Live Olympics Coverage via Sopcast, on Ubuntu Hardy/Debian 32 & 64 Bit

Posted by on Aug 10, 2008 in Rants, Ubuntu5 comments

Note 1: I got somewhat sidetracked and into a rather lengthy rant while writing this. If you want, you can skip it and get straight to installing Sopcast, otherwise, read on.

Note 2: The method (eventually) described below is legal, since the Chinese TV stations are themselves streaming the coverage online.

I despise TV, but every four years, I like to indulge for a couple of weeks and watch Athletes from around the world compete in the Olympic Games. I also love living in Thailand, but, as with many countries I guess, coverage is limited to one channel, which obviously can’t cover all of the events I’m interested in watching.

I began looking at other options to watch the Olympics online, and frustratingly, most of the usual avenues at some point lead to cul-de-sacs. The first thing I tried was the BBC, however, all of their online coverage is via the iplayer, and thus only available to license paying British citizens – even is restricted to the UK. The fact that I AM a British citizen (sorry… Subject), and paid the (rediculous) license fee for many years (even though I didn’t actually watch TV – I owned one for the sole purpose of watching DVDs, but, absurdly we still have to pay for a TV license regardless…) doesn’t seem to count. In an ideal world, the BBC would recognise this fact, and let me watch the Olympics via their iplayer – after all, I’ve paid more than enough to earn that right over the years. But that’s another rant…

Next, I tried the NBC Olympics website, hoping that they may have some decent live coverage. Unfortunately, not only is their coverage pretty slim, but they are also in cahoots with the repugnant bloatware behemoth, Micro$oft, and are using the new (not particularly) “cross-platform, cross-browser” (read as “non-Linux”) Silvershite… sorry, Silverlight. While I have absolutely no qualms about obtaining a pirate copy of XP, I just don’t want to pollute my computer with sub standard bloatware. So, the search continued…

the CBC also seemed to offer live online coverage – I managed to get on to the site, select a live stream, only to find out that the CBC, like the BBC limit viewing to Canadian IP addresses. The increasingly frustrating search continued…

Youtube almost comes to the rescue, with their Beijing 2008 site (not available in some countries) – I can access the videos (yay!), but unfortunately, they’re not live. Almost their…

The search finally came to fruition with Sopcast. Most of the major Chinese TV stations are covering the Games, and most of those channels are available via Sopcast.

I find it dissapointing that the coverage of a global event, which includes athletes competing from almost every country should be restricted so much. What the hell is wrong with these guys?!

Tibetan Flag

Installing Sopcast

First, I downloaded Sopcast, from the Sopcast website, then extracted the file, and copied the executable to /usr/bin:

cd ~/Desktop
tar -zxvf sp-auth.tgz
cd sp-auth
sudo cp sp-sc-auth /usr/bin/sp-sc

the sp-sc executable can be used from the command line, by running sp-sc <sop://url> <localport> <playerport> and openning up the resulting stream in mplayer/vlc, e.g.:

sp-sc sop:// 3908 8908 &
mplayer http://localhost:8908/tv.asf

but the CLI involves knowing the broker, channel number and so on. There is also GUI available (actually, 2 GUIs – GTK, and QT, but I’ve only managed to get the GTK GUI working so far), which does all this for you, and makes the process much easier. The GTK Gui can be set up as follows:

cd ~/Desktop
sudo dpkg -i --force-architecture gtk-sopcast_0.2.8-1_i386.deb

32 Bit users can omit the –force-architecture option, since this is essentially just telling 64 Bit Ubuntu to shut up and use 32 Bit libraries.

Sopcast will only pull in the stream – a media player is required to actually view the stream. VLC, or mplayer both work – I currently use mplayer with the GUI, without problems. gsopcast is actually set up to use mplayer by default, so if you don’t have it, it can be installed by running:

sudo apt-get install mplayer

Once the gsopcast GUI is installed, there should be a new menu item under Applications -> Sound & Video -> Sopcast TV Player. Alternatively, the GUI can be run from the terminal:


Once launched, the GUI will populate the channel list. Double click on the channel you wish to view, and wait for the buffer to reach 90%-100% before clicking the “player” button. So far, I’ve found CCTV-1, CCTV-2 and Shanghai Sports to be offering live Olympics coverage thus far, although the commentary is obviously in Chinese. I’m still searching for English commentary channels which Sopcast can pull, but for now, this is better than nothing.


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