Posts Tagged ‘bittorrent’

How I watch TV/movies in 2011

I’ve been thinking about this in recent times. I like consuming media during ‘dead-time’, which helps me switch off, and feel refreshed when I have to switch back on. I think the way I’m watching stuff is next to no different from how the average Malaysian urbanite is watching stuff…

Lets divide media that I consume into two different categories: television shows (the form of a weekly series) and movies.

I have a subscription to the satellite tv monopoly in Malaysia, ASTRO. I also have HyppTV via Unifi, and most channels on that are free for the first 2 years, since I was an early adopter. in theory, I have access to a lot of television shows as well as movies. I never watch free-to-air tv, despite it being available.

When I have down-time and I’m sitting at home on the couch (my weekend getaway), you can see me watching live sports (the F1 in general), catching up on CSI, NCIS, Bones, etc. I’m not religious in following these tv shows, so I don’t feel bad if I miss an episode (or ten). ASTRO takes care of this for me via Axn, Fox and sometimes Star World. Live sports is something cable is probably always going to give me, despite there being streaming services on the net.

However for shows that I do have a religious following to, say House, Lie to Me, Californication, Mad Men, I don’t catch these shows on cable tv. Why? For one, I enjoy watching these series either as soon as they come out, or back-to-back. Also, I dislike the censorship board mucking with my content (imagine a censored Californication?!?).

So what are my choices? I can wait to buy the DVD series on a per season basis on my trips to the USA. These used to be very easy when the Virgin store was open in San Francisco. When they closed, I moved on to buying things in Borders. Now even they are gone, so I have to pre-order via Amazon (which takes away the whole impulse purchase for me). Alas, this is my preferred solution, as I get to keep the DVD media for years on.

If I want to catch up with a show that all my friends are watching and talking about, it seems like my only option is BitTorrent. BitTorrent allows me to watch shows on my TV, iPad, or my laptop. And it allows me to be current. It’s flexibility.

I’ve tried rentals and purchases on the iTunes store (using my US-based account) and while the process is easier/streamlined, it’s not available in most regions.

Malaysia is commonly known for DVD sellers peddling pirated shows on disc. They cost RM8 a pop, they’re uncensored, and the quality generally varies, however you usually get a good copy. I asked on a little poll on twitter recently, and generally the tech-savvy folk have given up going to the DVD seller. He has been disrupted by the availability of fast bandwidth and BitTorrent.

I like rewarding production houses, so if I download something via BitTorrent, it’s because it’s something I enjoy, so I will buy the original DVDs when I’m in the USA. I very rarely watch these DVDs, so I’m not sure why I buy them, but maybe it’s just a sense of ensuring I’ve paid for the content I’ve pre-screened.

There are stores in Malaysia that sell original DVDs. I don’t go to them because those DVDs have been thru the hands of the censorship board, and I’m not about to pay USD$20-40 for censored content.

I enjoy the experience of going to a cinema and seeing a show on the big screen. I’ve become a bit of a cinema snob, preferring to only go to GSC Signature cinemas, as I find the rest of the seats generally too cramped. Most times the shows I catch are ok – but sometimes, the censorship board annoys me again. Recently I caught a movie titled ‘Love and other drugs’. It was so horribly censored that it took away meaning from the movie, and I was unhappy at paying for the tickets (despite getting a 1-for-1 deal thanks to CIMB).

I saw the same movie on a Lufthansa plane and it was so much better. I tend to watch a lot of movies on the plane. It’s free, and it’s uncensored. Screen sizes are getting larger, almost matching the size of the iPad in some airlines (this in coach, mind you). And I have my Bose noise canceling headphones, that work a charm.

For classics, BitTorrent seems to be the easy fix. You can’t walk into a store to buy it, and I’m almost certain the DVD peddlers have no interest in carrying such items. For movies that I really like, I automatically add it to my cart in amazon, for the next big pre-purchase.

Since I have ASTRO, I do flip channels to catch some content on HBO, Cinemax, and Star Movies. Now that they are offering some of this content in HD, I don’t mind watching a movie I’ve never seen before and might have good ratings on IMDB. Most of the time, I don’t notice heavy censorship, and when I do and the movie piqued my interest, the methods above are how I might catch it again.

As you can see, in Malaysia, people are forced into using BitTorrent or visiting their pirated DVD seller.

There is no Netflix service (I used to be a Quickflix subscriber in Australia – loved the service). There is obviously no streaming on-demand service like Netflix offers in the USA. This is something Unifi is trying to do (video on demand) but the content is lacking/unappealing.

Ideally, I’d like to watch a show, uncensored, because there are ratings. Rate it, and then let the grown ups handle it.

Ideally, I’d get tv and movies on demand, via IP (IPTV is the buzzword in Malaysia for 2011 – watch that space). I can be billed at the end of the month for what I watch, and I get to keep the tv series and movies for a limited time in my library. Rather than artificial time limits, maybe a bookshelf approach as to how many items you can have on rent at any one time. And if I like it, I place an order for the DVD all via my tv. And since this is all IP based, I should be able to watch my content on my mobile phone, iPad, laptop, anywhere I am in the world, as long as I have bandwidth to spare. I should also be able to download a rented copy, so I can watch it while I’m in transit (following the same bookshelf rent method) and have no access to the Internet.

Will all this be possible in Malaysia before 2020?

Digital Media Consumers

An online survey (500 Malaysians, all online already, and in total, it was 26,000 amongst the countries surveyed) by The Nielsen Company, showed that Malaysians ranked fifth amongst 52 countries for being digital media consumers. The stats (with more from the NST):

  • Malaysians ranked third globally for those that spent more than 20 hours a week watching streamed or downloaded content from the Internet – translation, Malaysians bittorrent a lot, or are in love with YouTube. Video in Malaysia is big, clearly.
  • 53%/41% played(streamed, even)/downloaded video/movie/audio/game content online in December 2008. Translation? The ones with 1mbps broadband lines are streaming YouTube content… How about a local video sharing site, or a local site with content?
  • 85% got on their computers, while only 77% turned on their TV sets – translation, if you’re not advertising online or your media buyers don’t know how to deal with it, its time to find new ones
  • 4% download movies/movie clips more than 30 times in a month – that means about 7.5 TV series that they’re following, or less, but with movies thrown in – eep, no advertising seen
  • 8% download music or other audio files more than 30 times – since there’s no iTunes music store in Malaysia, its probably entirely illegal content

So its skewed. With a broadband penetration rate of about 18% only, they asked the choir, and the results aren’t too surprising. I predict we’ll see more people online in the results of the June/July survey, as we face this economic slowdown, and more people buckle up, stay at home, and still live their lives.

Streamyx throttles BitTorrent uploads

I decided to play with the tools at Measurement Lab. Of interest to me was: Test if your ISP is manipulating Bittorrent traffic. I am after all on a Streamyx connection and people tend to complain about it.

I administered the full test, which took around seven minutes (about the time it takes to wolf down a burger, and have a drink), and the results came back mostly positive.

First, it talks about BitTorrent traffic, using a standard BitTorrent port – 6888 – it seems while the downloads show no rate limiting, it seems the uploads have potential rate limiting. On a non-standard BitTorrent port – 10016 – the BitTorrent traffic again confirmed that there was upload throttling. Even TCP traffic on a well-known BitTorrent port, is throttled.

Glasnost: Test if your ISP is manipulating BitTorrent traffic

So there, TMNet’s Streamyx, the most popular broadband service in Malaysia (in fact, probably the only widely available commercial broadband service, so to speak), is confirmed to be rate limiting you, based on the BitTorrent protocol, even on non-standard ports (its definite on the standard BitTorrent port, but not so certain on others – its probably protocol level, from what I would gather). Just limiting the upload speed, is enough to do damage to how BitTorrent works, naturally.

Workarounds? I know there’s some service called BolehVPN. I personally use a box located in a colo, that does the work for me, and I bring what I need down, via scp -C. Does encrypting help? I think I need to read up more on how BitTorrent works, clearly…