Nokia vs Ogg

It’s lovely to see Nokia embracing “Web 2.0″…

You can participate too, with a related issue. Help convince Nokia to provide out-of-the-box support for Ogg Vorbis:

  • Vote for bug 176
  • PledgeBank (* I haven’t pledged – sticking with my N800)
  • The organization responsible for the Ogg formats have provided a template for writing a letter to Nokia

According to Nokia’s Ari Jaaksi, some time ago, “There’s nothing technical that prevents it. However, the 770 is a consumer device. The challenge is that there is not much [Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora] content right now.“.
I hope Wikipedia qualifies as “content”, not to mention personal music collections.

Meanwhile, the intrepid Tuomas Kulve has released a new version of ogg-support for maemo that enables the built-in media player to play Ogg Vorbis files. He notes, “It’s untrivial to get everything working properly as the FileManager, the Metalayer Crawler, and the Media Player are all close source applications and their behaviour is not really documented anywhere.” Hopefully this situation will change.

See also:

Filed under: Freedom,maemo — twegener @ 23:26


  1. All the existing decoders for Ogg content, I have seen, are heavy on resources and prone to crashing. The formats themselves (i.e. containers, audio, and video) are rare: most content comes in mp3, mp2, or some version of mp4. So, why the hell are there so many people absolutely bent on making Nokia support Ogg content?

    Comment by Luarvique L. Luarvique — 2007-12-12 @ 0:59

  2. Every Ogg Vorbis decoder I have used as been stable as a rock. This includes the decoders included with the third-party ogg-support package for maemo and the various decoders available for Linux. They are not very heavy on resources, but I don’t have any measurements to show you at this moment. Decoding on the N800 and friends would use even less resources if there were a DSP-based decoder. This would put Vorbis on equal footing with other codecs such as MP3 and AAC for these devices.

    Ogg Vorbis is the officially mandated audio format for Wikipedia, as I mentioned in my post, along with Ogg Theora for video. It is also superior in terms of quality/compression, so many people use it to store their music collection.

    All of the formats you mentioned are encumbered with patents, at least in countries which allow software to be patented. This greatly hinders (if not prevents) their use with free software (free as in freedom). Many people, including myself, were attracted to the N800 and co due to their use of free software.

    The Ogg formats are the most widespread codecs that are not encumbered by patents, and hence can be distributed royalty free.

    If mp4/aac were made available royalty free, with freely distributable open source decoders/encoders then this would also probably resolve the issue.

    Comment by twegener — 2007-12-12 @ 8:47

  3. Well, not sure what Ogg codecs you have used, but any attempt to play Ogg content on PC (using official Ogg codecs and BSPlayer) ends up in a crash with ~20% probability. The video also skips a lot, indicating that the codec can’t keep up with timing.

    As far as performance goes, according to these test results, Ogg does not seem to work very well:


    I have not noticed any visible increase in quality with Ogg. This may have been because of the compression parameters though, dunno. Also, this guy made some comparisons of Theora vs. H264 and found Theora to produce worse quality:


    In relation to Ogg codecs being free from patents, this does not seem to be a complete truth either. If you believe Wikipedia article about Ogg, patent-wise Ogg is in some rather murky legal waters.

    In other words, the ONLY virtue of Ogg I see so far is that it is “free software”. While this fact may seem important to a bunch of rabid Pengiun worshippers, the rest of the world just doesn’t care. As long as codecs for other formats are freely available, of course. Things would change if that weren’t true.

    Comment by Luarvique L. Luarvique — 2007-12-12 @ 15:55

  4. Regarding codec stability, it seems that we are talking about two different things. I am talking about Vorbis, the audio codec. I have been using it regularly for years and have never had any stability issues, be it on Fedora with libvorbis/xine/gstreamer, CentOS with HelixPlayer (the same backend as RealPlayer), tremor and ivorbis with gstreamer on the N800/maemo platform, and WinAmp.
    I have used Theora much, but have not had any problems with it the times that I did use it. (For example playing a video from the Dell website.)

    Again, regarding codec quality you are apparently talking about video and I am talking about audio. It is well known that Vorbis is superior, for a given bitrate, to MP3 and about the same (or better) than AAC (MP4).

    I don’t doubt that MP4/h.264 is superior in video quality to Theora. I haven’t heard of anything who things otherwise. As to how much a regular person would notice for bitrates typical of online videos I’m not sure.

    Regarding “murky legal waters”, due to the broken US patent system (and others) this applies to all codecs, and even to all software in general. Consider recent submarine patents surrounding MP3. This issues can only really be decided for sure in the courts. Meanwhile Red Hat, Novell and Debian all ship with Ogg codecs in commercial settings. Certainly Red Hat and Debian tread very carefully in legal areas. Note also the variety of hardware players that support Ogg Vorbis from the likes of Samsung, Cowon (iAudio), iriver and Rio. Admittedly there is not any widely available hardware available for Theora that I am aware of.

    As to the HTML5 codecs issue, I can see arguments for against recommending Theora. However it is clear to me that there is a need for freely available (royalty-free, free software compatible) audio and video standards, as well as patent reform.

    Your emotionally laden ad hominem aside, some people, myself included, value freedom and being in control of their own hardware. There are no other mainstream codecs freely available. H264 and AAC require a patent royalty per decoder (and encoders), at least in the US, and countries who have been steamrolled into protectionist WIPO treaties and such.

    As for “the rest of the world” not caring, this applies to many important matters. It is a sad fact of life, but I don’t see how applies as an argument in this discussion.

    I don’t understand why you are so anti Ogg codecs. Why does support for them bother you?

    Comment by twegener — 2007-12-12 @ 20:20

  5. “their behaviour is not really documented anywhere”

    The behavior has been partially documented (https://maemo.org/development/documentation/how-tos/3-x/getting_started_with_multimedia.html). Now I have updated the information (https://maemo.org/development/documentation/how-tos/4-x/getting_started_with_multimedia.html).

    If you need more information please fill bug reports and we’ll follow.

    Comment by Felipe Contreras — 2007-12-12 @ 22:02

  6. > Regarding codec stability, it seems that we are talking about
    > two different things. I am talking about Vorbis, the audio codec.
    Ogg video files I watched had both Vorbis and Theora streams for audio and video correspondingly. It may well be that the failure was due to the Theora codec. Do notice though that it was the *video* codec requirement that Nokia asked to W3C to strike down.

    Regarding bit rates, one of the above comparison clearly shows Theora producing the largest file for the same video, i.e. Theora’s bit rates are higher.

    > Your emotionally laden ad hominem aside, some people, myself included,
    > value freedom and being in control of their own hardware.
    I always regard with great suspicion people acting out of political principles. My past experience shows that most of the time these people are either fools or have some undisclosed personal interest in the matter.

    > I don’t understand why you are so anti Ogg codecs. Why does support
    > for them bother you?
    Oh, I am not *against* Ogg. In fact, I do not see why Nokia refuses to support it in its firmware: there is definitely no harm supporting another A/V format.

    I would abstain from requiring Ogg in an HTML standard though: a particular video codec (however free) should not be part of the HTML standard. Instead, these guys better standardize MIME types for different container formats and A/V streams they contain. This will be much more useful for everybody in the long run.

    I am also somewhat annoyed by the open source fanboys making so much noise about the matter: Ogg is simply not good enough and not widespread enough to grant it such importance.

    Comment by Luarvique L. Luarvique — 2007-12-12 @ 23:03

  7. So we can agree that Ogg support would be a good thing.

    LLL, you said:
    >I always regard with great
    >suspicion people acting out of
    >political principles. My past
    >experience shows that most of the
    >time these people are either fools
    >or have some undisclosed personal
    >interest in the matter.

    Freedom is not a political principle, it’s a way of life.
    As for ‘some undisclosed personal interest’ perhaps you’ll reconsider your way of life and the already disclosed personal interest: freedom. What is wrong with having a [disclosed] personal interest in seeing open source succeed?

    I question LLL’s judgement.

    Comment by deBugMode — 2007-12-13 @ 9:06

  8. You do not achieve “freedom” at the expense of other people, who will be forced by a standardization committee to deal with an obscure and rather mediocre data format, chosen solely on the basis of politics. In fact, I do not see what such standardization has in common with freedom.

    Comment by Luarvique L. Luarvique — 2007-12-13 @ 19:28

  9. LLL, did you ever stop to consider where we’d be today without open source and competition?

    Freedom, competition and innovation are all good things. Don’t criticize them, or you are the greater fool.

    You seem to have an axe to grind with “open source fanboys” and committees. The latter I can understand. The former makes absolutely no sense to me.

    History will be kind to the same “open source fanboys” you seem to indict as fools.
    No, I don’t like formats being forced on me either. I don’t equate this with supporting a popular open format.

    Comment by deBugMode — 2007-12-15 @ 0:00

  10. @LLL
    > forced by a standardization committee

    You are free to not take part in such a committee as well as free to not follow the standard.

    > an obscure and rather mediocre data format, chosen solely on the basis of politics

    I can understand the argument for removing the recommendation for a particular codec in the standard. However, you cannot avoid politics. The very word ‘politics’ encompasses the negotiations of parties pushing with different interests. To allow the inclusion of a ‘video’ tag with the implicit expectation that a patent encumbered (and therefore incompatible with open source) implementation is unacceptable to many parties. In that case, it would be a political win for companies which have a financial interest in said codecs (e.g. Nokia, Apple, etc.) and in companies that benefit from the network effects that obstruct competitors (e.g. Microsoft, Apple).

    > I do not see what such standardization has in common with freedom.

    Standardizing on codecs that do not require royalties provides a level playing field in terms of the legal situation for implementing the standard. Patent encumbered formats prevent free software (e.g. Firefox) and proprietary freeware (e.g. Opera) from fully implementing the standard, since their free distribution makes per player royalties unfeasible.

    I can understand your arguments from technical and market-penetration aspects, but this is not the whole story. The real problem is really the issue of software patents. Without them, we would not be having a dispute.

    Our dialogue notwithstanding, my intention was not to debate the recommendation of Theora in the W3C standards. Rather, I was trying to harness the press that that issue was getting to direct some energy into bringing built-in Ogg Vorbis support to the N800 and friends. Perhaps this was a little cheeky. :-)

    > Don’t criticize them

    I think civil debate is invaluable, even for sacred sounding things such as freedom, competition and innovation. The issues certainly aren’t black and white. There’s much to be gained from questioning even these basic assumptions.

    Comment by twegener — 2007-12-16 @ 14:45

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress