Introducing MOOBEX

I was sitting at The Linux Foundation’s Collaboration Summit last April in Austin, Texas, USA pondering the state of multimedia usability on Linux. I realized that I live a somewhat sheltered computing existence vis-à-vis consuming multimedia because I happen to know a little bit more about it than most users. Then I got to wondering what the typical uninitiated user experiences when trying to play multimedia in Linux these days.

That’s the moment when I conceived MOOBEX: Multimedia Out-Of-Box EXperience. (Initially, I called it MOOB. But I wisely googled to see if that already had some meaning attached to it. I’m glad I did, and I’ll leave it to the reader to learn about the colloquial connotations of that word if they feel so inclined.)

For MOOBEX, I raided my vast personal multimedia archive and assembled a small suite of what I consider to be representative multimedia types. Then I developed a strict process for testing the multimedia capabilities of various stock Linux distributions from the perspective of a new Linux user. I tested the latest versions of 5 Linux distributions for the first pass at this. These include (x86_32 in all cases):

Fairness (and general curiosity) dictates that I give equal treatment to non-Linux operating systems. Thus, this initial pass also covers:

Executive Summary: Mandriva is absolutely remarkable with its out-of-the-box multimedia capability. Ubuntu is almost as good– while it isn’t too capable out of the box, it does a fine job of holding the user’s hand while installing required multimedia software on demand. The custom Xandros install on the Eee PC is also very good, albeit with a few holes. OpenSUSE isn’t too capable. Fedora Core’s multimedia support is deplorable and stultifyingly patronizing to boot (but, to be fair, somewhat improved from 2 years ago).

Apple’s and Microsoft’s operating systems perform as expected, able to play their respective company’s technologies perfectly out of the box but not being able to deviate from that, save for Adobe Flash.

I will have more analyses and opinions about my findings soon. In the meantime, the raw data is available in the MultimediaWiki. Also, be advised: No one can play an AIFF file anymore (except Apple). Maybe I’m the only person who finds this surprising; AIFF files weren’t that uncommon, were they?

Just as I was finishing this first round of reports, I realized that I named one sample girls-just-wanna-cook.rm. Wow, that could get me in trouble. I took the FUN_RM_32.rm sample from the samples archive — a 15-second sample of Cyndi Lauper’s timeless “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and renamed it to denote that it uses the RealAudio Cooker ‘COOK’ codec. Oops. Well, I’m not changing all those reports now.

One thought on “Introducing MOOBEX

  1. Peter

    Mike you’re being sexist, again. We need to recruit some female developers to, er, rock the boat.

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