Tag Archives: web

Trying to kill Theora – MPEG LA extends royalty free use of H.264 for Internet streaming

So the MPEG LA has extended the royalty free life of Internet streaming H.264 video from the end of 2010 to the end of 2016. The majority of patents expire in 2028, so that will still give them plenty of time to collect on royalties, if we let them.

Make no mistake, this is about stifling the adoption of Theora in order to become the de-facto standard. MPEG LA is trying to kill Theora, but we must not let that happen! We need an open web.

If you use H.264 for ANY OTHER PURPOSE today, you still need a license. Yes, that means you Mr. Linux user ripping your DVD’s to H.264..

MPEG LA confirms H.264 license needed for free software and end users

Currently, there is no default video format for use with the HTML5 video tag. The patent and royalty free Theora format was planned to be the default, but this was opposed by corporations like Apple and Nokia. The most popular video format at the moment is the heavily patent encumbered H.264, which is often encapsulated in Flash. As the move to HTML5 gathers steam, the battle for a video format rages on.

The issue of which format becomes prevalent is very important for the future of open web (and especially Linux). Youtube is one of the biggest providers of H.264 encoded media (currently encapsulated in Flash, but there is an HTML5 beta program) and Google will pay hefty royalties for the privilege.

The question of royalties over use of H.264 has become a popular talking point of late, because while Safari and Chrome support it, Chromium (the free software version of Chrome browser) Opera and Firefox don’t.

Now, a discussion on the Linux Weekly News site has answered the question as to whether the MPEG LA will require and enforce free software projects (and developers) to cough up for a license.

The question asked of MPEG LA via email exchange:

I read through the FAQ and can’t find out if Free and Open Source developers and products need to license the MPEG LA patents for MPEG-4 Visual. It was alleged in a comment that royalties are only necessary for products sold, not for free products. Is this correct? Could you please comment on the licensing options for Free (e.g. GPL) and open source implementations of MPEG-4 Visual, specifically h.264? What about downstream users/developers/distributors of Free and open source software?

The answer is a resounding “Yes” and even end users are liable:

In response to your specific question, under the Licenses royalties are paid on all MPEG-4 Visual/AVC products of like functionality, and the Licenses do not make any distinction for products offered for free (whether open source or otherwise)…

I would also like to mention that while our Licenses are not concluded by End Users, anyone in the product chain has liability if an end product is unlicensed. Therefore, a royalty paid for an end product by the end product supplier would render the product licensed in the hands of the End User, but where a royalty has not been paid, such a product remains unlicensed and any downstream users/distributors would have liability.

As an article over at OSNews states, we must ensure that H.264 does NOT become the de-facto standard for video on the web:

“In other words, h264 is simply not an option for Free and open source software. It is not compatible with “Free”, and the licensing costs are prohibitive for most Free and open source software projects. This means that if the web were to standardise on this encumbered codec, we’d be falling into the same trap as we did with Flash, GIF, and Internet Explorer 6.”

I guess it’s up to web developers and corporations to make the smart choice. If Google can purchase On2 Technologies, they might release later generation versions of VP (on which Theora is based) to surpass the quality of H.264.

openSUSE 11.2 web links don’t work in Thunderbird under KDE fix

My mum’s machine runs openSUSE 11.2, with KDE 4. She continues to use Thunderbird as her mail client as it is familiar. Naturally she also uses Firefox for web browsing.

Unfortunately, web links don’t seem to work which is rather annoying. Firefox is set as the default web client, as is thunderbird for email. My guess is that Thunderbird is looking for some GNOME configuration on what to do. I tried adding some custom handler arguements in Thunderbird’s config (like about:config in Firefox), but that didn’t work.

In the end, the simple fix was to use gconftool to set the appropriate parameters:
gconftool-2 -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/http/command
'/usr/bin/firefox %s' --type String

gconftool-2 -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/https/command
'/usr/bin/firefox %s' --type String

Restart Thunderbird and all is good!

Christopher Blizzard: HTML5 video and H.264 – what history tells us and why we’re standing with the web

Christopher Blizzard has a great article about H.264 and what it might mean if it becomes the de-facto standard for video on the web.

Remember, this is still very early in H.264’s history so the licensing is very friendly, just like it used to be for MP3. The companies who own the IP in these large patent pools aren’t in this for the fun of it – this is what they do. They patent and they enforce and then enjoy the royalties. If they are in a position to charge more, they will. We can expect that if we allow H.264 to become a fundamental web technology that we’ll see license requirements get more onerous and more expensive over time, with little recourse.

Microsoft screencast shows Linux easier than Windows

In their attack on free software, Microsoft has launched a website which compares various aspects of Windows to its counterpart on Linux.

One of the latest videocasts compares getting Perl and PHP running on a webserver.

In the Windows screencast the author (who happens to be an Australian) says:

“In the past it was kinda difficult to set up Perl on Internet Information Services, now I’d actually argue it’s probably easier to set up Perl on IIS than it is to actually set it up on Linux.”

OK then, let’s watch both of his screencasts and see whether that is indeed true!

Excluding the tasks of installing Linux and Windows, installing the respective webserver, creating the Perl and PHP scripts themselves (which just print “$LANG is working”) and downloading the PHP/Perl install files (which you only have to do on Windows of course) here is the number of tasks required for each. As an aside, he is using Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, that’s SIX releases of Ubuntu ago.

Ubuntu – install and configure Perl
Total tasks = 7

Open terminal
    Open "Terminal"
Install Apache Perl module
    sudo apt-get install libapache2-mod-perl2
    Type "y" to proceed

Restart Apache
    sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 force-reload
Copy Perl script to cgi-bin directory
    sudo cp testperl.pl /usr/lib/cgi-bin/
Make Perl script executable
    sudo chmod a+x /usr/lib/cgi-bin/testperl.pl
Use Firefox to test

Windows – install and configure Perl
Total tasks = 34

Run Perl installer
    Click "Run"
    Click "Next"

Accept license agreement
    Click "Next"
    Click "Next"
    Click "Next"
    Click "Install"
    Click "Finish

Open Command Prompt
    Click "Start Menu"
    Click "Command Prompt"

Make cgi-gin directory
    mkdir C:\Inetpub\cgi-bin
Copy the script
    cd Desktop
    copy *.pl C:\Inetpub\cgi-bin

Open IIS Manager
    Click "Start Menu"
    Click "Administrative Tools"
    Click "Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager"

Configure Perl
    Select "Perl CGI Extension" from "Web Service Extensions"
    Click "Allow"

Create Virtual Directory for cgi-bin
    Expand "Web Sites"
    Right Click "Default Web Site"
    Click "New -> Virtual Directory"
    Click "Next"
    Type name "cgi-bin"
    Click "Next"
    Set path "C:\Inetpub\cgi-bin"
    Click "OK"
    Click "Next"
    Tick "Run"
    Tick "Execute"
    Click "Next"
    Click "Finish"
    Click "Close"

Use Internet Explorer to test

Perl Conclusion
If you live on planet Microsoft, then I guess you might deduce that Windows is indeed easier than Linux. Of course in reality that’s complete bunkum.

Now, let’s have a look at PHP, where our presenter says the following:

It’s as easy to install these particular services and languages on IIS as it is, or even easier to install them on Windows than is it on Linux.

Ubuntu – install and configure PHP
Total tasks = 5

Open terminal
    Open "Terminal"
Install PHP mod for Apache
    sudo apt-get install libapache2-mod-php5
    Enter "y" to continue

Copy the php file
    sudo cp testphp.php /var/www/
Use Firefox to test

Windows – install and configure Perl
Total tasks = 23 (or 42 if configuring cgi-bin)

Run PHP installer
    Click "Run"
    Click "Next"

Accept license agreement
    Click "Next"
    Modify path to "C:\PHP"
    Click "Next"
    Select "IIS CGI"
    Click "Next"
    Click "Next"
    Click "Finish

Copy the script
    Right click on php file
    Select "Copy"
    Click "Start Menu"
    Open "My Computer"
    Browse to "C:\"
    Open "Inetpub" folder
    Right click
    Click "Paste"

Open IIS Manager
    Click "Start Menu"
    Click "Administrative Tools"
    Click "Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager"

Confirm PHP is active
    Select "Web Service Extensions"
    Ensure "PHP: Hypertext Processor" set to "Allow"

Use Internet Explorer to test

PHP Conclusion
Of course, he had already set up the cgi-bin virtual directory when he did Perl, so he’s getting that configuration for free. If you were configuring just PHP (or PHP first) this would take a total of 42 steps, instead of 23.

Conclusion, Conclusion
Either way, this guy sure has a funny idea of what “easy” means. I think it’s easy for him to make money from Microsoft by spreading lies about Linux.

Cooliris for Linux

Version 1.10 of Cooliris has been released, and for the first time this includes a Linux version! Cooliris is a Firefox extension that is built on top of various open source software such as FreeType, FFmpeg, Protocol Buffers (from Google), and dcraw.

Unfortunately, Cooliris itself is not free and open source software. It also has a pretty hefty EULA and the software collects lots of your information. On top of that, it has many patents pending. Sigh.


(i) Decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, modify, rent, lease, loan, distribute, or create derivative works (as defined by the U.S. Copyright Act) or improvements (as defined by U.S. patent law) based upon the Cooliris Software or any portion thereof;

(ii) Incorporate the Cooliris Software or any portion thereof into any computer chip or the firmware of a computing device manufactured by or for you;

(ix) Collect or harvest any information or data from the Cooliris Software, nor use any communication systems provided by the Cooliris Software, for any commercial purposes, or attempt to decipher any transmissions to or from the servers running the Cooliris Software;

(xiii) Bypass or circumvent the measures we may use to prevent or restrict access to the Cooliris Software.

Still, it’s their software and they can do what they like. Don’t like it? Don’t use it. It’s just a pity that the free software community (and Cooliris themselves) can’t benefit from community collaboration.

If you don’t know what Cooliris can do, here’s a taste. This is me browsing some photos on Facebook, clicking and dragging to pan along the photos.
Cooliris Pan

And then selecting a photo which zooms in to a high resolution.
Cooliris Pan