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Real to Offer Open Source Windows Media for Linux 228

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the open-source-the-drm-too dept.
cpugeniusmv writes to tell us News.com is reporting that RealNetworks plans to release an open source method to allow Linux users to play Windows Media files. Currently Linux users are able to play the two main Windows Media formats (wmv and wma) but only if they install closed-source modules. The ability to launch this initiative comes from a recent licensing deal between RealNetworks and Microsoft and the antitrust settlement against Microsoft.
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Real to Offer Open Source Windows Media for Linux

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  • Satan: (Score:5, Funny)

    by Winckle (870180) <mark@NosPaM.winckle.co.uk> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @11:45AM (#15920562) Homepage
    "Brrr, it's getting chilly!"
    • I'm curious about how they intend to deal with the patent issues.
      • Perhaps by hosting it in a country where software is not patentable, and relying on Fair Use defence if it is used in a country where software is patentable?
      • Re:Satan: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sumdumass (711423)
        I'm really curious at how they are going to do so and still remain compatible with the GPLv3draft2 as it currently reads.

        It is obvious that they don't control the downstream propagation of MS's patten rights. Or do they?
        • They're just claiming "Open Source"

          Last time I checked, that doesn't necessarily mean GLPv3draft2, and it doesn't seem like they've declared GPL in the article.
        • I'm really curious at how they are going to do so and still remain compatible with the GPLv3draft2 as it currently reads.

          Let me kindly refer you to the Open Source Initiative [opensource.org] website.

          GPL (vWhatever) is not the only OpenSource license, or even the only free software ((c) FSF) license around.

          Actually, I personaly doubt they will release it using GPL, in whatever incarnation of the license. They are more likely to get OSI approval for an open source license of their own, just like SUN and IBM did. And consider

          • Re:Satan: (Score:5, Informative)

            by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @02:01PM (#15921673) Homepage Journal
            Actually, I personaly doubt they will release it using GPL, in whatever incarnation of the license. They are more likely to get OSI approval for an open source license of their own, just like SUN and IBM did. And considering the stakes here, the approval (or not) should be handled by the OSI board as high priority.
            It's going into Helix Player, which is multilicensed [helixcommunity.org]. The two open source licenses it currently supports are the GPL and RPSL, their own OSI-approved license. You can also license it under a commercial license. The question is will they continue licensing Helix in this manner? Will they stop support for GPL? Or will they make the Windows Media Support a separate plugin that's not part of Helix and available under RPSL? I agree with you in that I think the last scenario is the most likely, IMHO.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This comes right on the heels of having a fairly complete wmv9 decoder functioning in ffmpeg.

    Bastards... I don't want their crap anyway
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @11:45AM (#15920565)
    (buffering... buffering)... gr....(buffering...buffering)..eat new (buffering)s.
  • ...err (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mrsev (664367) <mrsev.spymac@com> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @11:46AM (#15920573)
    Is this god news or not... It could be a trojan horse ...(in the Greeks bearing gifts sense...not script kiddie sense)
    • Re:...err (Score:3, Funny)

      by WilliamSChips (793741)
      It's open source. We'll just change what's inside the gifts from Greeks so it won't be dangerous.
      • It's open source. We'll just change what's inside the gifts from Greeks so it won't be dangerous.

        Of course, that's only if you *notice* that it looks dangerous. Even Open Source can contain some subtle things that appear innocuous. See the classic "Reflections on Trusting Trust [acm.org]" -- great little read.

        • Re:...err (Score:2, Insightful)

          by WilliamSChips (793741)
          Unless we use Real's compiler I doubt that a Trusting Trust problem will happen. If there's a deliberate problem it would be obfuscatory.
        • All you need to do, in that case, is write a C interpreter in assembler that can interpret enough of the C language to run the compiler interpretatively as it compiles the compiler. Then you know what the interpreted compiler is doing {because you wrote the interpreter code yourself} and that the compiler it's compiling really is clean {because you checked the compiler source}.

          Of course, even then, you don't know for certain what a simple instruction like ADC AL S R6,R4,R2 might be doing. Sure it say
          • All you need to do, in that case, is write a C interpreter in assembler that can interpret enough of the C language to run the compiler interpretatively as it compiles the compiler. Then you know what the interpreted compiler is doing {because you wrote the interpreter code yourself} and that the compiler it's compiling really is clean {because you checked the compiler source}.

            I just imagined Nigel Hawthorne explaining this bit to me.

    • Re:...err (Score:5, Funny)

      by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:13PM (#15920795) Journal
      It could be a trojan horse ...(in the Greeks bearing gifts sense...not script kiddie sense)
      Just a note, the original Trojan horse was a gift bearing Greeks, not the other way around :)
      • Re:...err (Score:5, Funny)

        by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @01:03PM (#15921232) Homepage
        the original Trojan horse was a gift bearing Greeks, not the other way around :)

        It was Greeks bearing a gift bearing Greeks. And if a few of those Greeks was carring presents, say birthday presents to give to somebody after the battle or something, then it would be Greeks bearing a gift bearing Greeks bearing gifts.

        • Re:...err (Score:5, Funny)

          by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @01:09PM (#15921292) Journal
          It was Greeks bearing a gift bearing Greeks. And if a few of those Greeks was carring presents, say birthday presents to give to somebody after the battle or something, then it would be Greeks bearing a gift bearing Greeks bearing gifts.
          And if instead of a horse they had built large wooden bears, it would be Greeks gifting bears.

          Plus, with the proclivity of Greeks to be naked, you could end up with:
          Greeks gifting bears bearing Greeks being bare bearing gifts.

          My head hurts now. But "What if we build a large wooden badger..." will be stuck in my mind all day, at least that's a plus.
          • Plus, with the proclivity of Greeks to be naked, you could end up with:
            Greeks gifting bears bearing Greeks being bare bearing gifts.


            You mean that the Greeks would be in the buff and not have any buffering?

            Thanks, I'll be here all week. Back on topic now.
  • already there? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 955301 (209856)
    Can't mplayer already do this?
    • Re:already there? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by freshman_a (136603) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @11:53AM (#15920635) Homepage Journal
      Yes, but I think the legality of the way mplayer does it is questionable since it uses Windows DLLs directly. It sounds like this is going to be completely separate code written by Real.

      I do love mplayer though.
      • Yes, but I think the legality of the way mplayer does it is questionable since it uses Windows DLLs directly.
        What's questionable about that? Isn't this what DLL's are meant for -- sharing functionality?
      • I suppose, but the dlls mplayer uses are free for download (my linux distro downloads them, as well as flash and a few other free-but-closed bits of usefulness upon install).

        There may be some kind of licensing agreement saying I can't use the files in such and such a way, but since the installer is bypassed, I don't have to read or agree to it.
        • Re:already there? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by kidgenius (704962) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:39PM (#15921003)
          When Redhat or Suse ship their distro, they are not allowed to include the DLLs. The location you downloaded them from is not allowed to distribute the DLLs. You are not allowed to download the DLLs. It has not stopped me from doing it for xine, mplayer, etc., doing this is in violation of copyright. What Real is doing is providing a LEGAL way of acquiring these codecs.
          • Actually, my distro downloads them from their legitimate sources and extracts the DLLs. It's the only way to do it, in a vague sense of the word, 'legally'.
    • Re:already there? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:01PM (#15920689)
      Actually, the latest ffmpeg can play WMV3, no windows dlls needed.

      You will need to check out the latest ffmpeg svn and compile it tho.
    • Re:already there? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sharth (621005)
      non-x86 users can't use mplayer for wmv.

      and afaik, it can't handle wmv10 drm.
    • One step closer to a 64 bit mplayer. Now we will just need a replacement for apple codecs and a 64 bit flash and I'll be set.
      • I don't know about the older mov stuff (I think there's mjpeg or something), but between libavcodec's x264, aac and mpeg4 options, modern qt can be played with very little effort.
  • alternative (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Among other things, does this mean that Real Alternative [codecguide.com] will soon be legitimate?
  • False Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@NospAm.keirstead.org> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @11:51AM (#15920617) Homepage

    Currently Linux users are able to play the two main Windows Media formats (wmv and wma) but only if they install closed-source modules...

    Totally false. ffmpeg / mplayer / vlc etc. can all decode WMV files *natively* using the ffmpeg libavcoded libraries.

    The problem is not decoding the files, that is trivial. The problem is dealing with the copy protection. Another open source library is not going to help this, because it will still never be allowed to decrypt the copy-protected files.

    • Re:False Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:17PM (#15920829)
      Totally false. ffmpeg / mplayer / vlc etc. can all decode WMV files *natively* using the ffmpeg libavcoded libraries.

      Well, mostly. ffmpeg can decode WMV 7/8/9 and WMA 7/8. There is no decoder for WMA Pro, WMA voice, or WMA lossless. WMV8 decoding has bugs and may drop certain keyframes.
      • I've also had some issues with recent high-def content. Not sure what the codec was, but it was in .mov, so...
        • Re:False Summary (Score:3, Interesting)

          by chris_7d0h (216090)
          The mov extension is typically used by Apple Quicktime video files.
          Thus your beef is with Apple and not Microsoft.

          What I really lack is a way / program to move a video stream from one container format to another without transcoding the video stream. For example, the Ogg format hosts MPEG4 steams fairly well, so why can't I simply "lift" Microsoft MPEG4 or Apple MPEG4 videos from their respective proprietary containers to the open Ogg container?
          • Re:False Summary (Score:3, Informative)

            by jZnat (793348) *
            I actually prefer Matroska [matroska.org], but I'd also like to mention that Apple's MOV container is pretty open and well documented [apple.com] (PDF warning), unlike Microsoft's crap.
          • What I really lack is a way / program to move a video stream from one container format to another without transcoding the video stream. For example, the Ogg format hosts MPEG4 steams fairly well, so why can't I simply "lift" Microsoft MPEG4 or Apple MPEG4 videos from their respective proprietary containers to the open Ogg container?


            Can you not use mencoder/mplayer with the "-oac copy" and/or "-ovc copy" options?

          • Use ffmpeg (Score:3, Interesting)

            ffmpeg -i infile.mov -vcodec copy -acodec copy outfile.ogg

            Untested, but something like that should work. See the friendly man page for more info.
          • For example, the Ogg format hosts MPEG4 steams fairly well, so why can't I simply "lift" Microsoft MPEG4 or Apple MPEG4 videos from their respective proprietary containers to the open Ogg container?

            Because the containers are patented in several major developed jurisdictions. VirtualDub used to be able to move WMV streams to AVI, but a cease-and-desist letter citing a United States patent forced the developers to remove the functionality from 1.4 and later.

          • How is Theora more open than the MPEG-4 container? Are you referring to patents, DRM, or something else?

            As far as I know, there are several tools (Quicktime, Nero, mp4box, etc.) for encoding into an mp4 container. What would make Theora preferable to that?
  • The article says that the code will be part of the Helix player, and that Suse will come with it. But it fails to mention if one can redistribute the codecs, or if other engines such as Xine or GStreamer will be able to use it.

    Aside from that, is WMA such an issue? I mean, now we got flash video players that are platform agnostic...
    • by nmos (25822) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @01:03PM (#15921235)
      The last time I tried to download Flash for Windows the license was really obscene. Among other things it gave Adobe the right to audit my computers and also came with a list of devices and OSs that it was not to be used with including Windows MCE. These are just nuggets among something like 7-9 pages of legelese. A few pages in I just gave up and decided I didn't really need the latest Flash that bad.
    • Aside from that, is WMA such an issue? I mean, now we got flash video players that are platform agnostic...
      You're kidding, right? Flash 8 and 9 don't work in Linux, and Flash 7 has goofy sound bugs. Sad to say, but Windows Media works a lot better on my Ubuntu box than Flash does.
    • If it's really an open source license then GStreamer can use it as it's LGPLed.
    • The folks over at Macromedia (and now Adobe) haven't released a real version of Flash for years. Until Flash is able to play consistently - and without video/audio sync problems - it's not going to be a viable solution on Linux. Right now it's a toy and an advertisement distribution system. They promised us a version 8 for Linux, and now it looks like version 10 for Windows will ship before we get it.
  • That'll be great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by also-rr (980579) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @11:53AM (#15920633) Homepage
    For 20 minutes before Microsoft break the spec.

    (You need 4 years of engineering graduate school to acquire this level of cynicism folks.)

    I've been very impressed with Real's approach of late (ever since Helix, really, although they did some good things before then). They are showing a very cooperative attitude - enough to overcome any ill will I might have felt towards them - and I hope that they get a warm reception for this contribution that encourages them to embrace the open source/free software community further.

    I do wonder though if any of this open source love is being pushed by the BBC? They are after all proabbly one of the biggest single drivers of Real installations and have demonstrated in the past their ability to push Real to change their stance.

    I'm thinking particuarly of the fact that the BBC cancelled it's Ogg testing aboiut the same time that the whole Helix thing started - could Real opening up a bit in return for no migration to open source or free software codecs have been the price?
    • by ledow (319597) * on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @11:59AM (#15920672) Homepage
      Possibly. I just wish that they wouldn't do everything possible to make their primary piece of software (at least by downloads) so obnoxious.

      1) Try to instruct a novice user to find and download the free version on their website. Not an easy task but doable.

      2) Try to install it without it inserting stuff into Windows startup - I use Startup Control Panel but not everyone is so lucky.

      3) Try to remove the messages/popups etc. from a standard installation - again, not for the novice.

      I applaud any attempt at open-sourcing software but I would worry about the quality of the code if their primary app is in this much of a mess.
      • Re:That'll be great (Score:4, Interesting)

        by also-rr (980579) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:21PM (#15920866) Homepage
        1) Try to instruct a novice user to find and download the free version on their website. Not an easy task but doable.

        This certainly used to be a massive problem (the easiest way was in fact to use the link provided by the BBC which went directly too it) but these days their download page [real.com] (the one you get to by clicking real player on the front page) outlines your options pretty clearly.

        2) Try to install it without it inserting stuff into Windows startup - I use Startup Control Panel but not everyone is so lucky.

        Not really a problem when installing on Linux, so I can't help you there. Windows users should be used to it by now from WMParasite anyway. Maybe someone who has installed a more recent version than you have can provide some insight.

        3) Try to remove the messages/popups etc. from a standard installation - again, not for the novice.

        Last time I ran Real Player on Windows that just involved changing the settings in the options tab. Now, i'll not overestimate the technical ability of most users, but unless things have changed it wasn't a lot harder than grasping the principle of how to turn your computer on.
        • "Last time I ran Real Player on Windows that just involved changing the settings in the options tab. Now, i'll not overestimate the technical ability of most users, but unless things have changed it wasn't a lot harder than grasping the principle of how to turn your computer on."

          Things have indeed changed. With the current version the messaging/popups are extremely obnoxious to disable and I'm something of an expert user. While overall the process is less annoying than it has been in past years, that spec
      • You're aware that open-sourcing means the cruft will be removed within an hour of them releasing the software, right? Thus, no distro that doesn't have explicit licensing deals with Real to keep the cruft will have any popups.
      • Re:That'll be great (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kosmosik (654958)
        > I applaud any attempt at open-sourcing software but I would
        > worry about the quality of the code if their primary app
        > is in this much of a mess.

        Maybe they assume that most Windows users are idiots... Real Player for Linux if in fact quite neat application - GNOME style I would say. Real Player for Mac is a bit slow sometimes but again it works and is a little neat application. Only on Windows Real Player is real bloatware changing your settings (associations, putting shit in autostart etc).

        On Wi
    • What are you talking about? Helix won't play media from the BBC.
      • What are you talking about? Helix won't play media from the BBC.

        It does with Real's plugin. While that isn't free *yet* I hope it is in the future. In the mean time I welcome a vendor who shows they have good intentions and are working on the details. It's definatly preferable to the many vendors who prefer to try and firebomb the project.
    • Re:That'll be great (Score:4, Informative)

      by baadger (764884) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:08PM (#15920760)
      The WMV3/VC-1 specification is formal and out there and is going to be used on Bluray/HD-DVD. They aren't likely to break compatibility willy nilly, not in the video profiles people care about anyway.
    • Last time I tried, the BBC stuff wouldn't work in the Open Source Helix player. I had to install the closed source RealPlayer. Fortunately, I was able to do this as a non-root user.

      Also, one of the supposed "advantages" of WMA/WMV is that it supports Digital Restrictions Management. Something tells me the Open Source codec won't do that {DRM requires security-through-obscurity}. Of course, having an Open Source version might well make reverse-engineering the closed source version a bit easier .....
  • by baadger (764884) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:06PM (#15920732)
    The guys behind the ffmpeg/libavcodec implementation which mplayer, xine and VLC and a whole bunch of a/v media apps in Linux already make use of, already have a working and pretty good WMV3 (WMV v9 Video) implementation in CVS. Infact it'll probably trickle into distro's before the end of the year.

    Yeah so, move along... nothing to see here.
  • To me this is certainly encouraging news, I use Real Player on my Sun and x86 Linux boxen quite often. Now let's get them to take the next step and include a DVD player that will play ACSS/CSS disks.

  • by jonwil (467024) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:13PM (#15920792)
    Does this (or any other open source stuff such as mplayer) cover whatever protocol is used by the microsoft server for streaming windows media cotent? (whatever it is)

    Being able to play windows media streams is just as usefull as being able to play windows media files on a disk or web url or etc.
  • Dear RealPlayer, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:21PM (#15920867)
    Please open up your own format first before going and opening up other peoples' formats. Windows Media is already easy enough to play most anywhere. Streaming (or even non-streaming) RM is a pain to convert to another format - and most of the downloadable converters require you to have RealPlayer itself already installed (so it can use the DLLs). This is as much a "solution" as Captive NTFS, and it doesn't work on platforms other than x86/Windows.

    (My underlying complaint is that you don't have a half-recent version for Windows Mobile. I've tried to convert these to WMV but it doesn't work well. Releasing a WM5 player - or even a J2ME player - would shut me up for now, but your real problem is you have the obscurest, proprietariest file format ever.)
    • Actually, linux/mplayer with the windows codecs package (found on mplayer's site) does a pretty shining job of converting from RM/RA. Mind you, it's got the same PITA factor as converting from WMV or FLV (ambiguous framerate issues), but I don't mind; I've gotten kinda good at mathematically figuing this sort of thing out.
    • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @01:05PM (#15921253) Journal
      Mod parent up. I won't be shut up, by the way -- every single RealPlayer I've ever had the misfortune to play with has been nothing but pain. Windows version I'd heard described as "behaves like a virus" by my most MS-loving, proprietary-loving technology whores -- and this was before we had a word for "spyware". Difficult to uninstall, a pain to live with. Linux users had to deal with truly ancient versions, so while there were players and plugins which used the RealPlayer DLLs (.so's), and while RealPlayer itself was distributed under package management (so not much chance of spyware if I don't run it), it was compiled with a truly ancient version of gcc, and thus wouldn't work with any of those things. So I ended up having to run it anyway...

      And while most players let you have a fairly big buffer, RealPlayer sounded staticy, like bad radio reception. I suspect it had some clever way for dropping quality, but I shouldn't have needed that with my connection -- and yet, it still spent half the time buffering.

      CarTalk is a humorous radio show which answers automotive questions, half-seriously, you never know if they're giving you good advice or just messing with you. They switched from RealPlayer several years ago, because as amazing as it seemed (even to them!), RealPlayer managed to be significantly worse than Windows Media Player -- Microsoft did far, far better than them by being almost mediocre.

      If Real wants to gain respect, then yes, they should open their own format. We don't need all the source code, just the codecs, thanks.

      If Real wants to survive as a business, they should drop the farce and just start selling their spyware directly to botnet controllers and peddlers of animated cursors.

      By the way, whoever suggested that Flash has replaced Real as the format that does copy protection... Flash may not be as open as we'd like for playing, but it's easy enough to rip the video out of it. Or at least, I've done that with audio -- pulled an ordinary mp3 file out of a Flash presentation. With Real, you have to use the Analog Hole, not that it's that bad -- the sound quality sucks so much that encoding it as a 56-bit mp3 wouldn't hurt.
    • Helix Player? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kunta Kinte (323399)

      Please open up your own format first before going and opening up other peoples' formats.

      They have, AFAIK.

      Helix Community [helixcommunity.org] offers the open source Helix Player which supports encoding and transcoding of RM along with a bunch of other formats [helixcommunity.org].

      • Re:Helix Player? (Score:4, Informative)

        by noldrin (635339) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @02:32PM (#15921890)
        The Helix Player can use those codecs, but it doesn't come with those codecs. When you download the open source Helix Player, all you are getting are the open source codecs which does not include the real formats. If you download the closed sourced Real Player for Linux, you are getting a closed source Helix Player which includes all the closed source real formats. Also this player is crap and plays Real files and MP3 files so slowly that my machine skips every 3 to 7 seconds when player Real files, and can't refresh the player while playing an MP3. MPlayer using Real's codecs does not have this problem at all. Also the RealPlayer for Linux can't play older formats, while MPlayer using Real's Codec's can.
  • by deviceb (958415) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:26PM (#15920900) Homepage
    *skip unless u want to hear my negative opinions on Real.

    I have no time to read an article about Real networks, but i will take the time to state how much i dislike it.
    Real media has been one of the most annoying web technologies since it came out. For instance: trying to sneak in lame apps and silly toolbars during the install. Trying to hi-jack file permissions.. Winamp has always delivered better quality, free and less annoying content.
    It is just about worthless as a media player when compared to VLC [videolan.org] or any number of other players.
    The only thing Real had going was content protection,.. but now streaming with flash (youtube, pornotube, google.video, ect.) is cake so they do not even have that. I can see why they would be trying to give the app to anybody who will take it.

    the last place i want to see it is in a linux distro.

    hrm... what else.. it's ugly & stinks too! /end rant
  • by yo_tuco (795102) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @01:15PM (#15921337)
    FTA

    "... Duchmann said in an interview here. However, the software [Linux version] won't support digital rights management available with Windows, he added."

    How come only the Windows version gets all the good features?
  • While I think that having F/OSS support for more audio codecs like this is definitely a good thing, I rue the fact that such proprietary (and/or patented) codecs exist in the first place. I dream of a day when the need for these dwindles and vanishes to nothing. People need to stop supporting these and start using Free formats such as Ogg Vorbis (lossy), Speex (speech), FLAC (lossless), and Ogg Theora (video). (Hey, a geek can dream, right? ^_^)
  • mplayer can play far more then the two formats, even without the Windows codecs....

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