Red Button Text

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Red Button Text
Red Button Text logo
Redbutton text.jpg
URL None
Project status Closing
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".

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.