back to article Applesoft, Ogg, and the future of web video

Two years ago, cosmonaut and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth challenged open sourcers to turn the Linux desktop into a piece of art. They should "out Apple" Apple, he said. They should fashion beautiful software and online services that reach a wider audience of consumer users. Shuttleworth's Canonical has now launched …


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  1. Jens 1


    Shuttleworth's Canonical has now launched Ubuntu 10.04

    Fail, and i do really mean fail. That piece of Gnome shit has really annoyed me. Not in an good sense, but in a alien one, crawl in life support sense and then get eaten sense.

    i really, and i do mean this, i Really do not need to be reminded that i have taken a shit. But this is what i been reminded of every last fucking time i... I Digress, pretty please, do not annoy me. -Its simple!

    1. The BigYin


      ...don't install it then? Try Kubuntu, or Xubuntu. Or Mint. Or Fedora. Or OpenSUSE. Or Mandriva. Or MacPup. Or Slackware. Or....or...or...

      I dropped 10.04 on the other day. So far I have left everything at default (yes, even the window buttons). It seems slick enough to me (boots fast enough), stable. Only complaint I have is that Ubuntu One seems to be as chronically unstable as ever.

      1. Daniel 1

        Don't waste your effort on him, mate

        He's just shuffled in from the cheap seat to complain about the nasty scary people, using a kind of software he doesn't understand; which fact makes him feel small and vulnerable.

        Making other people feel small and vulnerable, when faced with computers, is His Personal Domain, and he has a lot of emotional baggage wrapped up in being able to do it (such as he extends to actually having motions, that is) so this scary stuff is clearly some sort of nasty conspiracy by Clever People who want to bully him.

        He's not even reading any of this. Having successfully "rewired reality", by posting something The Internet, he's gone back to hugging a radiator.

    2. A J Stiles

      Oh dear, another one

      who blames everyone else for their own inability to spell "sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop".

    3. Doshu

      Um..... yyyyyeah.

      It's a shame that the law makes it so you can't choose your OS. Oh wait. It doesn't. Thanks for playing, though.

  2. elderlybloke
    Jobs Horns

    The New Zealand Government

    have stated that they will not allow patents for software down here.

    Will that be of benefit to anyone in the rest of the world?

    1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart


      New Zealand is just too small, there are bigger fish to catch....

      Not unless the sheep start using patented software......

      Mine's made of wool....

  3. Dodgy Dave

    'All video codecs are covered by patents'

    Yes, including MPEG-2, which has been around since DVD was introduced in 1995, and those patents will expire soon. That's great, because the H.264 crew have to prove that any techniques used in Theora were /not/ anticipated by MPEG-2.

    And there's no credible FUD about submarine patents on MPEG-2 either: if you had such a thing, you'd have held the DVD market to ransom by now.

  4. Tom Samplonius

    Theora also a problem...

    Except that MPEG-LA has announced that their patents cover basically any kind of video encoding. So even though Theora may be open source, that doesn't mean that won't have to pay a license fee to MPEG-LA some day for it. Canonical is wise to stay clear.

    It is too early to see if Google is planning to put VP8 out there enough, and put significant dollars into a legal defense. Or even whether they think they have a good chance of winning that fight. Maybe they don't think it is a lock either, which is why they have been so slow to open source and freely release VP8.

    Not to mention, the lock that MPEG-LA has only video equipment:

  5. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects 1

    Who? Me?

    "Horn, meanwhile, defends patented codecs. He told us that "the marketplace of users" has made the decision on what technologies they want to use and a one-stop license provides convenience for everybody. "MPEG LA takes the market where we find it,"."

    I don't want to use Flash.

    I don't want to use Javascript.

    But I don't want to bother getting into alternatives too neither. I just want to do what I wish online the easiet option allowing.

    The trouble is that when stymied, I seem to be pushed into downloading the crapware I don't won't can't use.

  6. Oscar

    And if the US got rid of software patents ...?

    This article would have been a couple of lines long.

    I really don't believe the idea that video codecs aren't patentable. I should really get a number of my ideas for wavelet encoding up online as despite having played with such things for years I don't hold any date based evidence of the prior art to invalidate a patent...

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      And if wishes were horses . . .

      . . . we'd all be eating steak. You can believe whatever you want, unless you want to believe the truth, and the truth seems to be that codecs are software, therefore patentable.

  7. hammo
    Jobs Horns

    Anyone ever read the EULA for video new cameras?

    I came across this article yesterday ( via slashdot (

    Short story, the EULA on all video recorders that use H.264, i.e. flip, ALL new cameras, states that they may be used for "personal use and non-commercial" purposes. That's fine if you're just using your flip to record your child taking their first steps, but what if you've bought the "professional" $8000 Canon XL-H1A to, for instance, record a low budget movie? Tough, it has the same EULA, get ready to give MPEG LA a hefty slice of anything you make.

    Steve Jobs as Apples ecosystem is even more closed than Microsofts.

  8. Mage Silver badge


    Don't you mean AAC?

    Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is a standardized, lossy compression and encoding scheme for digital audio. Designed to be the successor of the MP3 format, AAC generally achieves better sound quality than MP3 at similar bit rates.

    It's not just about Patents, Open vs Closed.

    I was involved with VOIP development. We looked at Speex and iLBC as "free" codecs, Speex is "gnu type free" and iLBC is "free" in the ordinary sense. iLBC was already supported by Cisco routers and the user ATA already with customers, but the "safe" decision was to stick with G.729 and G.711 (default). Speex support is much poorer.

    All DVB TV is migrating from MPEG2 to MPEG4 H.264 (without exception) from MPEG2.

    All newer Digital Radio formats and sound on newer Digital TV is migrating from MP2 to AAC.

    Icom use the proprietary fairly poor AMBE codec for Audio.

    Most companies would rather pay the money and back the winning standard.

    AAC may displace MP2 and MP3 eventually, ogg won't.

    MPEG4 H.264 has already won for video. Why use a poorer performance, less supported codec that needs transcoding if converting from Broadcast for Streaming?

    All commercial payTV VOD / IPTV is migrating fast from MPEG2 to MPEG4 H.264

    It's thus commercial suicide NOT to support MP3 (or possibly the better AAC) for Audio and MPEG4 H.264 for video.

    We might not like it, esp. the religious zealots of FSF / GNU / Open Sauce, but it's the reality.

  9. jackharrer

    There is another way

    Google can open source (or just licence free) the VP8 codec and then enter partnership with Adobe. If Flash enables VP8, then all concerned parties would try to save themselves from H.264 fees and would recode to VP8. HTML5 has a much hype, but it's a very immature technology so far, whereas Flash is installed on over 95% of machines all over the world. That can be a game changer. Also that would not require any major investment and advertising campaign - they can do it using all those grassroots movements all over the web. It would have also benefit of being protected by Google's cash and patent pool - thus I said it would be better to keep it closed source and just release under irrevocable free license.

    Just my 2p.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    "f you want MP3, you have to pay Thompson, which helped create MP3 along with three other companies. Decoding costs $0.75 for a patent and software license per unit, but if you want to encode the media - which, of course, you have to - then that's priced at up to $5.00 per unit."

    Except it isn't, you download one of the many FREE MP3 encoders...

    Same goes for H.264 - there are a few free encoders, not that it matters if you're streaming it from a web site - the decoders are all free...

    1. Lou Gosselin


      "Except it isn't, you download one of the many FREE MP3 encoders..."

      Just because you can download an encoder or decoder from source forge, doesn't mean you are not infringing on the patents.

      It would be useless for thomson to go after poorly funded open source projects, and ridiculously inefficient for them to go after individual users. These are the reasons why patent holders generally only prosecute larger entities for "infringing their IP" and rarely enforce them directly against end users or small developers.

      But make no mistake, you are still technically violating the legal monopolies granted by patents even if consequences for you as an end user are very unlikely.

      Should we justify a tyrannical patent system on the basis that it is poorly enforced and that many of us have gotten away with using open source software without paying the license fees?

    2. prathlev

      @AC 16:13

      "... you download one of the many FREE MP3 encoders. Same goes for H.264 - ..."

      Where can I find a free MP3 and/or H.264 encoder for commercial use?

      1. A J Stiles


        For MP3, try

        For H.264, you can try

        svn checkout svn:// ffmpeg

        You will need a SubVersioN client ..... unless you're using some weirdy browser that has this functionality built in.

        Both are licenced under the LGPL, and may be used freely in Open Source projects in countries where software is excluded from the scope of patentability.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          FFmpeg H.264 GPL not LGPL?

          I think the H.264 part of FFmpeg (libx264?) is GPL not LGPL

  11. Frantisek Janak


    Wonderful article!

    All hail the open sauce!

  12. hahnchen

    Open source should be protected against submarine patents

    The entire workings of open source projects are out in the open. If they infringe on patents, then the patent holders should be obliged to speak out and protect their inventions, in the same way trademark holders are forced to defend their marks which are otherwise lost. This will allow either the open source community to work around them, or for those patents to be challenged.

    The situation as it is now, should never arise - that FUDdy patents loom over projects which are completely in the open is unacceptable. Microsoft should not be able to charge companies for using Linux, and yet keep those "infringing" patents secret, which only serves to promote their licensing carousel.

    The US patent system needs serious reform, and this is only one small facet. The USPTO need to start hiring competent patent examiners for a start, so that fewer all encompassing obvious patents are granted. They need to seriously reexamine their criteria for granting software patents, in many cases, these are patents on ideas - not inventions.

    And yet, every time patent reform comes up, the Union of Patent Examiners, speak out against it. They speak out against it, because it'd mean they'd actually have to do some work instead of rubberstampting everything, and hire some competent people who might not pay their union dues.

    1. Charles 9

      Interesting idea...

      ...but are you willing to pay the taxes needed to increase the USPTO budget, which is probably the primary reason their work's so slopshod (IOW, you're expecting a Ferrari on a Mini budget).

      1. hahnchen

        Increase the cost

        We need fewer, and better patents to be filed. And fewer frivolous cover-alls. By increasing the cost of filing, you reduce the workload, and can allow more time to examine the patent.

        How about having a system whereby some of the initial cost is paid back in reduced maintenance fees after an application is successful? That would deter against shotgun patent applications.

        And whereas Joe the Plumber may tea party against increased taxes for the USPTO, corporations might not, especially if it means they don't have to waste as much money on defending from patent trolling.

  13. david bates

    Rythm box would be great...

    if only I could get sound to work. It used to work, before PulseAudio.

    I keep it on my server, but Im pretty much ready to give up on Ubuntu for my desktop.

  14. Oli 5

    Good article but needs tightening up a bit

    Good to see a more in-depth article on this subject.

    A major argument against Ogg Theora has been poor performance (quality at a given data rate) vs H.264 and the fact that H.264 hardware support is readily available. Even if Google were to open-source the much newer VP8 codec, it would take time for hardware support to become available. During that lull, devices will be flooding the market that take advantage of web video (phones, tablets, connected TVs etc) and so they will almost certainly choose H.264. It particularly makes sense for consumer electronics companies who may already be making Blu-Ray players and have experience dealing with MPEG-LA.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      +1 but what does this mean in the UK?

      Good article.

      I decided on producing h.264 in 2006 knowing that hardware support would be there for it and that there would be less effort required for our techs engineering the desktops. It can be hard to even spread the message that you need Ogg Vorbis/Theora support on the desktop.

      At the time I learnt about video codecs I spoke to BBC engineers. They didn't like Ogg because of the possibilities of patents problems surrounding VP* and On2. They were developing Dirac based on new science and therefore free from patent for their HD efforts. I'm not sure how that's going except Freeview HD is being rolled out as h.264 on DVB-T2 (they also promised that they would not include DRM in their content.)

      We're capturing and streaming Freeview according to the ERA licence. We're a university in the UK. I'm presuming that changes to h.264 licensing won't affect us financially.

      Was this article written for non-EU/New Zealand audience? Should we all be quaking in our boots?

  15. psyq

    Please educate yourself about the matter you are writing about

    AAC (like MP3 or H.264) has NOTHING to do with DRM. It is a worldwide international standard (ISO/IEC 14496 in case of AAC, ISO 11152 in case of MP3) and is related to audio coding only.

    Encrypting this with your DRM has nothing to do whatsoever with the AAC (or H.264, or MP3) standard itself. Hell, you can even put Ogg Vorbis in DRM container if you wish. This is purely the decision of the implementer. Standards alone do not enforce nor prohibit DRM.

    Second, H.264, MP3 and AAC are as open as it gets - they ALL are fully documented and available from ISO/ITU directly (or your country standards body) with open source reference C/C++ software being available as well. When those patents expire, they will be fully public domain - much more "free" (as in freedom) than some GPL-ed stuff.

    The fact of the matter is - yes, complex audio and video codecs ARE based on patented technology more often than not. And there is NOTHING bad in that and NOTHING preventing them from being open for everyone to implement and use, with reasonable and non-discriminatory cost model.

    It is only the freetards of this planet who are trying to spread FUD about the well-proven international standards like H.264. Sorry guys, technology has a price - someone worked very hard to invent it. No, those companies WILL NOT give it away "for free" so Apples and Googles of this would would use it to make money.

    And, by the way - these ITU/ISO standardized technologies are in almost all modern digital TV, optical media, mobile and satellite standards. That makes much more relevant than what some FSF-tards would like people to know.

    1. Lou Gosselin


      "Second, H.264, MP3 and AAC are as open as it gets - they ALL are fully documented and available from ISO/ITU directly (or your country standards body) with open source reference C/C++ software being available as well. When those patents expire, they will be fully public domain - much more "free" (as in freedom) than some GPL-ed stuff."

      The difference is that GPL uses copyright laws, which are more reasonable as they don't preclude others from implementing similar algorithms. Software patents do not offer freedom because the holders can demand royalties and dictate terms on when the algorithms may be used, even on implementations not owned by them. When patents do finally expire, the public is only entitled to is a useless patent document written in legalize.

      "The fact of the matter is - yes, complex audio and video codecs ARE based on patented technology more often than not."

      True, any significant piece of software risks patent infringement.

      "And there is NOTHING bad in that and NOTHING preventing them from being open for everyone to implement and use, with reasonable and non-discriminatory cost model."

      You are incorrect, several years ago I wanted to write and sell my own consumer multimedia software. There were plenty of shortcomings, particularly in the area of multichannel audio capabilities, which I wanted to target. However the more I researched it, the more it became apparent that patent royalties would take out the majority of my revenue. When I saw that patent holders would make most of the profit off of my work, I concluded that it just wasn't worthwhile.

      You can defend software patents any way you please, but in the end you can not deny what they are - a legal monopoly.

      "It is only the freetards of this planet who are trying to spread FUD about the well-proven international standards like H.264. Sorry guys, technology has a price - someone worked very hard to invent it. No, those companies WILL NOT give it away "for free" so Apples and Googles of this would would use it to make money."

      Companies can charge what they please for their products/services, but why would they need to threaten their competitors with patent suits if their products were worth buying? It seems like they genuinely fear competition on a level playing field and would rather not let the free market play out.

    2. asdf

      great another patent attorney

      The issue is not whether people should get paid for inventing new technology. Most people would agree if the tech is useful the inventor should be well rewarded. The issue is everyone having to pay large sums of money in order to be able to innovate to scum sucking patent attorneys. Most don't believe we should have to pay a innovation tax to bunch of leeches in a suites because the law is busted. Alas the lawyers write the law and they have now ruined what our founding fathers set up the patent system in the first place (to spur innovation in physical invention) not for creating a house of cards virtual land rush over applied math (all computer programs are simply math). As for voting to change the system you are right about that but alas our choices in America are the incompetent party that largely maintains the status quo (except for headlines every now and then) or the evil party that trys to turn everything over to the super rich and get poor people banned from breathing.

    3. prathlev


      I completely agree with your point: Technology like codecs isn't free to develop, and giving out patents ensures that someone actually wants to spend their ressources developing shuff.

      One thing bothers me a little though: The patents last for 20 years. That's a long time when we're talking software. So if we want to keep software patents, let's at least shorten that period a little, to maybe 10 years instead.

      The people making money from H.264/MPEG4 licences now isn't the same people that developed the thing.

  16. Matt Fowler

    Interesting, but careless writing

    The Apple-backed audio codec is "AAC" not "ACC", the plural of "codec" is "codecs" (not "codex"), and VP3 is the codec which turned into Ogg Theora - VP8 is the newer one that people are hoping Google will open up.

    The MP3 licensing issues are also why there are regular raids on German tech-fairs to expel vendors who are selling MP3 player devices with no licenses for the related patents.

  17. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    2010 minus 1992 equals...

    ...18. Since a patent lasts 17 years, one may doubt that the MP3 standard, established since 1992 retains any unexpired patents.

    I'm just glad the patents on beer are expired.

    1. Disco-Legend-Zeke


      ...they are just beginning to expire.

      Most patents were kept secret until the standard was released then filed in 1982.

      Most Patents have titles that are "Method for" rather than a patent on doing whatever.

      The list is here:

    2. Eddy Ito

      check again

      It is all a matter of timing. For US patents it depends both on when it was filed and when it was granted. For patents filed prior to mid 1995 the term is either 17 years from the grant of the patent or 20 years from the application. If "established since 1992" means the patent was granted in that year then yes, the patent has expired but if the patent was filed in 1992 and granted in 2008 then it is still in force for quite a bit yet. Slowing the process was a common tactic to achieve longer effective patent coverage.

      The current rule, regarding post mid1995 patent applications, does away with the 17 years from issue and matches the WIPO standard of 20 years from application. That said, extensions are available if the granting process takes longer than 3 years and is limited to the length of delay.

      Of course this applies to utility patents and, IIRC, plant patents. Design patents, which only have a single claim, have a term of 14 years from the date of patent granting.

  18. Francis Vaughan

    Defensive patents

    So what patents has Google now acquired? Not enough to provide a nuclear option I would imagine, but I doubt there are none. Contributing patents to defend OSS would be a very interesting move.

    Also, one wonders how long the MP3 gravy train has to go. The patents should be getting pretty close to their use by date. Even the video codec patents must be half way done by now.

  19. Lou Gosselin

    Enough software patents already

    Software patents are a restriction on my freedom of expression. It's unbelievable that a society, which thinks itself to be civilized, would attempt to monopolize the original code I can write, use, sell, etc, from my text editor.

    Software patents only encourage parasitic behavior. Royalties are effectively consumer taxes imposed by private entities. However there's no benefit to the public the way patents were originally envisioned, no benefits at all.

    Clearly software patents can not scale. The software industry is lucky that software patents are rarely sought by, or enforced on us small fish. The majority of people don't realize that this is the only reason the software industry still works at all. If everyone tried to obtain an exclusive patent on every original algorithm they've written, the magnitude of patents would skyrocket even further and the compliance overhead alone even before royalties would put us all out of business.

    It doesn't take much intellect to see why software patents are wrong, but unfortunately opinions are easily swayed by kickbacks in the direction of anyone who would have the power to fix things.

    How do we destroy software patents once and for all?

  20. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    What's all the whining about?

    What's all the whining about?

    Yes, you have to pay royalties. So f*cking what? When did it become a crime to demand payment for your work?

    If you don't want to pay the toll, build your own damned bridge (without copying from anyone else, mind!) Or use another, cheaper, rival, bridge and play the two against each other.

    If you just don't like software patents, guess what? There's a way to get rid of them: It's called an "election"—you may have heard of the concept. Educate your friends, colleagues, relatives. Tell them to educate *their* friends, colleagues, etc., and use your votes to change society to better fit your preferences. (Of course, if you fail to achieve it, it's probably fair to say that the rest of society doesn't agree with you and you'll just have to suck it up.)


    You could just piss and whine about it in forums and preaching-to-the-choir opinion pieces instead, in the vain hope that "Someone" will "Do Something". Never mind that that "Someone" is *you*.

    Frankly, the notion that patented codecs are such a Bad Thing is utterly unsupported by the facts. MP3 hasn't killed online music. Neither has H.264 (or any of the umpteen other *patented* codecs out there) brutally stabbed online video to death.

    Sure, it'd be nice if individuals could set up online streaming video sites, but if you can afford the porky server and bandwidth necessary to support over 100K users / year—even H.264 is free up to that point—patent fees are going to be the least of your expenses.

    (That Google would prefer not to have to pay lots of money in patent fees is hardly a shock: YouTube gets rather more than 100K users per year. At that scale, *any* savings will add up to a big number. They're not doing it for the good of the "community", no matter what they claim.)

    1. Lou Gosselin

      @What's all the whining about?

      "If you don't want to pay the toll, build your own damned bridge (without copying from anyone else, mind!) Or use another, cheaper, rival, bridge and play the two against each other."

      Maybe you don't understand the differences between copyright and patents. Once an algorithm is patented, new implementations of that algorithm may not be used. This is true even the developer had no knowledge or influence from the original patent.

      Programming is like math. Thousands of developers, working in the same domain, trying to derive an efficient algorithm in the same problem, are bound to have some overlapping algorithms.

      Bringing patents into the mix means developers owe royalties on algorithms they themselves have derived and written into their own implementation. This is synonymous to telling a writer there are certain ideas they may not speak about unless they pay the royalties.

    2. James Butler
      Thumb Down

      Remarkably Uninformed

      "If you don't want to pay the toll, build your own damned bridge (without copying from anyone else, mind!) Or use another, cheaper, rival, bridge and play the two against each other."

      Your ignorance of all things patent is screaming. Simply, the patents in question PROHIBIT you from building "your own damned bridge", because they claim complete control over the *idea* of a "bridge". You can't build it because they claim to own the *concept*.

      "If you just don't like software patents, guess what? There's a way to get rid of them: It's called an "election"—you may have heard of the concept. Educate your friends, colleagues, relatives. Tell them to educate *their* friends, colleagues, etc., and use your votes to change society to better fit your preferences. (Of course, if you fail to achieve it, it's probably fair to say that the rest of society doesn't agree with you and you'll just have to suck it up.)"

      Again with the ignorance. You don't "elect" patents or those who work in the USPTO. And your participation in any election will have zero impact on the USPTO in any event, because it is not a political organization.

      In order to change the way the USPTO does business requires millions and millions of dollars in bribes ... um ... "lobbying activities" to convince various political entities that the way you want to do business is better for the country than the way business is being done. Forming a community action group as you suggest will just waste your time and the time of those attending your little meetings, and will accomplish exactly nothing toward modifying patent regulations.

      I know it's fun for you to whine about the whiners, but it helps if you demonstrate some intelligence in your whining. Otherwise, you're perceived as being equally stupid to the whiners, and that's not a strong position to be in.

  21. rhoderickj

    Good article, but a little off

    You make it sound like those in the MPEG-LA H.264 patent pool are getting rich on licenses. Even if there are millions in income from licensing each year, look at how many members are in the pool. Then look at those members' revenues. If Apple made $1 million a year from its membership in the patent pool, they would hardly notice, or care. Smaller shops might benefit from licensing fees, but companies like Apple and Microsoft aren't looking to get rich on codec licenses.

    The reason Apple and Microsoft and others promote H.264 is because they fear patent litigation. It is much more costly to fight a long, drawn out patent battle once they start earning revenues from the codec when they can spend a couple million a year on licenses and have peace of mind. Just imagine how terrified Apple would be if they used an "open" codec for iTunes and then, after billions of videos had been sold, some patent troll took them to court. The cost might be enormous. It's much easier to just pay the licensing costs and avoid the headache. They just want legal clarity. That's it.

    And the only reason the open source community opposes H.264 is not because of some idealistic vision of "freedom" but because they don't want to pay any licensing costs to produce open source software that does H.264 encoding/decoding. I agree that the patent system in the U.S. is ridiculous and should be revised, but this is not a battle of good versus evil. It's a simple game of economic stakes. Big companies stand to lose much more in patent litigation than do open source advocates, who are likely to use the codec without paying royalties anyway.

    1. prathlev


      I don't get it. If some patent troll could come after me in court over VP3 then why couldn't they do the same over H.264? How can the MPEG LA "guarantee" that they don't infringe on other patents? Or is it just because so many of the big players are part of the MPEG LA, each commited to not suing if you have a license from the group?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They can't.

        As has been mentioned elsewhere, they stop short of any kind of patent-free guarantee.

        They may provide some indemnity protection to licensees, sorry I can't remember.

  22. Danington the Third

    we're gonna have a problem here

    Y'all act like you never seen an open codec before

    Jaws all on the floor like Real, like Avi just burst in the door

    and started whoopin her ass worse than before

    they first were divorce, decoding more efficiently (Ahh!)

    It's the return of the... "Ah, wait, no way, you're kidding,

    he didn't just say what I think he did, did he?"

    And WMA said... nothing you idiots!

    WMA's dead, H264's his replacement! (Ha-ha!)

    Feminist women love OGG

    "chickachickachicka Xiphvid, I'm sick of him

    Look at him, walkin around decodin his you-know-what

    keyframing the you-know-who," "Yeah, but he's so open though!"

    Yeah, I probably got a couple of devs up in my head loose

    But no worse, than what's goin on in your licensed codecs

    Sometimes, I wanna get on TV and just play files, but can't

    cuz my DiVX is limited to licensed styles

    "MP3 is on your lips, MP3 is on your lips"

    And if I'm lucky, you might just give it a little kiss

    And that's the message that we deliver to little kids

    And expect them not to know how rubbish DIvX vid is

    Of course they gonna know what h264 is

    By the time they hit fourth grade

    And got the thepiratebay don't they?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Can we please have another option?

      As well as voting up and down I want one to give a 'WTF?' to posts like this...

  23. James O'Shea
    Thumb Down

    if you build it...

    So you want to have people in general use Ogg, eh? Cool.

    Step 1: create music/movie/whatever players that are simple to use and easy to obtain.

    Step 2: create actual content in Ogg.

    Step 3: publicise both the content and the player.

    Problem: Most people simply don't give a damn. They don't care if Ogg is better. They don't care if Ogg costs less... to the producers of content, as the competition is free to them. They _do_ care if they have to change their applications. Someone who already uses VLC or FireFox won't have a problem using Ogg content, 'cause their stuff already reads it. Someone who uses apps which don't read Ogg (that is, 80%+ of the world) is not about to change to save _you_ money unless they have a reason to do this. You need a better reason than 'Apple sux and Microsoft is evil'. If you can show that moving to Ogg has actual, tangible, benefits for _them_, then they may consider giving up their existing apps. If YouTube dropped H.264 and only did Ogg, then maybe some would move... Maybe.

    As it is right now, using Ogg anything on OS X is quite difficult; it's been nearly a year since the QuickTime plug-in was updated (14 June 2009) and that QT plugin was for QT 7, not QT X... and has problems with QT X. It's not something I'd use for creating content . <> And, oh, yeah, before that update there hadn't been any updates for nearly two years (2 Sept 2007). This, to me, indicates that perhaps the boyz at Xiph are less than serious about supporting Macs.

    There also appears to be some problems with Ogg and Win 7. <>. I quote: 'OGG, OGV, OGM play back in Win 7 doesn't work.', 'The ogg codec doesnt work. I tried to install it but it wont install on Windows 7.' The Ogg QT plugin for WIndows is just as old, and as well supported (or rather as not supported) as the one for OS X. And it also has problems with Win 7.

    It appears that Xiph ain't building it...

    If someone can point out where I can find actual working Ogg stuff which will reliably build content for either OS X or Win 7, please do so. Until then, well, I'll just use the tools I've got, which do _not_ build Ogg content. Don't whine about how Crapple and Mickeysoft are sabotaging the Pure Vision of Open Source: fix the problem. Or don't. Please note that I, and a considerable percentage of others who actually build stuff, won't move to Linux just to use Ogg. Not gonna happen, our workflows are designed around our existing systems and we'd have to rip out too much other stuff. You want us to change? Make it worth our while.

    Let the flames flow.

  24. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Dead Vulture


    A critical factor not mentioned here is codec efficiency and quality. A poorly performing codec can drive up bandwidth costs, drive up the cost of encoding hardware, or provide a poor customer experience. H.264/AAC was chosen as a standard by many large companies because it completely blew away other codes at the time. Suddenly home users could stream high quality video without exotic internet connections or hours of buffering. To also imply that H.264/AAC will be the future standard is ridiculous. Codecs come and go.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even the best open codecs have little chance

    H264 and MP3 are the best options for Ubuntu now. I think they have to use those in spite of the costs described in this article.

    The problem is that the availabilty of good and free alternatives is not enough.

    For audio, Ogg is an excellent alternative to MP3, but it is not supported on iPods so it is a non starter. Many companies have tried to sell music in non-iPod formats, often at dramatically better prices then iTunes, and they have gone bust (bye, bye, Yahoo Musis Unlimited).

    The same goes for Video. Google could release VP8 as open source and provide patent protection, but H264 stakeholders have the power to block it. Apple, in particular, since their iProducts are locked down, can block any codec they don't own a share of. So, no matter how good, open, or free Ogg is, it can't become a web standard (defacto, or otherwise).

    So I don't think we should be blaming a small player like Ubuntu for licensing H264 and MP3.

    1. Cameron Colley

      But then Canonical is working for Apple.

      In paying for MP3 support and shunning Ogg Canonical is effectively turning its back on the open source world and starting to support Apple and Microsoft.

      While I realise there has to be a certain amount of pragmatism in these cases it's hardly a good advert for openness when you're telling your new users that proprietary is the only way. I'm all for people moving to Linux but until it moves like this are akin to moving people to Linux running VirtualBox with Win7 inside it -- there might be a benefit to the Linux vendor but there's no benefit to the community or the world in general.

      I'm glad I moved to Debian from Ubuntu now -- turn out Mark's just another Microsoft shill after all.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Time for an alternative that can show how it could be done

        Fedora app, video, music and beer recipe store. Spider all the free apps, video, music and beer recipes on the web. Have the audience tag it. Use Bit Torrent to share it. Anyone who wants to sell apps, video, music and beer recipes on it can do by providing 'better' content and seed it without DRM using free software. Or use possibly patented software but only sell to countries wise enough to spot software patents for what they are.

  26. Robert E A Harvey


    IRTA 'Nanny Ogg' and got confudled.

  27. Bill Gould

    Money drives the world

    Someone will always be making money off something if that something becomes big enough. Always.

  28. frymaster

    reason why the music store doesn't use ogg... that it's just another rebranded 7digital music store, and NOT something started from scratch for Ubuntu. The advantage is you have a ready-made library of music. The disadvantage is you have to use the formats that are already there

    it could be worse, a few years ago almost all music on 7digital was wma+drm

  29. Mike Powers

    I guess this is why nobody uses GIFs to do anything

    Oh wait, millions of people create and make use of GIF images every day, all over the world. Sic transit Compuserve, I guess.

    1. steogede

      @Mike Powers

      Really, do people still use GIFs - I suppose some do, I mean if Sony managed to sell 12 million 3.5" floppies last year anything is possible. You seem to be missing two important points, the patent on GIF expired in 2006 and Compuserve's GIF monetisation strategy was stopped dead by PNG

  30. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Gif isn't.dead but Png is better - no 256 colour limit for instance.

    Icons on Reg comments appear to be Png.

    Aren't there a few weird places where patents last 999 years or something? If someone sues you in their courts -

  31. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart


    I don't understand why people use MP3, its fine for your <insert name of player> with little tiny ear phones for use on the train, but compared to a lossless codec played on a 'proper' Hi-Fi system it's just shit....

    FFS, I've even seen 'systems' with tiny 1 1/2" speakers marketed as "MP3 Hi-Fi"

    And then I realise its a MickSoft spec...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Whether it's of poor quality or not...

      ....very few of us listen to music on expensive systems with no background noise. For most of us with knackered hearing and noisy homes the ultimate performance is not relevant.

      I have some music in FLAC format, but for most usage I encode it using Ogg at Q1 settings. It's good enough!

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Upgrade your audio

        Get something like the Hifiman EF2a and some noise cancelling IEMs. Or something with a better DAC if you have higher res audio. It was a relevation over my Aureon 5.1. FLAC rules. Just wish Rythmbox, Exaile and Amraok included embedded CUE support.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    I wonder.... many of those that object about patents burn to patented CD's, using patened processors, memory, chipsets etc, then play them pack through a patened piece of hardware, such as a soundcard ,hifi or personal MP3 / ogg player.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Good point......but

      Software algorithms are not industrial processes. They can be innovated by you in your office or bedroom, by Johnny when he is not in school, or by your wife if she has the skill. It's a potential low cost, easily doable by almost anybody.

      Having software patents prevents you from doing this, because if you unknowingly infringe on a patent, you are not allowed to use your own innovation. Are you prepared to do the searches to make sure that that clever snippet of code that morphs your cursor when you move over an icon or window does not infringe any one of thousands of patents? And what if you want to show off your extreme cleverness to your friends, are you prepared to indemnify them against possible law suites?

      It's not the same as the way of physically holding data on a CD, or the process of masking transistors onto silicon, or any one of the hardware related patents you hold up as examples, because as an ordinary user, you will not be in a position to produce an industrial process in the same way as you can write software.

      Patents can and should protect and encourage innovation, but the whole system has been corrupted to allow large corporations to make sure that no-one else can innovate. It is possible to own a patent, and then to grant an irrevocable right of use without fee to anybody. This is what everybody is hoping that Google will do with the patents they have just acquired.

  33. Stephen B Streater

    Alternative to MPEG

    Bloggers should not be too concerned about MPEG jacking up their fees. They can always use my company's codecs (and cloud-based editing tools), which run in Java. Most smartphones are open and we can write players for them if MPEG becomes too expensive. But the argument is moot for now as MPEG actually want the small guys to use their codecs.

    And I'm not too worried about Google being stymied by a challenge to Theora either. When they bought On2, they didn't just buy a codec. They bought a codec generating company. Any patent attack can be side-stepped by On2 bringing out a new codec which works differently.

  34. Jolyon Ralph

    Ubuntu absolutely right

    Can you imagine how stupid they would look if their music store downloaded everything as OGG format that's completely incompatible with your ipod/MP3 player?

    OGG audio lost (sorry guys), MP3 won, I can't see the outcome being any better in the Theora vs H.264 battle. MP3 won primarily because of hardware support, Theora will lose for exactly the same reason, there's NO hardware support for Theora at all, H.264 is everywhere.

    The battle was lost when the HTML5 standard was drafted without specifying the formats that <VIDEO> would need to support (not that Apple and Microsoft would necessarily have implemented it).

    In order for Open Source not to look stupid, and not to cause itself even more harm it needs to choose it's battles more carefully. The video format war is lost, it's going to be H.264, and unless Firefox finds some way to support it (be it with a plug-in or whatever), then it risks losing market share. The real battles ahead are against software patents in general - this is something that can (and must) be won to avoid problems such as this in the future.


    1. Stephen B Streater

      Web pages can support both Ogg and H.264

      With a bit of Javascript, it's not hard to support both Ogg and H.264 enabled browsers. What the open source people should do is encourage more of the tools to support both.

  35. ratfox

    Methinks the biggest problem is...

    Ogg is a weird name. It does not sound good. If they had chosen a better name*, I am sure more people would be interested.

    *No, not Weatherwax

  36. sisk

    Won't change the community's view of Ubuntu

    There's a sizable portion of the Linux community that doesn't like Ubuntu's constant flirting with closed source stuff already. Mostly it's the same people who are fond of the term 'Ubuntard' (no, I'm not one of them....I have other reasons for not liking Ubuntu). Using H.264 and MP3 instead of OGG isn't going to change anything.

    The article's right about MP3 though. Most people I know would say I'm huge open source supporter, but my music collection is still in MP3. There's a reason for that to. Look at your list of options for digital music players if you want OGG compatibility vs your options if you have nothing but MP3s.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


      I used to keep all of my ripped audio in Ogg Vorbis on my laptop. That was until I started using a high capacity media player. The time (and space) required for transcoding from Vorbis to MP3 for large parts of my collection began to get annoying, and due to a strangeness in Amarok and the transcode plugin, I ended up with both Vorbis and MP3 copies on my laptop. This ended up confusing Amarok, so I have now switched to all new rips saved in MP3. I don't like it, but I value my time and disk space more than a principal.

      Shocking, really.

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