get_iplayer: the c00l way to download BBC shows

BBC’s iPlayer service has allowed Windows users to download TV and radio shows for quite some time now. And apparently iPlayer Labs has offered an experimental download facility to Linux users in the past – though I can’t see any sign of it on their site currently. But of course there are hackers and developers out there offering software that answers this need for us Linuxers. You can check out a whole gaggle of such third party solutions at the beebhack wiki site.

Yep, there are a few progs featured there that will allow users of Linux to download BBC programmes. But there is only one that deserves to be called the best. So which is it? Get a load of get_iplayer.

So why have I chosen this particular app? I’m sure some of you will disagree with me – it’s a command-line utility for a start, and although some die-hard geeks think that the terminal is great, an increasing number of Linuxers prefer a GUI. But to that I say: Bah!

The reason I prefer get_iplayer to its competition is that it works great whether you’ve got the fastest light-fibre cable connection ever or a slow-crawling dial-up link. For users with good broadband there are funky functions like PVR and live-TV watching. And for those of us with slow, unreliable connection, there’s a simple download function that will resume recording where it left off if the connection should be interrupted.

Really we have Apple to thank for get_iplayer. Not that Apple had anything to do with creating it! Lord no, that’s a ridiculous notion! But Apple did create the iPhone. And the BBC decided they wanted to cater to people who own the stupid things. But the iPhone is so crap, it doesn’t play streaming content. So the BBC had to allow the Apple fanboi-phones to download the shows. And cunning get_iplayer can also download the content because it pretends to be an iPhone! Pretty sneaky, eh? It’s a classic hack.

Of course, the BBC doesn’t like this state of affairs. So they keep changing their system. But the get_iplayer devs just change their code to compensate. This means you need to update your version of the app fairly frequently. No need to fret though, you just use it with an –update flag and it’s all done automagically.

Believe me, I’m not the only person who thinks this command-line tool is great. There are a bunch of iPlayer-related projects that use get_iplayer. Some of them stick a pretty GUI front-end on the program. But the apps with a graphic interface haven’t worked for me – not a one of them. Whereas get_iplayer Just Works… as a good tool should.

Okay, okay, so sometimes get_iplayer doesn’t Just Work. Sometimes it claims to have finished downloading a show when really it hasn’t. But I’m pretty sure this is to do with my internet connection – I use a mobile phone to get my computer online, and it can be awfully quirky and unstable at times – so I doubt anyone using a more conventional connection will suffer from this problem. Seriously, if you use Linux and want to download BBC TV and radio shows – and even ITV shows – check out get_iplayer. You can download it from linuxcentre.net, and also find plenty of documentation. Seriously, get_iplayer is a bloody marvel! Try it out today!

NB: unfortunately, it will only download to UK-located domains. This isn’t down to get_iplayer – the BBC want to limit the iPlayer service to the United Kingdom. But there is a way around this for would-be viewers who don’t live here, involving the use of proxy servers. Check out the docs if you want to learn more!

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19 Responses to get_iplayer: the c00l way to download BBC shows

  1. graspee says:

    The ihpone is not “crap”, it’s great. And it does support streaming content.

    • Martin X says:

      As far as I can remember, the iphone didn’t do iplayer streaming back when I wrote this post (15 July 2009). That’s why the BBC had to allow iphones to download iplayer content rather than just stream it… because the iphone couldn’t stream it. Obviously things have changed now – I wrote the original blog post well over a year ago. And in tech terms, 15+ months is a very looooong time.

      You really ought to check the date of posts before replying. Scroll back up the screen again. See that box containing the words “This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 15,2009 at 7:14 pm”? See it? Easy huh?

      Anyway, although I did write the words “the iphone is so crap”, that really wasn’t the point of the post. I was trying to report how some industrious hackers had exploited a weakness in the 2009 iphone to allow people to download unencumbered content. If you choose to see that as an attack on the iphone, there’s not much I can do about that. Tell you one thing though: Android phones make iphones their bitches.

      • graspee says:

        I knew it was an old post but I thought the iphone always supported streaming content. My bad. Attacking the only person who bothered to reply to your shitty blog makes you look big and tough though.

      • Martin X says:

        @graspee: Do you think I was attacking you? I’m sorry if I gave you that impression: it was the iphone I was attacking rather than you. And the attack on the iphone was only a little one. As I already said (typed), my intention was to give get_iplayer a little more publicity. I haven’t used it in quite a while, but at one time I used it a lot. The BBC’s own iplayer-desktop downloading app is very resource-hungry, plus get_iplayer does away with the time-limit DRM and instead trusts the user to erase the content after 30 days rather than treating us like lil kids.

        Anyway, back to the “attack” thing: you seem a tad paranoid. Does your doctor know about this? Plus calling my blog “shitty” is mean. I’ve got a few regular readers (not many, but a few) which makes me think I HATE HATE!!! isn’t “shitty”. Maybe a bit of an acquired taste, like sheeps’ eyes and bulls’ bollocks. But not “shitty”. Hey, you read it – at least twice – so it can’t be all that bad (unless you like reading shitty things).

        Last point: if I wanted to appear big and tough I wouldn’t do it through a blog. I’d wear stilts and lots of pullovers and beat on people for no good reason. People dissing other people online is a bit pants, y’know? Maybe something for you to bear in mind next time you say (type) such nasty things.

    • Gadaph says:

      @MartinX. Sorry, I know it was a long time ago, but I just found this thread today and it made me laugh out loud. You should have known that no iPhone user would tolerate ANY implication that their beloved iPhone was anything less than perfect.
      The comments to the inevitable Apple fanboi are HILARIOUS. “Stilts and lots of pullovers”. Brilliant!
      Cool blog too.

  2. Hi! I live in Lima Peru and I’ve been using get_iplayer for several months. It works perfectly and I simply love it. It allows me to download not only BBC Radio 2 content but also BBC TV programmes (by the way, I’m downloading Glastonbury performances at the moment, which is awesome)

    To be able to watch BBC TV content living thousends of kilometers from the UK (and eventually be able to use get_iplayer), I had to install Expat Shield (http://expatshield.com/). I think I couldnt live without these 2 programmes.

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    • Martin X says:

      Well, here’s another spammy comment… but this one’s so crazy I dunno if maybe the author’s just having a laugh here. I redacted the author’s name/email/url because I do not want my Comments page to be used as a free advertising space for other bloggers/webmasters who can’t even be bothered to actually comment on any of my actual content. It’s just a massive amalgamation of random comments – like “great choice of colors!” (where on I HATE HATE!!! can anyone possibly think I make great use of colours?) And he says he’s from California, when a simple “whois” of his IP address reveals he’s from Vilnius. He’s so inconsistent (at one point he says he’s never blogged, then he says he has used a number of blog creation software, he asks if WordPress is good, then later claims it’s crap “because of hackers”).

      I was gonna chuck this straight in the trash, then decided to leave it up as an example of what Comments SHOULD NOT BE LIKE! But I did my best redacting stuff like the url of his own site, I’m NOT gonna be this guy’s publicist!!!

      A note for those not up on WordPress stuff: here we can see the IP address of a would-be Comment writer. So don’t lie and say you’re in London when actually you’re in Jakarta or something. Spammy comments… well, I guess they give me something to moan about while I’m trying to decide on a proper blog post…

  10. Thanks for finally talking about >get_iplayer: the c00l way to download BBC shows |
    I HATE HATE!!! <Loved it!

  11. Dan says:

    Thanks for the great info. I came here looking for a get_iplayer gui for windows. Seems I should stick to he command line if they’re not too good. Downloading a program from get_iplayer is fiddly though:

    1. Look on iPlayer website for something to watch.
    2. Do a title search to find the index number.
    3. do an get_iplayer –get xxx and remember the HD option, what was it?

    A good Windows gui would be useful.

    The BBC wallers do seem to worship at the Apple altar. Apparently the iPhone app is much better than the Android app; not hard because it is very poor. The web flash based iPlayer cannot cope with low bandwidth, it often gives up altogether or misses out big chunks of the program. Also, why can’t it buffer some video when you hit pause to go for a pee and a cup of tea? Youtube does.

  12. Dan says:

    UPDATE: Just found Web PVR Manager web front end to get_iplayer that came with my version of get_iplayer. On first inspection it seems to do ust what I wanted.

  13. Vicky says:

    “get_iplayer: the c00l way to download BBC shows | I HATE HATE!!!” was in fact genuinely pleasurable and enlightening!
    In the present day world honestly, that is hard to achieve.

    Thanks, Yvonne

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