.08 at 23:07

[…] then worked with Canonical and their software partners Collabra to deliver this feed to the Totem media player, and Gstreamer multimedia platform, to display […]

#14 Paul M on 10.31.08 at 17:48

will these patches for gstreamer etc be applicable to the nokia tablet which I believe also uses it?

#15 Christian on 10.31.08 at 18:30

@Paul M: The EPG functionality of this needs to be ported to the Nokia tablet, but GStreamer wise the 810 should be fine.

#16 Martijn on 11.02.08 at 10:20

I hope that in a next release the list will be filtered based on IP-address of the client.
Now I see a lot of Podcasts for which I only get a message that it cannot be viewed from outside the UK. Or you could place a little icon indicating “Available in the UK only” in the user interface when showing the BBC playlist.

For the rest I like the idea and hope that more broadcast organisations are willing to create such an interface with a media player like Totem.

#17 Matt on 11.02.08 at 13:55

Works brilliantly here, it’s a great start for sure! :D

#18 BBC udostępnia swe audycje dla użytkowników Linuksa. :: Czytelnia on 11.05.08 at 14:41

[…] rozwijany przez partnera BBC, firmę MetaBroadcast. Canonical we współpracy z firmą Collabra opracował wtyczkę do odtwarzacza multimedialnego Totem i ulepszył platformę multimedialną […]