End of vacation

So I have been away for two weeks on vacation. While I figured I needed it I don’t think I realized how much I actually needed it :) Spent most of my time in Norway offline, partly by choice. Just spending two weeks relaxing either at home or hiking through the Oslo forest or hanging out with friends. I also grew myself a little beard while on vacation, and I think I will try to keep it around for a while :)

Since my experiment with bringing Norwegian Rakfisk worked our quite will after Christmas I decided to bring along another item of Norwegian food this time. So hopefully later this week I will be able to invite people to a delicous meal based on whale meat.

Nice developments


There are lot of nice developments happening these days. After having been using Banshee for a while I have to say that Rhythmbox have won me back. The work that has been put into polishing RB over the last months have been incredible. There are so many little details I just love now with the current GUI, like the beautifuly fading in/out of album covers. I am also happy to see that all my emusic bought songs gets album cover art now in rb, something I never got before with any other player. The Play queue in sidebar option is also very nice, and the source list has been polished up and just looks sweet atm. Thanks!
Also happy that the Rhythmbox team is now working on relicensing RB to the same licensing setup used for Totem enabling distro’s to both ship RB and also ship support for non-free formats like Windows Media and MPEG.


Totem has also gotten a lot of love recently, especially the Mozilla/Firefox/Epiphany etc. plugin. It now registers itself with four plugins in order to handle as many as possible of those weird detection scripts used out there, with one plugin pretending to be Windows Media player, one pretending to be Real Player, one pretending to be Quicktime player and finally one being just Totem :). Also been a lot of work on the playlist handling fixing a bug where in some cases Totem handed GStreamer a playlist instead of the actual media uri. A big thanks to Bastien and Christian Perch for this work. We did find a few new bugs due to it in some GStreamer plugins, but hopefully we get on top of those quickly enough.

Fluendo Windows Media plugins

The Fluendo windows Media plugins continues to see a lot of work and polish. One thing we are working on getting working perfectly currently is allowing you to transcode only one of the streams in a file. For instance the pipeline below would convert the WMA audio into MP3 while keeping the WMV video as it is. The advantage of being able to do this is that the video quality doesn’t get further degraded as video isn’t decoded and encoded again, its just demux and remuxed back in with the transcoded audio.

gst-launch filesrc location=leavestech_gp_0516_700.wmv ! fluasfdemux name=demux .stream_2 ! queue max-size-time=0 max-size-buffers=0 ! progressreport name=v ! fluasfmux name=mux ! filesink location=leavestech_as_mp3.wmv demux.stream_1 ! queue max-size-time=0 max-size-buffers=0 ! fluwmadec ! audioconvert ! progressreport name=audio ! lame ! mux. -v

Vacation time

Heading up to Norway on Sunday for a two week vacation. It is actually the longest non-stop vacation I ever had (not counting my between jobs trip around the world). Looking forward to relaxing and spending time with my family. Only thing that frustrates me before leaving is that I managed to forget to go to the Spanish tax office today to pick up my certificate showing I am a Spanish resident and tax payer now. Well I guess at this point two more weeks doesn’t matter that much anyway.

HP and the GPL3

There is an article on news.com talking about objections from Hewlett Packard to the patent provisions of the GPL3. First of all I hope Hewlett Packard don’t get to much traction on their change suggestion, as their change suggestion looks to me like they make the patent protection provisions of the GPL3 even weaker than those of the GPL2. I think that the GPL is powerful enough at this point to be used as a way to weaken the software patent regime. Bad bad HP.

On the topic of PC makers, my laptop harddisk broke down yesterday. Luckily we have a on-site support contract with Dell so a technician will be here tomorrow morning to fix it. A bit frustrated that they couldn’t come today, but I guess we are not paying the kind of money to have that kind of availability. By the luck of the gods
I did do a full home area backup Tuesday. So today I am using our spare laptop running from a ubuntu live CD. I will miss my data though, but I guess I can manage until tomorrow.

Linux Desktop and Games

Noticed a discussion on Slashdot on the state of Linux for games, spawned by a (not so good) article on Cedega.

One of the main arguments brought up which is probably true is that the PC gaming market is dying/declining, due to the increased popularity of consoles. It rhymes well with my own experience as those of my friends who do game a lot have basically switched from PC gaming to Playstation/Xbox gaming over the last two/three years. If you as a game company is moving your focus from PC’s to consoles anyway I guess looking at adding more ‘PC platforms’ to your supported list is quite far down the todo list.

That said there are still some major titles coming out with primarly the PC platform in mind and I don’t accept all the arguments made for why these don’t have a native linux port.

One argument I noticed cropping up was that of easy of porting between XBox and PC platform while the Linux/OpenGL/SDL/OpenAL port was harder. I doubt this is the real problem. For example I did expect more Linux games to come out when the Playstation 2 came out and used GCC and OpenGL due to ease of porting, but no such ports seemed to happen. Today MacOS X uses OpenGL and OpenAL on a Unix core with gcc, yet few of titles released for Apple also get a GNU/Linux port. So I think the Linux ports gets axed before the difficulty of porting question even arises.

Another question is if there are enough linux users out there to warrant a port, or at least enough linux users interesting in playing games to warrant a port. That is a hard question to answer. Loki Games did go under as many have pointed out, but in the aftermath its hard to say if it was mismanagement or lack of sales killing that company. Claims have been made in both directions. I would also hope that we have managed to grow the overall size of the linux userbase since the days of Loki which might have changed the dynamics if Loki where doing business today. There are other linux porting houses like Linux Games Publishing and Runesoft around and they seem to be surviving, even if they mostly do smaller titles. Transgaming looks like they are doing a healthy business currently, somewhat on the back of the enduring popularity of World Of Warcraft no doubt. So there definetly is a sustainable market for games and games related products on GNU/Linux. Based on some comments I saw from a Epic or Id person a couple of months ago I guess it is more of the ‘we don’t lose money on doing linux ports’ category though as opposed to ‘doing linux ports gives us a nice bundle of extra cash’. We need to get to the second of these two before the major game houses start paying attention I think.

Linux gaming is hampered still by shitty drivers for 3D, yet I am unsure about how direct impact this have on the lack of game ports. At the level the decision is taken at a company about wether to support Linux or not I don’t think there would be awareness of the state of Linux 3D drivers. NVidia’s proprietary drivers are probably the only ones out there that provides the quality and performance you want for playing newer titles. Intel’s drivers are good, but Intel is currently aiming at the low-end graphics market which kills them for a lot of the current games I think. ATI as many have pointed out provide really shitty Linux drivers. I don’t understand fully why they get away with it. I mean according to the grapevine the reason these drivers exist is due to the animation companies wanting them for their renderfarms. Well if that is true I don’t understand how said companies accept drivers which such horrid performance, being about 50% the speed of the same driver for Windows. Losing 50% performance on your renderfarm due to bad drivers would cause a lot of angry customers I would assume?

Anyway for someone contemplating a port, there might be some awareness that 3D accelleration under Linux has some kind of problems, even if the don’t know the details, which wouldn’t be helping their value estimation of the linux market of course. That said it seems to me people in the community are activly trying to buy NVidia or Intel using hardware these days, so hopefully the general image of bad 3D support will lessen over time due to that. It also has to be said in defence of ATI that it do seem like they are trying to improve their drivers currently. The release of AIGXL and XGL seems to have made them decide to put some more resources onto their drivers. Time will tell.

In regards to the general market size, I saw this
article today
which is Red Hat talking about Xen. More importantly to this entry though is that it also reports both Novell and Red Hat seeing rapidly growing interest in deploying GNU/Linux destops. As a digression I wonder how important the major GNU/Linux and Solaris vendors having standarized on GNOME is for this surge in interest. The Windows games market where built on the back of home office PC’s, so maybe that can/will be our path too.