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Zap2It Labs Discontinuing Free TV Guide Service

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the not-a-myth dept.

Media 569

QuijiboIsAWord writes "Zap2It Labs, which provides free TV listing data for personal use, has long been the main source of program guide information for users in the US and beyond. They've announced via their webpage that, due to abuse of the service, data will no longer be available after September 1st. There is no other direct source, and no option to pay for the service even if the users wanted to. Without a data feed of this type, users will be reduced to scraping websites at best. Is this going to be a killing blow for MythTV?"

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Myth will survive (0)

fatnicky (991652) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585377)

Myth will find another source. If it would just come pre-configured with a distro, it would be a lot more popular and not have to worry about potential risks like losing it's guide feeds.

FWIW, Myth beats the shorts off of TIVO any day.

Re:Myth will survive (1)

Skater (41976) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585485)

How would it being preconfigured with a distro prevent the risk of losing its guide feeds? Just like old versions of Winamp come configured to access the original cddb instead of freedb.

Re:Myth will survive (1)

statusbar (314703) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585509)

Truth is that hardly anything on TV is worth watching anyways... My Myth TV box sits idle nowadays anyways.

--jeffk++

Re:Myth will survive (1, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585643)

FWIW, Myth beats the shorts off of TIVO any day.

How? I had my DirecTivo installed in 2005 and haven't touched it since. When it was installed I didn't have to do anything, someone came out and hooked it up and turned it on. Ever since it's been working like it should w/o me having to fuck with it in the least.

Until MythTV boxes come ready to plug and play for less than $100 (mine was free b/c DirecTV's new firmware (at the time) put up a screensaver that my standalone TiVo recorded instead of the show) it won't "beat the pants off of TiVo".

Re:Myth will survive (5, Informative)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585739)

MYTH TV offers everything TIVO does plus:

Not having to pay a monthly fee to automatically record shows you watched previously

Not having to deal with commercials inserted when you fast forward 30 seconds.

Now, if they could only find a way to strip thos FREAKIN' RUDE graphics that certain vile channels overlay on top of the movie/show. I can deal with a tiny little station identification, but those rude obnoxious ads obscure vital parts of the show about one out of every 3 times. I swear my Blood pressure goes through the roof.

Re:Myth will survive (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19585817)

I can give you TiVo's occasional recording of repeats, although a little working with the Season Passes will avoid most of that, but WTF are you talking about with inserted commercials and fast-forwarding?

Re:Myth will survive (1)

dosius (230542) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585841)

EWWWW! I so hate animated station bugs. Especially that shit they have on Jetsux now (Toon Disney) where they shrink the screen so they can take up a quarter of it with some advertisement... Come on, you HAVE commercial time, use *it* for your ads! Sheesh.

And to think I pay $69 a month for this bullshit.

-uso.

No it doesn't (3, Insightful)

dharbee (1076687) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585935)

"MYTH TV offers everything TIVO does"

With a TiVo, you can plug in three cables and press power, at which point you are done but for the watching. You're claiming MYTH can do this too?

So no, it does NOT offer everything TiVo does.

Re:Myth will survive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19585833)

FWIW, Myth beats the shorts off of TIVO any day.

How?

Easy Myth runs on Linux! What was that?

OK, Never Mind.

Emily Litella

It has another source (4, Informative)

TinheadNed (142620) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585713)

MythTV can read the broadcast schedules on the airwaves - see EIT [wikipedia.org] . At least that's what I use in the UK. I can also still scrape the Radio Times website in XMLtv as well.

In the end we'll be better off (1)

TigerTime (626140) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585847)

There are too many (open source/free) programs out there and too many users that need this information to just let it fall to the way side. Someone somewhere will come up with a service that i wouldn't be surprised is free and without the re-registration that was needed with zap2it.

I wouldn't be surprised if it were Yahoo either. They already offer stock information for parsers for free.

Dammit! (1)

Khan (19367) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585381)

And I just got my MythTV box update to some nice hardware! ARRRGGGGG!!!!

Re:Dammit! (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585653)

I just hopped over to Snapstream beyond tv. You do end up going back to windows though.

Re:Dammit! (1)

Afrosheen (42464) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585939)

Sounds like one of those instances where the juice isn't worth the squeeze.

Re:Dammit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19586017)

TV rots your brain son. You're better off with out it. If you're desperate to watch a couple good shows, you can find them online for download, or wait for them to come out on DVD and buy them. I think MythTV is cool, I have a friend who got it running. But I've never owned a television. I kind of think there's a lot better things to do, especially when a few giant corporations own all the channels anyways. It's not like there's really a free press or open information flowing across the channels anyways. It's all propaganda, advertising, brainwashing, and mindless distraction for most people. Good riddance. Heheh. You can still use that nice box to play the media you download though...

killing blow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19585385)

Considering the continual improvement of MythTV and it's growing popularity I don't see how this can be considered anything other than a set-back. It's certainly a significant set-back, but there is no reason it should be a "killing blow".

sucks (1)

stew-a-cide (324615) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585387)

This will break my favourite / most used OSX Dashboard widget: http://www.patrickpatoray.com/index.php?Page=101 [patrickpatoray.com]

Re:sucks (1)

stew-a-cide (324615) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585437)

...I'd happily pay a (small) fee to keep this service available.

This is troubling (3, Interesting)

quanticle (843097) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585403)

I don't use MythTV, and so I was surprised to see that it relies on a private third-party source for TV listings. Isn't there any way to obtain this information in an "open-source" manner?

Re:This is troubling (2, Interesting)

ajs (35943) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585463)

I don't use MythTV, and so I was surprised to see that it relies on a private third-party source for TV listings. Isn't there any way to obtain this information in an "open-source" manner?
I can't imagine how that would work. Ultimately, you need information from the studios, and that's going to require a business relationship. TV Guide has such a relationship, as did these folks it seems (or perhaps TV Guide and these folks have a common feed).

I'm a little shocked that these guys didn't just go commercial, though, and build a MythTV add-on that allows you to subscribe to their product.

Re:This is troubling (1)

MindKata (957167) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585645)

"that's going to require a business relationship"

A lot of TV channels earn their living via adverts. The more people can find shows the better. It makes business sense to provide free listings. I suspect is more a case of the studios not being able to centrally organise their show listings.

However there's a simple solution. All studios simply need to be encouraged to distribute their show listings via RSS. Once a few start to do it, others will want to do it as well, because they will not want to loose out.

Re:This is troubling (1)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585885)

However there's a simple solution. All studios simply need to be encouraged to distribute their show listings via RSS. Once a few start to do it, others will want to do it as well, because they will not want to loose out.


Oh yeah, that's a simple solution. Just ask all the studios, possibly including multiple cable companies, to agree on a common data format with which to publish program information and then get them, to, um... you know. Do it.

Dude, it took Comcast upwards of three months to replace my defective DVR. What makes you think all the studios are going to jump on top of getting this done? Do you really think anyone is going to say, "Well, Sci Fi channel won't update my Myth TV. Looks like I'm not watching Battlestar Galactica anymore"?

Re:This is troubling (1)

athakur999 (44340) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586077)

Also gotta consider that many broadcasters aren't exactly thrilled about DVRs... They rely on advertising to make money and aren't going to freely help people with a device that most people are going to use to skip advertising.

Re:This is troubling (3, Informative)

QuijiboIsAWord (715586) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585505)

The Zap2It Labs service receives all the data from the networks, typically directly, and aggregates it all into a customizable feed which users set up by signing up for an account and selecting the cable provider or broadcast area of their choice.
Many different applications, besides just MythTV, use this data. Some people have individually negotiated with their local stations to get the data they need, but that's extremely hit or miss, and about as convenient as attempting to negotiate with your Cable company to get them to carry broadcast networks in HD unencrypted - Not very, and most people in most areas won't bother.

Re:This is troubling (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585707)

Not unless someone volunteers to compile the voluminous amount of information themselves, then set up a distribution method.

This was always MythTV's achilles heel, more than even HDTV. For all the talk about "Unlike Tivo, MythTV can NEVER be shut down or crippled," MythTV always had this dependency on a third party, for profit service. It's possible someone could replace them, but they're going to want SOME form of revenue (and since no one is going to tolerate ads on their MythTV, or pay for the service, this is unlikely).

Re:This is troubling (4, Insightful)

SEAL (88488) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585899)

and since no one is going to tolerate ads on their MythTV, or pay for the service, this is unlikely

Given the choice between:

1. paying Comcast's fees, DVR service, etc
2. paying Tivo or
3. paying for a subscription to an XML TV Listing service, and keeping my MythTV box

I'll take #3.

People will pay for it as long as no free alternatives are out there.

TV stations are hardly interested in helping... (3, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585747)

Isn't there any way to obtain this information in an "open-source" manner?

The best way to get the information is from the stations and cable operators.

Unfortunately, MythTV and other PVR users are in the game of cutting out ads; TV programming is purely to sell ad space, and always has been, save when programs were entirely paid for by one company and the show was branded in their name. What motivation do TV stations have to assist people who are purposefully going out of their way to cut out the ads?

Oh no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19585411)

Time to apply the EIT patches and rebuild myth.

Re:Oh no! (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585907)

For those folks with DirecTV, that's not an option. In fact, at this point, we have no options at all other than writing a guide scraper for TVGuide.com. Fortunately, their website data is fetched in Javascript using xmlHttpRequest, so it is probably straight XML in some dialect that could be converted into the same format as Zap2It uses with very little effort. If done carefully (request the entire schedule exactly once, then only refetch the current day each day and fetch any new days added to the schedule), it might not add enough server hits for them to even care.

Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (3, Interesting)

Palmyst (1065142) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585435)

Their website does not explain. Is just using the data in MythTV, "abuse"?

Re:Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (2, Interesting)

ajs (35943) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585513)

I think the "abuse" they're talking about is programs that are pre-configured to hit their service so that everyone on the Net who tries them out hammers their servers.

It seems fair to start charging, but odd that they're just shutting it off. They say they're willing to license to other companies, so presumably they're hoping someone will come along and offer a package to the MythTV folks by licensing the data and re-selling subscriptions.

Re:Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (1)

tigerc (628630) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585771)

I don't think it was the hammering of their servers. There's an option in mythtv to mythfilldatabase at a time that's good for Zap2it. I'm not sure exactly what the option is called, but when I setup myth, it was there.

Re:Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (5, Informative)

ChaosDiscord (4913) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585517)

Based on their previous complaints and this message, I think the problem was people were using the free data set, then redistributing it, probably for profit, possibly indirectly (say, selling devices that used Zap2It's free service). Zap2It makes money selling their data set and they were very generously offering it for free to individuals. But you weren't allow to redistribute it.

Re:Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (1)

Skater (41976) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585575)

No. They specifically allowed it, all you had to do was answer a couple questions quarterly to renew the subscription. I'm not sure how people abused it, other than by maybe hitting too hard. Once a day should be sufficient, you'd think - pick up info for the "new" day as well as changes since the last time you checked. But, if you instead picked up a full two weeks every time you hit it, thrice daily, I can see how that'd be a problem for them...

Or if someone picked up the data, then rebroadcast it somehow...

Re:Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (1)

norton_I (64015) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585731)

I think using the data stream in a commercial application/device was a violation of the TOS. The small number of pre-built mythtv systems for sale might constitute a violation, though I suspect that is a tiny amount.

What would be a problem for them is if TiVo or another commercial DVR, got an indivdual subscription to their service, and used that to do their client updates. This is a big part of their target market, so losing it would be a big deal. The suspicious part of me wonders if such a company did that deliberately to force zap2it to turn off their service, crippling their OSS competition.

Re:Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19585839)

> I'm not sure how people abused it, other than by maybe hitting too hard. Once a day should be sufficient, you'd think - pick up info for the "new" day as well as changes since the last time you checked. But, if you instead picked up a full two weeks every time you hit it, thrice daily, I can see how that'd be a problem for them...

Maybe they abused it by not hitting it often enough.

Remember, a few months ago, after a long beta, the website version of zap2it finally killed its old tables-and-HTML look to force everyone to use the styles-and-CSS look? And how the biggest difference wasn't the increased standards compliance, but the fact that you suddenly needed to "register" to get a 6-hour view rather than the default 3-hour view, and how all the things that had formerly been done with form submit buttons stopped working unless Javashit was turned on? Gosh, what a coincidence.

It's all about the ad impressions. 6-hour-view website users, hitting SaveAs four times a day (perhaps as infrequently as 28 hits, once a week)... don't make enough impressions to sell banner ads. So no 6-hour-view unless you give 'em an email address they can spam. MythTV users were only hitting the feed once a day, and without banner ads, and producing even less ad revenue.

Re:Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (2, Insightful)

ajayrockrock (110281) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585587)

No. For us, all you had to do was register with labs.zap2it.com and then you can get the listings for private non-commercial use. So we (mythtv users) weren't abusing the system. I imagine that the abuse they are talking about is people signing up for the service and then reselling their data (that they themselves aggregate from other sources).

--Ajay

Re:Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (1)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585593)

I am sure they are talking about bandwidth bottlenecks because of updating times. The problem with MythTV in the early days was everyone updating at the same time, in addition to updating multiple times per day. This was resolved later on with a new feature to spread this out. Their response seems dis-ingenious, though, because if they would have just open up their data, an rsync backup server(s) at the university level would have been trivial to setup. Meaning, use the same approach as who OSS binaries are stored. I suspect this is what the longterm solution will be for mythtv.

Re:Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19586029)

I am sure they are talking about bandwidth bottlenecks because of updating times.

No, that is definitely not the reason. That was (and continues to be) a bit of a problem but they appear to be talking about people fraudulently redistributing the feed. I think that what is happening is that one or more TV tuner manufacturers are redistributing the free feed as part of their PVR product. This is a specific violation of the contract and probably impacts Zap2It's contract with the media companies.

A cynical man might also raise the possibility that the media companies are making a bigger deal of these allegations in an effort to further monetize or suppress this distribution of information.

Re:Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (5, Informative)

Minwee (522556) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585629)

According to a posting on mythtv.org... [mythtv.org]

Some reasons and other comments given for the scheduled discontinuence, copied from the forum, copied from the mailing list:

  • Continued use of the service to support commercial products, in violation of the agreement.
  • Commercial products continued to grow despite previous appeals that this activity stop.
  • There are significant changes to the supporting data structure forthcoming and we could not devote resources to the continued upkeep and enhancements of the service.
  • Maintenance of the service is impacting our resource pool for other projects.
  • We sought alternative options but were unable to find a solution.
  • We recognize the hardship this creates for the user community. We are open to alternative solutions and would consider proposals that met the needs of the user community and our company.
  • We looked into options to turn this into a paid service however we do not have the infrastructure at this time.

Re:Anybody know what the "abuse" was? (4, Informative)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585679)

While no longer linked from the front page, this link [tribune.com] still works.

Basically, the content was provided free provided it remained for non-commercial use. After all, commercial ventures have to pay for those listings and if they could get it for free, nobody would pay.

I hope they at least tried to weed out the abusers before just cutting the cable.

How is MythTV dead? (3, Informative)

PolyDwarf (156355) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585441)

... Without a data feed of this type, users will be reduced to scraping websites at best. Is this going to be a killing blow for MythTV?"
I fail to see how, unless the screenscrapers specifically mentioned don't work. I wrote a scraper for my MythTV box to pull PPV information from somewhere, since it wasn't coming from Zap2it. It's not that hard, really, and took me all of an hour to do.

Re:How is MythTV dead? (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585525)

But...but... scrapers are so inelegant!

Re:How is MythTV dead? (1)

wicks0r (982807) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585863)

It's not that hard, really, and took me all of an hour to do.
Yes but the hard part comes when users need data scrapped for various states/countries for local programming, as well as digital programming. Having data come from a single source saved us a lot of time.

Re:How is MythTV dead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19585889)

Yeah, but they can change the format whenever they want so the scrapers have to be maintained. Also, you have to worry about the format. It's easy enough to strip stuff out of HTML, but soon enough you're going to see listings embedded in Flash or Java applets, or worse, custom controls. Something like freedb would be ideal, but it has to be constantly updated and you have to rely on anonymous fucktards.

Re:How is MythTV dead? (1)

*ThE jEsTeR oF dArKn (860291) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586097)

Why couldn't the company just share its listing info using a BitTorrent type system and update it that way? All users would have it, and its updating would be very fast, esp. once it fanned out across the 'Net. And if anyone would try to inject some malicious content into it, it would be drowned out by the shear amount of legit data (of course utilizing some kind of hashing/error checking service to make sure its legit)

There must be a way (1)

jrwr00 (1035020) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585449)

Some body will buck up and make a deal with someone,

if there is a major cry for a service, somebody will make a paid or a free one, maybe the mythTV devs should make their own service, i think this would be better

Achilles Heel (3, Interesting)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585451)

I first became aware of MythTV some years ago from a developer that was excitedly working on the project. With all the effort that was going on at the time, nobody seemed to have a clear-cut idea of a long-term, stable way of getting TV listings. "Scraping web pages" was the only plan.

Looks like five years later, it's still the only plan.

Re:Achilles Heel (1)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586119)

Looks like five years later, it's still the only plan.

A solution will appear.

Even if the community can't somehow come up with a solution agreeable to Zap2It, this seems like quite a good opportunity for someone to make a few bucks...

How long does it take to manually enter a channel guide each day? An hour at most? Now Imagine tens of thousands of Myth users each paying one dollar per month for listing that you provide via a handful of minumum-wage employees getting it from the daily newspaper. You wouldn't even need all that much duplication, really, since only a handful of cable companies provide service to the vast majority of the US - You'd just need to stay up-to-date on local mappings of what the various CableCos offer in each region.

Hmmm... Excuse me, I need to go file for a patent and a business license... ;-)

TV wiki (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19585457)

There needs to be a TV wiki schedule for Myth.

This is quite bad :( (2, Insightful)

kalpol (714519) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585459)

This was an invaluable service - makes me wonder who's putting the pressure on them :(

Re:This is quite bad :( (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585665)

Tribune put new management in Zap2it. They have been unresponsiveand treated the Data Direct service like a redheaded stepchild for a year now. The data has been bad, with long outages on it from time to time for a while now. Many of us that have used myth and other xmltv systems have tried to pay for a subscription for a couple of years now and they refuse.

it's the new management, they hate that OSS people are getting access to the data and want to stop it.

Re:This is quite bad :( (1)

ajayrockrock (110281) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585727)

They were probably getting pressure from other companies.

I had Dish Network and signed up for one of their International channels, SET (Sony Entertainment Television). A few months ago they all of a sudden dropped the listing. It wasn't showing up in my Myth box, and the option to include the data wasn't even on their site anymore. It just disappeared. I checked Dish's site and sure enough the SET listings [zap2it.com] are there and the source is even from Zap2It! So I'm assuming that Sony told Zap2It to remove their channel data from the XML feed to cut off PVR users.

Hopefully someone picks up the slack, I'd pay a few bucks a month to keep using Myth without the scraping.

--Ajay

Re:This is quite bad :( (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586021)

> Hopefully someone picks up the slack, I'd pay a few bucks a month to keep using Myth without the scraping.

That is such a funny thing to hear from a MythTV user. I cannot even count the number of times I heard the MythTV crowd say things like "TiVo SUCKS because you have to pay for the guide data! That stuff should be free! I would cut my own legs off before I'd pay for guide data because paying for guide data is THE BIGGEST EVIL IN THE WORLD!!!!" ... etc.

Now that the "free" guide data is gone, all the "I refuse to pay $12 per month for guide data" types are probably chiming in unison about how they'd "pay for the data if only this evil zap2it company gave me the option instead of just shutting off my feed of waah waah".

Not saying you're one of these people, maybe you always were willing to pay for guide data. But there were ALOT of MythTV users that fit the freeloader description.

Re:This is quite bad :( (1)

rocca (61281) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585753)

This was an invaluable service - makes me wonder who's putting the pressure on them :(

Probably the companies that pay for the commercial listings [tmsdatadirect.com] like TiVo [secinfo.com] and SageTV [tvover.net] .

Re:This is quite bad :( (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585805)

Whichever company sends them their bandwidth bill I'd guess...

Some smart financial type there probably realized they were paying for it, but it wasn't generating any revenue. Goodwill of the OSS community is nice and all, but you can't spend it, or pay your bills with it.

Cue the people calling them "haters" any minute now though.

Re:This is quite bad :( (1)

gubbas (651881) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585853)

They do state that it is only for non-commercial use. If I do recall correctly, Beyond TV (a commercial product) gathered TV listings from Zap2it. I wonder if Snapstream ruined it for everyone else?

What constitutes "misuse" of the data? (1)

brouski (827510) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585469)

Anyone know?

Re:What constitutes "misuse" of the data? (0)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585567)

Myth TV is whats a missuse of data in their minds. They where getting flack from the networks about people using their data to make their own Tivo boxes which where then getting shows uploaded to the net.

The problem with this being, its not going to stop people in the least, so in the end all they did was piss off more people while solving nothing.

Misuse? (2, Insightful)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585499)

How, exactly, does one go about "misusing" TV schedule listings? Is this really because Zap2It was making all other forms of TV listings obsolete while not making any money at it? The announcement is quite vague. Does anybody have details on what's going on?

Re:Misuse? (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585951)

Rude fools would download it for free, then charge other people to look at it.

TitanTV (3, Informative)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585501)

I use a Windows based PVR that works with the Web site titantv.com Clicking on the 'record' button on the Web site sends a small file that a helper app converts to a Windows scheduler entry. I can't believe it would be that hard to adapt to Linux.

The Titan TV web site includes advertising and also does tracking. While personally, I don't care if anyone knows I watch StarGate and Myth Busters, privacy issues may be a concern for some.

Re:TitanTV (1)

TinheadNed (142620) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585659)

Or, use the MythWeb plugin. I have my own website of my PVR which I can instruct to record things. It's also secured so it's private and not in the hands of anyone else. And it doesn't have adverts.

Snapstream (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585873)

I had the same thought- Snapstream or TitanTV ought to come out with a *paid* MythTV plugin at this point. It's not like they don't already have the listings.

Breaking TV news: (-1, Troll)

PurifyYourMind (776223) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585519)

I just pooped my cute little pants.

celeb posting (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19585547)

Man, I'm soo going to get flamed for this...and the Board and the Foundation are going to give me hell for this PR misstep...I don't care anymore. Here goes. Hey there, um, Linux guys, this is...um, this is a certain somewhat well-known former CO/owner of a large software firm. I'm doing a celeb posting today, because I realized...I can actually do what I want. And I want to say, while the Free TV listings are going out of the biz, I'm going into the biz of fucking another company. I'm gonna buy M...it's get better, and we'll give it higher synergy to work with users....

Actually, I was found dead in my home today at 2:30 PM...check CNN. I guess you must realize that to write the above stuff, I must be full of emotionlessness and callousness...don't mess with me, I guess.

Going, going, gone? (4, Interesting)

scribblej (195445) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585559)

I've been a Zap2it subscriber for at least three years for my MythTV.

At first, they made me fill out a big online survey as "payment" for the service. The first time it was about 30 questions.

The third time (this is like every 3-6 months) they only asked one question.

For the last year, the survey has been "click here to renew."

What's with that? I'm willing to give up some personal time and info to pay for this service, and they can't even think of a way to leverage that?

The main listings (3, Informative)

DaveWick79 (939388) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585561)

It doesn't appear that this will affect their main listings on their website, just the programs that tap into their database.
I've always just setup an easy shortcut to their web page to get listings, so I really don't think this will affect my usage in the least.

Re:The main listings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19585913)

> I've always just setup an easy shortcut to their web page to get listings,

Care to share that? I can get as far as the "right now" page by stuffing a ZIP code into the URL, but I can't navigate to arbitrary dates/times without some combination of cookies/Javashit/Referrer-ID enabled, which is what I'd need to properly scrape the "2.0" version of the website via curl/wget.

Saw it coming, sadly (0)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585573)

I was really eager to build myself a MythTV box, had it all planned out.. It'd be headless, with 4 tuners so each member of the family could schedule their own recordings, etc..

The TV listings thing worried me. I cant remember the verbage, but there was something in Zap2its EULA (or whatever they have) to the effect of "we might stop tomorrow, and screw you".

There was no other option, no pay service to which I could subscribe.

I ended up going with Tivo because of it.

The killing blow? I think not. (3, Insightful)

ChaosDiscord (4913) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585583)

This will be the killing blow for MythTV and other open source DVRs? I think not. MythTV predates Zap2It and managed to do okay. Yes, it relied on screen scraping, but it worked. Furthermore, I know I'm perfectly prepared to pay a small monthly fee for a good data source. Maybe $5 a month? Since a company offering such a service doesn't need to recoup costs for selling hardware below cost (as Tivo does), such a price should be feasible. Since Zap2It was free, there wasn't much incentive for someone to offer the service, but now there is. I'm hoping the free market will see the opportunity and we can work something else.

I don't see the problem (3, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585597)

What's wrong with just "scraping" web pages (I assume that means writing code which automatically downloads the webpages and captures the data of interest, rather than requiring a human to do it. I do this all the time with Perl code.)?

There's multiple sites out there with TV listings: Yahoo TV, Zap2It, MeeTV (the one I use), etc. Just write perl scripts to capture the listing information from these sites, and modify MythTV to allow the user to choose any service he wishes. Of course, some of these sites may (stupidly) screw with their HTML in order to throw off these scripts, but that's easily worked around with regular updates. So we just need to have a "myth-scripts" distribution site where your Myth box automatically checks for updates to the perl scripts every day and downloads them if necessary, just like we already do with many other things.

No, it's not quite as reliable and efficient as a static interface to this data, but if these companies are stupid enough to remove static interfaces, thinking we're just going to go back to doing everything manually and looking at all the ads, this seems like a reasonable solution. There's no way of preventing automated scripts from downloading webpages.

Re:I don't see the problem (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585815)

No, it's not quite as reliable and efficient as a static interface to this data, but if these companies are stupid enough to remove static interfaces, thinking we're just going to go back to doing everything manually and looking at all the ads, this seems like a reasonable solution.

That's exactly the problem. Scraping relies on the format remaining mostly unchanged. I had to write a scraper to compile data for work. Because of the way the site was designed, I had to make 600+ queries to the site to get all the information I needed and that puts an enormous strain on my connection and the remote server (it's like 55MB at a time).

There's no way of preventing automated scripts from downloading webpages.

It's called an IP ban and that's exactly what plenty of webservers do when you start pulling enormous amounts of data from their site on a regular basis.

Just Wondering... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585601)

Just wondering if Big Money got to them. Whenever a free alternative to a lucrative pay service disappears, one wonders if the competition just bought them out (secret deal) and killed the competing product.

Then it's just a question of who is benefiting from this the most?

Re:Just Wondering... (1)

rocca (61281) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586001)

Zap2it is part of Tribune Media Services who in turn sells these listings commercially. Their other licensees (like Tivo and SageTV) likely aren't too happy that they are buying the same listings and then Zap2it is giving them away free to competitors like MythTV.

References at http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=239123&cid=195 85753 [slashdot.org]

Re:Just Wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19586009)

WTF is with all this tinhat stuff? They are a company. They want to make money. A ton of users are sucking up bandwidth, but not providing any income or other benefits so they cut off the freeloaders. No conspiracy theories needed.

Want the service again? Try paying them at a minimum what you are costing them in bandwidth and a little more so they make so profit so it's worth doing for them.

Killing blow? (2)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585625)

Me thinks that someone doesn't quite grasp the strength of OSS: That strength not just being free. Ultimately, it's the dissemination of data. Which is precisely why this problem is uniquely suited to being solved by OSS.

This will be a minor set back at worse. But, like any set back, it will make the overall product stronger.

That said..."NNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OO!!!!!!!!!!!!!". Zap2it was damn handy. Thank you Zap2it, for a great service.

How to keep it going (1)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585663)

They could keep the service going if they charged a small monthly fee. I mean really small, on the order of couple of dollars a month, at the most, hopefully less. At that rate, it's not worth the effort for anyone to "misuse" (redistribute) it.

Google should provide a WebService (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19585681)

Shouldn't Google or Yahoo or Microsoft or any of the other big media / tech companies of the 21st century provide this information as a free WebService? Seems like something Google would jump on top of since their mission statement is to organize the worlds information. Well, TV listings is information.... get on that Google!

I bet zap2it IS getting squeezed. (1)

xgr3gx (1068984) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585703)

Either there are too many people using the service, (which shouldn't be a problem) or bots/spammers are hammering it.
Even still, there are ways to stop that.
My guess is (like some other commenters above) that someone is putting pressure on them to stop.
Tivo perhaps? M$? Who knows.
I'm sure the community will get around it. I love mythtv. I'm not buying a Tivo.

Re:I bet zap2it IS getting squeezed. (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585911)

My guess is (like some other commenters above) that someone is putting pressure on them to stop.
Tivo perhaps? M$?


Their CFO, who realized they were spending money providing a service which generated no revenue?

FreeDB.org, similar to (1)

athloi (1075845) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585723)

Running a massively-popular, industry-unsupported service like freedb or free TV guide is difficult, apparently. Revenues need to come from somewhere, whether Google ads or private donors or corporate sponsors. It wouldn't surprise me if the open source community retaliated with a resource to replace Zap2It within months, along the same advertising-supported lines as FreeDB.org.

Then again, watching less TV might be good for all of you...

In the Uk we get the EIT data from the DVBT stream (1)

fiddlesticks (457600) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585737)

Myth just tunes to it (alongside the digital multiplex) and grabs a lot of info. It's not perfect, but it means we don't need to bother with zap2, radio times, etc

http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/index.php/EIT [mythtv.org]

XMLTV? (1)

prostoalex (308614) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585751)

Anybody worked with XMLTV [sourceforge.net] and care to share their experience?

Re:XMLTV? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586073)

From www.xml.com [xml.com]

This brings up an important question: what's the legal status of XMLTV? The Zap2IT license seems to be broad enough to allow for it.
While you may interact with or download a single copy of any portion of the Content for your own personal, non-commercial entertainment, information or use, you may not and may not authorize others to reproduce, sell, publish, distribute, modify, display, repost or otherwise use any portion of the Content in any other way or for any other purpose without the prior written consent of TMS. Requests regarding use of the Content for any purpose other than personal, non-commercial use should be directed to Feedback at Zap2it.com.

In other words, XMLTV is screwed, too.

What if I was to write a web service? (4, Interesting)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585787)

What if I was to write a web service that exposed the data garnered from website-scraping? You could just write a standard XML request, wrap it in SOAP tags and send it to the web service, and you'd be returned whatever information you requested- by channel, time, or show name...

Any takers?

Rather than a Million Screen Scrapers... (4, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585825)

Rather than a million screen scrapers each hitting various listing sites, better one screen scraper sharing the resulting data with a million video rebels. This solution would probably leave everyone happier.

Now there's just the question of who? Who is expert at spidering the web? Who likes to provide new cheap-to-free services in their quest to take over new markets. Who would love to put yet another spike into Microsoft's side by removing yet another possible revenue source for them? Who doesn't have to worry about financing such a small, cheap service alongside their already multitudes of underutilized servers and bandwidth?

Google?

We need GoogleTVListings (tm) (2, Insightful)

Blasphemy (78348) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585893)

Google needs a TV Listings aggregator!

Of course it would be the best ever... With version numbers for each day and diffs available that only contain the changes. The whole thing would be available as an rss feed and would be free, of course.

Why not use Guide+? (2, Interesting)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585901)

My TV automatically downloads, somehow (over the air? cable?) channel lineup listings through the Guide+ system.

Could a computer not do the same thing?

Canadian canoe.ca? (1)

coren2000 (788204) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585921)

What about the Canadian site canoe.ca. It has free TV listings.

Re:Canadian canoe.ca? (1)

Massif (875445) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586131)

I just checked canoe.ca. They get their listings from zap2it as well! Dang!

TVGuide.com does the same thing... (1)

NIN1385 (760712) | more than 7 years ago | (#19585985)

They do the same thing HERE [tvguide.com]

I have had a hard time figuring out why anyone buys the TV Guide for the last few years since they post the listings for free on their site.

Screw them (-1, Troll)

eric76 (679787) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586011)

You have to log into the web site to even find out the slightest bit about what they do.

Try it.

Click on "Zap2it Labs" and "FAQ about the Website". Result: "You must be logged in to access this feature. Please log in or register."

Click on any choice under "Using the Data". Result: "You must be logged in to access this feature. Please log in or register."

I'll be damned if I'm going to register at a web site to find out even the smallest detail about them. It smells like nothing more than an e-mail address harvester site.

Plead with Google to buy them out? (1)

CnlPepper (140772) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586079)

Anyone considered asking Google to buy them out?

Benefit for us:
- google tend to be fairly decent with providing data to users, would likely continue the service.

Benefit for them:
- yet another resource they can provide as a search and generate revenue from providing it online with small ads.

Is this the end of MythTV... (1)

pjviitas (1066558) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586089)

...I doubt it...there are too many good people involved with MythTV.

Is it a serious problem to be overcome...yes, because EPG reliance is one of MythTVs biggest flaws. Without an EPG, a MythTV box is pretty well useless.

Basically, the MythTV community does not have a choice in the matter. Either find a work around or the MythTV project is dead in the water.

Hedghog

Is this this same as their TV Guide web page? (1)

techmuse (160085) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586105)

Zap2It has a TV Guide-like web page that tells you your personal TV listings. Is this the same thing that they are shutting down? Or is there some other service that they are talking about?

Make it a paid service (2, Insightful)

pz (113803) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586113)

Like many others, I'm a little surprised that they aren't moving to a subscription model. Clearly they know better what their available resources are, and what they are and are not capable of handling, but it seems like a missed opportunity to walk away from a situation where their servers are getting hammered, and start charging a small fee. Many, many of the MythTV users would happily pay a few dollars a month to have a steady stream of information. Sounds like it could be a million dollar annual income right there, and that's got to be very hard to walk away from for any company.

As for commercial abuse, if they know it's happening, they presumably are taking steps to quash it as well, without much luck. Probably like playing whack-a-mole.

Let's all hope Google comes to the rescue.

Google (1)

zaphodb001 (527707) | more than 7 years ago | (#19586135)

Google should step in -- or better yet, Yahoo!
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