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Options for Video and Audio Codecs in Linux

February 1, 2008 Leave a comment

Red Devil’s Tech Blog has a good article reviewing how four different major Linux distributions deal with making video and audio codecs available.

Fedora, Mandriva, PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu are all covered, with Vector Linux getting a brief tongue in cheek mention at the end.

It seems that Fedora is moving away from their strictly no non-free software approach, to one encouraging end users to install Fluendo’s commercial codecs, of which new versions have just been released. Mandriva is doing something similar with their paid for 2008 Power Pack.

Personally, I applaud this approach. While I wholeheartedly support free and open source software, I also don’t mind the concept of paying a small amount for something essential, like video and audio codecs. If this is what it takes, to avoid even the sniff of legal problems for a Linux distribution, I’m fine with it.

Tip of the iceberg you say? I can understand that response too. What I don’t see at this time is a valid alternative, besides installing, what is in some jurisdictions, legally questionable software.

I’d be much more concerned about Sun purchasing MySQL and Novell/SUSE cosying up to Microsoft, than paying ¬£20 for some very useful codecs. Perhaps an organisation like Fluendo deserves support, just to keep yourself personally in the clear.

I wonder why Ubuntu doesn’t follow this lead.

Ultimately though, I think the decision has to be up to the end user. Linux is about choice. And I’m quite the hypocrite anyway, not about to purchase Fluendo’s codecs. All the decoding functionality I need is done with libavcodec, which is a core dependency for FFmpeg.

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