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Press Release: Open Media Software Grows Up

While the open source world had their eyes on the largest Linux developer conference, (LCA) in Sydney, a small revolution took place in the lead-up which passed virtually unnoticed.

On the 11th and 12th of January, the first “Foundations of Open Media Software 2007” (FOMS 2007) Workshop took place in Sydney, Australia.

Two days of intensive discussions among some of the core developers in open media software led to a set of community goals jointly expressed in a resolution document and published online (see http://localhost:3000/foms2007/).

“It was a most productive and subject-rich meeting and a perfect opportunity to meet the most important people in open multimedia software – one of the best conferences I've ever been to,” said Lennart Poettering from PulseAudio .

It is expected that the workshop will have an enormous effect on the usability of media applications on Linux, as well as on the usability and uptake of cross-platform open media formats and software.

Twenty-three participants attended the workshop, representing a wide variety of open media projects. The open Ogg/Xiph codecs Theora, Vorbis, Speex, and CMML were represented, as were the Linux audio platforms ALSA and PulseAudio , the open media players and platforms GStreamer, MPlayer , and xine, the streaming platforms icecast and flumotion, right up to applications built and run using these tools, such as Metavid and the Debian video archive.

Commercial entities present were Nokia, Canon and the Australian research institutes CSIRO and NICTA.

Most of the participants had never met each other in person before.

The meeting started with position statements from all the represented projects. The participants were asked to present their project, their goals and the challenges they were currently facing. The position statements are all available as short video clips and slides online and represent a collection of the issues and problems that open media software is dealing with.

On the second day, participants were given the opportunity to collaboratively detail the issues and start the code. Most participants stayed in Sydney over the following week and continued to collaborate during, resulting in stronger ties and many difficult issues being addressed.

“I've been to many conferences but have never seen this much new software being created as a consequence”, said Jean-Marc Valin, the author of the Speex speech codec.

Here are some highlights of issues addressed:

First discussions occurred between the PulseAudio and ALSA projects, improving understanding as a consequence; this is expected to significantly improve the interface between PulseAudio and ALSA.

Attendees agreed to develop a new generic PCM audio API for cross-platform media applications. A first draft exists and feedback from the general community is now required, such that Jack, PulseAudio , ALSA, OSS, and CoreAudio adaptations can be created. Once the API is finalized and supported, open media software developers will be able to generically develop their software against this PCM audio API.

Also, a new open source sample rate conversion library for audio was developed under a more liberal license than others currently available. This small foot-print library should be useful for low-level applications.

The need for native support of free media codecs in Web Browsers has also been discussed and the creation of a small footprint Ogg Theora/Annodex player for inclusion into the Mozilla codebase is under development.

The meeting was a huge success with all developers expressing their commitment to achieve the community goals and to attend another FOMS workshop in the lead-up to LCA 2008 in Melbourne. Interest was also expressed in having subsequent workshops in other countries.

Distributions are now proposing to take consumers straight from Windows XP to Linux, but acknowledge that media support on Linux is still a challenge. FOMS is addressing this challenge.

Silvia Pfeiffer & the FOMS organising committee 2007 http://localhost:3000/foms2007/

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