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.
Although not yet noted on the Fluendo News page, customers who have previously purchased codec packs from Fluendo are receiving an email regarding updates.
In summary, here’s a list of the codecs offered by Fluendo in the Complete Set Pack:
Windows Media Audio Decoder (Windows Media 7, 8, 9, 10, Pro, Lossless and Speech)
Windows Media Video Decoder (Windows Media 7, 8, 9 and VC1)
Windows Media ASF Demuxer
Windows Media MMS Networking
MPEG2 Video Decoder
MPEG4 Part 2 (DivX) Video Decoder
H.264/AVC Video Decoder (32 bits only)
MPEG2 Program Stream and Transport Stream demuxer
MPEG4 ISO Demuxer
MP3 Audio Decoder
AC3 Audio Decoder
AAC Audio Decoder (32 bits only)
Below is the text of the email being received. It looks like some good optimisation work has been completed on the Windows Media and MPEG2 decoders:
You are receiving this mail to inform you that the Fluendo product you bought has been updated…
Here are the details on updated products :
– Windows Media Video now supports Windows Media 7 and 8 on top of
previously supported formats Windows Media Video 9 and VC1.
Additionally this codec has received a lot of optimization love which
makes it possible to play big HD clips on smaller hardware. Products
including that codec : Complete set of playback plugins, Windows Media
playback bundle, Windows Media Video.
– Windows Media Audio now supports Windows Media 10 and Windows Media
Speech on top of previously supported formats Windows Media 7, 8, 9,
Pro and Lossless. This codec has been optimized and consumes almost
50% less CPU. Products including that codec : Complete set of playback
plugins, Windows Media playback bundle, Windows Media Audio.
– MPEG2 Video decoder has been optimized to reach similar performances
than other competing decoders. Products including that codec :
Complete set of playback plugins, MPEG playback bundle, MPEG2 Video
– H.264/AVC and AAC have been added to the 32 bits Complete set of
playback plugins -64 bits should arrive in Q2 2008. You can now play
your AAC songs or watch QuickTime movies using a highly optimized set
of decoders for those formats. Products including that codec :
Complete set of playback plugins.
– MMS network source has been thoroughly tested with a lot of Internet
streams. Lot of improvements were done to support as much streams as
possible. Products including that network source : Complete set of
playback plugins, Windows Media playback bundle, Windows Media MMS.
Fluendo’s team wishes you a happy new year for 2008.
Best regards, Fluendo Support Team , FLUENDO S.A.
So, perhaps consider purchasing your video and audio codecs from an Open Source company, rather than installing w32codecs or Gstreamer Bad and Ugly.
Initially I was quite excited by the release of Elisa 0.3.3 from the team at Fluendo. In general, I like the work Fluendo does – amongst other initiatives they have codecs for sale that alleviate any legal qualms you may have about installing “non-free” video codecs from various locations, they have an interesting Java streaming video applet called Cortado and they provide a reasonably priced online streaming service. So, high hopes for Elisa 0.3.3. Unfortunately, it looks like I won’t be using this software.
Installation was straight forward, using the Ubuntu package found on their packages page. That’s about as far as the good news goes. Elisa installs a link in the Applications > Sounds & Video menu under Gnome. However, the application is clearly following KDE design principles. Immediately I was reminded of the post over at Planete Beranger about useless, annoying cartoonish design icons and effects. That’s Elisa 0.3.3. Huge, quite ugly, cartoon-like graphics. The interface could have been so much slicker. Of course it is possible for someone to re-skin the application on top of Elisa’s functionality, and I sincerely hope someone will. The default graphics are bad enough, but choosing one of the other two icon themes only makes things worse; didn’t anyone teach these guys how to anti-alias?
The other reason I was so keen to try Elisa 0.3.3 is the screaming text on the project’s homepage stating that the software will “Automatically detects IPods, cameras, USB hard drives, etc.” Great news! I can now finally use my iPod Touch with a Linux application for managing my music. Nope. It’s a vicious lie. Connecting my iPod via USB results in the usual pop-up message alerting me that a camera has been detected, but nothing in Elisa. An external hard drive, also connected via USB was recognised correctly, but not the iPod. What a disappointment.
Support from the Fluendo team is also lacking. There is a forum available, where I posted a query about the non-detected iPod, but nobody from the Fluendo development team seems to be answering questions. As of this post, there are 14 unanswered posts in the Help section dating back to January 22nd. Granted, a forum can and should be used by users to help each other, but shouldn’t there be someone from Fluendo regularly looking in to help out?
Elisa 0.3.3 – at the moment useful only for kids who like cartoons and don’t own iPods