Ubuntu Disapointment

One thing I ranted about multiple times in my blog over the years is how Linux distributions have failed to provide their content in Ogg format. Especially when the content is targeted at Linux users it suprise me that they do not make sure to have the video available in the format that basically all linux users have support for out of the box. That said both Red Hat and Novell has actually taken this feedback to heart and more often than not they do provide Ogg videos these days (in addition to various other formats).

It saddens me then when I checked out the link in Jono Bacons latest blog entry. Where the Ubuntu MOTU videos seems only to be available in the proprietary Flash format. For a distribution which likes to drape itself so loudly in the colours of community and freedom this is a huge letdown. And while you can view these videos with things like swfdec you still need to have the patent encumbered codecs available through gst-ffmpeg to actually view the videos. Would it be so hard to also offer those videos as a Ogg Theora torrents for instance?

Update: Talked to Jono. Turns out they do plan on making Ogg’s available, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. While I kicked Ubuntu here, it wasn’t really about them specifically, but the fact that even though the tools have gotten quite good and widespread over the last few years in terms of creating Ogg’s the open source or free software community is still rather lackluster in its willingness to try to help push the free formats. Its kinda how I used PNG images on my website even before there was widespread PNG support, cause if my page got just one person (hi mom) to use a PNG supporting browser it was a step forward.


#1 Rob J. Caskey on 06.03.08 at 12:13

Setting up a Torrent, waiting for the user to download the whole file, etc. is too high a barrier of entry for users, otherwise they would just publish their current files as WMV or QuickTime or whatever in a .torrent, but they are choosing to encode it to a format that can be contained in a Flash envelope because that has the currently lowest possible barrier to entry.

Is there even any template code for sniffing out OGG+Theora capable helpers in a browser for all those webmasters running Dreamweaver on Macs?


#2 Hassan D. on 06.03.08 at 12:43

Ubuntu’s “Entry users” are generally windows users who want to migrate to linux or have just done so, I am all for supporting open formats, but in this case using flash makes sense.
Would be good if Jono also put a direct ogg download link, but let’s not make this bigger than it actually is.
one more thing, Jono sure works for Canonical, but you are now talking about his personal Blog, what does this have to do with UBUNTU?

#3 Jeremy on 06.03.08 at 12:50

Ubuntu has always been about attracting Windows users who couldn’t care less about ogg.

#4 uraeus on 06.03.08 at 12:57

@Jeremy, Hassan : uhm, MOTU stuff is targeted at Ubuntu distribution developers, not random users coming in from the Windows world.

@Hassan: What he writed about and links to is MOTU which is an official Ubuntu effort. The reason I link to his blog was because thats is what made me aware of the effort. Jono also use his blog quite explicitly to advocate Ubuntu stuff so the split between Jono ‘personal blog’ and ‘Ubuntu news’ is not that clear cut.

@Rob: Like my first reply, look at the target audience of these specific videos. It is not random people running Mac and Windows, but at people already running Linux. And as I mentioned in my comparison to Red Hat and Novell, they to offer other formats (like Flash), but they do also offer the videos in the format that the audience on Linux can view without grabbing stuff from ‘external’ repositories.

#5 Rob J. Caskey on 06.03.08 at 13:10

In such cases I’d suggest emailing:

“, as of I’m concerned that isn’t available in . Is this because we need to make the transcoding process easier, or because we need to do a better job getting playable in the browsers your visitors are using? It would make me feel great to see served to capable UAs and I would like to know if you think this would be beneficial to your users. Sincerely, .”

If you can honestly say all that, then I’d fire off a similar email, you might be surprised at how happy people would be to give you some feedback.

#6 Jake on 06.03.08 at 14:16

Christian, I’m sorry, where in the world did you get the idea that Ubuntu is about freedom or anything close?

Ubuntu openly compromises freedom for so-called “ease of use”. As other commenters here rationalize, Ubuntu’s choice of format seeks to make it easy to get the content they publish for people who use propietary patent-ridden formats. And they stop there. It’s been like that from the beginning. Over and over again Ubuntu has promised to make it clear to the users that they are installing proprietary drivers yet every time I try the most recent release, I find that proprietary drivers are silently installed.

#7 Maik Merten on 06.03.08 at 14:32

Ubuntu comes with a browser plugin handling Ogg Theora files nicely by default. Ubuntu’s users won’t have to download the file before watching, so at least for “Ubuntu internal” videos just streaming Ogg will usually work.

Having Flash as an alternative version of course may still make sense from a “realworld”/”have a fallback” point of view.

#8 Luis Villa on 06.03.08 at 14:47

For a distribution which likes to drape itself so loudly in the colours of community and freedom this is a huge letdown.

There, fixed that for you ;)

#9 HangLoose on 06.03.08 at 16:04

“…in the colours of community and freedom…”

Speaks about Mono/Moonlight hun ?

#10 Adam Williamson on 06.03.08 at 16:35

You say the tools have gotten quite good, but I actually found this really difficult when I made a quick video to demonstrate Mandriva’s Windows Mobile synchronization support. I simply could not get mencoder to combine a Theora video and a FLAC audio track into a Theora / FLAC or Theora / Vorbis video in a Ogg or MKV container – however I tried to do it, something went wrong. It didn’t have any trouble doing it as Xvid video and MP3 audio in an AVI container, though, so unfortunately I had to go with that in the end.

I know this is vague and not useful as a bug report, but I thought it would be worth recording the experience even so.

#11 jpl on 06.03.08 at 18:40

Another example involving Jono is Lug Radio. Perfect opportunity to showcase how OGG sound files are better quality and smaller than similarly encoded MP3 files.

But the OGGs LR makes available are always (21 vs 18 megabytes for the last episode) *larger* than the MP3s. Why? They encode the OGGs at a higher bitrate. But Joe Schmoe on the street when faced with a 18MB MP3 download versus a 21MB OGG download will intuitively think that OGG sucks.

I emailed them about this over a year ago… no change.

#12 Thomas Vander Stichele on 06.05.08 at 09:15

Ubuntu has always been about ease of use and community first, never freedom. I don’t see why you’re surprised that Ogg is not their format of choice.

#13 Tony Whitmore on 06.09.08 at 12:02

Youtube works with Gnash, so you can view the videos using only Free Software. If the videos were being offered for download rather than streaming then there would be more of a case to make, I think.

#14 Daniel Holbach on 06.09.08 at 14:54

We had plans for making the MOTU Videos available as .ogg files, it just took some more time to get it done (editing, access to videos.ubuntu.com, etc.):

The next ones are going to be released there too.

#15 Lettre Hebdomadaire Ubuntu numéro 94 du 1er au 7 juin 2008. « Lettre Hebdomadaire Ubuntu on 06.13.08 at 22:41

[…] Ubuntu décevante – Christian Schaller dénonce l’incapacité des distributions GNU/Linux à distribuer leur contenu multimédia en format ogg. Le blog de Jono Bacon offrait récement des vidéos de MOTU Ubuntu, mais dans le seul format propriétaire flash. Pour une distribution que se drape si fièrement dans les couleurs de la liberté et de la communauté. […]