POW: Codec Buddy

This week’s Program of the Week is a bit ahead of its release. The package is Codec Buddy, and is currently slated for release in Fedora 8 tomorrow.

Codec Buddy, with a little help from the Fedora and Fluendo development teams has grown into something that could be great. I see Codec Buddy really helping those who want to use and play non-free media sources from within Fedora. If you are currently running rawhide, you probably already know about this, but very soon, many other people will start to understand how Codec Buddy works as well.

One of the goals of the Fedora Project is to be free of any proprietary software. Though I don’t see that many people using Fedora without at least a few proprietary components, media codecs, drivers, etc. Maybe one day…we can always hope.

To that end, I am a big media buff. I regularly watch TV shows and movies that use proprietary codecs. As an example, most people don’t realize that using the reverse engineered DVD encoding provided by DVD Jon could be considered illegal. Fedora doesn’t want to be encumbered by these risks, and truthfully, I don’t blame them one bit. Considering that my backlog of mp3s and DVD rips will require an additional bit of software not normally included with Fedora, I think this is a great software solution. Give the user what they want without compromising the integrity of the project.

Codec Buddy is provided to help the average Joe understand the world of media formats. Its job was originally to provide a short description of why Fedora doesn’t include this in its distribution. Then point to where one might find more information about these formats. Codec Buddy has been altered a little, but attempts to accomplish the same thing using the Fluendo website.

Fluendo is the company that employs many of the individuals that work on the gstreamer project. Its quite a noble project, providing media codecs (installable formats) for many of the audio and video we like to use every day. Its great to have open source companies like Fluendo helping open source grow.

Codec Buddy works by launching a small application when someone tries to access a media codec not currently on the system. For instance, I’ve attempted to play a show I’ve downloaded.

Launch Totem

Opening Totem

Open the file

Opening a media file

Start the video

Start the video

As the video attempts to play, a prompt appears, indicating the media isn’t supported. Codec buddy then provides a few options to enable playback for this particular media format.

Choose your codec wisely, young padawan

The available items are MP3 Audio Decoder, MPEG Playback Bundle and MPEG4 Part 2 Video Decoder. By default only the MP3 Audio Decoder, which is also the only codec that will be installed without payment, is checked. The other two codecs are available for a small fee, which helps Fluendo to provide these codecs.

Clicking the “Get Selected” button will immediately start the download of the MP3 Audio Decoder (if it was selected).

Downloading the MP3 Codec

A license agreement then appears, make sure to read this and if you agree, click Accept.

Agreement

Once the agreement is complete, its time to purchase the remaining codecs. Choose Start Web Browser and in a few moments, the Fluendo website should appear. This should allow you to purchase the remaining codecs needed for the video I want to watch.

Open Web Browser

The Fluendo website has a good list of available codecs beyond the choices available in Codec Buddy.

Fluendo website

The purchase will seem similar to many others on the web, add things to the cart, and pay.

Fluendo is a good start. I’m sure there will be many people interested in purchasing these codecs here. However, I believe however, that the biggest problem is that most people can get these codecs for free on Windows, Mac and even other Linux distributions. So far, the thing I feel is missing here is the explanation for why charge for these codecs and who benefits.

Fluendo is a great resource and provides some kick-ass codecs. If there is no explanation as to why we need to pay for something that one can get for free. Potential customers who don’t understand the reasoning behind it might go elsewhere, or worse even, choose another distro or operating system.

I love fedora for the freedom it gives me to choose my path. I love fedora for its focus on making sure things are free and open, both monetarily and in liberty. I love fedora for trying things like Codec Buddy, I want it to succeed. I hope that with a few suggestions, both fedora and Fluendo can make Codec Buddy the informational tool that it was originally intended.

Cheers,

Herlo

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3 Responses to POW: Codec Buddy

  1. Rahul Sundaram says:

    The first dialog that pops up in step 1 has a short explanation. Click on the link about proprietary and free formats for a longer explanation. In short Fluendo has licensed these codecs from various organizations and are passing on the cost to the end users except in the case of MP3 where they have paid to acquire a license but is given to Fedora users for free. This is not a commercial arrangement and Fedora doesn’t get any monetary benefits out of it.

    http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Multimedia/Codeina

    Also refer,

    http://www.linux.com/feature/120703

    Other distributions might point to other repositories which are ok for users in regions that don’t enforce software patents and we were waiting on confirmation from Red Hat legal to do something similar as a alternative. Looks like we can now.

    http://lwn.net/Articles/257559/

    If you have any other questions, let me know.

  2. Allen Halsey says:

    One thing I’m not clear about is: what happens if there is a security update or bug fix or enhancement? Would I need to purchase the MPEG codec again?

    I think maybe a better approach that fits in better with Fedora’s package management infrastructure is for Fluendo to setup a yum repo, like Adobe did for Flash:

    http://blogs.adobe.com/penguin.swf/2007/06/new_installation_method.html

    That way I can get security updates and bug fixes for these codecs the same way I get all my updates. And you’d get yum’s dependency resolution magic if needed as well.

    Of course, when yum accesses the fluendo repo, some type of account authentication must happen so that the customer has access only to the codecs he/she has purchased.

  3. herlo says:

    Rahul,

    When I did this demo, the first dialog you mention didn’t pop up. I noticed on the Fedora spec page for this that it was supposed to be there, but in my version, no dice. I did do it with Rawhide two days before Werewolf was released, but it should have been in there by then, don’t you think?

    As far as Fedora gaining monetarily, that’s not my concern. My concern is that *only* one option is available, there should be more than one in the name of competition. I’m glad that it’ll be possible to do this in the future, so I’m excited.

    Cheers,

    Herlo

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