Monthly Archives: May 2006

SoC Winners

I ought to mention the selected applicants for Google’s Summer of Code — FFmpeg edition. Calling them “winners”, though, is quite the misnomer. They’ve signed up for a summer of hard hacking on some ambitious goals:

  • VC-1 decoder by Kostya Shishkov
  • AMR decoder and encoder by Robert Swain
  • EAC3 decoder by Kartikey Mahendra BHATT
  • LGPL AAC decoder by Maxim Gavrilov
  • Vorbis encoder by Mathew Philip

PCM WAV Not Supported

I recently had to help a colleague get audio output working on his stock Fedora Core Linux system (I fail to recall which version). To establish a baseline I downloaded a reliable (because I made it) raw PCM WAV file and searched for a pre-installed program that should be able to handle it. I found that savior of open source multimedia — Helix Player — was installed. Helix Player was unequipped, in its default installation state, to play the raw PCM WAV file.

I was embarrassed for the program. I eventually just did what comes naturally and downloaded and installed xine. Although I recognize that if xine were installed by default it would be horribly crippled, I believe it should still be able to play raw PCM WAV files (perhaps the simplest multimedia file in the domain).

While we’re on the subject of crippled multimedia programs: Commercial Linux distributions (SuSE Linux, I’m looking in your direction)– Is it really that useful to distribute multimedia playback apps that are crippled to the point of abject uselessness? Instead of distributing crippleware out of legal paranoia, do you think your resources might be better spent and your users better served by some helpful system that could advise your users on how to download and install full-featured multimedia players from the official websites? Maybe I’m just bitter about the number of SuSE users that post to the xine-user list reporting, “I just installed SuSE with the xine package and it doesn’t play squat! What’s wrong?”

I (Heart) Autotools

Oh, autotools– what would I do without you? Recognizing your utility places me in a minority. I know you are woefully underappreciated and catch a lot of flack for your apparent complexity. But this is largely because many programmers refuse to face up to the fact that the complexity of building a program is commensurate with the complexity of the program itself. They might not like you but don’t take it personally as they are invariably at a loss to produce a superior solution. You do most everything that developers need from a build system– they just need to find a decent tutorial, reference, or –best of all — another source package that implements the same feature they need; there must be thousands of examples to choose from.