Category Archives: FOMS

Seeking a maintainer for liboggplay

liboggplay is a library that vastly simplifies the decoding and playback of Ogg encapsulated audio-visual content for programmers. It abstracts away from the complexity of libogg’s encapsulation pages, codec packets, and encoded data, giving the programmer the freedom to work with audio-visual streams, video frames, and audio samples. It does everything apart from the actual display of audio and video and has thus been selected as the thinnest library to provide support for Ogg Theora/Vorbis in Firefox’s new HTML5 <video> and <audio> tag implementation.

Shane Stephens, now with Google, implemented most of liboggplay while working at CSIRO on the Annodex project. Chris Double picked up liboggplay for Mozilla/Firefox, where it got committed to trunk only this week. Many others have and continue to provide patches. And finally, yesterday, I made an actual first tarball release of liboggplay.

There is only one little hick-up: liboggplay doesn’t actually have a maintainer. So, we are now looking to find somebody who is highly enthusiastic about open media codecs, has experience in C programming, can compile and test liboggplay on all major operating systems (probably set it up on a build farm) and has enough time to react swiftly to the need of bug fixes. We don’t want people’s Firefoxes to choke on Ogg content, but rather amaze them about how easy to handle and nicely integrated Ogg works on the Web.

One of the big next challenges for liboggplay is the implementation of support for Ogg Dirac – the BBC’s wavelet-based video codec. Mozilla, would be very keen to get Dirac support into liboggplay and thus diversify the open codecs supported in Firefox.

If you want to become the new maintainer for liboggplay, or want to implement Ogg Dirac support into liboggplay, or do both, get in touch with me and we’ll get you set up.

Native Ogg Theora support in Firefox

What a day for great news!

Chris Blizzard and Chris Double of Mozilla have just announced that native Ogg Theora and Vorbis support is now available in the trunk of Firefox’s codebase. Compiles of that codebase have the support enabled by default, which means that very soon now any Firefox that gets installed on any platform will come with built-in Ogg Theora/Vorbis support out of the box.

This is exciting in more than one way.

First of all: it is a browser implementation of the new HTML5 video tag currently in the process of standardisation. Opera is the only other browser that has support for the video tag also using Ogg Theora as the baseline codec, but Opera’s support is in an experimental branch, while Firefox will be the first to have native support.

The choice to include Ogg Theora natively is a huge step forward on Mozilla’s behalf considering the submarine patent debate that has been raging around this codec ever since it was removed from the HTML5 specification as baseline codec. So, maybe the Mozilla lawyers believe the risk of this threat is negligible and if they have, other browser vendors may follow.

This is a big day for open media technology and a big day for the future of video on the Web.

It is important because the availability of free and unencumbered video and audio codecs that are natively supported on the Web will make a huge difference in progressing the capabilities of video on the Web. As an example, look at the efforts of Annodex, where we are creating video webs through a video format with embedded hyperlinks and annotations. To make this feasible, you need a standard and open format for the time-aligned hyperlinks and annotations, which will only work with a flexible open video format. This is just an example: open captioning and karaoke formats, open overlay formats and many other extensions to video formats will now be feasible. The golden age of online video is starting.

Michael Dale
‘s metavid project is giving us a taste of this future. Video can be searched on time-aligned annotations and only the relevant video segment will be retrieved. Video segments can be addressed by temporal hyperlinks and recombined easily into new mash-ups simply through the creation of a list of temporal hyperlinks. How powerful this will be when we do it across sites! This takes video into a completely new dimension.

Now, let’s step back again from the future to the current exciting news. I am particularly proud of the input that Annodex people have made to this development – code from people like Conrad Parker, Andre Pang, Zen Kavanagh, Shane Stephens, and many others.

Chris Double from Mozilla has been implementing the Firefox Ogg Theora support for more than a year and is using Shane Stephens’ liboggplay library, which was originally developed by CSIRO and is in the code repository of the Annodex Association. liboggplay requires libraries from (libogg, libvorbis, libtheora) and from Annodex (liboggz and libfishsound) to work. All of this has to work across operating system platforms.

It is an enormous achievement and I congratulate the open media technology community on this big success.

to_bool rails plugin

In our rail application we do a lot of string conversions to other data types, including Boolean. Unfortunately, ruby does not provide a conversion method to_bool (which I find rather strange, to be honest).

Based a blog post by Chris Roos in October 2006, we developed a rails plugin that enables the “to_bool” conversion.

“to_bool” works on the strings “true” and “false” and any capitalisation of these, and on numbers, as well as on nil. Other strings raise an ArgumentError.

Examples are as follows:

'true'.to_bool #-> true
'TrUe'.to_bool #-> true
true.to_bool #-> true
1.to_bool #-> true
5.to_bool #-> true
-9.to_bool #-> true
nil.to_bool #-> false
'false'.to_bool #-> false
'FaLsE'.to_bool #-> false
false.to_bool #-> false
0.to_bool #-> false

You can find the plugin here as a tarball. To install it, simply decompress the to_bool directory into your vendor/plugins directory.

FOMS Workshop – Call for Participation is OPEN

The Foundations for Open Media Software workshop will take place in January 2009 for the third time before LCA. Yay!! This year in beautiful Tasmania!

At 17:33pm on Wed 11th June on irc #foms, the Call for Participation was declared open.

If you have any engagement with the development of open standards and open source software in the digital media space, consider attending. To attend, all we ask for is an email to the committee. Really simple!

We will have travel sponsorship for some key people and if the last two years are anything to go by, we will see some serious improvements to open media technology coming out of FOMS – an event that always stretches over the whole duration of LCA.

I can’t wait till Christmas is over…

Metadata and Ogg

I am really excited about the huge progress we made at FOMS with metadata and Ogg. The metadata specifications are actually not Ogg-specific – only their mapping into Ogg is. Here are the things that I expect will make for a very structured and sensible distributed handling of metadata on the Web.

At FOMS, we started improving CMML and are now specifying the next version of CMML. CMML is a timed text description language that can easily be multiplexed alongside audio or video data. It is very flexible with its fields and satisfies needs for hypermedia, captions, annotations and other time-aligned text. We took out the Ogg dependencies and it can now be used in any media container format. The specification is now also in an XML schema rather than a DTD, which enables us to reuse modules from XHTML and make it generally more extensible.

We introduced ROE, a description language (or a “manifest”) for multitrack media files. It describes media tracks and their dependencies and thus goes much further than the old stream and import elements in CMML, that now have been deprecated.

ROE can be used to author multitrack media files – in the Ogg case to author Ogg files with a Skeleton track and multiple media tracks. We are in the process of extending Skeleton to incorporate the description of dependencies between logical bitstreams. To complete this, we will be creating a description of how to map ROE into Ogg/Skeleton and vice versa.

ROE can also be used to negotiate with a Web client what media streams to send from the complete manifest that is available on the server. For example, a Web client could request the German sound track with a movie rather than the default English one, and to add English subtitles. This requires a small protocol for negotiation, which can easily be build using Web infrastructure. We are introducing some new HTTP request/response parameters and specific URLs, such as e.g.,A2,TT2.

The set of ROE, Skeleton, CMML, and the HTTP and URI specifications will enable a very structured means of interacting with metadata-rich video on the Web. It will be distributed and integrated into the Web infrastructure, much like the Annodex set of technologies already is today.

Since I am also a business owner aside of being an open media enthusiast, let me add that I expect it to have a huge impact on online business around audio and video, enabling business processes and business models that are not possible today. Watch this space!

The greatest gathering of open media sw developers

When I started organising the first FOMS (Foundations of open media software developers workshop) in 2007, I did it because I saw a need to have media hackers get together in a room and discuss stuff in person. Email, irc, svn, bugzilla and wikis only get you a certain distance for collaboration. But no distance communication tool can replace the energy and creative spirit that is created through an in-person meeting and the ability to have a beer together in the evening. Discussions are more intense, impossibilities are identified faster, progress is amazing – and the energy will last and have an impact on the community for months to come after the event.

FOMS 2007 was great in that respect, because some 25 hackers got to know each other for the first time, friendships were formed, trust was built and new ideas (speaking: new code) was created. It was awesome and gave me the motivation to go and organise FOMS 2008. At this point let me express my gratitude to the organising committees of both FOMS 2007 and FOMS 2008 for the support they have given me to organise both workshops and hope they will help again next year in Tasmania.

So then FOMS 2008 took place and what can I say!? It totally blew me away. For me it was a much better experience than the year before because I didn’t also organise the video recordings at LCA. I was therefore more relaxed, got involved in design discussions, and was able to sit down during the week after FOMS at LCA and actually interact with people. On a side note here: Thanks so much to Donna Benjamin, the main organiser of LCA 2008, for getting the FOMS participants a room to ourselves where we were able to gather and get an awesome whole lot of work done.

Nearly the whole Xiph community was at FOMS and issues that have been brewing for years were tabled and discussed. A large number of audio hackers were there, too, and the issue of a standard sound APIs got some heated discussion. There’s a press release and the proceedings of the FOMS discussions up on the FOMS 2008 website, where you can make yourself a complete picture of all the issues that were discussed.

In addition to FOMS, Conrad Parker and I had also organised a Multimedia Miniconf at LCA. It was a great place to communicate some of the outcomes of FOMS and to present some of the latest developments in open media software in the Linux community. Video proceedings are available on the site.

Overall I must say that January has become the highlight of my year in open media software.

LCA Multimedia Miniconf

The organisers of LCA have found another slot for a miniconf and ours is it! Yay!! We shall have an audio/video miniconf at LCA! This is particularly important since we will bring to Australia a large number of key open media application developers for FOMS. These guys will also be able to provide deep insight and understanding during talks provided to the more general LCA audience. Expect some awesome media talks at LCA!!

FOMS 2008 support by Mozilla Foundation

It is awesome to see FOMS – the Open Media Software developer workshop we ran for the first time this year – turning into a major audio and video developer event for Linux. FOMS 2008 will be in Mel8ourne in January and will focus on audio on Linux (in particular libsydneyaudio) and on native Firefox support for Ogg Theora (in particular liboggplay). Because of the latter, FOMS has attracted sponsorship by the Mozilla Foundation. This sponsorship is very welcome since most of the relevant developers come from overseas and are not part of large organisations that could afford to pay the expense. Check out the current list of participants on the site – it will be another milestone event for open media! And … thanks Mozilla Foundation!

Foundations of Open Media Software 2008

Good news, everybody: We are repeating the successful open audio/video developer workshop in 2008 – the CFP for FOMS 2008 is now public!

FOMS (Foundations of Open Media Software) will again take place in the week ahead of LCA (Australian’s Annual Conference for Linux and Open Source Developers) – whose CFP is also out. Get started submitting abstracts because LCA’s published deadline for submissions is 20th July.

To complete the pack, LCA MultiMedia is an a/v miniconf for LCA in planning, such that LCA attendees will also have a chance to hear the latest and most exciting news from the developer bench.

FOMS 2007 was a huge success. It brought face-to-face some of the core Linux audio and video developers, which promptly started attacking some of the key obstacles for an improved audio/video experience on Linux and with open media software in general.

Jean-Marc Valin (author of speex), Lennart Poettering (author of PulseAudio) a group of programmers from Nokia and a few others started designing libsydneyaudio – a library which is deemed to solve the mess of audio on Linux in a means that is also cross-platform compatible.

Also, a community started building around liboggplay, a library designed to allow drop-in playback of Xiph.Org media in an application. libogg is currently being prepared for a submission to Mozilla to provide native Ogg (and Annodex) support inside Firefox as part of the new HTML5 <video> tag. Then, Ogg Theora, Vorbis & Speex will play out of the box on a newly installed Firefox without requiring to install any further helpers software.

These are just the highlights from FOMS 2007 – expect more exiting news from FOMS 2008!

FOMS – the birth of a new open media forum

The first FOMS (Foundations of Open Media Software) workshop is over and it was an overwhelming success – more than ever expected! And wow – we have videos of it, too – thanks to Ralph Giles and Thomas Vander Stichele.

The goal of FOMS was to bring a diverse group of people from all around the planet who are all working on open media software together for the first time so they could get to know each other, exchange ideas, and generally address the things that annoy us all with open media technologies.

Strategically placing FOMS in the week before LCA was a great idea: not only would some of the developers attend LCA anyway and thus would not need to use up extra travel time, but also would LCA provide opportunities for the newly forged relationships to flourish and create code.

A new forum for discussion was created and since the community has committed to achieving a set of community goals, we expect it will have some basic effect on the usability of open media software over time.

And yes … all participants are up for a repetition of FOMS – possibly as a precursor to other FLOSS conferences overseas, but at a minimum again at next year’s LCA in Melbourne. Let’s rock it!