GStreamer maintainer Wim Taymans decided that having a brand new GStreamer 1.x series was only worth the effort if we also had some nice up to date documentation for GStreamer 1.0. So over the last week he has been going over the GStreamer Application Development manual making sure it is up to date and fixing all the code examples and adding new chapters even. So if you want to get into GStreamer development our introduction manual should now be a good starting point again!
So I got an email yesterday telling me I hit the 3 Month milestone at Red Hat. It has been an incredible experience so far and it has been a joy meeting all the talented people working for Red Hat here in Brno. Been a lot of ramping up for me, learning and understanding the Red Hat release processes and the tools we use. I think one of the things I appreciated the most during my time here is seeing how Red Hat even now as a large billion dollar company has stayed so true to their values, and how you see the belief in the open source model is not just something you see among the engineers and technical staff, but even among the top manager of the company, going all the way up to the CEO.
There are also a lot of really nice efforts and programs being run here in Brno with the company having an impressive level of interaction and collaboration with the local universities. Red Hat staff do lectures, mentor bachelor and master projects and let a large amount of students work with us as interns. And more often than not those internships leads to a job with Red Hat.
Yesterday we had a big party here in Brno to celebrate the opening of our new office building, as having reached a headcount of 500 here in Brno, the current building was starting to feel quite cramped. The bottom floors of the current building will be emptied out now and rebuilt, so that they are ready to house the next batch of new hires. We have a nice space set aside for the Brno desktop team in the new building, so this Friday we will all be moving there which I think will help us work even better together.
On a personal front my wife and daughter arrived last week after we finally manage to get my wife a visa and this morning the moving truck arrived with our stuff from the UK. Next step is a raid to IKEA to fill in the missing pieces. So all set for the next Months and years here
There is a great conference here in Brno called Rupy, which will be held on November 16th to 18th this year which focuses on state of the art programming languages and related topics. A lot of people from Red Hat here in Brno will attend, but also a lot of people travelling in from abroad. So if you are into programming languages and compilers, be sure to come. And you also get to try some great food and beers here in Brno!
So this news is a couple of days old now, but I wanted to write a blog entry about the exciting release of GStreamer 1.0. When we released GStreamer 0.10 about 7 years ago we did not expect or plan the 0.10 series to last as long as it did, I think if we had it would have been called 1.0 instead of 0.10. Our caution back then was that 0.10 was a quite revolutionary version with the core of GStreamer extensively re-designed around effective use of threads and thread safety. The new GStreamer 1.0 is more of incremental improvement, cleaning up the API and making doing things modern systems expect easier and more straightforward. I think a lot of the work that went into 1.0 could be said to be based on cleaning up the awkward APIs that can evolve as you are not able to change anything existing, just add new stuff that does not affect the old.
That said there are a lot of major improvements to be seen too, with the list that Tim-Phillip Muller put together for the GStreamer website catching the major items:
- more flexible memory handling
- extensible and negotiable metadata for buffers
- caps negotiation and renegotiation mechanisms, decoupled from buffer allocation
- improved caps renegotiation
- automatic re-sending of state for dynamic pipelines
- reworked and more fine-grained pad probing
- simpler and more descriptive audio and video caps
- more efficient allocation of buffers, events and other mini objects
- improved timestamp handling
- support for gobject-inspection-based language bindings
The list can seem a bit technical and dry, but there are a lot of things that will benefit users here once plugins and applications start taking advantage of them. For instance the more flexible memory handling will improve performance when for instance running GStreamer on ARM boards like a Panda board or a Raspberry Pi. The changes will also make it a lot easier to write plugins and use plugins on PC platforms which use the GPU for decoding or encoding and that use OpenGL for rendering the playback. These things where possible with 0.10, but they required a bit more special casing and more code in the plugins and a bit more overhead in setting up the pipeline. If you want a great introduction to what is in this 1.0 release I recommend the keynote by Wim Taymans about GStreamer 1.0 and the GStreamer Status report keynote by Tim-Phillip Müller which both talk alot about the new features and the possibilities they open.
I think that the biggest change for a lot of developers though will be if they are using a language binding for their application, GStreamer 1.0 is offering Gobject introspection bindings support, which means that most bindings from now on will be using that. For Python developers like myself that is a quite big change in API. On the other hand it also does mean that porting to Python3 has become very simple. For Transmageddon I simply ran it through the Python 2to3 script and it just worked.
There are a lot of contributors to this release, and I would love to thank them all, but I think Wim and Tim also deserve a special mention as I don’t think there would be a GStreamer 1.0 without them. Wim has of course been the GStreamer maintainer for a long while and he shepherded this release from the beginning when he was the only developer working on it. Tim has been the GStreamer release manager for a long while now and are doing a wonderful job, fixing a gazillion bugs and making sure we regressions are not allowed to creep into GStreamer releases. He ended up doing a lot of heavy lifting to get the final GStreamer 0.11 test releases and the final 1.0 out the door. So a big big thanks to both of them.
Another person I want to give an extra kudos to is Bastien Nocera who have done a lot of working porting GNOME applications to GStreamer 1.0, there is and was of course a lot of other people involved in that process too, but Bastien did an incredible job working through that list and writing patches to port many of them over.
What I am really looking forward to now is the release of Fedora 18 as I think it will be the first chance for a lot of users and developers to try out all the great work that has been done on GStreamer 1.0 and porting applications over to it. I am personally targeting Fedora 18 with Transmageddon, doing my current testing and development on a F18 system, making sure things like the PackageKit integration is working smoothly.
I think most people are aware of the Humble Bundle which have been releasing a range of cool and great games on Linux since they started up. The games though has usually tended to be distributed as a tarball and doesn’t automatically integrate itself into your Fedora system like you would like. Well thanks to the cool effort called Mumble RPMS you can now turn all those tarballs from the Humble Bundle into nice RPMS for Fedora. So a big thanks to the author of Muble RPMS for doing this work!
I have made a first test release of Transmageddon today, 0.23. It is the first release depending on GStreamer 0.11/1.0 and GTK3. It also features a little bit of GNOME Shell and Unity integration in the form of a notification message when its done transcoding and the menu has been moved into the shell. You can find the test release in the pre-release directory on linuxrising.org. Let me know if you have any issues so I can try to fix them before I make a final stable release when GStreamer 1.0 is released. Be aware that you want the GStreamer 0.11 releases from yesterday to try this release.
The above screenshot is taken on my Fedora 18 test system!
So I am looking to hire two more people to join our team. So if you ever wanted to join the worlds leading Linux company and work on making the desktop rock this is your chance.
The first position I have available at this point is for a Webkit developer. We have a lot of applications these days in the desktop relying on Webkit and we need someone in the team who can both work on making sure our webkit packages in Red Hat Enterprise Linux(RHEL) and Fedora are kept up to date, but also work with other desktop team members with application integration issues and so on. You will also have time to work upstream to help push Webkit and especially WebKitGTK+ forward.
The second position I am looking for a candidate for is working on the Evolution email client. Evolution has been with us for quite some time and thanks to the effort of the current development team a lot of important infrastructure work has been done, like a new accounts system and the soon to be finished migration to Webkit. But we want to make sure Evolution keeps progressing and have the features it needs to be the primary email client for both Fedora and RHEL users. In addition to the work on Fedora and RHEL this job will include working on upstream Evolution and upstream libraries used by Evolution, such as WebKit, OpenChange and Kolab.
Also beyond these jobs Red Hat is looking for more people with Python development experience to join our 500 strong team here in Brno, Czech Republic, so even if the two jobs above is not your cup of tea, but you do have Python experience and joining Red Hat in Brno is something that could be of interest to you, please get in touch and I well put you in contact with the right people here. We are looking both of all levels for these python jobs, so both people fresh of out Uni or with many years of experience should get in touch. Be aware that these python jobs are not in the Desktop team though, but in some of our other cool teams here.
So if any of the above is of interest to you please contact me on cschalle(at)redhat(dot)com.
So thanks to Ubicast we now have the recordings of this years talks available online. A couple of talks got lost due to technical issues, but most of them are there and I hope you enjoy them. We are collecting the slides at the GStreamer Conference 2012 wiki page, but be aware that we are having some issues with the wiki this morning.
Sometimes we get questions about if GStreamer can scale to handle really complex pipelines. Well thanks to Kipp Cannon and his talk at this years GStreamer Conference we know have the answer.
They are part of a research project called LIGO which is doing researching gravitaional waves, which can be described as ripples in the fabric of space-time. Kipp is part of the LIGO Data Analysis Software Working Group which has develop a what the call gstlal.
P.S. You might want to download and view the following with an image viewer application as the browser struggles to render it in any detail
Anyway, to make a long story short, their pipeline looks something like this image (created with the built in graph dump functionality of GStreamer using graphviz).
If you ever seen a bigger pipeline please let me know Also it should alleviate any concerns you might have about GStreamers scalability.
So Miguael de Icaza posted a blog with his opinion about why Desktop Linux has not become a huge success. The core of his argument seems to be that the lack of ABI stability was the main reason we didn’t get a significant market share in the desktop market. Personally I think this argument doesn’t hold water at all and the comparison with MacOS X a bit random.
So I think there are a lot of contributing factors to our struggle in the desktop market like:
- We are trying to compete with a near monopoly (Windows)
- Companies tend to depend on a myriad of applications to run their business, and just a couple of them not running under Linux
would be enough to derail a transition to Linux desktops
- We were competing not only with other operating systems, but with a Office productivity application monopoly
- We are trying to compete by supporting an unlimited range of hardware options
- We divided our efforts into multiple competing APIs (GNOME vs KDE)
- There was never a clear method of distributing software on Linux outside the distro specific package system.
- Many of our underlaying systems were a bit immature
- Software patents on multimedia codecs made it hard to create a good out of the box experience for multimedia
- Competing with free applications is never a tempting proposition for 3rd party vendors
- We never reached a critical mass where porting to desktop Linux tended to make sense
- An impression was created that Linux users would not pay for any software
- The different update cycles of the distributions made it hard to know when a new API would be available ‘everywhere’
- Success in other areas drained resources away from the desktop
The Apple Myth
So how did Apple succeed? Well first of all the question needs to be asked if they have succeeded? When Steve Jobs came back to Apple I think their global market share for personal computers was down to just below 5% if my memory serves me correct. According to Wikipedia (not the best proof of anything, but lets assume they are in the ballpark) their marketshare is now about 7.5%. So in other words on the back of being the media darling and record breaking products such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad, they have managed to increase their market share with 2.5% in the PC market. I think that speaks volumes about the challenges posted by the first two items in my list above. Another thing that is both an advantage for Apple and a disadvantage at the same time is that they got their own hardware. In the advantage collumn that means that their developers had a very limited set of hardware configurations to support and they could ensure MacOS X ran well on that configuration. We on the other hand have been struggling with trying to support basically any random configuration out there, which means ensuring a problem free experience for everyone is next to impossible. Of course I think only supporting your own hardware also does sometimes makes things harder for Apple, because if a company was considering switching to MacOS X they would have to throw away all their existing hardware, which I am sure makes a lot of companies think twice if contemplating switching.
Apple were also able to build on their old market share when launching MacOS X, which means they have had a profitable ecosystem all the way. So for instance porting games has provided enough income to support companies in keep doing so. While for Linux it has often been a proposition of trying to build a market when considering porting to Linux.
So I could go intro great detail for each of my bullet points, but I think they are quite self explanatory. But my general point is that I when I ask myself if I think our market share would be significantly higher if our ABI stability had been even better, the answer is no. Not that I am saying I think it has had no impact at all, I am sure examples exist of ABI breakage or distro fragmentation having caused 3rd party software developers to shy away, but I don’t really believe Linux would have had for instance a 10% marketshare today if only our ABI stability had been better over the last 10 years. But maybe it would have added another 0.2% or something in that range.
But as I said in an earlier blog post, I am not negative about the future of Linux and open source on the desktop. I just think it is a lot slower slog to get there than we hoped for, and I do honestly feel that we have a much more compelling product to offer today than we did 10 years ago in comparison with Windows and MS Office. But the challenges in my bullet point list remain and overcoming them has been and will continue to be something we have to chip away at, one step at a time. And in the meantime linux and open source software is still doing extremely well in a lot of other end user facing market segments where the competition was not so strongly entrenched, like mobile phones, tablets, TVs, set top boxes, in-flight entertainment systems, in-vehicle entertainment systems, home applicances and so on.