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MP3's Loss, Open Source's Gain 331

Posted by kdawson
from the chicken-or-the-ogg dept.
nadamsieee refers us to a piece up at Wired on the fallout from Microsoft's recent courtroom loss to Alcatel-Lucent over MP3 patents. From the article: "Alcatel-Lucent isn't the only winner in a federal jury's $1.52 billion patent infringement award against Microsoft this week. Other beneficiaries are the many rivals to the MP3 audio-compression format... Now, with a cloud over the de facto industry standard, companies that rely on MP3 may finally have sufficient motivation to move on. And that raises some tantalizing possibilities, including a real long shot: Open-source, royalty-free formats win."
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MP3's Loss, Open Source's Gain

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  • by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:15PM (#18172336) Homepage
    And that raises some tantalizing possibilities, including a real long shot: Open-source, royalty-free formats win.

    Why is it always Ogg Vorbis? What about FLAC? [sourceforge.net]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Smallest (26153)
      storage might be less of an issue, but streaming .WAV files would suck suck suck
    • Because lossy and lossless formats fill different niches.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:20PM (#18172436)
      Yeah! And what kind of name is Ogg Vorbis anyway!? ..

      Stupid stupid name!
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:44PM (#18172906) Homepage Journal
        This leads me to a question I've wanted to ask the Slashdot community:

        When music files are available on a website, which format makes you happiest?

        I've considered all the usual suspects, mp3, ogg, flac, even wma. If you were visiting a website of a favorite musician, in which format would you prefer to see the music offered? DRM is absolutely not an issue, but I might attach a small digital "tag" or signature (audible or inaudible at the end of the file), not to prevent copying, but rather to identify the piece's author.

        If you have time I'm even interested in knowing which bitrate you'd prefer and whether 5.1 surround vs regular stereo is important to you.

        Thanks.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LunaticTippy (872397)
          I like 128k mp3 AND either high-bitrate mp3 or flac. Even on a modem a 128k mp3 is downloadable and they sound ok. If it's really good I like to see a high quality option. You'll probably lose some interest if people have to download 50MB just to see if they like it. I don't care about 5.1 surround. Too much music I already have is stereo.

          I used to prefer ogg on principle, but frankly I'm too lazy. I have a swim-proof mp3 player and anything can play mp3s. I got tired of fighting $5 mp3 players, mp3
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Vintermann (400722)
            These days I'm grateful if it plays non-DRM-encumbered formats, let alone open formats :-/
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by caluml (551744)
            I used to prefer ogg on principle, but frankly I'm too lazy. I have a swim-proof mp3 player and anything can play mp3s. I got tired of fighting $5 mp3 players, mp3 players in cars, and mp3-only device categories.

            Yep. And the date that the patent expires isn't that far away now.
        • by QuasiEvil (74356) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @05:13PM (#18173490)
          The obvious answer is lossless (FLAC, etc.) so that I can store it perfectly and then recompress it into whatever I need. However, that takes a lot of bandwidth to distribute, so I'd have to say my next choice would be high bitrate MP3s (256 or 320kbps) because they work *everywhere*. (I can't tell the difference, so I stick to 256kbps myself. I'd like to see a statistically valid double blind test that shows any difference in perception.)

          I admire the Ogg Vorbis project for creating a free codec that may not be patent-encumbered, but my cars and my iPod don't play ogg files. Considering that I think of my cars as my personal listening studio, well, they're first on the importance list when it comes to compatibility. MP3 for me, and it will be for the foreseeable future.

          • by Anonymous Coward
            Acutally, all formats may be in danger. The Alcatel-Lucent-Bell Labs patent is very generic and can theoretically be applied to all digital audio formats.

            http://crunchgear.com/2007/02/24/patent-monkey-det ails-on-alcatels-15-b-win-against-microsoft/ [crunchgear.com]

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Bob Uhl (30977)

            I'd like to see a statistically valid double blind test that shows any difference in perception.

            Better than a simple double-blind test: a (double-blind, of course) triangle test. In a triangle test, each subject is given three samples of two substances and is asked which two are the same, and which he prefers. Answers to the second question are only counted if the first question is correct.

            This is used a lot of in beer tastings, in order to help eliminate a little bit of untrustworthiness from the res

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Do like that site in Russia does - keep a lossless copy on the backend and then allow the customer to specify the format and bitrate and then do a transcode on the fly. You can make it simple for non-geeks by providing a short list of typical encodings with short descriptions as to what they are good for, and then charge less for the lower-quality versions (or charge more for the higher-quality, just depends on you look at it). You could even pre-encode a couple of common formats if you worry about cpu ut
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by alx5000 (896642)
        I want my... I want my Mp3...
        I want my... I want my Mp3...

        Now look at them Lucents
        That's the way you do it
        You play your music on your Mp3
        That ain't workin'!
        That's the way you do it
        Get your money for patents
        and your suits for free

        Now that ain't workin'
        That's the way you do it
        Lemme tell you these guys ain't dumb
        Maybe get a lawsuit for your little codec
        Maybe get a lawsuit for your Zune

        We gotta install class action lawyers
        Custom codec circuitery
        We gotta move these patent infringements
        We gotta move these Alcatel
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        It's a better name than GIMP.
      • by matt me (850665) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @06:54PM (#18175046)

        Yeah! And what kind of name is Ogg Vorbis anyway!? ..
        You think Moving Picture Experts Group-1 Audio Layer 3 has a certain buzz to it?
    • by mumblestheclown (569987) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:20PM (#18172442)
      Why not? Beacause at some point you reach the point of diminishing returns. There is always the next great format that is n% better. But at some point people just don't care any more. Do you look at the file size of your mp3s any more? can you REALLY tell the difference between 256khz and 512khz (hint: if you say 'yes', you are lying). At some point you have to stop fighting over that last n% and start working towards what is achievable. To put it another way, you have to stop playing theory (the art of the theoretically possible), and start playing politics (the art of achieving the practically doable.)
      • by garcia (6573) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:25PM (#18172556)
        can you REALLY tell the difference between 256khz and 512khz (hint: if you say 'yes', you are lying).

        If you can't then your hardware for listening sucks. Put on a set of great headphones and tell me you can't hear the noise in a 256k lossy music file created from a CD. Make a FLAC of that same file and tell me if you hear that noise.

        FLAC is far superior to any lossy formats but it creates absolutely huge files and yes I do pay attention to the size of my music collection because it's all in FLAC or SHN.
        • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:53PM (#18173058) Journal
          I prefer to keep a portable turntable in my pants. The vinyl tends to skip when I fart, but I can really hear the difference between crappy digital and the analog. The vinyl record sounds better too.
        • by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @05:02PM (#18173276) Homepage

          If you can't then your hardware for listening sucks. Put on a set of great headphones and tell me you can't hear the noise in a 256k lossy music file created from a CD.


          All the double-blind tests by audiophiles at Hydrogenaudio and other sites that due true ABX testing disagree with you. For most people, most of the time, with most types of music, pretty much every modern codec is transparent well below 256kbps.

          Yes, people can train themselves to listen for the specific artifacts of different codecs, but if you're not an audio engineer, why would you want to?
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @05:38PM (#18173856)
          So I should buy better hardware so I can hear the noise in my MP3s?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Cadallin (863437)
            No, you buy better hardware so that when you listen to high quality classical or other acoustic recordings, you have the dynamic range and frequency response to actually hear both the loud and the quiet parts of the music. The sounds of violin, cello, cymbals, or piano (as in a real concert grand) get damaged by lossy encoding.

            When listening to hyper-compressed pop or electronica, yes, there's no point. I do indeed doubt its possible to tell the difference between such music encoded lossily at reasonabl

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Nexx (75873)
        256kHz and 512kHz? I can't hear much above 20kHz, nor do I think my computer can produce that sound in the 16bit-44kHz audio formats, given Nyquist limits.
        • by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @06:55PM (#18175052) Homepage
          I have a patent pending algorithm that allows reproduction above the Nyquist limit by using a reverse-aliasing predictor transform.

          It can represent up to the sampling rate, instead of half the sample rate.

          Using complex elements in the transformation matrix one can get 2X, but that causes many terms in the transform to not cancel out until the end, and thus uses too much RAM (O(N^2)) for embedded applications. I've even got it up to 8X the sample rate using quaternions, but the exponentially increased complexity makes it impractical even for the desktop (slower than real-time on a 3 GHz PC).
      • by e4g4 (533831) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:29PM (#18172658)

        can you REALLY tell the difference between 256khz and 512khz (hint: if you say 'yes', you are lying)
        I sure can, 512khz is an octave higher than 256 khz :P (I know, i know, you meant kbps).
      • by dextromulous (627459) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:38PM (#18172832) Homepage

        can you REALLY tell the difference between 256khz and 512khz (hint: if you say 'yes', you are lying).
        What the hell are you talking about? Nobody in their right mind would use a sampling rate of 256khz for so many reasons I won't even start listing them here... Since you are probably referring to kbps, I am still confused. 512kbps is not a valid rate for an "MP3" file.

        can you REALLY tell the difference between 256khz and 512khz (hint: if you say 'yes', you are lying)
        YES, I can REALLY tell the difference between a filtered audio file and a compressed audio file. Some people still listen to music that was created by real instruments, you know. The easiest way I have found to hear the difference is when listening to various cymbals and string instruments. When filtered, the high frequencies sound like they are eminating from a tin-can. Maybe your high-frequency range has been too damaged because the volume on your iPod is set too high...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Maxo-Texas (864189)
        Some people can.

        I have a friend who can see the difference between 60fps and 72fps in online games and 60fps bugs the crap out of him.

        I can hear the difference if i put on a CD and listen to it side by side- but not otherwise. MP3's - regardless of how good sound a little "muddy" compared to a CD.

        However you are probably right that 256kbps vs 512kbps are basically the same (both will have some muddiness compared to a pure cd but be similar to each other).
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by hkgroove (791170)
        can you REALLY tell the difference between 256khz and 512khz (hint: if you say 'yes', you are lying).

        It's already been established you meant kbps.

        But, yes, you can. Instead of your iPod headphones or car stereo, listen to the difference in an actual studio or club with a properly tuned sound system. And I don't mean self-powered Mackies or Yorkvilles running off of a Pioneer 600. Try something with a Rane or Allen & Heath with Turbo Sound, then we'll talk!

        The difference between 256 and 320 an
      • by TeknoHog (164938)

        Why not? Beacause at some point you reach the point of diminishing returns.

        If you start with CD quality audio (or any given uncompressed digital format), lossless is the absolute best you can do quality-wise while saving some space. There's nothing subjective about lossless formats, they don't try to second guess anything about human hearing or your audio gear. I like them for this concept, they're like unix in the sense that they do the job with no fuss.

        There's no 'point' of diminishing returns about lossy formats, there's just a vast grey area that depends on lots of subj

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sciros (986030)
      Yes, storage is still a big issue. CDs still hold 700 megs, meaning that the number of FLAC songs they can hold (as opposed to compressed songs like ogg or mp3) is much smaller.

      CD players would all have to become DVD players to make up for the difference.

      Hard drive space may be cheap, but recordable media hasn't grown in size (well, there is Blu-Ray but the cost is prohibitive to the point of not being worth discussing). So yes, file size is still a big deal unless you don't listen to music on recorde
      • by Bert64 (520050)
        DVD writers today are cheaper than CD writers were when mp3 files first became widely available, and broadband is far more widespread and faster than it was back then too.
        Why not download FLAC files, and burn them to DVD... It won't cost you more or take more time than it did when you were downloading MP3s over a modem a few years ago and burning them to CD.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by FunkyELF (609131)
      Years from now when you can buy multiple terrabyte portable mp3 players, someone will still choose to store 10 million ogg/mp3 files instead of 1 million FLAC files. All legal files of course.

      I'm sure the math of off but you get the point.
    • Ya, it is (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @05:39PM (#18173880)
      So suppose I'm making a videogame, one area I find that OGG is popular in. You are absolutely limited to a dual layer DVD for storage space, no publisher will go over that. In reality, I probably have to try to fit it on 4 or 5 CDs and/or a SL DVD. There are still plenty of computers with CD-ROMs only, with otherwise new hardware, so DVD only releases are somewhat rare. Ok so we have to consider the audio assets. Sound effects are a big deal, they are often stored in a lightly compressed or uncompressed format. However music and voice, well that's another thing entirely. Suppose you want a fairly robust soundtrack at like 2 hours and you want a lot of voice acting, which pushes 10 hours (not at all hard to do).

      So the music is 44.1khz, 16-bit, 2-tracks, the voice you cut down a bit and do 22khz, 16-bit 1 track. That's about 2.6GB uncompressed. FLAC tends to get around 50% compression, so 1.3GB or so. Ouch. That requires over 2 CDs to do. If I'm on a DVD it's still a good amount of space. If we want to stick to a SL DVD, that means only 3.4GB for all other assets.

      Now what if we go OGG? Well for speech we can easily go 64k. We can probably even push it to less if we want but 64k should give great speech quality. For music we could go pretty low since it is in game (UT 2004 is only 96-128k) but heck, we'll be generous and say 256k which is "CD Quality" on everything but the very best gear. That totals about 500MB. Much better, under a single CD now and nearly a 3x savings over FLAC. We can easily halve that again by going 32k and 128k respectively and still probably sound great to the vast majority of users.

      For a music collection, sure use FLAC. It's your drive, you determine how much space you want to buy. For games, however, you need to be economical about it. You don't want your assets taking up more space then they have to, that can artificially limit your market.
  • by garcia (6573) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:17PM (#18172370)
    And that raises some tantalizing possibilities, including a real long shot: Open-source, royalty-free formats win."

    Yet the title of the article says it's "Open Source's Gain"?
    • Not only that, but I suspect that it is in fact far from what the title appears to want. The fact that it is Microsoft which has lost the lawsuit makes me think that it's just going to get worse for everyone instead. I mean, think about it for just a millisecond: Microsoft loses the right to distribute MP3 decoders with Windows -- What do you think will happen:
      1. They turn around 180 degrees and include a Vorbis decoder with every version of Windows.
      2. They advertise WMA even more than before.
      Emphasizing, again, that this is Microsoft, which do you think seems more likely?
  • by timster (32400) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:18PM (#18172392)
    We shouldn't pretend that a patent cloud over MP3 means that everyone will move to Vorbis. The trouble is that the numerous patents for audio compression aren't limited to any specific format; they are patents on ideas and mathematical functions, like all software patents. So it's hard to say that Vorbis doesn't infringe just because it's open. Remember with patents, you are still liable even if you come up with the same idea independently.

    So does anybody really know if there are any patent issues with Vorbis? Has an audit been done somewhere that I haven't heard about?
    • So does anybody really know if there are any patent issues with Vorbis? Has an audit been done somewhere that I haven't heard about?

      I was under the impression that the people who made Vorbis specifically designed it to avoid infringing on any patents.

      • by Hrodvitnir (101283) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:30PM (#18172706)
        That's what you think! They could be infringing on stuff that hasn't been patented yet. Then they'll be screwed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Overzeetop (214511)
          I understand the attempt at humor, but you may be more correct than you intended. Without really knowing the details, my understanding of this patent was that everybody thought they have already complied, but some portion of the patent was effectively backdated and became a "new" requirement for full licensing. There may yet be patents that Vorbis violates that have not surfaced, which are applicable to the code base and predate the Vorbis development. That would suck.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nadamsieee (708934)

      The trouble is that the numerous patents for audio compression aren't limited to any specific format...

      You mean patents like these [mp3licensing.com]..? :(

      • by jfengel (409917)
        And they're missing the patent that's relevant to this case: 5341457. Sounds like everybody who uses mp3licensing.com could be in for a nasty surprise.
    • by massysett (910130) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:34PM (#18172766) Homepage
      Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] has a link and says "Although Xiph.Org states it has conducted a patent search that supports its claims, outside parties (notably engineers working on rival formats) have expressed doubt that Vorbis is free of patented technology."
      • by _KiTA_ (241027)

        Wikipedia article has a link and says "Although Xiph.Org states it has conducted a patent search that supports its claims, outside parties (notably engineers working on rival formats) have expressed doubt that Vorbis is free of patented technology."


        Given that the USPTO seems to like giving patents for, you know, anything as long as it says "software", "internet", or "paradigm shift", I have no doubt at all that someone has a patent on something stupid, like "creation of music using digital file input" which
    • Was what they said about Ogg Vorbis patent-free claims. I hadn't thought about this before, so it takes off a little bit of the worry-free feeling I had regarding Ogg Vorbis previously:

      Vorbis is not a slam-dunk, however. Notably, its royalty-free claims have not been sanctioned by MP3 patent-holders and companies that adopt it could wind up with exactly the same legal headaches that Microsoft suffered this week over MP3. In fact, despite its longstanding regard among digital music aficionados, Ogg Vorbis ha

    • by jonwil (467024) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @06:54PM (#18175030)
      I seem to recall that before AOL would allow Nullsoft to add OGG to WinAMP, AOL carried out a through patent search and declared OGG "safe" from patents and therefore safe to include in WinAMP.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Technician (215283)
      We shouldn't pretend that a patent cloud over MP3 means that everyone will move to Vorbis.

      The chilling effect is the fact Microsoft did pay for the MP3 format. Even though they had a fully paid up license, another party claimed otherwise and won. It would be just like having a fully licensed copy of Windows Vista and Apple winning a lawsuit against you for the 3D desktop effects and winning.

      It calls questions the liability of propery licensed software of any kind and expecialy software codecs. Having a l
  • by iknowcss (937215) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:19PM (#18172410) Homepage
    If mp3 gets fazed out, doesn't any one else get the sick feeling that the next "de facto" may be an inherently DRM encumbered format? This could be terrible. Hopefully ogg will take off more.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Have Blue (616)
      The natural successor to MP3 is AAC. And before someone starts complaining about Apple, AAC is just as much of an open standard as MP3 is, and does not include any DRM.
    • If mp3 gets fazed out ...

      MP3 will not get phased out, every digital device supports it, vast personal libraries are primarily MP3. To introduce a player on the market that does not play MP3 is suicidal. All that someone could do is not rip to MP3, but that will largely just push customers to use 3rd party apps. Both MS and Apple have failed to convince a large segment of their respective users to stop using MP3, even though they both have alternative DRM-free formats. Why use DRM-free AAC when storage s
    • by steelfood (895457) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @05:32PM (#18173752)
      Yes and yes!!! Bingo!

      A bit of strategic nudging from the RIAA here and there with their lawyers, and we might just see many of the large commercial audio tools (rippers and players) entirely drop non-drm format support in an upcoming version. iTMS for example, might entirely drop their mp3 encoding support.

      Of course, in reality, mp3's won't be going anywhere, patent violation or not; it's far too established. We'll see wma's more often, but private music collections will still be mp3.
  • the big problem (Score:2, Insightful)

    by niloroth (462586)
    of course is the fact that most people simply refer to digital music, regardless of format, as MP3's. Most people already have a digital music player that will not play FLAK or OGG. People have no desire, or know how to turn their multiple gig music collection into a new format.

    Trust me, i would rather FLAK was the standard, but at least for the moment, it seems to have missed the boat.

    I may of course be entirely wrong.
    • Trust me, i would rather FLAK was the standard, but at least for the moment, it seems to have missed the boat.
      I may of course be entirely wrong.
      You're definitely wrong about how to spell FLAC.
  • by someone1234 (830754) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:27PM (#18172624)
    I don't believe they did any wrong. They even paid Fraunhofer, who were widely known as the owners of the mp3 patent. Not telling anyone that they own any mp3 patent and then jumping at the biggest user is simply evil. This kind of abuse should be punished, even if it was not a pure software patent. M$'s WMP is pure software, so if the patent isn't one, then they wouldn't infringe it! The only good thing was in this that an american company was beaten american style. This might lead to some patent reform.
  • by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:29PM (#18172668)
    Portable Music Players will play whatever it's cheapest to get hardware for. Hardware decoders for WMA, AAC, and MP3 are easy to find and often high-quality because they're sold in high-volume. By contrast, decoders for Ogg Vorbis are harder to come by, and are less efficient because they're not high-volume (and thus competitively improved). Thus it may be worth it to just take a few-cent royalty hit as opposed to switching to a more expensive, less-efficient hardware decoder.
    • Created Issue (Score:4, Informative)

      by twitter (104583) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:45PM (#18172942) Homepage Journal

      M$ forbade ogg to users of their "plays for sure" DRM. This blatantly anti-competitive action was slapped down in the EU [theregister.co.uk], and lamely explained as a "mistake", but is a reason every cheap "mp3 player" does not also play ogg vorbis like my Trekstore or my Zaurus does. The hardware issue is spurious and there are low resource vorbis codecs.

      Software patents suck and I'm happy I have mostly avoided mp3. It was a pain to get in the first place and it's still a pain. Too lame will give you "mp3" for your cheap player without patent problems, but vorbis is technically superior. Most of my music is ogg and I don't have any real problems enjoying it.

    • by John Whitley (6067) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @06:18PM (#18174598) Homepage

      Portable Music Players will play whatever it's cheapest to get hardware for.


      Which is exactly why iPods all use software decoders on general purpose embedded cores. Having a codec-specific chunk of silicon fails to be a solution the instant you want to do anything other than decode (or encode) one specific format. As soon as you need to handle a number of different encoded formats or do both decode and encode, that codec-specific hardware doesn't look so spiffy anymore.
    • by Bertie (87778) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @06:33PM (#18174810)
      I believe it's also more processor-intensive, so you need faster hardware to do the decoding. It's certainly harder on the batteries in any device that can handle it. On the upside, it's more space-efficient and sounds massively better bit-for-bit, even compared to LAME's best efforts.

      Anyway, moral of the story is: go buy a Samsung Z5. Near enough the same size as an iPod Nano, more solidly built, and just as nice UI-wise, but with more functionality, and about twice the battery life. Sounds great, too. Oh, and it's a fair bit cheaper. Yes, it does Ogg.
  • There's a worry here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by heretic108 (454817) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:34PM (#18172764)
    Would I be right to worry that when I upgrade to the next Ubuntu release, or update within the release I'm running, that I might find several programs and libraries quietly dropping their MP3 support, leaving me with gigs of unplayable files?

    Are linux distros about to get hit with a torrent of C&D letters?

    OGG won't be able to take over completely from MP3 until most/all home stereos are able to play ogg CDs in the same way they can now play MP3 CDs, and until most/all personal music players can work with ogg files.

    • by dave420 (699308)
      And that's not going to happen. By the time MP3 disappears, something newer will have taken over. Ogg Vorbis has hit a plateau from which it's unlikely to move up from.
      • This does kick my butt - I need to convert all my MP3s to OGG, and have both formats of every song on disk. Until, of course, some ogg-compatible home stereos and personal players come on the market.

    • by imbaczek (690596) <imbaczek AT poczta DOT fm> on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:41PM (#18172878) Journal

      Are linux distros about to get hit with a torrent of C&D letters?
      Nah, nobody will seed.
    • Hell would freeze before you're left with "gigs of unplayable" mp3s. Remember that software patents only affect certain parts of the world. There would still be a Free mp3 codec available for Europe, for example. It would technically be illegal for you to install it if you're in a country that has software patents and the creators haven't paid the requested royalties (if any), but I really don't think too many people are going to care.
    • by orzetto (545509)

      Would I be right to worry that when I upgrade to the next Ubuntu release, or update within the release I'm running, that I might find several programs and libraries quietly dropping their MP3 support, leaving me with gigs of unplayable files?

      You should not worry as this software-patent madness is only about the US, Japan, Australia and few other countries. Europe, India and South Africa (where Ubuntu is from) are still free.

      And, anyway, you can simply write a script to convert all your mp3s into wav and t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        ...you can simply write a script to convert all your mp3s into wav and then into ogg

        BZZZZZZZZZZT! No way! At least not for anyone who enjoys listening to music, as distinct from people you enjoy carefully discerning something vaguely musical from a bunch of garbled noise. MP3 and vorbis are both lossy codecs, so the mp3 you start with is already missing information, you convert that to wav, you're still missing that information, you convert that to vorbis, you throw out more information and degrade the au

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Trogre (513942)
      While not prevalent in the industry yet, but this chip is a start [www.vlsi.fi].

  • convert (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cytlid (95255) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:36PM (#18172800)
    time sox song.mp3 song.ogg
    22.845u 0.336s 0:23.19 99.9% 0+0k 0+0io 0pf+0w

    Not bad, cpu is only 2.4ghz. This was a 3.5mb mp3 and it ended up as a 2.9mb ogg.
  • by TedTodorov (121485) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:37PM (#18172822)
    As much as we may wish for Ogg Vorbis to succeed, the most likely beneficiary is AAC, simply because of iTunes' default settings. I strongly suspect AAC has already caught up to MP3 in popularity.

    Most people just rip their CDs using the defaults, and thanks to the iPod, iTunes is surely the most popular digital audio program out there. I haven't heard with any patent threats to AAC, so I would suspect that more companies and people will move in that direction.

    Bonus: AAC sounds better than MP3 at the same bit rate.
    • by swilver (617741) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @05:32PM (#18173754)

      I strongly suspect AAC has already caught up to MP3 in popularity.
      Reality check needed here, AAC has nowhere near the penetration of MP3 just because iTunes uses it as a default. People were ripping CD's and playing MP3's long before iTunes even existed (I think I started in 1995 or so), building HUGE collections of MP3's which were shared by the harddisk load (because downloading an MP3 over the internet still took like 15 minutes using a 56k modem). Even now I hardly encounter AAC's (unless they're encoded into an AVI stream).

      As for the story that MP3 infringes on some patents, well it has no impact on how I will use my music. I also seriously doubt AAC will be patent free (or any other audio compression format for that matter), it's just that MP3 is popular right now and it's a nice big target.

  • Or just WMA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phorm (591458) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:41PM (#18172872) Journal
    And that raises some tantalizing possibilities, including a real long shot: Open-source, royalty-free formats win.

    What about WMA, since it's an MS format I'm assuming that they don't have to deal with the same issues as mp3, and many other companies already support it on their products (car stereo, portable players, dvd players, etc). I'm not sure what the licensing terms are, but even if mp3 disappears it doesn't mean that an open format will automatically be the one to take the stage (not that I would mind in the least if ogg/flac support did increase)
  • I seem to remember that there are alternative firmwares floating out there for various ipod models. Would someone be kind enough to reply with a comprehensive explanation for where to get these alternate firmwares, what's involved in installation, and what benefit us ipod owners can expect?
    • by teslar (706653)
      The answer is Rockbox [rockbox.org]. Which you could easily have found on Google, even if your search query had just been alternative ipod firmware :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by damien_kane (519267)
      www.rockbox.org [rockbox.org]

      Howtos are on the site.
      You flash the bootloader (using a tool they provide), then extract the daily-built rar file to your iPod (which you have to have formatted and enabled for Windows USB Mass-Storage compatibility).
      Then, just start copying your music to your iPod/harddrive in whatever format/directory structure you want.
      AAC, MP3, FLAC, OGG, etc, all supported
  • Why sue Microsoft? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BobPaul (710574) * on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:53PM (#18173066) Journal
    This is probably really obvious, but why did they sue Microsoft instead of Fraunhaufer? It seems Fraunhaufer is the one selling a product based on Alcatel's patents. Wouldn't it make more sense to go to the source of the infringement instead of suing the customers?
    • Who has more money?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      FTA Lucent and Fraunhofer worked together to develop a patent suite for MP3. The question is raised ITA regarding whether ALU should be seeking its cut of the revenue stream on MP3 licensing from Thomson and not from M$. I presume M$ will prevail on appeal, hard to root for them but it's hard to root for a broken patent system that rewards "Intellectual Property Portfolios" (also FTA Lucent was looking to sue on their patent portfolio to shore their finances up...)
  • AAC is royalty free and better than MP3. You only need a license for certain purposes, which your computer manufacturer, media player etc. probably has bundled just fine (iTunes for example, which is .. for free)

    Arguably it's better quality and smaller than Vorbis too, which for all intents and purposes could well be patented somehow somewhere, just hasn't been tested yet. At least you know where you stand with AAC.

"Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?" -Ronald Reagan

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