Internet, iPlayer, YouTube now free on Nintendo Wii Internet Channel

Wii Logo
Creative Commons License photo: Ian Muttoo

If you’ve got a Nintendo Wii console, you can now download the “Internet Channel” for free. The Internet Channel allows you to browse the internet from your console. But you’ll more likely be using it to access BBC iPlayer or YouTube on your television.

It’s free?

Internet Channel used to cost 500 Nintendo points – roughly £3.50. It’s just been made free. According to the Nintendo Press Release:

The Wii Internet Channel previously required 500 Wii Points. Starting later in October, Nintendo will be offering a NES title from Virtual Console worth 500 Wii Points to those Wii owners who have already spent 500 Wii Points on the Wii Internet Channel.

How do I get it?

Go to the Software download channel in the Wii menu.

Whats it good for?

Hohenschwangau Castle - Bavaria
Creative Commons License photo: joiseyshowaa

It’s great for checking a few things on the internet for a short period of time – not so great for browsing for an extended amount of time. One benefit of the Wii being plugged into a TV screen means you can get your video on demand services such as iPlayer and YouTube onto your large TV screen rather than a small computer screen.

How do I access iPlayer or Youtube?

Go to the iPlayer and YouTube websites. They will detect you’re accessing the site from a Wii and automatically display an optimised version. Or use these direct links:

BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/bigscreen/

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/xl

What’s the video quality like?

Less than great, unfortunately. Wii’s Internet Channel doesn’t support the latest Flash video codecs so video is delivered using older codecs.  This is one place the Internet Channel falls short.

Music streaming to be incorporated into Top 40?

Doane's Falls
Creative Commons License photo: Pear Biter

The BBC report that music bosses are considering incorporating music streaming into the Top 40. That would mean listening statistics from Spotify, Deezer and other top music streaming sites would be considered in calculating the most popular songs.

The Official UK Charts Company said it was “bound to” include streaming and subscription services at some point, but not for at least another year.

Because listeners do not pay per track – if at all – those plays would be likely to carry less weight than normal sales.

It’s a change which would totally shake up the charts.

At present, songs are considered for the charts at the point of sale. By considering music streaming, songs are considered at the point of use. It’s an important distinction. Take Pink Floyd – chances are not many people are buying Pink Floyd music at the moment: there are no new singles or albums being released. Yet, many people are listening to Pink Floyd at the moment. By shifting the focus from point of sale to point of use, there would be a huge change in the charts, benefiting popular artists who produce timeless music.

Mirror image
Creative Commons License photo: James Jordan

According to Martin Talbot, managing director of the Official Charts company, “Knowing what a stream is worth compared to a purchase of a download, for instance, is very difficult to identify at the moment, but that’s obviously going to be the next step,”.

This is going to be a big problem. Whatever weighting is assigned to streaming, it is going to be possible for people to manipulate the charts by incessantly streaming the same song. I remember when downloads were added to the chart: there was a big campaign to try and get The Wurzels into the charts. It never happened in the end: it took too many people to part with 99p for the prank to have worked. However, it’s not hard to convince a million people to stream a song from Spotify when it’s free. In fact, post a link to a song on Twitter and most people wouldn’t even know what the song is until after it loads. A Twitter meme can easily influence the charts.

The good news for consumers is that this is likely to increase the number of songs available for streaming. At present, there are big gaps in the catalogues of Spotify, Deezer, and other music streaming sites. Once streaming becomes part of the chart, I believe music companies will be much happier to open their catalogues to these sites. Because otherwise their competitors would have a huge advantage in the charts.

French Anti-Piracy Law ruled to be unconstitutional

Pirate's Flag
Creative Commons License photo: Ben Walther

I’ve argued many times on this blog that it is disproportionate for somebody to lose their internet access for copyright theft. Regular readers will know that France had passed a law which would mean people would lose internet access after downloading pirated material three times.

I argued that this was unfair – it stops somebody from participating in online shopping, banking, communications, etc. And it seems like the French Constitutional Court agrees with me by ruling the new law unconstitutional.

The judgement of the French Constitutional Court:

“Moreover, whereas under section nine of the Declaration of 1789, every man is presumed innocent until has has been proven guilty, it follows that in principle the legislature does not establish a presumption of guilt in criminal matters,” wrote the Council. This basic principle applies “to any sanction in the nature of punishment, even if the legislature has left the decision to an authority that is nonjudicial in nature.

“Freedom of expression and communication is so valuable that its exercise is a prerequisite for democracy and one of the guarantees of respect for other rights and freedoms and attacks on the exercise of this freedom must be necessary, appropriate and proportionate to the aim pursued.”

So that’s great news for the people of France.

I feel it is very important that we begin to have electronic rights enshrined into law. Just as the right to free speech and to participate in society are fundamental tenets in modern society, our laws need to be updated to reflect the fact that electronic communications and technology play such a large role in our everyday lives.

To reiterate: I don’t agree with piracy or believe that copyright theft is a good thing. I believe that it is important that our rights don’t get eroded as society becomes digital.

Via Think Broadband.

Britons say broadband is an essential utility

The worlds network
Creative Commons License photo: saschaaa

BBC News reported yesterday on research carried out by the Communications Consumer Panel showing that UK consumers are increasingly considering broadband to be an essential utility.

The chair of the Communications Consumer Panel Anna Bradley said: “The key message is that people think broadband is at a tipping point.

“It’s fantastically useful for everyone, essential for some now, but will be essential for everyone in the near future.

“It is being compared by consumers to gas and electricity – things which they think we all ought to have access to, almost as a right.”

Those questioned in the survey said people who did not have broadband would be at a disadvantage, missing out on services such as shopping, banking and public services as they were increasingly being delivered online.

DSCN0131.JPG
Creative Commons License photo: James Laurence Stewart

I’ve argued before on this blog, several times, that I believe internet access should be a fundamental right. Internet access is becoming a pre-requisite for being able to participate in society: being able to manage your bank account and finances, apply for a driving license and passport, keep in touch with friends via social networking sites and email, accessing entertainment via iPlayer and YouTube and shopping online at Amazon or eBay.

I’ve argued that it is disproportionate for somebody to lose their internet access for copyright theft, like in a draft law in France. It would seem like the British public agree with me on this one and our MEPs are backing us. Let’s hope that our digital rights continue to be protected.

Judging someone by their Facebook Profile

Mouth
Creative Commons License photo: nyki_m

New Scientist reports this week on a study which looked for a correlation between how “friendly” somebody was percieved to be and how “friendly” their Facebook profiles page appeared to be.

University students considered likeable by people that met them in real life have been found to make a similar impression on people who view their Facebook profiles.

“People who were expressive in tone of voice and facial expression were also socially expressive on Facebook. They posted a lot of pictures, they posted photo albums, they seemed to have a lot of conversations with people,” says Max Weisbuch, a psychologist at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts who led the study.

I suppose it’s interesting to quantify, but not particularly surprising. People don’t make things up on their Facebook profile because their network is full of people they know well.

It would be interesting to see whether the same relationship could be seen from somebody’s tweets or their Myspace profiles. I suspect that the relationship is stronger for Facebook because it’s based around keeping in touch with people you know – as other social networks have more of an emphasis on meeting new people, people may be more tempted to portray “idealised” versions of themselves.

MEPs support surfer's rights

European flag flying; Budapest Parliament
Creative Commons License photo: soylentgreen23

Congratulations to Members of the European Parliament for backing an amendment which respects and strengthens the rights of internet users:

The agreement therefore builds citizens’ rights under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms into EU telecoms legislation. Binding provisions state that any actions taken by Member States which have an impact on users’ access to, or use of, electronic communications services and applications must respect their fundamental rights and freedoms, especially their right to privacy, freedom of expression and access to information and their right to a judgment by an independent and impartial tribunal.

This amendment contradicts a draft French law which can ban people from the internet for downloading pirated material.

As much as I dislike piracy, I feel the French law is very dangerous and is a very disproportionate response to the problem of piracy. With so many services moving online (banking, government, communications & email, university applications and enrolment, e-learning, access to news and information), I’d argue that internet access is beginning to enter the realm where it should be considered a fundamental right of every person. A ban from the internet would fundamentally affect citizen’s ability to participate in their society. So whilst the state should be able to reserve the ability to take away that right when it is in the public interest (e.g. preventing crime, terrorism), it is very hard to argue that someone should lose their ability to participate in society for downloading pirated materials.

Let’s hope that this is accepted by EU telecoms ministers and passed into law.

It’d be interesting to see whether any countries presently have any charters for fundamental citizens rights with regards to the internet… anybody know?

Being Facebook friends with your boss could be worth an extra $6,500 per year

James, I think your cover's blown!
Creative Commons License photo: laverrue

BBC News’ dot.life blog reports on a study by IBM and MIT entitled the “Value of Social Network”. The study looked at the networks of 7,000 volunteers over three years and tried to give a financial value to these relationships.

Researchers found that having strong connections to managers (yes, sucking up to the boss) can boost the bottom line. On average, it adds up to $548 (£365) in extra revenue a month.

This conclusion is based on data and mathematical formulas that analysed e-mail traffic, address books and buddy lists of 2,600 IBM consultants over the course of a year.

So it would seem that there is a connection between being Facebook “friends” with your boss and your income.

Of course, correlation certainly doesn’t imply causation. Whilst networking is certainly great for your career, equally those in better paid jobs could be more dispensed to spend time networking and to have access to more networks. Something to ponder anyway.

TopCashback: Cashback discounts on online shopping

Here’s another credit-crunch busting, money saving tip for all of you online shoppers…

europa_passage1
Creative Commons License photo: elbfoto

I’ve been using TopCashback* for my online shopping lately and I think it’s an absolutely fantastic site. Essentially they give you discounts on shopping that you do online. The discount is paid as cashback straight into your bank account or PayPal.

The cashback discounts include 6% off Dell computers, up to 6% on purchases from Play.com, £40 on a new broadband contract, etc.

How to use TopCashback

Instead of going straight to the retailer website, you’ll need to go to the TopCashback website first. Make sure you’ve got a TopCashback account and then click on the link to the retailer from there. With some luck, your purchase is tracked and your cashback gets paid to your TopCashback account.

How does it work?

Online retailers often pay commission to websites which refer customers to them. This is how many websites make a profit. The most notable websites which make their profits through commission are price comparison websites such as MoneySupermarket. TopCashback is different in that it pays the entire commission right back to you: the customer.

TopCashback makes money through adverts on their website.

See Money Saving Expert for more info.

An example…

I was recently looking to sign up for O2 Broadband. As an O2 customer, I can get 8mbps broadband for £7.34 per month (£88 per year). That’s already a fantastic deal but on top of that TopCashback is offering £40 cashback on O2 Broadband registrations. After cashback, 8mbps broadband costs just £48 for the 12 months – equivalent to just £4 per month. That’s ridiculously cheap.

What are the alternatives?

Probably the most well known “cashback” site is run by loyalty card Nectar. Nectar’s e-Stores gives an absolutely abysmal amount of cashback through (maybe ~1%) .

There are a couple of others such as Quidco and Cashback Kings. Check to see whether you get charged a fee for using the service and if you get 100% cashback.

Get Cashback

* I earn a referral on registrations using this link. Non-affiliate version: http://www.topcashback.co.uk.

Integrate Facebook Identity & Comments into your Blog

Wrench
Creative Commons License photo: kevindooley

If you run a blog or a website, you might have heard about Facebook Connect and the possibility of using it with the WordPress blog system. Basically, Connect is Facebook’s attempt to spread their identity system across the rest of the web. By integrating connect, you can use Facebook’s user system, comment system, etc. on your site. You give a lot of power and leverage to Facebook over your website but it could make interacting with your site a lot more attractive and easier for users.

Their first widget allows you to use Facebook Connect to add commenting functionality to your site or blog. Here’s some Facebook developers explaining it all…


A quick tutorial by Facebook engineers on how to create a Comments Box social widget quickly and easily for iframe applications and websites.

I made a proof of concept of something similar about 8 months ago.

As far as I can see, this is a very easy way to add commenting functionality to your site without needing to have your own user, moderation system, etc. Comments made on your site will appear on the news feed on Facebook which can be good advertising. But the problem of course, is that your comments are not accessible. Google will never be able to index it and anyone with Javascript turned off won’t be able to see it. And when all the useful discussion, knowledge and information is tied up in comments in Facebook’s system, it’s a lot less open and less useful for everybody.

Amazon launching online grocery store in UK?

Grocery shopping
Creative Commons License photo: ralphbijker

In what could be a very exciting move, Amazon UK is set to launch an online grocery store on the UK to take on the mights of the big four – Tescos, Sainsburys, ASDA and Ocado (Waitrose). Certainly it’ll be a very interesting launch at a time where consumers are looking for ways to cut down on their weekly shopping because of the credit crunch and after the supermarkets began to encroach onto Amazon’s traditional territory of books, CDs and DVDs.

Amazon has trialled out a grocery service in Seattle, WA called AmazonFresh so it is likely a UK launch will be modelled on this. The UK would be much more profitable for Amazon to launch a grocery service given the UK’s smaller geographic size and higher population density.

Here’s what Retail Week said:

Amazon is expected to emulate its US grocery offer, comprising more than 45,000 non-perishable items, in this country. A launch date has yet to be decided but industry sources said it is likely to be this year.

In the US, Amazon offers shoppers savings by enabling them to buy in bulk. The e-tailer also offers free delivery to prime customers and tracks routine purchases on a shopping list feature on its site.

Sainsburys Haringey London) (11)
Creative Commons License photo: zongo69

The Daily Mail of London says of Amazon Fresh:

Customers pick up groceries from virtual supermarket aisles. Delivery times are flexible, with a ‘pre- dawn’ drop guaranteed before 6am if you order by midnight; a daytime delivery in a one-hour time slot picked by the customer and evenings up until 9pm.

The customer does not have to be at home and for orders over £20 delivery is free.

Certainly something to watch and the possibly of some new and exciting competition into the UK grocery market which has been dominated by Tescos and Sainsburys for way too long.