[conspire] Ubuntu RestrictedFormats pages

Daniel Gimpelevich daniel at gimpelevich.san-francisco.ca.us
Tue Jan 16 10:23:01 PST 2007

On Mon, 15 Jan 2007 20:51:51 -0800, Rick Moen wrote:

> This is mostly a plug for a resource Daniel mentioned a while back as a
> superior / more reliable alternative to Automatix/EasyUbuntu:  Ubuntu's
> RestrictedFormats pages at
> https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RestrictedFormats .  This is relevant
> to several recent threads, here.

I don't remember mentioning it, but it is always a rather informative
_reference_. The page by itself does not actually do anything; talk is

> As a reminder, my main console these days is an old G3 (PowerPC) iBook
> running at any given time whatever's recent from Xubuntu (Xfce4-flavour
> Ubuntu) -- currently Edgy Eft.  The fact that it's PowerPC determines
> its lack of access (under Linux) to most proprietary software, e.g.,
> Adobe Acrocrud, RealPlayer 10, Win32 codecs, even if I were inclined
> towards that, which I seldom am.  However, as discussed here, the broad
> category of "stuff not included in most distros but often claimed
> essential by 'desktop' users" also includes patent-encumbered software
> and code overshadowed by MPAA/RIAA thuggery -- along with code that
> lacks those problems but is too new to yet be Ubuntu-packaged.

As you subtly hint at below, there is a set of w32codecs for PowerPC, that
is obviously less complete than its i386 counterpart; however, nobody has
packaged that set for Ubuntu TMK. When I checked, it was missing the RV4
codec even though it's in the RealPlayer 10 for PowerPC Linux
installation. The only reason RealPlayer 10 for PowerPC Linux is not on
their downloads page is that it's based on the open-source Helix Player,
even the open-source form of which refuses to work on PowerPC. Crap code
is not limited to proprietary software.

> Perusing the offerings described on those pages, I fetched and installed
> some, not all, of what's possible on PPC.  Xine now works a treat.  VLC,
> to my disappointment, currently segfaults on just about anything (not
> sure what's wrong these, yet), and mplayer seems fixated on having 
> defaulted to being configured for some video chipset I don't have
> (again, not yet diagnosed, just noted).  (I've installed but not
> seriously tried Totem.)  Movie DVDs from the Hollywood Borg now work.
> Xmms works great, for music.  And Macromedia Flash works.

The problems you have with 6.10 may very well be present on i386 also.

> Yes, you heard that right.  In open source, even.  Without hackery of
> any kind.
> I believe I just added a line in /etc/apt/sources.list for the Edgy Eft
> backports repository and fetched "mozilla-plugin-gnash", and Flash
> worked next time I launched Firefox -- to my annoyance, actually,
> because almost all Flash is performance-robbing, time-wasting,
> advertising junk.  I'm going to have to install the FlashBlock extension
> for Firefox again, to restore my ability to decide _if_ I'm going to run
> the stuff, at _my_ initiative.
> Now, I have no doubt that gnash will choke (or die a horrible death) on
> some Flash, and have great faith in Macromedia's (now Adobe's) ability
> to screw everyone by introducing new, incompatible versions -- which is
> yet another reason not to put much effort into haring off after
> compatibily with proprietary data formats and network protocols in the
> first place.  

I think that of all the .swf's I tried with gnash, only one worked, and
only partially.

> E.g., Eric Raymond and Rob Landley's recent "World Domination 201" piece
> (http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/world-domination/world-domination-201.html)
> puts considerable stress on need to Linspire, Inc.'s possible role in giving
> Linux (by which the authors really just mean i386/x86_64 Linux) access to
> Windows Media Format codecs, courtesy of that company's patent rights
> gained in a trademark lawsuit settlement (when Microsoft Corp. was
> temporarily forced to deal because of the extreme weakness of their 
> trademark claim on the name "Windows".  However, no sooner was the
> virtual ink on that screed dry when Microsoft Corp. introduced new, more
> handcuffed AV files with Windows Media Player 11 for XP/Vista --
> information about which Microsoft declines to pass along to Linspire.

I think it's also worth mentioning here that neither Windows Media Player
10 nor 11 files will ever play on OS X. Those versions do not introduce
anything codec-wise, only DRM.

> I pointed out to Raymond and Landley that at least _one_ of their
> claims, that Linux workstations cannot use Apple Computer's (excuse me,
> Apple, Inc.'s) iTunes Music Store, is simply incorrect.  Again, it was
> Ubuntu's excellent RestrictedFormats page that clarified this:
>   o  An unofficial plugin [link] for the Banshee Player supports the store
>      but needs to be obtained from subversion and compiled. 
>   o  You can also use Wine [link] or CodeWeavers' CrossOver Office [link]
>      to install the Windows version of iTunes on Ubuntu
> The second of those would work only on i386 and 86_64.  Both options
> are obviously currently not feasible for naive users, but the first of
> the two could be made so, especially since it doesn't threaten Apple's
> "FairPlay" [sic] Digital Restrictions Management control of the music
> you "buy" [sic] from iTMS:  Files you download remain DRMed, and will
> be, as the page says "useless outside of iTunes or an iPod, because they
> are encrypted for the purpose of restricting their use".[1]

Pedanticity time: According to the CodeWeavers booth at MacWorld,
"CrossOver Office" no longer exists.

> Speaking of that, the RestrictedFormats sub-page on "mp4" (AAC) formats
> (like mp3, encumbered by MPEG patents) is also excellent:
> https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RestrictedFormats/AAC   It clarifies 
> that there's nothing wrong with the real, _regular_ variety of AAC,
> dubbed called the "mp4a" format -- and that the problem is the DRMed
> "FairPlay" variant used on all files you "buy" from iTMS.  That is _not_ 
> regular mp4a, but rather mp4p.  
> I have no doubt we're supposed to consider the "p" to stand for
> "protected".  However, being tired of MPAA weasel-wording such as
> "Digital _Rights_ Management", I would suggest, instead, thinking of it
> as "p" for perverted.
> [1] However, this knowledge almost certainly will _not_ be rolled into
> the World Domination 201 text, because it is aimed specifically at
> hardware OEMs, and thus needs to concentrate on what's production-ready
> for the masses on Linux _now_.  Therefore, please remember that the
> essay is inherently a _poor guide_ to what is and isn't possible on
> Linux with even small amounts of effort, since that isn't its goal and
> you are definitely not its target audience, no matter how "new" to Linux
> you consider yourself.

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