Red Button Text

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Revision as of 16:12, 19 December 2020 by Betamax (talk | contribs) (Updated to reflect the BBC's decision to continue the service.)
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Red Button Text
Red Button Text logo
Redbutton text.jpg
URL None
Project status Endangered
Archiving status In progress...
Project source http://redbutton.sourceforge.net/
Project tracker Unknown
IRC channel #deadbutton (on EFnet)
Project lead User:Betamax

Red Button Text is a digital text delivery service though over-the-air digital television. It was introduced in the early 2000s as a replacement for the Ceefax analogue teletext service that was shut down with the UK digital TV switch-over in 2012.

In September 2019, the BBC (the main - only? - provider of Red Button Text) announced the service would be closing in "early 2020". However, on January 29th 2020, a day before the planned retirement of the service, the BBC announced that the retirement was "suspended" due to concerns about continued reliance on the service by the elderly and disabled. Later, in September 2020, the BBC announced that the service would continue, albeit in a reduced form.

Archival Attempts

User:Betamax is attempting to preserve a representative sample of the service in its final weeks / months. Help is greatly appreciated as a separate TV tuner is needed for each channel. The software chosen for this archival attempt is RedButton, which includes two parts: RB-Download to download live data from a digital TV source, and RB-Browser, to allow the files downloaded by RB-Download to be "played back". Think wayback machine, but for digital TV text. (There's also RB-Creator, which is not relevant for archiving).

Steps to Archive

  1. Setup a computer with a TV tuner card. (Leaving this up to you, as setup varies wildly with different hardware / software variants).
  2. Install the dvb-apps package.
  3. Scan for channels, saving the list of channels in a place where other utilities can find them. Replace <your-local-transmitter> with the file for your local digital TV transmitter.
    scan /usr/share/dvb/dvb-legacy/dvb-t/<your-local-transmitter> > ~/.tzap/channels.conf
  4. Inspect a single line of this channels.conf file. You should see something similar to:
    BBC ONE Scot:522000000:INVERSION_AUTO:BANDWIDTH_8_MHZ:FEC_2_3:FEC_AUTO:QAM_64:TRANSMISSION_MODE_8K:GUARD_INTERVAL_1_32:HIERARCHY_NONE:101:102:4220
  5. The important parts are the first section (before the first ':'), which identifies the channel name (case sensitive) e.g: "BBC ONE Scot", and the last section, which identifies the service ID for the channel, e.g: "4220". Each line of the file is a different channel, although some are radio stations.
  6. Download the redbutton-download software as a zip archive and extract it somewhere convenient.
  7. Compile the RB-Download executable, by running make
  8. Tune into a TV station using it's name: tzap -x "BBC ONE Scot"
  9. Make a folder to save the downloaded data: mkdir bbconescot
  10. Start downloading the digital TV text content for a channel, as identified by the channel's service ID, into the folder:
    ./rb-download -b bbconescot -f ../channels.conf 4220

Notes when Using RB-Download

  • It has a few bugs which cause it to crash every few hours. You'll need to therefore setup some mechanism to restart it (e.g: a crontab that checks to see if it's running and restarts it if not). This isn't too big of an issue, because you'll need crontab anyway because....
  • It overwrites data as it downloads it. Digital TV text operates as a stream. Once the text is updates, which happens every few minutes, the old text that was downloaded is overwritten. Therefore you'll need to have some mechanism (e.g: crontab) that backs up what has been saved. The technique I ([User:Betamax]) use is to make a .tar of the folder every minute or so.

What's Being Saved?

Channel Name Person Responsible Notes
BBC ONE Scot User:Betamax Being backed up every minute. Intended eventual destination is archive.org.
BBC NEWS User:Betamax Being backed up every minute. Intended eventual destination is archive.org.
BBC TWO User:Betamax Being backed up every half hour. Intended eventual destination is archive.org.
BBC Parliament User:Betamax A mistake in the script meant that this was not backed up until 2020-03-23, henceforth it is being backed up every half hour. Intended eventual destination is archive.org.
BBC ALBA User:Betamax Being backed up every half hour. Intended eventual destination is archive.org.
BBC Red Button User:Betamax Being backed up every half hour. Intended eventual destination is archive.org.
BBC FOUR User:Betamax Being backed up every half hour. Intended eventual destination is archive.org.
CBBC User:Betamax Being backed up every half hour. Intended eventual destination is archive.org.