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2003/01/02 - Guenter Bartsch


An interview conducted by Alain Buret
Alain Buret - First and traditionnal question : please present yourself

Guenter Bartsch - Well, my name is Guenter Bartsch and I'm the founder and main developer of the xine project :-)

Alain Buret - How and when did you start working on Xine ?

Guenter Bartsch - xine started as an experimental project just after LinuxTag 2000. One booth had OMS (project I was contributing to at the time) running and it became very apparent that there were a lot of shortcomings in it. Since I had some ideas on how to implement (among other things) audio/video synchronization the decision was made to start an experimental project to test these ideas.

I initially estimated that this experiment would be finished within two weeks ...

Alain Buret - Version 1.0 doesn't seem far away : when do you plan to release it ? What changes still need to be done to reach it ?

Guenter Bartsch - The plan is to release 1.0 shortly after it is finished :->

The most important criteria for 1.0 is a stable and extensible public libxine API. There are quite a few different frontends using libxine today (xine-ui, totem, gnome-xine, kxine, sinek, an arts-plugin, a browser-plugin - just to name a few) and distributions are already running into difficulties with clashing plugins and subtle libxine interface changes.

As there are new types of libxine-applications planned for the future, such as media stream converters, more advanced frontends and even nonlinear video editing applications it is also a very important goal to make sure libxine's API is extensible enough to enable these applications.

Alain Buret - When speaking about video programs, people first think to DVDs, but Xine allows you to watch other stuffs, like VCD, mpeg, ... Do you concentrate more on DVD rather than on the others ?

Guenter Bartsch - Personally I'm hardly involved with dvd playback as my personal focus is on web streaming and the "media player/framework" and architectural aspects of the xine engine, but of course DVD playback is important and there are other developers in the xine team focusing on that.

Alain Buret - There are other projects for playing video, like Ogle, MPlayer, VideoLan, ...+do you have idea/code exchanges with these teams ?

Guenter Bartsch - As the dvdnav plugin is now merged into the xine CVS there is direct exchange of code and ideas with Ogle as these guys have certainly done groundbreaking work on DVD menu support. There is also some exchange of code going on with MPlayer and of course codec-providing projects such as libmpeg2, liba52 and ffmpeg/libavcodec receive a lot of attention from xine. I haven't seen much exchange with VideoLan yet, but I think there is some work being done to support their streaming server in xine, though I'm not involved in that.

Alain Buret - Xine can uses the EM8300 driver of the DXR3 boards. How do you coordinate +this with the DXR3 project ? And in general, how do you coordinate interactions+with others projects (like Alsa, ...)

Guenter Bartsch - I can't say much about the dxr3, support for hardware decoder cards has always been only a sidetrack of developement as xine's focus is clearly on software decoding.

There is no strict coordination with other project - and I don't think it's really necessary. Projects have different objectives and developers need their freedom. As long as there are no license restrictions, code can be copied from one project to another and in fact that's what happens most of the time (dynamic linking is difficult with many codec providing projects as most of them don't have stable interfaces yet).

xine's architecture makes it easy to write drivers for output APIs and devices like OSS or ALSA for audio and X11 or kernel fb for video so no tight coordination on these interfaces is necessary - xine can be adapted to reflect interface changes. The same happens with codec-providing projects, some glue code is written to adapt xine to the various interfaces these projects have.

Alain Buret - The Xine homepage clearly says that Xine only reads unprotected/unencrypted DVDs, but there are plugins for protected/encrypted DVDs. Have you been contacted by the DMCA guys regarding that ? What do you '"think" about the DMCA ?

Guenter Bartsch - Who are "the DMCA guys"? Clinton's administration? - no, I've not been contacted by them ;>

Besides that xine has not run into legal trouble yet, and I hope we can keep it that way.

I have to be very careful commenting on legal aspects. I think it is obvious that most xine developers are not fans of the DMCA - and that includes me. However, I strongly believe that any criticism should be constructive, if at all possible - and that's what's giving me some headaches when I read slashdot discussions on that topic (and the slashdot crowd seems to love it).

Of course it's a bad idea to lay such a potentially high-impact legal instrument as the DMCA in the hands of multi-billion dollar organizations, but when trying to look at matters from their side - they do have some valid arguments, they're producing something people want to have - I think most people will agree that we want to see good movies produced in the future - so there should be a way for them to make money on that. If we say that restricting the user's freedoms and threatening them with legal action is wrong (and I strongly believe that is wrong) - what can we offer them as an alternative?

So, instead of endless flamewars against the DMCA I'd rather see discussions move on to the constructive side. Ideas are needed here. Easy-to-use, secure online payment systems could an important piece in the puzzle. Better products, extra goodies for paying customers may be another. I'd be happy if more people came up with ideas here.

Alain Buret - Last question: what do you expect from your presentation at FOSDEM ?

Guenter Bartsch - I'm hoping that people get a better idea on what xine is about (it's a media player, not just a dvd player and it is on it's way of becoming a media application framework) and maybe I'll even manage to give them some insight into the xine architecture and what they can do using (lib)xine.

...and of course there's always hope that at least some people will learn that this thing is called "xine", not "Xine" :>

Alain Buret - Oops ... ;-)


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