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Public Radio and Open Media Formats

By Anonymous American in Internet
Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 01:32:03 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

To most people the question of what media formats a website supports seems like a boring technical decision. If they would only take a closer look they might come to the conclusion that open file formats are an important key to guaranteeing free speech in the future. Currently you can listen to NPR audio streams using the "free" Real One player or the "free" Windows Media player or the "free" Quicktime player. Free?

Currently NPR does not support the open media format Ogg Vorbis. I think NPR.org should offer the Ogg Vorbis format. Here's why:

To most corporations a file format is an end to a corporate goal. Until they control a good share of the market it is in their best interest to give it away for "free". However payment is granted in the form of power and market share. In the end it is the user that pays the price of degraded quality or the freedom of choice of platform. Microsoft will use its media format to solidify it's monopoly. Apple's Quicktime constantly nags it's users to register. Real Networks gives away a low quality product so that it can upsell the Pro version of it's player.

Why are all these corporations fighting so hard for control of media standards? Because it is important! As the end users we need to enter the fray too.

I think that an open file format stands closer to the spirit of public radio, because it is accessible to all (Windows, Mac, Unix, Linux) free of charge and free of corporate politics. I don't believe that NPR listeners that choose to run Linux should give up having a first class experience (or possibly any experience) on npr.com.

NPR does not offer the Ogg Vorbis format because nobody has requested it. Ogg Vorbis streams nicely. It is smaller and of higher quality than mp3. It is supported by most Windows media players and has players and encoders for MacOS and Linux as well. They are all free. It seems like they would be a match made in heaven. I have been trying to educate public radio about the benefits of an open media format, but they are not going to listen to one lonely voice. Chime in! Contact someone at NPR and let them know why this is so important.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Should NPR offer Ogg Vorbis?
o Yes 83%
o No 16%

Votes: 106
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o NPR audio streams
o Ogg Vorbis
o NPR.org
o Contact someone at NPR and let them know why this is so important.
o Also by Anonymous American

Display: Sort:
Public Radio and Open Media Formats | 77 comments (72 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Ogg? wtf? (1.14 / 62) (#2)
by Ken Pompadour on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 07:41:22 PM EST

Who cares, except a small group of fanatics who think that intellectual property is some sort of crime.

What.. the fuck? Were you dropped on your head as a baby?

Grow, the fuck, up.

...The target is countrymen, friends and family... they have to die too. - candid trhurler
Common people ;) (4.00 / 5) (#19)
by Anonymous American on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 10:11:31 PM EST

I guess your point is that most people don't care. That is true but if it wasn't I would have no reason to write an article in the first place. Some of the people that I have talked to at NPR get it, some don't. I think that anyone who takes the time to think about gets it.

I'm no open source zealot as you intimate. I do happen to work in an organization that uses Windows, MacOS and Linux. I can appreciate an open media format. I think NPR's user base can too.

[ Parent ]
Wrong way around (3.80 / 5) (#25)
by jonathan_ingram on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 12:38:34 AM EST

A lot of people care that there is a decent royalty-free audio codec. Games developers for one, who have to pay large licensing fees to use MP3 audio, and will have to pay much more for MP3Pro, WMA, or any of the other 'new' formats. Also internet radio stations should care - there is no fee for streaming Vorbis, unlike with the other formats. Vorbis sounds better than MP3, and costs less. As a bonus, it's also BSD licensed, but that isn't why companies are interested (although it's useful for the hardware MP3 player companies - and there have been enquiries from several of these to Vorbis developers).
-- Jon
[ Parent ]
Yes, but (1.66 / 6) (#46)
by Ken Pompadour on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 10:30:17 AM EST

Ogg is inferior to MP3. I have a hard time seeing why a company would have trouble coughing up a few cents per song, especially since composition of said song probably cost several hundred dollars.

Can you?

...The target is countrymen, friends and family... they have to die too. - candid trhurler
[ Parent ]
Nope (4.80 / 5) (#56)
by jonathan_ingram on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 02:55:25 PM EST

Ogg is inferior to MP3
Certainly not true at the low and medium end. here's the best listening test yet done on a wide range of codecs at 128kpbs (note that these results will be outdated for Ogg, as the sound quality improved between the test and RC3, and will improve again for RC4). Three samples were tested. Two of them didn't discriminate well enough for much conclusion to be drawn, but the third clearly demonstrated that, at least on some samples, Ogg Vorbis, MPC, and AAC are better sounding at 128kpbs than WMA8 and Xing encoded MP3 (the LAME MP3 results were inconclusive). So Vorbis is clearly not an awful codec, although more research needs to be done on exactly how good it is.

I have a hard time seeing why a company would have trouble coughing up a few cents per song
Say you're a small shareware games company, and you want to save space by including compressed sounds in your game. According to mp3licencing.com, you need to pay $2500 dollars per title for the rights to use MP3 in that game -- whether the game is free or not. If you're only expecting to make a couple of thousand from the game, then MP3 is out. In contrast, Vorbis encoded sound has no licencing fees. This amount of money swiftly mounts. If you're a large company, with 100 games, then using MP3 audio means you're out of pocket to the tune of $250,000 - whereas Vorbis has cost you $0.
-- Jon
[ Parent ]

Question to ragabr, Talez, David Quartz, garlic... (4.00 / 12) (#43)
by e on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 08:07:35 AM EST

...and untrusted user.

The comment ratings guidelines says: A good guideline to determine whether you should rate a comment at all is to ask yourself whether you could explain your rating if asked to do so..

Now, I'm asking. Because I honestly don't understand how you can give the parent comment the rating "5"; the highest rating available. As I understand it, the 5 rating should be reserved for the very best comments. I think I fail to see what is so great with this one. Did you perhaps think the sentence "Were you dropped on your head as a baby?" was a truly excellent way to show that the author's idea is a bad one? Was it that "Grow, the fuck, up. " is the best advice anyone can possibly give the author? Or what?

I really don't understand.

-- E
"You're not paranoid if they're really out to get you..."
[ Parent ]

Rating steering (2.66 / 3) (#62)
by David Quartz on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 08:03:55 PM EST

The comment was rated below 1, but I didn't consider it spam.

So I rated it higher than I otherwise would have in an effort to make it visible. You may disagree with this practice; I think it's necessary for the system to work as designed.

Meta-crap sucks, so no more from me.

Call your mother, she's worried!
[ Parent ]
Be careful with steering ratings (3.00 / 5) (#67)
by e on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 05:41:11 AM EST

Meta-crap sucks, so no more from me.
And it sucks doubly when it's about you, right?

I just want you to consider this: The likes of Ken Pompadour and medham are, as we speak, roaming around K5 trying to ruin every last piece of honest and serious discussion. Many trusted users are trying to stop this. By applying steering rating in this case you have seen fit to put your own opinion above that of five other trusted users. The system is designed to make this possible, but I hope it's not a decision that you make lightly. Are you really sure you want to be a troll/crapflooder fanboy?

To make sure you'll not zero out this comment I'll add some content that I know you're very much against censoring: Were you dropped on your head as a baby, you sick fuck?

-- E
"You're not paranoid if they're really out to get you..."
[ Parent ]

Hi (2.16 / 6) (#68)
by Ken Pompadour on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 11:06:52 AM EST

I'm not a troll, or a crapflooder.

I stand by my opinion. The original poster almost certainly suffers from some sort of mental disability, along with all open source cultists. Perhaps asperger's syndrome or ADHD.

There is no other way to explain their bizarre behaviour. I really do think they need to reintegrate themselves with society. Sorry for being so blunt.

And just for the record, Ogg sounds like shit.

...The target is countrymen, friends and family... they have to die too. - candid trhurler
[ Parent ]
Sure dude, (3.25 / 4) (#69)
by David Quartz on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 11:40:44 AM EST

By posting opinions you disagree with (sometimes a little more inflammatory style then necessary) they're going to "ruin every last piece of honest and serious discussion." Because as we all know, disagreeing viewpoints are death to a discussion.

Think you need to get out more, man. This trusted user power-trip's going to your head, and that's just sad.

Call your mother, she's worried!
[ Parent ]
*laughing* (2.00 / 1) (#72)
by e on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 02:28:10 PM EST

This trusted user power-trip's going to your head, and that's just sad.
Me? Trusted user? Bwahahahahahaha!

-- E
"You're not paranoid if they're really out to get you..."
[ Parent ]

That's silly (3.07 / 13) (#4)
by PhillipW on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 07:44:33 PM EST

Very few of NPR's listeners would take advantage of an Ogg Vorbis stream, so it really wouldn't be worth the extra resources.

What extra resources? (4.42 / 7) (#6)
by haflinger on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 07:49:38 PM EST

There are two big costs in streaming.
  • Bandwidth. This goes up as more people use the stream. Obviously, if there is a cost here, the service is popular and deserves it.
  • Server license fees. ogg avoids this. (As does Shoutcast and the other, weird opensource streaming programs that use the patented mp3 codec.)
So really. What would they have to do? Pay a techie for a day's work or so. Set it up, and if millions of people start using it (yah right), then they can worry about costs.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
Heh (3.37 / 8) (#7)
by PhillipW on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 07:53:09 PM EST

Keep in mind though, companies are cutting jobs, not hiring new people. Today's economic climate is not one that favors adding an Ogg Vorbis stream so 3 more people will listen to you over the internet.

[ Parent ]
yes and no (4.00 / 2) (#70)
by ttfkam on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 01:01:59 PM EST

I am in favor of ogg usage in that it's fully cross-platform, license-free, and easily and seamlessly integrated with other players (Media Player codec, WinAMP plugin).

However, while your note about license fees is true, the bandwidth issue is a little more complex than you make it. When a site has sufficient visibility, each of the streaming technology vendors tend to bend over backwards to *donate* servers (and bandwidth) for the purpose of promoting their technology.

Don't automatically assume that Ogg would be cheaper in this case. Expense is definitely on a case by case basis.

Pay a techie for a day's work or so. Set it up, and...
Assuming that everything goes without a hitch, it actually takes only one day of work, they can find someone who is both qualified and willing to do it, and the money for the tech and the server can be budgeted (public radio is non-profit and not exactly rolling in disposable funds), this sounds like a good plan in theory. Unfortunately while in theory, theory and practice are the same, in practice, they're not.

In practice, inertia is on the side of not adding Ogg especially if they aren't getting any appreciable demand for it. Ogg may fall victim to Newton's first law of audio streaming codecs.

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]

The point of Ogg Vorbis (4.16 / 6) (#9)
by binaryalchemy on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 07:54:29 PM EST

is that you only need one format. Right now you stream in asf, qt, and real so that everyone can access the content. With Vorbis, all those players (not sure about Real, but then again, who would choose to use it?) can play it by just downloading a plug-in.

And as a preemptive reply to the straw man of the year:
Is asking people to download the Vorbis plug-in somehow worse than all the sites that make you dig through real.com looking for the free version?
Defending the GPL from a commercial perspective is like defending the Microsft EULA from a moral perspective. - quartz
[ Parent ]

In a perfect world ... (4.00 / 4) (#24)
by Anonymous American on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 11:32:44 PM EST

Ogg Vorbis could be the only format you need for a site. But I all want to see right now is it added as an option.

[ Parent ]
I disagree. (4.28 / 7) (#16)
by Anonymous American on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 08:46:05 PM EST

I think there are more Ogg users than you realize. NPR currently supports a three different corporate formats, and pays royalties to use each one. Why not support one more open format that costs nothing?

[ Parent ]
I know very little about Ogg, but... (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by thenick on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 09:09:12 PM EST

Does Ogg need a server to stream? If so, they'll need another server. On top of the hardware cost, they will need to have someone trained to run the stream. Also, does Ogg have a technical support staff? If they don't, then a small problem could lead to a long downtime. In the end, NPR must determine if it is worth supporting more equipment on a limited budget to serve a relatively small number of users.

"Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler, he did a lot, but don't we all wish he would have stayed home and gotten stoned?" -Dex
[ Parent ]
Even mp3 would be nice (3.28 / 7) (#5)
by anon 17753 on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 07:46:01 PM EST

Not that I care - my company streams the local NPR station in mp3 format, so I don't need to wade around the slow npr.org site.

How about some SERIOUS discussion (1.60 / 23) (#8)
by Ken Pompadour on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 07:54:03 PM EST

Here's a real question - how come NPR doesn't offer a Java applet streaming version?

Then we wouldn't having these stupid fucking discussions on "Non-free" formats.




...The target is countrymen, friends and family... they have to die too. - candid trhurler
Uhm. (4.00 / 6) (#21)
by Anonymous American on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 11:23:35 PM EST

Why is discussing free/open formats stupid? Take some time to think about it. Sun, Microsoft and Real Networks all have interests that conflict with your interests and my interests. Why not stand up for yourself, especially when it is as simple as adopting a different audio format?

[ Parent ]
I read all this nonsense about plug-ins (1.66 / 6) (#22)
by Ken Pompadour on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 11:27:47 PM EST

And can't help but shake my head... you'd think the web would be past plug-ins by now.

...The target is countrymen, friends and family... they have to die too. - candid trhurler
[ Parent ]
Oh yeh... (3.80 / 5) (#29)
by autopr0n on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 02:26:23 AM EST

That 8bit 11khz audio support in java is just soo neet...

I know they've gotten past that, but not many people have java plugs installed on their computers.

[autopr0n] got pr0n?
autopr0n.com is a categorically searchable database of porn links, updated every day (or so). no popups!
[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 0) (#49)
by Ken Pompadour on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 11:12:26 AM EST

It's a huge problem, Sun really dropped the ball when it comes to sound in applets. But hopefully most people A)Can install the plugin (bringing them into the 20th century. I'm not holding my breath on this one though :( or B)Have Internet Explorer (Microsoft's Java has DirectSound support) or C)Cannot or refuse to enter the 20th centure, in which case they're probably already listening to 11khz sound.


...The target is countrymen, friends and family... they have to die too. - candid trhurler
[ Parent ]
Why broadcasters choose streams (4.40 / 15) (#10)
by tftp on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 08:04:37 PM EST

When someone chooses to broadcast something, s/he has to decide based on what is available, and on cost of the software, and on cost of the extra licensing (if applicable). Real and MS offer easy to use packages at low cost, and I played with Real server, it works exactly as advertised, and used by many. This is a safe bet, and many managers choose tested solutions simply because they want to keep their jobs. Engineers are rarely punished for bad choice of software; managers often are.

Another issue is the availability of clients. Absolute majority of users already have MS streaming software, since it comes preinstalled. Virtually every user has Real player because it comes bundled with many (most?) computers, and there are many Real streams, so it makes all the sense. However next to nobody has Vorbis-enabled player. I have Sonique (which is next to unusable due to its mind-boggling user interface), and xmms on Linux. Plugins for other apps must be obtained separately (if even available). Of course, this is easy for a computer professional, but next to impossible for an AOL user.

That is probably why BBC experiments with Ogg Vorbis streaming. BBC is a big company, it does not care if few man-hours are spent on that. But if it works, it is a good investment. So far, it works, and I listened to these streams, they are OK. Now BBC will need to wait until the majority of streaming apps will get Vorbis decoder by default, precompiled, so that users don't need to jump through hoops to get it.

The MP3 licensing (as was discussed recently wrt MPEG4) could be a good reason why smaller companies decide on broadcasting in one format or another. But bigger companies just prefer to pay - it's not their money, quite often, or they write most of it off, with no harm to the after-tax profits. To convince them, one would need to provide a comparably good streaming solution (software, hardware, training, etc.) - and it does not need to be free. It just needs to make sense for them to switch.

Real is not Universal (3.50 / 6) (#11)
by Bad Harmony on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 08:14:28 PM EST

I can't listen to programs from the NPR archives because Real does not support Mac OS X with a client.

5440' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

Real Player is not universal... (3.80 / 5) (#13)
by tftp on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 08:23:23 PM EST

The alternative would be only MS player, and it is not supported on Linux :-( choose your evil.

Fragmentation of the user base is a concern; but from what I learned (from broadcasting people) they just had to make a decision, one way or another. MS runs only on Windows; Real runs on a lot of systems. Whichever you choose, you lose. But they had no competitive solution - and they still don't have, if they intend to stream video. For audio only they could rig an MP3 streaming over HTTP (see icecast/shoutcast), and it works very well for many sites. But even that required a lot of expertise. That's why I say that a "streaming in a box" solution is required to get any attention of the big decision-makers.

[ Parent ]

Why Ogg Vorbis? (3.09 / 11) (#12)
by Bad Harmony on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 08:19:53 PM EST

Why Ogg Vorbis, as opposed to one of the many other codecs that have been developed?

5440' or Fight!

well (4.33 / 9) (#14)
by Delirium on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 08:34:41 PM EST

Ogg Vorbis is the only major one free of patents. MP3, MPC, WMA, Real, AAC, etc. are all heavily patent-encumbered.

[ Parent ]
Royalties (4.12 / 8) (#17)
by Anonymous American on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 08:54:28 PM EST

Royalties for one. Ogg Vorbis royalty free. What other codecs are you thinking of? mp3?

[ Parent ]
-1, wrong target (2.11 / 9) (#18)
by notcarlos on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 09:58:20 PM EST

If you want NPR to change over to Ogg Vorbis, why are you telling us? If I want orange juice, I don't turn to my wife and say, "Say, I really want orange juice" -- I go and get some from the store. Tsk.

He will destroy you like an academic ninja.
-- Rating on Rate My Professors.com
Target = you (4.00 / 4) (#20)
by Anonymous American on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 11:14:21 PM EST

It's true that I want NPR to switch over to Ogg Vorbis. I want you to switch too! Thus the "target"! Maybe I focused too much on NPR, but with media the clients will follow the servers. You will never adopt Ogg if nobody offers it.

[ Parent ]
Good grief... (1.40 / 10) (#44)
by Ken Pompadour on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 10:26:30 AM EST

It's a fucking cult.

Open Source is a god-damned cult.

Thank you for helping me see the light.

...The target is countrymen, friends and family... they have to die too. - candid trhurler
[ Parent ]
Good grief... (1.37 / 8) (#45)
by Ken Pompadour on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 10:26:40 AM EST

It's a fucking cult.

Open Source is a god-damned cult.

Thank you for helping me see the light.

...The target is countrymen, friends and family... they have to die too. - candid trhurler
[ Parent ]
I don't want (1.83 / 6) (#52)
by notcarlos on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 01:04:14 PM EST

your silly file format. I think the other guy actually says more -- It /is/ a fucking cult. In the end, does how I listen to my audio files /really/ make a difference? I'm getting the information, aren't I?

See the big shiny thing in the sky? I promise it won't hurt your pasty pale skin. Now GO!

He will destroy you like an academic ninja.
-- Rating on Rate My Professors.com
[ Parent ]
You're being silly (4.00 / 3) (#41)
by Wiccabilly on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 06:28:36 AM EST

He addressed the fact that one lonely voice is eailsy and eagerly ignored by government and any established institution. We need a bunch of poeple to talk to them. This requires letting people know of the issue. Since we can't count on traditional media to do much of anything in the public interest, forums like K5 are the perfect forum. +1FP

[ Parent ]
Why I didn't like this article (2.81 / 16) (#26)
by Talez on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 01:01:53 AM EST

It seems like all I hear from the linux zealots is how good Ogg Vorbis is because it's free. Free as in speech.

Personally, I'm getting tired of all this open source rhetoric. I'm not going to use an inferior product because of some idealism. I'll use whatever gets the job done. Personally, I think that the .ogg files sound much more harsh than an equivalent MP3 file. Not only that, I have gigs of MP3s already, I'm not going to convert over hundreds of hours of music to any other format unless theres some killer reason for doing so.

But before you decide to 0 or 1 me for starting a flamewar, I suggest you take a look at the Ogg Vorbis site which just so happens to use ASP for serving up pages... Fancy that, a non-free solution being used to serve up open source propaganda.

Oh, also, make sure to check out the FAQ where they proclaim that Ogg is better than all of the next generation codecs. Then they admit that the encoders still have problems and generate artifacts. All that and they don't even have any moderately credible/conclusive results to back them up.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
Points: (4.16 / 6) (#30)
by binaryalchemy on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 02:26:48 AM EST

  1. He didn't ask you to change all your MP3s to ogg, he asked if we would help him ask npr to add an ogg stream.
  2. That site, ogg-vorbis.com, it not the official site of vorbis. Look here, where there is no asp to be found.
  3. For some one who uses "whatever gets the job done" you sure seem to care a lot about what server they use :P.
  4. The official vorbis site says it's better mathematically, a.k.a. in theory.

The point of the article is that ogg has no licensing fees and is available on all platforms, not that we should use it out of idealism.

Also, oggs offer (in my experience) better compression. Which is a very good thing for streaming audio.
Defending the GPL from a commercial perspective is like defending the Microsft EULA from a moral perspective. - quartz
[ Parent ]

True but... (3.40 / 5) (#35)
by Talez on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 04:20:15 AM EST

1) Yes I did go over the top... Sorry bout that

2) It's the site he linked to...

3) I'm just trying to point out the irony ;)

4) When you're encoding music, wouldn't it be better to have something that sounds better rather than something thats matematically better? ;)

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
[ Parent ]
Well... (4.80 / 5) (#53)
by msphil on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 01:40:30 PM EST

A goodly chunk of the music I listen to does sound better when encoded with Vorbis RC3 than with any of the mp3 encoders I've tried.

About half of what I've encoded thusly is some variation on classical (primarily strings), soft new age and electronica, and some of the more meditative ethnic musics (such as Ravi Shankar's sitar playing). Generally speaking, at identical bitrates (128k) these are more heavily artifacted under mp3 than Vorbis. In fact, I have not noticed any significant artifacting of this type of music at the default bitrates under Vorbis, whereas it is typically painful to listen to much of this encoded similarly under one of the mp3 encoders. For these, it's a technical decision (I would compromise on the licensing and patent issues, if it were necessary, to avoid having either insanely large files or having painful artifacting).

The other half of what I've encoded thusly (rock, pop, movie soundtracks, "fuller" symphonic music) does not have noticable artifacting in either case. For those, it's the convenience of smaller files at a comparable bitrate, plus consistency of format. It's just convenient that the license and patent issues resolve so nicely.

I am aware that in certain circumstances (specifally, when built with gcc < 2.95 and some versions of egcs), the vorbis encoder artifacts horribly. This is the result of incorrect math code being output by the compiler.

In addition, converting from another lossy format (e.g. mp3) straight into vorbis typically results in severe artifacting. You need to either leave it in the first lossy format (e.g. mp3) or you need to re-encode from a pristine (non-lossy) source, such as the original CD. I've tried it, and unless the original MP3 is pretty close to CD quality, it's a really bad idea to re-encode as an Ogg Vorbis file. (This, plus the compiler issue, may be the primary contributors to the belief that Vorbis is heavily artifacted.)

[ Parent ]

How good is the alternative? (4.33 / 6) (#31)
by Anonymous American on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 03:03:12 AM EST

I'm not a zealot. I'm a pragmatist. I use linux at home because I don't want to pay Microsoft $500 to $600 dollars per computer every two years simply to run a modern OS & Office suite. I also have a problem with software piracy. I use ogg because the alternatives are weak.

I would never think to mod you down for disagreeing. I am not shocked that ogg-vorbis.com is running ASP.

I have not run into the encoder issues you are talking about. All my Ogg files are nice and clean. Artifacts are a problem with mp3's too! What encoder did you use? Maybe it was an implementation issue and not a codec issue.

[ Parent ]

MP3 is quite good thank you very much (4.00 / 7) (#36)
by Talez on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 04:24:46 AM EST

I'm not in dispute with your choice in operating systems. I couldn't really give a toss if you ran RISC OS on an aging archimedies so long as you think its what gets the job done.

When I said Linux Zealots, I meant those people on /. that crawl out of the woodwork every time there is a story vaguely related to sound compression. You know, the people that are always "Try Ogg Vorbis because it's free (as in speech!) unlike those other codecs".

The point is here that the only reason you seem to want Ogg Vorbis encoding is because of idealism and not because the other codecs are technically bad.

As for the artifacts, I was quoting straight from the FAQ that confessed to many implementation problems.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
[ Parent ]
Get the facts right (4.00 / 2) (#60)
by Skuto on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 07:38:10 PM EST

>The point is here that the only reason you seem
>to want Ogg Vorbis encoding is because of
>idealism and not because the other codecs are
>technically bad.

Please play a 64kbps Vorbis and a 64kbps MP3 stream side by side and tell me again MP3 is not technically inferior in comparison.


[ Parent ]
ASP (4.00 / 4) (#37)
by daedal on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 04:58:34 AM EST

just so happens to use ASP for serving up pages... Fancy that, a non-free solution being used to serve up open source propaganda.

ASP is not necessarily unfree: Apache::ASP

But ogg-vorbis.com is indeed running Microsoft software. It is dubious whether this is relevant.

[ Parent ]

Other reasons (3.80 / 5) (#42)
by jonathan_ingram on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 06:41:26 AM EST

It seems like all I hear from the linux zealots is how good Ogg Vorbis is because it's free. Free as in speech.

Reasons why Vorbis is good (apart from 'free as in speech'):

  • No licencing fees for streaming/commercial use
  • Designed for ease of streaming from the beginning (good for internet radio)
  • Flexible comments system
  • Better sound quality than MP3 at low/medium bitrates (at high bitrates just about any codec can sound decent).

I'll use whatever gets the job done

So will I, which is why I'm using Vorbis.
-- Jon
[ Parent ]

FUD (4.00 / 3) (#61)
by Skuto on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 07:40:08 PM EST

>All that and they don't even have any moderately
>credible/conclusive results to back them up.

Please see www.ff123.net for an independent listening test done right.

And yes, vorbis did very well, thank you.


[ Parent ]
BBC Ogg streams... (4.50 / 12) (#27)
by uberkludge on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 01:31:43 AM EST

Since a lot of people don't have experience with Ogg Vorbis, I thought it might be informative to post this. BBC is offering Radio 1 and Radio 4 in Ogg streaming format. Check it out here.

I find the quality (even at the lowest setting -q0) to be more than acceptable, and the built in VBR stuff is extremely cool.

BBC (3.00 / 4) (#39)
by kimpton on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 05:13:15 AM EST

Excellent. The Ogg streams weren't working last time I checked. I don't know why they don't switch to this for all their main radio links. It's no more difficult to set this up than any other format. Having to switch to the Real player for radio 5, with it's nag pages and 'make your PC 300% faster' adverts is very annoying. Particularly as we (UK citizens) pay for the BBC in the first place.

[ Parent ]
Extending the BBC service (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by Vulch on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 10:53:23 AM EST

Try writing to the BBC saying how much better the ogg service is?

At the moment, the service is being run by a few individuals at the R&D division so it has a research level budget. Before it could go full time it needs investment in servers, staff and bandwidth, and before that can happen there has to be an audience.


[ Parent ]

Ogg on BBC? (none / 0) (#74)
by sgp on Mon Mar 11, 2002 at 09:08:22 PM EST

I can't find this - the Radio 1 site says: You need RealOne Player to listen to get the audio and video from Radio 1 Online - you can find out how to get it, and get help installing it in our Audio Help Pages - the "Listen to The Archers" link on the Radio 4 page links to a RealAudio .ram file. I don't tend to listen to the radio on my PC, but could you provide some more information about this (or links to where the BBC do?)


There are 10 types of people in the world:
Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

[ Parent ]

Unfortunately, Ogg is in testing... (none / 0) (#76)
by uberkludge on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 10:42:16 AM EST

and not in production mode, hence not being able to find it on their regular pages. If you go to the BBC Ogg Streaming page, they offer both Radio 1 and Radio 4 in Ogg, as well as instructions on installing an Ogg player (if need be). They do list a link to "The Archers" on the page, but unfortunately don't give a URL. Hope this helps some.

[ Parent ]
Clearly excellent (2.66 / 6) (#28)
by labradore on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 01:47:59 AM EST

As a fan of NPR and of Free (libre) software I have often thought of this myself. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to listen at work : (.

I think NPR should switch exclusively to Ogg Vorbis and use a fraction of the money they would have spent on streaming liscenses on a little Vorbis development funding.

For those of you who claim that NPR is a topic too US-centric, you should know that it consistently presents the most balanced, unbiased and responsible news available in the US. It is one of the best "places" for us Americans to get real news about you backwards foriegners. </tongue in cheek> NPR is also closely associated with PRI (public radio international).

You know what? (3.75 / 8) (#32)
by Hopfrog on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 03:22:32 AM EST

You seem to underestimate the mobility of internet users. Windows Media and Real Media and MP3 are streamed because they are available, widespread and understood.

If ever Microsoft suddenly said the WMA had to be paid for, the radio just had to put up a notice on its website telling the users were to download the new Ogg format, and the user would do that.

It's that simple, and I don't expect them to fix what ain't broke.


It is broken. (4.00 / 3) (#34)
by Anonymous American on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 03:45:25 AM EST

The problem is that linux users can't access the media. I hope you are right about the mobility of users...

When the content providers make Ogg available then you will see a lot more Ogg clients. It's a matter of momentum and education.

[ Parent ]
Linux user's can access mp3. (3.00 / 2) (#38)
by Hopfrog on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 05:11:35 AM EST

Which is widely understaood and used. Take one step at a time or you will fall - go from winmedia to mp3, then from mp3 to Ogg.


[ Parent ]

I hope you're right too. (3.33 / 3) (#40)
by kimpton on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 05:15:27 AM EST

But I suspect by the time Microsoft start doing that sort of thing most users won't be aware that there are alternatives.

[ Parent ]
My letter to NPR (3.80 / 5) (#47)
by Secret Coward on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 10:51:12 AM EST


I would like to chime in and suggest that you support the Ogg Vorbis audio standard [1]. Your current support for RealAudio, Windows Media, and Apple Quicktime fails to address an important and growing population of the internet; people who use Free software. Furthermore, proprietary media formats are likely to cause problems in the future.

Your three current formats are all controlled by companies whose interests conflict with your interests and with your audiences' interests. Your audience does not want someone to catalog every single program they listen to. Yet Real [2] and Microsoft [3] have already been caught spying on their customers. It is only a matter of time before they catalog your audiences' listening habits and sell them like a credit report (for lawyers, employers, land lords, etc. to purchase).

As proprietary standards, your three current formats are subject to the economics of "networking externalities" [4]. In other words, one of the formats will eventually become the most popular, and turn into the De Facto standard. Whoever controls that format will be the gate keeper to multimedia publishing on the internet (at least until their patents run out twenty years from now).

However, if Ogg Vorbis becomes the De Facto standard, no one will act as an internet gate keeper since no one controls Ogg Vorbis. A Free, open media format is in everyone's best interest except Microsoft's, Apple's, and Real's.


[1] The Ogg Vorbis home page at Xiph.org

[2] Real Damage Control -- Again

[3] Windows Media is watching you

[4] Nicholas Economides' comment in MS-DOJ anti-trust case addressing networking externalities

Why NOT Ogg Vorbis (4.00 / 6) (#50)
by Mr. Piccolo on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 12:50:10 PM EST

Nice, but for now I disagree. The problems is that Vorbis just doesn't flex low enough in bitrate yet. The minimum you can get and still have any sort of quality is 64Kb/s. This pretty much leaves out anybody using a modem, as you have to go down to at least 32Kb/s for that.

But have you tried encoding using -b 32 -B 32? Don't bother. It's the worst sound EVER!

The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.

OTOH, (3.60 / 5) (#51)
by regeya on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 12:59:58 PM EST

OTOH, Ogg Vorbis is designed in such a way that bits and pieces can be dropped out (IIRC; it's been a while since I read the description.)

In other words, streaming is a defined goal of Ogg Vorbis.

Why is kuro5hin such a haven of anti-Free zealots? :-P

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

Options ! (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by Anonymous American on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 02:04:00 PM EST

You may be right, I've never run Ogg on anything less than broadband. It sounds great with modern hardware and a fast connection but I'm not sure if it scales down nicely. But then again, back when I was a modem user, streaming quality was so bad I didn't use it.

I think the broadband market is big enough to support Ogg, as an option.

[ Parent ]

-1, Ignorant (3.00 / 1) (#59)
by Skuto on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 07:35:18 PM EST

You are simply wrong. Vorbis can handle 32kbps streaming just fine. Sure, it may not be provided as a standard option, but that doesn't mean it isn't capable of doing it.

You have 2 options:

a) downsample before encoding. the bitrate will scale accordingly

b) use the 32kbps mode that is in RC2 (no longer in RC3 since it's being reworked for RC4)

And yes, it does sound pretty ok. It's not perfect, but none of the other formats is decent either at that bitrate.

BBC streamed in 48kbps for a while, and I did a custom mode for them to get it down to 40kbps, because most modems couldn't handle the 48kbps stream. If you want lower, you can get it.


[ Parent ]
BBC is testing ogg vorbis..... (3.50 / 4) (#55)
by bwillcox on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 02:38:30 PM EST

and if it's good enough for the Beeb then why can't NPR even give it a try?

Ogg streams beautifully. I had the BBC Radio One stream playing all day back when they were streaming it and it never once hiccuped.

It's free software and performs better than any of the proprietary solutions that they are currently using.

So, NPR... how about giving the old OGG a try?

Big screaming hint: it will SAVE YOU MONEY!

bbc stream (none / 0) (#77)
by nedrichards on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 12:49:05 PM EST

The bbc stream is located at support.bbc.co.uk/ogg in case anyone was interested.

[ Parent ]
Cost and Copyrig (4.62 / 8) (#57)
by hangareighteen on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 06:31:57 PM EST

There are two fairly good reasons why most NPR shows don't offer multiple formats, or even a liberated format. The first is cost; NPR dosen't make a whole hell of a lot of money, for the most part, they're lucky to get enough money to afford the programming that they offer over the air. Maintaining a website and all the equipment and connections necessary to offer streaming archives is an expensive prospect, and adding in multiple formats is only going to make it worse.

The second reason is copyright. At least a few shows on NPR don't entirely own the copyright to the material that they play on their shows, nor do they have license to do whatever they want with it. It would be entirely difficult to keep track of each individual contributor and wether or not they granted them license to put their media online in a liberated format.

As far as I remember, RealMedia streams do have a bit of copyright management in them, in so far as you cannot make a local copy of a stream if the "no-copy" bit is set in the header. This provides NPR shows with a convenient way to force their media to be streamed from their site, which allows them to satisfy the individual copyright holders and to keep relatively decent track of how many times a stream has been listened to.

One of my favorite NPR shows, This American Life, has two small bits in their FAQ concerning their reasons for using RealMedia and it's "downloadability." You can read their opinions here.

Personally, I just count myself as lucky to have access to an incredibly large archive of excellent NPR shows; regardless of what format they happen to be in.

Piracy - argh mateys. ahoy. (4.00 / 4) (#58)
by Anonymous American on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 07:18:47 PM EST

The reason the streams are so expensive is because of the Real fee structure.

I gave your comment a 5 because you brought up a very important point. If Ogg does not even offer rudimentary protection against listeners downloading copyrighted materials NPR would be in a world of hurt.

There must be a solution ...

[ Parent ]
It can't be solved, (4.33 / 3) (#63)
by binaryalchemy on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 08:44:51 PM EST

specifically because ogg is a free (as in speech) format. If someone ever did add a "don't allow save" bit to the format, I could (and would) change one line of code in my favored decoder to make it ignore that bit.

This is one of the real problems that any open format faces, because if you don't control the player you can never implement a workable DRM scheme.
Defending the GPL from a commercial perspective is like defending the Microsft EULA from a moral perspective. - quartz
[ Parent ]

How to solve it (4.00 / 1) (#65)
by fluffy grue on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 01:10:51 AM EST

Simply use a streaming protocol - meaning not http - which makes it difficult to recover missing chunks of the stream. This is what Real does with RTP (which is basically UDP with sessions). Sure, you could modify the player to archive the stream, but it won't be a perfect stream, and this also can help a lot for everyone if the connection auto-adjusts bandwidth as necessary (like what Real does in some setups). Basically, this would turn the streaming protocol back into a 'radio,' and make it difficult (i.e. not worth the time, though not impossible) for people to leech and archive stuff to spread and share.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

That's already been broken. (none / 0) (#75)
by haflinger on Wed Mar 13, 2002 at 07:00:31 PM EST

Streambox VCR. They've been sued nearly out of existence by RealNetworks, but the program's still out there, and the warez kids have it.

Streaming data's still data. You just can't stop people from writing it to disk.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

NPR is no friend of freedom (4.00 / 3) (#66)
by hymie on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 05:12:12 AM EST

You might want to check Big radio bites back!. NPR lobbied Congress as hard as any of the commercial broadcasters to kill low-power FM radio. I no longer contribute money to my local NPR outlet (WNYC) because of this.

my email to NPR (2.66 / 3) (#71)
by gliptak on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 01:30:28 PM EST

NPR to provide free software based streams

The two format in which you provide programs seems to be RealAudio and Windows Media.

There are some concerns and limitations with these above. Beside not being inexpensive, they can also be easily captured by the user (so do not help copyright protection as advertised). Some URLs of interest listed:


There are other free software based formats available including mp3 and ogg-vorbis, providing free server software and even wider listener software and operating system compatibility. So switching to free software would decrease your streaming software licensing costs and possibly even your hardware costs, and help to reach an even wider audience of listeners. Some other broadcasters are already catching up, including BBC. Below I listed some URL-s of interest:


Other listeners also expressing their interest in this, as can be seen at:


Please consider providing free software streams based for the excellent NPR programmes.

I already sent a similar email a while back regarding this, but got no response.

Thank you for your consideration

What d'ya know? (none / 0) (#73)
by NoNeckJoe on Mon Mar 11, 2002 at 03:37:49 PM EST

This weekend I was listening to Michael Feldman on "What d'ya know?" He brought up the Real Audio stream of the show briefly, calling it "Real Awful."

He hits the nail on the head. In general, streaming audio is a pain in the ass.

Public Radio and Open Media Formats | 77 comments (72 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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