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ffmpeg: Free Software's WMA decoder 245

mmu_man writes "This morning, after the usual spams, I got this from the ffmpeg-devel mailing list: Here it is, something we waited for long. Now we have a FreeSoftware (LGPL) WMA (Windows Media Audio) decoder. WMA is the highly proprietary audio codec M$ is pushing along with its user-locking tools like DRM. this will free us from the ugly DLL hacks required to play DivX until now. Note there isn't any encoder yet, but who would like to encode into WMA while we have better and more open solutions? With this new codec, ffmpeg really proves itself as the most complete audio/video grabbing, convertion and streaming solution, for Linux, but also FreeBSD, Windows and even BeOS. Note ffmpeg codecs are used in a lot of other FreeSoftware projects, like mplayer."
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ffmpeg: Free Software's WMA decoder

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  • Interesting. (Score:4, Informative)

    by FreeLinux ( 555387 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:07PM (#4547991)
    Also interesting is the ad I just saw for Helix(RealPlayer) and their version of Open Source code. Here's the link [helixcommunity.org].
  • Woohoo! One less reason to use Windows
  • How long before... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:11PM (#4548022)
    ...MS decide this is illegal and start suing? I mean, clearly there's the whole DMCA thing. Does this decoder ignore MS's DRM system? I would have read the article, but I don't speak C...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:17PM (#4548085)
      It's been previously established that ignoring is not the same as circumventing.
    • by mericet ( 550554 )
      That would require breaking the DRM, not simply ignoring it, this would clearly be a violation of the DMCA (in the US).
    • by rodbegbie ( 4449 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:37PM (#4548263) Homepage
      As far as I can tell, this code doesn't deal well with protected WMA content. Attempts to convert some of the 30-day-licensed WMA files available to download from winamp.com [winamp.com] proved fruitless.

      I do not claim, however, to know what the hell I'm doing. This was just my first attempt.

      Anyone know any differently?

      rOD.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        It doesn't have a DRM implementation (either v1, v2 or v2.1), so it cannot read protected content.

        However, FreeMe can be used against v2 (and v2.1) in certain circumstances. The unfuck workaround for v1, which is more common (i.e., the version produced by XP's media player when ripping with default settings) transcodes the file to 64kbps, and is thus really icky and not recommended.

        The fact that a free decoder (although it'll likely be under imminent legal assault - get your mirrors ready, people!) now exists, however, has prompted me to restart work on my no-license-required v2/2.1 system break (you don't get something for nothing, MS) and v1 known plaintext attacks again, in an attempt to make them both practical and rapid, without using drmclien, indivbox, or drmstor (which would just be changed with countermeasures).

        Watch sci.crypt, cryptome and here for releases if I succeed.
    • by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:40PM (#4548295) Homepage Journal

      How long before... ...MS decide this is illegal and start suing?

      How about sometime after Microsoft actually uses a lawsuit as a weapon? Microsoft has zero history of suing people who write lookalikes of their software (Samba, WINE, That NT-workalike project, etc).

      Apparently, you're thinking of Apple who really is truly evil when it comes to suing people.

      • You forgot 'Lindows'.
        • Lindows was not sued because they were trying to make a Windows work-alike, they were (legitimately, IMO) sued because the name sounded too much like Windows.

      • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @01:15PM (#4548654)
        How long before... ...MS decide this is illegal and start suing?

        How about sometime after Microsoft actually uses a lawsuit as a weapon? Microsoft has zero history of suing people who write lookalikes of their software (Samba, WINE, That NT-workalike project, etc).


        Well, that is true only to a point. In fairness to Microsoft, they haven't filed any such lawsuits, but they have used the threat of lawsuits on more than one occasion, and while they haven't dealt with look-and-feel per se, they have dealt with other equally inane things, like file format compatability. Certainly Microsoft has reserved the option to (mis)use lawsuits strategicly against Free Software in the internal Halloween documents leaked a few years ago.

        Apparently, you're thinking of Apple who really is truly evil when it comes to suing people.

        Both are evil, in different ways. However, I believe you are correct in pointing out that Apple is the one which went beyond mere intimidation, to actually filing (and losing) lawsuits based upon mimicknig look-and-feel.

        Which is why, much as I like some of Apple's products (and will almost certainly make Apple my next laptop), I am also at pains to point out that anyone switching from Windows to Apple is simply trading one Master for another, and who is to say that the kinder Master today will be the kinder Master next year?

        Of course, with Palladium on the horizon, we may well find ourselves in the extraordinarilly ironic situation where we need to buy a non-Intel, non-AMD (e.g. Apple PowerPC) system just to be able to dual-boot into Linux. I suspect instead most of the Asian hardware companies will ship with two BIOSes, so that a simple jumper or firmware setting can completely eliminate Palladium, but who can ever be certain in these unusual times?
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I'm responding to your .sig, which is actually still on topic for this discussion.

        (The .sig I'm responding to currently reads: "Paranoids: explain how Palladium will prevent all unsigned code/mp3s, yet maintain backward compatibility.")

        The answer is: it won't prevent unsigned code/mp3s[/wma]. You can run all the unsigned code you want (if you have an app that supports it). You can run an unsigned OS if you want. However, what the underlying TCPA hardware will allow that unsigned code to do is very limited.

        Under TCPA/Palladium, you WILL be able to:
        - load and run an unsigned kernel
        - play unsigned content
        - etc.

        You will NOT be able to:
        - access certain parts of the system from that unsigned kernel
        - access signed content from that unsigned kernel/code in a way that lets you get around the DRM
        - write unsigned code that has any ability to view signed/protected content that doesn't allow that

        This is all assuming, of course, that the code works just like it's supposed to and doesn't have any bugs that amount to back doors. Peter Biddle (group manager of the software techs writing Palladium at MS) has said publically (Usenix Security Conference '02) that he and his associates fully expect that -- even after Palladium is rolled out -- any content released in any protected digital format *will* be cracked open and re-released in an open format to the P2P services within hours. This was one of his answers to the "how do you write this code and still sleep at night" line of questioning. He knows their managers want this written to satisfy the (MP|RI)AA, but doesn't believe it'll work for that, so thinks his group is excused from the moral problem.
      • Microsoft was successful in preventing an implementation of the ASF file format from being used by virtualdub [virtualdub.org]. This seems to be a parallel issue, since both ASF and WMA are patented.
      • Microsoft has zero history of suing people who write lookalikes of their software

        That depends on what you mean by "lookalikes".

    • How long before MS decide this is illegal and start suing?

      Don't worry. We're typing up the cease and desist order right now...but please /. commenters, give us more information on your defense strategies for this product so we will have an ample chance of shooting down your hopes....

    • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @01:09PM (#4548587) Homepage Journal
      "MS decide this is illegal and start suing? I mean, clearly there's the whole DMCA thing. Does this decoder ignore MS's DRM system? I would have read the article, but I don't speak C...
      "


      Anybody remember when VirtualDub could work on .ASF files...?

      Here [ffii.org] is a short blurb talking about it.
  • by GnomeKing ( 564248 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:11PM (#4548023)
    Sure, I'm all in favour of being able to play more movies on my linux system - even though I'm unlikely to own (m)any wmv movies...

    But my question is how legal is this?

    What is to stop MS attacking open source in the same way as RIAA attacked - and closed - napster?

    yes, yes, one is a concept, the other is a program - but RIAA wants to make ANY file sharing program which is similar to napster illegal, and their certainly making progress toward that goal...

    If a percentage of open source developers ignore the law - such as a percentage of napster users did - whats going to happen in the future?
    • RIAA closed napster because their users offered copyrighted files without authorization. But the WMA decoder is something completely different. I don't know how the developer(s) obtained the information about format, but if they did it in an illegal way (e.g. decompiled the windows decoder) they may have a problem. And, of course, they may have a problem when MS has patents related to decoding their files. But I guess the ffmpeg don't care much about that, as all the MPEG algorithms are patented as well.
      • if they did it in an illegal way (e.g. decompiled the windows decoder)
        Unless, of course, like the SAMBA team, they did this reverse engineering outside the "Land Of The Free"(tm), where its not illegal (and often specifically permitted by legislation).
    • Do note this is only the audio codec. While there are already decoders for the older MS MPEG-4vX codecs, most .wmv files will use the Windows Media Video codec, which AFAIK don't have any kind of open source solution.

      This is mainly useful for playing .wma files.
    • by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:26PM (#4548178)
      I'm sorry if this post comes out as a flame, but repeat after me:
      "Creating a compatible interpreter is not the same as pirating software"

      This means that creating WINE is not the same as trading mp3s, and it's not the same as creating a trading ground for mp3s. They are not even closely related.

      I do not know how often people post things like this. RIAA attacked and closed Napster because they created a trading ground for mp3s. WINE and ffmpeg is creating an implementation of the Win32-api and WMA-decoder respectively.

      There are however TWO ways that this WMA-decoder might be illegal:
      1. It might be breaking the DMCA, by reverse-engineering or by circumventing DRM. I do not know if this might apply though.
      2. It might be a breach of some software patent in WMA.

      It has _nothing_ to do with the napster situation however.
      • It's also worth noting that infringing a patent is not illegal. It's a civil issue. You can be sued for damages, but not arrested.
      • You're right, it has nothing to do with that napster situation, but you're the only one who suggested that!
      • by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @03:17PM (#4549748) Homepage
        1. It might be breaking the DMCA, by reverse-engineering or by circumventing DRM. I do not know if this might apply though.
        Simple fix:

        In config.h:
        #DEFINE DMCA_COMPLIANT

        In drm.c:
        #include "config.h" ...
        #ifdef DMCA_COMPLIANT
        if (DRM_enabled && DRM_no_rights) dontplay;
        #endif

        In FAQ.txt
        75. Can I comment out the #define DMCA_COMPLIANT flag?

        Nope - you can't do that. It would make you a VERY BAD person...

        Gotta love open source... As distributed it is completely DMCA compliant and DRM enabled.
      • "Creating a compatible interpreter is not the same as pirating software"

        Indeed, creating compatible interpreters is at the very foundation of the PC industry as we know it. For example, when the IBM PC came out with its proprietary BIOS, Compaq created a clean room implementation (one in which one team of engineers reverse engineers and writes a specification for the technology, and a second team is then given the specification to implement) and manufactured the first ever IBM-compatible PC. Where would we be today if IBM was still the only maker of the PC?

        Other examples include Kaffe, the clean room implementation of the Java virtual machine and related classes, AMD's x86 compatible line, a clean room implementation of Intel's, GNU, among other things a clean-room implementation of UNIX, Samba, Freetype, etc. etc. etc...
    • by colinleroy ( 592025 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @01:32PM (#4548819) Homepage
      IANAL, but there are laws in France (where ffmeg's main developer lives) that allow reverse-engineering programs to achieve interoperability, when no other ways (like documentation) can be used. RIAA and DMCA and such are non-valid in France, too. Given that and the fact that WMA is 100% undocumented, i guess Microsoft can't do much about this.
  • by __Maad__ ( 263535 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:11PM (#4548029)
    I remember someone mentioning in an earier discussion that the WMA encoder fooled many people into thinking their encoded audio sounded "better" by applying a compressor/dynamics (6:1 ratio was it?), leaving the dynamic range 'squished' and making music sound louder (which isn't really "better"). Can anybody confirm this?

    If an open version of a WMA encoder is released, it would be interesting to see how it would perform versus the MS encoder in this respect.

    --
    Maciek
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If people *think* it sounds better, then it sounds better: that's what perceptual encoding is all about. Quit with the "MS is cheating" stuff before you even start... =)
      • by __Maad__ ( 263535 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:22PM (#4548138)
        Actually no.. I suggest you read up on dynamics before you just knee-jerk like that.

        Adding compression is along the lines of adding an effect, it has nothing to do with perceptual coding. Compression doesn't always make music sound better. It can result in a muddy mix, or, sometimes, outright destroy a mix. Sure it makes pop rock sound better, and really loud and overpowering like FM radio.. But it's a little annoying when the volume on your Mozart or selected ambient works 2 is pumping up and down with every single sound. The subtlety in the original mix is lost. Other perceptually coded formats leave this component of the audio alone, and let the original producer decide what sounds right.

        --
        Maciek
    • " I remember someone mentioning in an earier discussion that the WMA encoder fooled many people into thinking their encoded audio sounded "better" by applying a compressor/dynamics (6:1 ratio was it?), leaving the dynamic range 'squished' and making music sound louder (which isn't really "better"). Can anybody confirm this?"

      It is false. I posted in a previous article that WMA fooled people by increasing the volume by 3 dBA and it was modded to +5 Informative. Unfortunately I was wrong and did not do my research.

      It turns out that the 3 dBA thing was just made up by someone as a joke.

  • Could someone explain what WMA has to do with Divx?
    • by Clue4All ( 580842 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:16PM (#4548078) Homepage
      Very simple. DivX uses an audio codec to encode audio. A large number of DivX files use mp3 for audio (ogg is also possible, though not many players support it), and the rest use wma. Now, you won't need the /usr/lib/win32 directory full of Microsoft DLL's in order to play those Invader Zim episodes encoded using wma audio, assuming players take up this code. You could always re-encode them into mp3 audio at a greater loss of quality, but I like this solution better.
    • by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:59PM (#4548471)
      DivX has nothing to do with WMA. DivX is a video codec, WMA is an audio codec.
      DivX ;-) (with the smiley, also known als DivX 3.11) was a hacked version of MSMPEG4v3 (there were also hacked versions of MSMPEG4v2 around, but they aren't called DivX and are incompatible with v3). Although MS calls it "MPEG4vX", they are really incompatible with MPEG 4.

      AVI has also nothing to do with DivX and WMA, it's just a container format. It just happens that some AVI files contain DivX video and WMA audio, but it may just as well be Indeo video with MP3 audio or whatever. You can put video and audio made in almost any codec in an AVI container.
      Because DivX and WMA have nothing to do with AVI, you can, for example, also create Ogg files that contain DivX video with MP3 audio, Theora video with WMA audio, etc.

      AVI is old, very old, and it should be replaced. No error detection, not streamable, difficult to support VBR codecs, etc. I hope one day, people will just stop encoding AVI files and switch to Ogg for MCF [sourceforge.net] instead.
  • Audio streams (Score:3, Informative)

    by Oculus Habent ( 562837 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (tnebah.suluco)> on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:13PM (#4548039) Journal
    A big advanage this offers is the ability to now hear content from scores of websites that selected WMA as their audio format of choice - all without needing Media Player.

    Did I mention I dislike that program?
    • The Big thing is now you won't have to agreee to some silly dracnonian EULA that pretty much says "We Microsoft have the right to rape and pillage your pc like a bavarian village if we even start to think your not doing what we want..."
  • Truly great! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mr_z_beeblebrox ( 591077 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:13PM (#4548047) Journal
    Unfortunately, how long will it be before MS "improves" WMA encoding now? I think it is an unsafe target decoding MS files as they can change everything and you are back to development.
    However, with MS new licensing and the fact that most tools are fairly robust. You might grab share if you can record and playback. Though with examples like Star Office I wonder how much grabbing you would do.
    • Unfortunately, how long will it be before MS "improves" WMA encoding now? I think it is an unsafe target decoding MS files as they can change everything and you are back to development.
      For future stuff yes, but for stuff alreay encoded this is magic code.
    • Re:Truly great! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr_Silver ( 213637 )
      Unfortunately, how long will it be before MS "improves" WMA encoding now? I think it is an unsafe target decoding MS files as they can change everything and you are back to development.

      If Microsoft "improved" the codec (and thus made it incompatible) then I think they'd have a lot bigger problems than a bunch of Linux users pissy that they can't play wma's for a bit.

      For starters, those people who have hardware MP3/WMA players out there would suddenly find that their products need updating. Not all with flashable firmware.

      If you want to push a format, the last thing you do is alienate those people (hardware manufacturers) that can help you to do just that.

      • If you want to push a format, the last thing you do is alienate those people (hardware manufacturers) that can help you to do just that.

        Great counterpoint, I had not thought all the way through on that.
  • Does this decode the latest version of WMA files? What does it do about/with the DRM component of such files? And in consideration of this, will MS use the DCMA (or some "you must have agreed to the EULA not to reverse engineer if you've ever downloaded a WMA file in your life" argument) to shut this effort down?
  • Who ? (Score:3, Troll)

    by tmark ( 230091 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:15PM (#4548068)
    Note there isn't any encoder yet, but who would like to encode into WMA while we have better and more open solutions?

    I don't get it, on one hand the poster is trumpeting the availability of the WMA codec and on the other hand he's wondering why anyone would want WMA in the first place ? If WMA is so redundant/inferior as he suggests, then why does ANYONE need WMA or hacked/reverse engineered WMA codecs ? Why would this thread be interesting at all ?
    If WMA availability is interesting, then as far as I'm concerned this means that the ability to encode WMA must be desirable to at least some people, as well.
    • Re:Who ? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by paranoos ( 612285 )
      I believe his point is that there are troves of WMA content available online. However, I personally find the WMA _format_ inferior to many other formats, but the ability to listen to your favourite radio station might be important enough to you to ignore the fact that the format they're using is terrible.

      Therefore, you have a tool to play the content, but you might prefer to encode your own audio or video in a different format, as the poster suggests.

    • Re:Who ? (Score:3, Informative)

      by tjansen ( 2845 )
      Because, for example, many internet radio stations use WMA as codec. With the help of this decoder you could listen to them (and maybe don't even break a law while doinng this).
    • Re:Who ? (Score:3, Informative)

      by snol ( 175626 )
      WMA isn't the codec of choice for encoding your CD and movie rips, but there is content that's only available in WMA for whatever reason. What's so tough about that?
  • by waspleg ( 316038 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:15PM (#4548069) Journal
    the silenced black helicopters of M$'s strike team starting to lift off with balmer leaning out the side of the lead one doing the monkey dance to inspire his Crack Team of Black Ops Lawyers to victory in the inevitable DCMA suit they will bring against this project

    the key word is propreitary

  • Liability? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by m0i ( 192134 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:17PM (#4548092) Homepage
    Can this source code be subjected to DMCA?
    Can its author be sued for reverse engineering?
    Is it planned that DRM features will be added at some point, or the above applies..
  • by benwaggoner ( 513209 ) <ben.waggoner@mic ... om minus painter> on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:19PM (#4548102) Homepage
    This is presumably a decoder compatible with the classic "WMA" codec. This bitstream was locked down with WMA2, although they have made progressive enhancements to the encoder all the way through WMA9. It's really a very good codec for stereo 44.1 16-bit kinds of applications.

    Not that there are two NEW WMA codecs introduced in Windows Media 9 that aren't backwards compatible.

    WMA 9 Professional aims for higher bitrates (48-768 Kbps) and multichannel (stereo with matrixed support or six discreet channels). And it can do deeper than 16-bit. If the old WMA was a competitor to MP3, WMA9Pro is a competitor to AC-3/Dolby Digital. And like WMA v. MP3, it has about a 50% advantage on compression efficiency.

    There is also WMA9 Voice, which is a really good narrowband codec. Despite its name, it does a surprisingly good job with music as well. It operates from 4-20 Kbps.

    WMA9 Voice is replacing the ACELP.net voice codec, which Microsoft licensed binary code for, but doesn't have the source code. Thus they couldn't get it for MacOS X or PocketPC.

    Anyway, this decoder should handle 95% of the .wma files out there today, although that percentage might start dropping as WMA9 Pro gets traction. It is certainly a welcome effort!
  • by nickovs ( 115935 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:19PM (#4548105)
    "With this new codec, ffmpeg really proves itself"

    Surely this is a "dec", not a "codec". A codec is a Coder/Decoder, and what they've got here is just a Decoder :-)
  • Misleading writeup (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Covener ( 32114 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:20PM (#4548110)
    this will free us from the ugly DLL hacks required to play DivX until now.

    For the teensy-tiny almost insignificant minority of DivX files w/ WMA audio. Typically DivX (films especially) are encoded w/ mp3 audio.

    We're long since divorced from using the win32 DLL's to play DivX files, which are most often mp3 audio -- hell we've even had at least 3 NATIVE alternatives for mpeg4 video (ffmpeg/libavcodec, divx4linux, xvid). In the rare case that WMA audio is in a file (think REALLY out of touch media site creating this thing the MS way), this does save us from using the win32 codecs.
    • by Junta ( 36770 )
      I dunno, I've seen a good chunk of WMA audio tracks in DivX avi files to this day. The thing is, 'divx audio' sounds so enticing to people they select it, even if mp3 is an option, they mistakenly think that 'divx audio' works better with divx video simply because of the name.... At last, my PowerPC linux system will play them...
  • by Brett Glass ( 98525 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:20PM (#4548114) Homepage
    By licensing the CODEC under the LGPL, the authors are preventing Microsoft's competitors from publishing improved versions that might give BillG a run for his money. If Microsoft is to face some real competition, it's best to empower its competitors. Why not use an MIT-ish license, as does Ogg Vorbis?
    • Probably to prevent MS from looking a tit, thinking "ooh, thats nice", taking it and adding hidden undocumented proprietry stuff to it.
    • by Eric Seppanen ( 79060 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:46PM (#4548342)
      The key difference is that it would be a good thing for the Ogg Vorbis format to spread and become as widely used as possible. Nobody really wants to sees WMA become any more popular; it's best to just offer basic functionality for *nix systems that wouldn't otherwise have it. It's a tight balance: trying to make the free system better without giving any more power to the secret format gods.
    • By licensing the CODEC under the LGPL, the authors are preventing Microsoft's competitors from publishing improved versions that might give BillG a run for his money.

      The LGPL doesn't preclude anybody from releasing a closed-source media player with this new codec, as long as they don't tinker with the codec itself. If they start tweaking the codec, they'll need to release their tweaks if they want to publish the entire program, but they can do whatever they want with the rest of it (UI, network code, etc.).

      (At least that's my understanding of how the LGPL works...but if the codec is GPL and not LGPL (and the SourceForge pages would indicate that it's GPL), then your point stands.)

      • You write:

        The LGPL doesn't preclude anybody from releasing a closed-source media player with this new codec, as long as they don't tinker with the codec itself.

        That was generally true of the "old," or "library," GPL. But it is not true of the license used by the CODEC -- the "new" LGPL (which the FSF calls the "lesser" GPL).

        Read it yourself, at this link [gnu.org]. Section 6 says, in part:

        For an executable, the required form of the "work that uses the Library" must include any data and utility programs needed for reproducing the executable from it. However, as a special exception, the materials to be distributed need not include anything that is normally distributed (in either source or binary form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the operating system on which the executable runs, unless that component itself accompanies the executable.

        It may happen that this requirement contradicts the license restrictions of other proprietary libraries that do not normally accompany the operating system. Such a contradiction means you cannot use both them and the Library together in an executable that you distribute.

        The requirement to include all "utility programs" required to produce the product -- including the compiler, linker, etc. -- is not difficult to satisfy if the target happens to be an operating system that includes these tools. But if it's an operating system such as PalmOS, BeOS, MacOS, Windows, etc., which does not come by default with a complete set of developer tools, the requirement is not possible to satisfy. (I can't give away, for example, Metrowerks' compiler or linker with my product.) So, in fact, the new "Lesser GPL" has a hidden booby trap that makes it virtually impossible to produce products for many operating systems. (There are other problems with it as well, but this one alone is a show-stopper.)

        What's more, as the text above points out, you're out of luck if you also use commercial code libraries in your product -- because, again, you can't give away someone else's product.

        In short, the "new" LGPL is incredibly restrictive. I know for a fact that due to the restrictions mentioned above we could not include the CODEC mentioned in this item in our products.

        --Brett Glass

    • Maybe because the writer wants to sell the code to proprietary software developers?

      No, that would not fit into your "the GPL is a Communist conspiracy" theory. In fact the GPL is put on code for extremely selfish reasons that would make Ayn Rand proud.

    • We don't want WMA to be spread more than necessary.. Simple as that! This is good because it lets us listen to legacy files until everyone has switched to encoding only non-patented Vorbis files..

  • ... that this is just the opening shot of a file format (a la M$ Word) or application-checking scheme (a la AIM) war between M$ and this app's developers. Even if you can force everyone to use your file format, you can't TRULY own the space until everyone has to use your app to read the file as well.
  • It's not a codec (Score:2, Informative)

    by MarkTina ( 611072 )
    Sorry to be picky but it's a decoder not an encoder/decoder (codec). Mark
  • Uggg... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Junta ( 36770 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:28PM (#4548193)
    I presume this is a sign that .avi files with wma or ABR mp3 tracks, or maybe ac3 tracks are pretty much entrenched now in terms of market? First mp3 becomes entrenched and now this? .avi is a poor container format (vbr prohibited, for example). DivX is decent, but not really a 'standard'. It may be MPEG-4 compatible/complete (I have no idea), but the FourCC code on those files is 'DIVX', and that represents a non-standard approach. Of course, the FourCC is only relevant in .avi and something easily faked in alternative encoders, but it just irks me...

    And CBR mp3 audio... ick... maybe it replicates the bug and plays VBR mp3 audio, but still, doesn't mp3 only support two channels?

    I would love to see the proliferation of something much more elegant. Say 'MPG4' FourCC (if you must). .Ogg container over .avi, or quicktime, or, best yet, the official standard container format of MPEG-4 (which, if not identical, is highly similar to quicktime 6 and/or the .divx format (does anyone use that at all?). Was there an audio MPEG-4 codec to go with the video and container, or would Vorbis audio be the best option?
    • Well, how about ".mp4!"

      There are lots of Profiles (defining the tools that can be used) and Levels (defining the contraints for the parmeters of those tools) in MPEG-4. A good initial standard is ISMA Profile 1, which uses Advanced Simple video and AAC-LC audio. So, same video codec as DivX (which can export .mp4, but without audio), and a MUCH better audio codec than MP3/Vorbis.

      Alas, QuickTIme doesn't support Advanced Simple, only Simple.

      Going forward, I hope to see H.264 take over as the baseline codec in MPEG-4. It should be competitive with today's best propritary codecs (Windows Media Video 9 and RealVideo 9), and have no licensing costs with the baseline profile.

  • by MoThugz ( 560556 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:29PM (#4548202) Homepage
    The project from what I see [sourceforge.net] is mostly (if not all) done by non-Americans. So the DMCA does not apply to these people, nor to more than 99% of the countries in the world.

    Sure, it's hosted on sourceforge servers, which I assume is located in the US, but hosting can be obtained elsewhere just as easily.

    So quit naysaying and just accept the fact that not every open source project is an attempt to defile MS's (or the American legal system's) supremacy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:31PM (#4548226)
    I'm sure I remember a /. article from someone who was closed down by Microsoft (read: sent threatening letters) for attempting to produce a WMA decoder. The argument then was that the WMA format was covered by various patents.

    What's to stop the same thing happening to this one?
  • It should be pointed out that if this library uses software patents which charge royalties it is technically NOT Free Software.
  • by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:33PM (#4548241) Homepage
    Only DivX 3.11 was a hacked Microsoft coded.

    4.0 and onwards were developed from scratch.
  • There are LOTS of radio stations out there whose streaming version is WMA only...how easy will this be to make usable by xmms so that I don't need a Windows box to listen to said stations?
  • by FattMattP ( 86246 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:40PM (#4548291) Homepage
    Are they sure that this isn't covered by a patent? I remember almost two years ago that VirtualDub had to remove support for ASF files [advogato.org] because Microsoft had a patent on some part of it. The VirtualDub guys just removed support rather than fight MS. I hope this doesn't turn out to be the same situation.
  • EULA for WMAs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Spaceman40 ( 565797 )
    A while ago I was going to switch all my WMAs over to MP3 format (Acid doesn't like WMAs as input), but when I went into Nero (which can decode/encode multiple files with one command) it said that it's not allowed to decode WMA files - something about Microsoft saying it's bad.

    Have any of you seen this?
  • stable interfaces (Score:4, Interesting)

    by den_erpel ( 140080 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @12:43PM (#4548321) Homepage Journal
    The only pitty is that there are no real stable interfaces to the library, which makes a lot of projects to statically link the libraries :(

    We changed the upstream sources a bit to provide libavcodec and libavformat as shlibs and started using dynamic linking.

    As long as ppl use the sources provided with the debs and compile, no problem, but it's hacking time again when someone gets a CVS release :X Oh well, that's what makes life (and coding) interesting of course ;) -and trying to capture possible problems with m4 macros >:)-
  • I'm afraid that a free WMA decoder promotes Microsoft standards, instead of promoting the use of open standards.

    I think it would actually be better to never make anything else than OGG decoders to conquer the push from software giants.

    Also, would be nice if you linked up to www.xvid.org, that also is free.
  • But is this going to lead to some sort of legality problem like DeCSS? Or does this land in that grey area where Samba and WINE live?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't want to start a flame war there but did you know that:

    * FFmpeg was started by a french group (maybe just a french guy)
    * DivX was invented by a french guy
    * another beautiful player, VideoLAN, is made by a French group

    As the french say, "we might not have petrol in France, but we have ideas".

    Artaxerxes
  • How did they do it? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by skeedlelee ( 610319 )
    With all the discussion of is this or isn't this a patent/lawsuit problem, it seems an important question is being missed. How did they make the (co)dec? The article itself doesn't mention it and short of digging into their dev site, I don't know how to figure that out. Anyone involved with the project care to share?

    I can think of two very different ways to get at it. Try and dig the decoder out of MS code or give it a bunch of training files and tweak the decoder until it sounded right. (ouch that sounds like a painful project) If the latter, then I don't really see how there could be any sort of lawsuit issues, unless there's a EULA problem (can't use WMP in developing competing software or something). It's a bit reminiscent of the Samba approach. Also, without a encoder, (IANAL) you shouldn't run into problems even if the wma format itself is patented.
  • I wonder if someone will make a XMMS plugin to play wma files now. That would be cool. I gave in to the darkside awhile back when I purchased a 64 Meg portable music player -- and converted a bunch of my CD's to WMA for size VS. performance reasons (a 64K WMA sounded better to me than a 64K mp3). THe only problem being now I have 4 CD's worth of WMA's that are only playable on Windows -- and I don't have a windows partition anyomore. So at least for me -- this sounds like a good thing.
  • Since encoding using Vorbis for audio was mentioned in the article, anyone use Vorbis for their audio tracks? I've been ripping using .avi with mp3 audio for my DVD collection, and have wanted to use Vorbis one way or the other. When I tried to substitute vorbis audio into the avi instead of the 'throw away' mp3 track I generate (using mencoder), the result won't play under anything I've got. When I used ogmtools to try to merge the .ogg audio and .avi video into an ogg container, it plays, but doesn't keep a/v sync. I don't care about how few people can play it, so long as *I* can play it and have it look and sound good....

    The ideal for me would be to have a single container with MPEG-4 video, Vorbis Audio, and, if at all possible, embedded subtitles in some form or fashion as a separate overlay track/text.... That can be produced in Linux...
  • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @06:47PM (#4551701) Homepage
    ffmpeg is great for video streams, and even sound streams. Just don't try doing both at once.

    I have had *zero* luck trying to get the audio track to sync with the video, even at insanely low resolutions (eg half PAL) with no frame drop. Different combinations of different codecs make little difference it seems.

    The FAQ [sourceforge.net] even says so:
    4) I get audio/video synchro problems when grabbing.

    Currently, the grabbing stuff does not handle synchronisation
    correctly. You are free to correct it. It is planned to fix it ASAP


    So IMHO, ffmpeg as it stands is completely useless as an audiovisual grabber.

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