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, 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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