Fluendo and legal Linux multimedia


In a previous post I noted that anyone who tries doing multimedia on Linux has to navigate a bit of a legal minefield. Well, OK, I didn’t quite put it that way. The thing is that software patents especially (something that didn’t exist in the U.S. when I took intellectual property law in 1980), coupled with relatively low standards for what is patentable at all, have made it very difficult for anyone but wealthy commercial actors to advance the technologies in this area.

In looking around for a (patently) legal alternative to using the “bad” and the “ugly” plugins for gstreamer, I happened upon Fluendo’s suite of commercial plugins.

Well, “happened” isn’t exactly right. The fact is that Red Hat has for many years been steering users towards Fluendo as a source for licensed codecs.

After first downloading and installing the free mp3 plugin (installing involves merely copying the unarchived .so file into /usr/lib/gstreamer-0.10), I was able to play several mp3 files using totem and rhythmbox (which I actually had to install since I don’t regularly find a need for a separate audio players).

While the “Complete Set of Playback Plugins” comes in at a hefty 28 euros (that’s about $40 U.S.), there comes a time in every senior infrastructure engineer’s life when you’ve just got to take the plunge. That package includes:

* Windows Media Audio Decoder (Windows Media 7, 8, 9, 10, Pro, Lossless and Speech)
* Windows Media Video Decoder (Windows Media 7, 8, 9 and VC1)
* Windows Media ASF Demuxer
* Windows Media MMS Networking
* MPEG2 Video Decoder
* MPEG4 Part 2 Video Decoder
* DivX 3.11 Alpha Video Decoder
* H.264/AVC Video Decoder
* MPEG2 Program Stream and Transport Stream demuxer
* MPEG4 ISO Demuxer
* MP3 Audio Decoder
* AAC Audio Decoder
* LPCM Audio Decoder

From my own testing these all work as advertised on a fully patched CentOS 5.3 workstation. Even really old .mov files (a holdover from when our only “video” camera was an early model Nikon Coolpix that let you shoot 30 seconds at a time) played as well as with any other available software — in fact better than xine was able.