Friday, 8 March 2013

Adobe Air Vs BBC

Adobe Air - and why the BBC shouldn't be using it (I can't!)

The BBC's web-based iPlayer is great too

I want to make use of the Windows desktop version of the BBC's iPlayer. Really, I do. So should you if you also have only off-peak unlimited internet access. BBC iPlayer programmes can be enormous files and will chew up your download allowance if it's capped. It's also worth not clogging up your bandwidth when the family is trying to use your broadband connexion: my Desktop iPlayer was set to download between midnight and 6am.

The ability to set 'Series Record' means that you can watch many huge files which download overnight: that is, just so long as your Windows "room heater" is left on all night. And assuming Adobe Air doesn't commit suicide while you're not looking.

We must use Windows or Mac because 'everyone' does and because 'everyone' does, the BBC supply iPlayer for it. Adobe is ubiquitous on desktop computers so their Air platform is the way to go, right BBC? No. Wrong choice. Adobe and other closed systems are not universally trusted or liked. People moaned about a problem with Adobe Reader thumbnails missing from 64-bit filers for two years until someone else brought out a fix because Adobe haven't even acknowledged the problem. This is where my Adobe-bashing contribution begins as I had to search around for that fix. 

Have you noticed the security updates to the Adobe Flash software you already have on your machines? They seem to be coming more and more frequently. They are a nuisance and an interruption to (it seems) nearly every day. You may wonder if they program swiss cheese at Adobe but that is nothing to the experience of being forced to install Adobe Air by the BBC. Installing Adobe Air has been a time-wasting nightmare from the 1980s. It may as well have been loading from cassette tape with instructions published by a non-native speaker . Suffice it to say that where Adobe say "You may have to temporarily disable your antivirus software" on the download page they mean "turn it off". I tried to install with real-time anti-virus checking enabled but there was no way it was going to play ...  Excuse me: why do Adobe's products need to be so drastic about their install requirements? They have a body of software that makes things look pretty and sound whizzy. We should NEVER have to disable anti-virus to install anything like that, only perhaps anti-virus itself. No wonder their stuff is distrusted by Apple.

Anyway, I did turn off the anti-virus temporarily to install Air or I couldn't use iPlayer Desktop, could I? 

Everything then installed okay and at first this set-up worked. It was after only a few viewings: one morning iPlayer stopped responding to clicks and a BBC help page suggested uninstalling/reinstalling both it and Adobe Air. BBC iPlayer Desktop uninstalled without a commotion.

Adobe Air claimed to have uninstalled itself (hurrah!) but enough bits of it remain to prevent the latest version installing itself (boo!). Nothing I have run so far has been able to clean up this mess. In trying to uninstall the remnant in Control Panel > Programs.. it says "An error occurred while uninstalling Adobe Air. Uninstallation may not be allowed by your administrator. Please contact your administrator". That's me. I never said no such thing. I am The One. What have I been doing behind my own back? Now I keep getting error boxes about Air being broken when I visit the web version of iPlayer. Yeah, I know.  Grrrr.

Wait! The BBC page wants to try and install Air for me. Again. Okay....No. Fail. It is no better. Double-Grrrr.

Thanks Adobe. It seems to me that some clever wheeze you think you programmed has messed up my system. Well done. I hope you are proud. Proudly boasting that your products are used by 99% of internet users and as the world goes round you must therefore be one of its worst time wasters. And we rely on you to fix it because nobody else is allowed to. Despite that, will we wait two years and then someone else will sort it out?


I look forward to when you release a tool which removes Air completely from my system (the command line suffix -uninstall failed to work). That's two days of my life I'll never get back, where do I send the invoice? Will you split it with the BBC?

Air is all but dead anyway. I can think of no other reason why its download page tells you to visit the Air Store when there isn't one. So buck up your ideas BBC and boot all things Adobe Air and Flash into the long grass. You couldn't have done a worse job on a RaspberryPi in BBC BASIC. (Which is what you ought to be giving more support, by the way. If there was ever a true successor to the BBC Micro, this is it.)

Off you go, BBC, and learn something else. The Adobe runtimes you have adopted and forced upon us are unwelcome and little better that a suite of viruses which won't go away.