Feeds

Moonlight plans video-patent police beater for Linux

Decode this, MPEG LA

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

The open-source version of Microsoft's Silverlight is adopting hardware-based decoding for video, a move that will boost multimedia on Linux devices.

Moonlight is adding support for Nvidia cards to offload the work of H.264 and VC1 decoding from the software player to the actual hardware. Nvidia features the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix (VDPAU) so that the video card - not the software player - does the decoding.

It's a small but significant development.

Offloading should help speed overall performance of any device that uses Nvidia's video cards or the g8 series as it'll be the card rather than the CPU that's doing the processing.

The move should also make it ethically palatable for users running GPL'd Linux such as Debian, Ubuntu, or Red Hat on a PC and legally safer for OEMs building consumer gadgets like Blu-ray DVD players on these Linux distros and Moonlight.

Consumers and - more importantly - OEMs would no longer have to license the proprietary H.264 and VC1 codecs from licensing authority MPEG LA.

Some users of GPL'd software will see such codecs as "unfree" and therefore unusable on their systems.

Makers of things like DVD players, though, would no longer need to pay expensive and on-going royalties to the MPEG LA when building devices, potentially cutting their overheads on systems that have already got a relatively low-cost thanks to use of Linux.

Of course, OEMs could choose not to license the codecs in the first place, but this could land them in hot water should the MPEG LA decide to assert its vice-like grip on the codecs market.

For a look at the complexity, risk, and potential exposure of this situation, just look at what Canonical did last year. The Ubuntu sponsor made media playback and DVD player codecs from Fluendo and Cyberlink available from its online store.

Canonical could not ship codecs in Ubuntu, because Canonical had not licensed them, so it couldn't pass on the rights, while the codecs had been licensed by Fluendo and Cyberlink.

What's still unclear is whether those who download the Fluendo and Cyberlink codecs are allowed to use them, and whether Fluendo and Cyberlink can actually pass on their rights. Fluendo has noted on its site that the codecs it sells are licensed from MPEG LA and Microsoft in addition to Via Licensing, Dolby, and Thomson Fraunhofer.

For its part, Moonlight and its users are covered in their use of codecs like H.264 now found in Silverlight because Microsoft has extended the agreements it already had with organizations like MPEG LA for Silverlight and Windows Media Player to Moonlight and its users.

That agreement, though, only applies to Moonlight users who download the player from Novell's site. Coverage becomes grayer for OEMs that pick Moonlight if they begin shipping devices with Moonlight pre-installed. When that happens, the MPEG LA could come-a-knocking with a demand for retrospective royalties.

Turning to the hardware can also help cover Moonlight if at some point in the future Microsoft revokes the coverage it's provided. That could happen, say, once Silverlight becomes broadly established and Microsoft decides it no longer needs Moonlight to seed the market for Silverlight.

There's no date on when Moonlight will get Nvidia decoding, but project leader Miguel de Icaza told us: "Speed is the driver." ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.