Back from GStreamer Conference 2012

Came back last evening from the GStreamer Conference and I am now back in Cambridge for the weekend. The GStreamer Conference was a lot of fun this year and it was great seeing everyone again. I think the mixture of talks we had this year was really good and I think everyone attending enjoyed themselves. For those who missed the conference this year then Phoronix and posted articles from the Conference. The talks where also recorded and will soon be available at the Ubicast GStreamer Conference website. We did try to get livestreaming going this year, but due to technical problems it didn’t work out, but maybe next year.

A big thank you again to our Gold Sponsor Collabora and our Silver Sponsors Entropy Wave, Fluendo, Igalia and Google. Thanks also goes to, Phoronix and Ubicast for making sure the talks and sessions at the GStreamer Conference can reach a wide an audience as possible. And last but not least a big thanks to all our conference speakers who took the time and effort to prepare presentations for this years GStreamer Conference.

For me personally the GStreamer Conference this year also marks the end of my life in Cambridge, UK. Starting from next week I will have completed my period of comuting to Brno, and will instead be living in Brno, Czech Republic on a permanent basis. Which reminds me, we are looking to hire more members to our Brno desktop engineering team, so I will be posting a blog soon outlining what kind of experience we are looking for.

The Future of GNOME

Having just returned from GUADEC and now having the desktop as my job focus I been thinking about where we are going and what to do next. Benjamin managed to get quite a bit of press for his abysmally negative post, but I think his mis-stated the situation quite badly. As Dave Mason said during the history of GNOME talk, we have more or less always feel threatned and felt at times that we had an insurmountable task competing against systems with a lot more developers available than we do. There are some dark clouds in the skies, no doubt about that, but when hasn’t there been in the 15 years of GNOMEs existence? For instance the current tug of war between the GNOME shell and Unity? We have been there before, with Ximian and Eazel pushing competing visions for the GNOME desktop back in the day. Major corporate backers leaving (Nokia) or being in trouble(Novell)? Eazel and Ximian again. GNOME being perceived as being Red Hat only? That was the exact story that was being pushed before Sun and Ximian came on the scene. GNOME 3 turning away users? Hey, I can tell you that the amount of flames we got for GNOME 2 easily beats the GNOME 3 flames.

But for each of those events in the past we ended up bouncing back stronger afterwards, and I suspect we will come back with a vengance this time too. The thing is a lot of things are actually going very well. First of all the are a lot more shared projects with a healthy amount of resources behind them these days. WebKit is a great example of a project of crucial importance to GNOME, but which we share with a lot of other projects and companies. Take LibreOffice for example, yes LibreOffice do not contribute a lot of git commits to the GNOME git respository statistics, but thanks to LibreOffice we have the best and most full featured Office suite ever available to our users. And thanks to Firefox and Chrome we have browsers available with world known brands. And thanks to GStreamer, which is on freedesktop, we have a world class multimedia framework available. Instead of having our own sound server like we did with ESD, we now share a top notch sound server with all linux systems in the form of Pulse Audio.

Back during the GNOME 2 development cycle the GNOME project took an active decision that we would try to reach out to more of these external projects and try to work with them to integrate them into the GNOME experience. And we have succeeded at that, which of course have the side effect that instead of having all that development happen inside GNOME, we have bigger more active GNOME friendly projects doing these things outside GNOME.

We also made a conscious decision to focus on draining the swamp, which meant that instead of trying to work around issues and come up with funky configuration options on the user interface level to deal with missing features and bugs in the underlaying system, we instead have tried working with and contributing to fixing things in the underlaying levels. This of course moves attention away from ‘GNOME’, because people then commit their new fixes to those underlaying systems instead of implementing 100 000 lines of workaround code to ‘GNOME’, I mean I still consider Lennart Poettering a GNOME hacker even though his current work isn’t on anything in the GNOME git repository. But that does not mean that GNOME does not benefit greatly from these improvements.

So as we have succeeded in all these goals, GNOME should be a leaner setup than it used to be, as we don’t have to do all the heavy lifting inside the GNOME project anymore and that is a good thing.

As for projects such as Unity, well personally I don’t mind them at all. I mean I always saw XFCE as being a strenght and benefit to GNOME as it brought more users and developers to the shared library stack, and there is nothing different with Unity. And yes, there are some unfortunate duplications which seems redundant even in the context of differentiation, like the GNOME Online Accounts and Ubuntu Online accounts split, but hopefully we can work together to resolve such things over time.

And as for taking the desktop to the next level I think the main challenge for GNOME is not inside the GNOME 3 desktop, but instead it is a question of if the open source community can come together around pushing things like the Linux OpenGL support forward and make sure we have a strong foundation for supporting games and improving visual effects in the desktop. I for one really hope that Valve’s decision to support Linux with Steam, and the success of the Humble Bundle games on Linux, will help rally support behind the efforts to get Mesa to support newer iterations of OpenGL and get the open source Nvidia and AMD drivers in shape. Microsoft has long ago abanndoned PC gaming in favour of the Xbox, lets see if we can make Linux fill the gap.

In general I am very optimistic about the future, the strenght of the open source ecosystem is not that we have more developers to assign to a given project at a given time than Windows or Mac, but no matter what they do we keep moving forward on all fronts, so while Apple and Microsoft focus on beating each other in the tablet and phone space, maybe the time is ripe for us to strenghten our positions in the server and desktop markets? I mean tablets and phones might be all the rage atm, and maybe they are bigger markets than the traditional server and desktop market, but the server and desktop markets are still huge and ripe with opportunity if we play our cards right. And if we can deprive Microsoft of things like their Office cash cow, then that levels the playing field all the more when we later take them on again in other areas.

GStreamer Conference 2012 Schedule online!

I am very happy to announce that the schedule for this years GStreamer Conference is available. The schedule includes talks about GStreamer 1.0, the new GStreamer SDK, GStreamer security and quality and hardware enablement with GStreamer. But we also have a great range of talks on related topics like Wayland, ALSA, V4L and the Opus Codec, so there should be something for everyone.

This year the GStreamer Conference is being hosted in the US for the first time, so we hope a lot of you will make your way down to San Diego at the end of August to attend. If you are only attending one conference about Linux Multimedia this year, then this should be it :)

A big thanks goes to the sponsors of this years GStreamer Conference which includes our Gold Sponsor Collabora and our Silver sponsors Entropy wave, Fluendo, Igalia and Google.

Also a special thanks to this years press and media partners., and UbiCast

GStreamer and the Google Summer of Code 2012

A big thanks to Google for making GStreamer part of also this years Google Summer of Code. For those of you who might not know the Google Summer of Code it is basically a program that lets you do a summer internship with various leading open source projects and get paid for it (if you are a student).

So if you always wanted to get involved with the GStreamer project and become a multimedia wizard, this is a great way to do so. The process is quite simply, you write a proposal for what you want to do (some possible suggestions and info found here) and submit it to Google when the application period starts on the 26th of March. Before then you would do well to speak with us on IRC or email lists to discuss your project to maximise your chances of getting selected.

We have a special Google Summer of Code student information page with information on what the GStreamer project specifically expects of you and your proposal. So for those interested that should be a good starting point.

Hope to see many great applications this year on either GStreamer itself or GStreamer using projects. And remember, you don’t have to feel bound by our suggestion list, if you have a great idea for a project that involves GStreamer, then we are happy to mentor it, just be sure to talk to us as soon as possible so we can let you know if we think it is a suitable Summer of Code project.

A day in my life with the GNOME Shell

So I have been using the GNOME shell for quite some time now, and I guess like any desktop experience it has its ups and downs, but at least I think I reached a stage where my remaining quibbles with the GNOME Shell is related to how it works as opposed to irritations caused by me being used to something else. One thing I keep asking myself is if GNOME Shell has in any way made me more or less productive, my guess is that the change has been mostly productivity neutral once I got used to the new setup.

That said I have some smallish irritations with the GNOME Shell, the biggest being that the menu system feels slow, it feels distinctly slower than GNOME 2.x to click into Activities->Applications->Category to get to the application I am looking for, especially if I haven’t done so in a bit and the icons have to be pulled from disk. Also the fact that the categories is on the right side of the screen means a long mouse journey across the screen to get to the categories, and then a long mouse journey usually back towards the left side of the screen to click on the application I want. Ok, so this is not an operation I perform every 5 minutes, but still it feels a bit to laborious for what it is.

The other frustration I have is with the notification dock at the bottom of the screen, but I suspect this is mostly application issues. Like for instance gtimelog seems to have a different behaviour if you click on the text or the icon, and with the icon being so small I sometimes overshot, which causes the irritation of having to move a ‘long’ way back to due the neighbouring icon having expanded. Other small irritations includes the the Banshee icon saying ‘notify-sharp’ instead of Banshee and getting a ton of notification messages on the status bar as peoples IM client set them to offline/away etc.

Hmm, actually having written my irritations down I do feel they feel rather small and insignificant, yet if someone sees this I hope these items will be improved upon for future versions.

Also I do think that the system menu should offer shut down/restart by default, if I hadn’t seen someone mentioning it on IRC some Months back I am sure I to this day wouldn’t have realized I could press ‘alt’ to get shutdown/reboot to appear in the menu. I know there is an extension now, but it is such a basic operation that should require knowing ‘secret’ buttons getting an extension.

Gustavo Noronha Silva Interview about WebKit

Just posted another interview on the Collabora website, this time with Gustavo Noronha Silva talking about WebKit and some of the work he and Collabora are doing around that project. So be sure to check it out if you want to learn more about things like WebKit and Clutter integration and how WebKit impacts the GNOME platform.

HTML5, Video editing and the Collabora website

So I did a bit of work last week to convert the Collabora website to HTML5. The actual porting was quite simple, mostly replacing the DOCTYPE tag to the new HTML5 one. Found a few other issues through the W3C validator, but nothing major. Today I took the next (small) step in the process by actual adding some real HTML5 content to the site. Actually I only sort of did. Instead of hosting the video locally and using the new video tag I ended up uploading it to youtube and embedding the WebM video in our page. The small video clip I added is demonstrating the HTML5 video editing demo we released recently. (For those of you who missed it I recommend the HTML5 video editing blog entry by Mateu Batle, which explains the whole thing in detail and also links to the code).

The demo, while simple, is quite cool, showing off our HTML5 based touch screen interface all built on top of Webkit and the GStreamer Editing Services. The embedded video is to be found on the GStreamer Editing Services page.

As a sidenote, to make this I actually relied on the GNOME 3 built in screen capture support, which I have to say worked like a charm :) Always felt screen casting to be a pain before, but this time it worked very well for me.

Farstream and libnice, an interview with Youness Alaoui

After the success of the GStreamer interview with Wim Taymans I thought we follow up with another great interview with a Collabora developer.

This time we are talking with Youness Alaoui who is one of the maintainers of Farstream, the audio and video conferencing framework built on top of GStreamer. We also cover another of Youness Alaoui projects, libnice, the NAT traversal library. So if you want to know what is happening with audio and video conferencing on Linux be sure to read the full interview with Youness Alaoui here.

First GStreamer 0.11 out, GStreamer 1.0 looming on the horizon

GStreamer maintainer Wim Taymans just released the first 0.11 development release of GStreamer. The 0.11 development series will lead up to the long awaited GStreamer 1.0 release!

The changes from 0.10.x to 0.11 might seem quite technical and obscure to most, with items such as reworked buffer memory management, arbitrary buffer metadata and integrated bufferpool management being among the advertised features, but all these changes are made to help GStreamer make significant leaps forward in terms of integration with hardware codecs like VAAPI and VDPAU and of course hardware codecs on embedded platforms like ARM for instance the OpenMax IL API. There are also a lot of important performance improvements, which will make applications like Totem and Banshee more snappy to use, but you probably will see the biggest improvements in applications like PiTiVi who relies on more complex pipelines and thus more complex pipeline negotiations. For devices which got more constrained CPU resources, like various embedded systems, these performance gains should also be very noticeable.

At Collabora we are putting a lot of effort towards GStreamer 1.0, most visible through letting Wim put most of his work hours into it, in collaboration with our partners at Texas Instruments. GStreamer is not just another open source project for us at Collabora, it is something we are truly passionate about. The open source software ecosystem can not compete with proprietary systems unless we have a top notch media framework and with GStreamer we are providing exactly that. Ever since the release of GStreamer 0.10 the project has gone from strength to strength, and when 1.0 gets released later this year it will be another major milestone towards world domination :)

For those interested to learn more about GStreamer 1.0 you have two good opportunities coming up, Collabora’s own Wim Taymans and Edward Hervey will be doing a talk about GStreamer 1.0 at the Desktop Summit on 8th of August. And Wim will also be doing a keynote speech about GStreamer 1.0 at the GStreamer Conference 2011 in October. So I hope to see you there.

I am also working on an interview with Wim Taymans about GStreamer 1.0 so if you have any questions you would like me to include, feel free to add them to the comments section of this blog post.

We will also be organizing some 0.11 hackfests online where people like Wim, Tim and Edward will be online to answer porting questions and the community can work together to port all important plugins to 0.11. There is some early stage porting documentation to be found here.

For now, go to the GStreamer website and grab the 0.11 tarballs and give them a spin, and if you have any questions, remember you are always welcome in #gstreamer on