File format policy

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File format policy

Erik Moeller-2
I've been asked to bring this up here as a result of the discussion on

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Featured_picture_candidates/Image:Storm.ogg

where a video was nominated for featured status, but several people
objected because they could not play Ogg Theora. We currently do not
allow other video formats.

I would suggest implementing the following policy on all Wikimedia wikis:

"It is allowed to upload files in patent-encumbered formats like MP3 or
the MPEG-4 codecs only provided that a version in a non-encumbered
format is also uploaded. Files which are only provided in
patent-encumbered formats should be deleted."

Thoughts, comments, objections? Ideally, the conversion could be done
automatically, but a soft policy might do the trick for now.

Thanks,

Erik
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Re: File format policy

Gregory Maxwell
On 2/12/06, Erik Moeller <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I've been asked to bring this up here as a result of the discussion on
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Featured_picture_candidates/Image:Storm.ogg
>
> where a video was nominated for featured status, but several people
> objected because they could not play Ogg Theora. We currently do not
> allow other video formats.
>
> I would suggest implementing the following policy on all Wikimedia wikis:
>
> "It is allowed to upload files in patent-encumbered formats like MP3 or
> the MPEG-4 codecs only provided that a version in a non-encumbered
> format is also uploaded. Files which are only provided in
> patent-encumbered formats should be deleted."
>
> Thoughts, comments, objections? Ideally, the conversion could be done
> automatically, but a soft policy might do the trick for now.

I think that is a *terrible* idea, and I also believe that you're not
telling the complete story about the complaints about this video: The
uploader was trying to be helpful and put a note about using
RealPlayer on the image description page (rather than the more
carefully thought out text from our media help page).  Most of the
objections were to real player, it seems that the Windows version is
perceived as carrying malware. Once it was pointed out that the video
did not require real player and that it was no different from other
videos the objections were mostly removed.

We already have had enough problems with Windows executibles being
renamed .ogg and uploaded, we really shouldn't make it worse by
actually permitting them.

So how long until the suggestion that our article text be distrubted
in encrypted dupliation locked ebook format?
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Re: File format policy

Erik Moeller-2
Gregory Maxwell:
> I think that is a *terrible* idea, and I also believe that you're not
> telling the complete story about the complaints about this video: The
> uploader was trying to be helpful and put a note about using
> RealPlayer on the image description page (rather than the more
> carefully thought out text from our media help page).  Most of the
> objections were to real player, it seems that the Windows version is
> perceived as carrying malware. Once it was pointed out that the video
> did not require real player and that it was no different from other
> videos the objections were mostly removed.

Yes, there were misunderstandings -- that doesn't change the facts: that
Windows does not support Ogg Theora natively, that Theora in particular
is Alpha software, that we've had many reports of problems with playback
of both Theora and Vorbis, and that I've been specifically asked by one
of the concerned users to bring this up. I'm a huge supporter of free
formats -- I bought an iRiver a while ago only because it supports
Vorbis, and I exclusively encode audio files in this format -- but we do
have to keep usability in mind.

Many PC users who access Wikipedia will not be able to follow complex
instructions to set up new video or audio codecs. When it comes down to
it, the question is whether some people will be able to view our content
or not. A dual format policy strikes me as a reasonable compromise.

> We already have had enough problems with Windows executibles being
> renamed .ogg and uploaded, we really shouldn't make it worse by
> actually permitting them.

I don't understand - what does my suggestion have to do with Windows
executables?

> So how long until the suggestion that our article text be distrubted
> in encrypted dupliation locked ebook format?

Neither MP3 nor MPEG-4 necessarily use DRM, and of course we wouldn't
use or allow DRM for these formats, so I fail to see the slippery slope.
We're talking about supporting the most widely used file formats for
audio and video compression. That does not strike me as a radical blow
against freedom.

Erik
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Re: [Foundation-l] Re: File format policy

Gregory Maxwell
On 2/12/06, Erik Moeller <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Yes, there were misunderstandings -- that doesn't change the facts: that
> Windows does not support Ogg Theora natively

Our media help page provides a half dozen players with Theora support.

Windows also does not support SVG natively, IE renders PNG with
transparency wrong (at least I think it still does). There was also a
time when Windows included no support for MP3. Windows 2000 didn't
ship with an MPEG4 codec, and I don't think that XP does either
(although it will happily download one).

A huge amount of streaming video on the Web requires codec downloads,
but Windows Media player will autodownload most of them, although it
will not autodownload theora this is why the en vogue video glurge
sites use flash based players.

If you want mostly painless universial support for Windows users, what
you should be arguing for is a java Wikipedia player (which is
certantly possible).

> that Theora in particular
> is Alpha software,

And the mediawiki code that Wikipedia usually runs is labeled 'beta'.
Can you point out any discussion about bugs in Theora?

The code is quite sold and has been for a long time.

> that we've had many reports of problems with playback
> of both Theora and Vorbis,

To where?  They aren't arriving in mass in OTRS.

> and that I've been specifically asked by one
> of the concerned users to bring this up.

It might have been more useful to begin the discussion on the media
help talk page.

> I'm a huge supporter of free
> formats -- I bought an iRiver a while ago only because it supports
> Vorbis, and I exclusively encode audio files in this format -- but we do
> have to keep usability in mind.
>
> Many PC users who access Wikipedia will not be able to follow complex
> instructions to set up new video or audio codecs. When it comes down to
> it, the question is whether some people will be able to view our content
> or not. A dual format policy strikes me as a reasonable compromise.

If our instructions are too complex then they should be improved. I
think they are pretty easy as is: most of the software is a single
click to install and then both Theora and Vorbis just work when you
click on them.

We haven't even managed to get all of the mp3 files off of english
Wikipedia yet and they've been forbidden for a long time now, so I
can't see how your proposed change would accomplish anything except
forcing our users to use patent encumbered formats.

Also, as the single largest uploader of original music recordings
(although it's still a pretty limited number because the annoyance of
copyright issues on music is keeping me from uploading hundreds of
tracks), I'd like to also voice another objection: I strongly oppose
the use of the content I've created to promote patent encumbered
formats.

> > We already have had enough problems with Windows executibles being
> > renamed .ogg and uploaded, we really shouldn't make it worse by
> > actually permitting them.
>
> I don't understand - what does my suggestion have to do with Windows
> executables?

The RIFF wrapper used for most of the microsoft formats is a
multiformat wrapper (Just like OGG) and can happily be coerced into
containing executable code (unlike OGG).

> > So how long until the suggestion that our article text be distrubted
> > in encrypted dupliation locked ebook format?
>
> Neither MP3 nor MPEG-4 necessarily use DRM, and of course we wouldn't
> use or allow DRM for these formats, so I fail to see the slippery slope.
> We're talking about supporting the most widely used file formats for
> audio and video compression. That does not strike me as a radical blow
> against freedom.

Both are only available under obnoxious patent licenses which claim to
demand fees per download, and otherwise control the creators,
distributors, and users of the content.
(http://www.mp3licensing.com/royalty/emd.html, for example)

'Mode widely used' is a broken argument by itself. If we were going
for most widely used, for revision controlled text we'd be using
Microsoft Word rather than Wikitext.
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Re: [Foundation-l] Re: File format policy

Gregory Maxwell
In reply to this post by Erik Moeller-2
On 2/12/06, Walter Vermeir <[hidden email]> wrote:
[snip]
> The problem seems to me not the format but the way the video in included
> in the article. Just look at it.;
> http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Storm&oldid=38618501
> How can the know what to do with that?

Oh wow, just more evidence that people aren't doing their homework
before crying that the sky if falling over our use of Theora.  We have
a proper video template (and one for audio as well) on enwiki which
provides instruction and an attractive image... but it looks like the
template was not used on that article for some reason.

I put the template in:
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Storm&oldid=39328671
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Re: File format policy

Erik Moeller-2
In reply to this post by Gregory Maxwell
Removing foundation-l from CC because we're talking more about tech than
foundation policy now. Gregory, thanks for adding your considerable
expertise to this debate. It is much appreciated.

Gregory Maxwell:

> Windows also does not support SVG natively, IE renders PNG with
> transparency wrong (at least I think it still does). There was also a
> time when Windows included no support for MP3. Windows 2000 didn't
> ship with an MPEG4 codec, and I don't think that XP does either
> (although it will happily download one).

Yes, these are all good points. It would be interesting to know what
formats _are_ supported natively by Windows XP. We might also want to
talk to the video experts from the Internet Archive and Ourmedia about
their experiences with accessibility. These are non-profits with a
record of promoting the public good.

Looking around on Internet Archive, I do not see Theora, but I do see
files with the "MP4" extension, which the file command identifies as
"ISO Media, MPEG v4 system, version 1". Is that an open wrapper format
for MPEG streams?

> If you want mostly painless universial support for Windows users, what
> you should be arguing for is a java Wikipedia player (which is
> certantly possible).

Also an interesting suggestion. Do you know a Java-based implementation
which would support Theora, and which would run out of the box in
Internet Explorer on XP? If it doesn't exist, perhaps it might make
sense for the Foundation to fund development, if it seeks to take an
active role in promoting Theora and Vorbis.

> And the mediawiki code that Wikipedia usually runs is labeled 'beta'.
> Can you point out any discussion about bugs in Theora?

I'm not aware of their bugtracking database, but their own FAQ seems to
be fairly clear on what they mean by "Alpha":
http://www.theora.org/theorafaq.html#31

"'Alpha' code is strictly for internal development only, which is to
say, 'No one sees this code, it's not even close to being done yet.' At
the Xiph.org Foundation, we release everything we do so that people can
help us move the codebase forward by reporting bugs and submitting
patches. So, even 'Alpha' code needs to get out to the world."

I've personally had troubles getting Theora to work with mplayer, but it
does seem to work fine with xine.

>> that we've had many reports of problems with playback
>> of both Theora and Vorbis,
>
> To where?  They aren't arriving in mass in OTRS.

Grepping my IRC logs, I see many complaints about crashes, lack of docs
  and lack of wide support, from various notable people, but it would
violate Freenode policy to post these. If you have logs as well, I
suggest grepping -i for "theora".

The two incidents I remember most vividly are the problems during
Wikimania to play back the little documentary that was made about the
public domain (if we can't even make it work at our own conferences, we
can hardly expect the average Windows user to do so), and our
discussions on Wikinews when David Vasquez was working on a Wikinews TV
version.

> We haven't even managed to get all of the mp3 files off of english
> Wikipedia yet and they've been forbidden for a long time now, so I
> can't see how your proposed change would accomplish anything except
> forcing our users to use patent encumbered formats.

I do see a risk that the dual policy might be violated too easily.
Perhaps a simple hack that "filename.<proprietary format>" is not
allowed if "filename.ogg" does not also exist would be sufficient. Yes,
it could still be violated, but that would then be much more obvious and
malicious.

> Also, as the single largest uploader of original music recordings
> (although it's still a pretty limited number because the annoyance of
> copyright issues on music is keeping me from uploading hundreds of
> tracks), I'd like to also voice another objection: I strongly oppose
> the use of the content I've created to promote patent encumbered
> formats.

I understand. Believe me, I'd love to see more mainstream support for
Theora and Vorbis. Perhaps we can brainstorm a bit about how to make
this happen. I like the Java player idea.

> The RIFF wrapper used for most of the microsoft formats is a
> multiformat wrapper (Just like OGG) and can happily be coerced into
> containing executable code (unlike OGG).

Do you have some useful background links on the topic of executable code
within wrapper formats?

> 'Mode widely used' is a broken argument by itself. If we were going
> for most widely used, for revision controlled text we'd be using
> Microsoft Word rather than Wikitext.

Well, that's not a very fair comparison, since at least there are
feature-complete open source encoder and decoder implementations of the
codecs in question. According to Wikipedia, there's also debate about
whether the patents are actually enforcable, at least in the EU.

Erik
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Re: File format policy

Gregory Maxwell
On 2/12/06, Erik Moeller <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Removing foundation-l from CC because we're talking more about tech than
> foundation policy now. Gregory, thanks for adding your considerable
> expertise to this debate. It is much appreciated.

OK

> > Windows also does not support SVG natively, IE renders PNG with
> > transparency wrong (at least I think it still does). There was also a
> > time when Windows included no support for MP3. Windows 2000 didn't
> > ship with an MPEG4 codec, and I don't think that XP does either
> > (although it will happily download one).
>
> Yes, these are all good points. It would be interesting to know what
> formats _are_ supported natively by Windows XP. We might also want to
> talk to the video experts from the Internet Archive and Ourmedia about
> their experiences with accessibility. These are non-profits with a
> record of promoting the public good.

> Looking around on Internet Archive, I do not see Theora, but I do see
> files with the "MP4" extension, which the file command identifies as
> "ISO Media, MPEG v4 system, version 1". Is that an open wrapper format
> for MPEG streams?

Archive.org supports theora, for example
http://www.archive.org/details.php?identifier=DanRDennedyAmyDennedysFirstDanceRecital.

They currently leave the burden of transcoding on the uploader, thus
much of their content is not available in theora although I do
understand that it is a goal.

The .mp4 in that case is mpeg systems format. It's also what you'll
usually find mpeg2 and mpeg1 in.. it's less problematic and complex
than using RIFF encap, but it's less widely supported.

> > If you want mostly painless universial support for Windows users, what
> > you should be arguing for is a java Wikipedia player (which is
> > certantly possible).
>
> Also an interesting suggestion. Do you know a Java-based implementation
> which would support Theora, and which would run out of the box in
> Internet Explorer on XP? If it doesn't exist, perhaps it might make
> sense for the Foundation to fund development, if it seeks to take an
> active role in promoting Theora and Vorbis.

Yes it exists, and it's free software. I'm not sure what support in IE
on XP is... I know the jorbis Vorbis decoder works with gcj/kaffe
however which is a good sign. See
http://www.fluendo.com/products.php?product=applet for the Theora
decoder.

> > And the mediawiki code that Wikipedia usually runs is labeled 'beta'.
> > Can you point out any discussion about bugs in Theora?
>
> I'm not aware of their bugtracking database, but their own FAQ seems to
> be fairly clear on what they mean by "Alpha":
> http://www.theora.org/theorafaq.html#31
>
> "'Alpha' code is strictly for internal development only, which is to
> say, 'No one sees this code, it's not even close to being done yet.' At
> the Xiph.org Foundation, we release everything we do so that people can
> help us move the codebase forward by reporting bugs and submitting
> patches. So, even 'Alpha' code needs to get out to the world."

ugh. That page hasn't been updated in a long time since 2004. It's not
true anymore.  Hm. It looks like I lost my access to update it when it
moved over to subversion. I'll get that page fixed.

> I've personally had troubles getting Theora to work with mplayer, but it
> does seem to work fine with xine.

Hmm. If you compile mplayer with the theora option it should just work
(tm). It does here. Elaborate some and I'll help you get it fixed. ...
Many of the binary distributions of mplayer do not ship with Theora
turned on, which is slowly changing.

> Grepping my IRC logs, I see many complaints about crashes, lack of docs
>   and lack of wide support, from various notable people, but it would
> violate Freenode policy to post these. If you have logs as well, I
> suggest grepping -i for "theora".

I mostly see complains about encoding, none for playback in a quick
glance... In general transcoding is a pain, theora isn't special in
that regard. Actually, it's somewhat better than other formats if
you're on linux and have ffmpeg2theora working.

> The two incidents I remember most vividly are the problems during
> Wikimania to play back the little documentary that was made about the
> public domain (if we can't even make it work at our own conferences, we
> can hardly expect the average Windows user to do so), and our
> discussions on Wikinews when David Vasquez was working on a Wikinews TV
> version.

Some of the files put up for Wikimania were not actually Theora but
were 'ogm', a combination of mpeg4 and vorbis in an Ogg wrapper. It
was (is?) very popular for the exchange of illicitly copied Japanese
animation because the support for subtitles was far better than what
was otherwise available for mpeg4 (xvid) and it predated Theora.  Ogm
has always been regarded as completely evil by Xiph because embedding
patented codes defeats the purpose of having a patent free format (as
well as a number of technical issues about how Ogm abuses ogg
encapsulation).

As a result some of the Wikimania files would not play on our
recommended software. Unless you also happened to have a xvid codec
installed and the stars aligned correctly.   I run a bot which checks
uploads for being OGM, we haven't gotten any new ones for a while.

Perhaps this was the cause of your problems?

> I do see a risk that the dual policy might be violated too easily.
> Perhaps a simple hack that "filename.<proprietary format>" is not
> allowed if "filename.ogg" does not also exist would be sufficient. Yes,
> it could still be violated, but that would then be much more obvious and
> malicious.

I think that the other issues make the proposal a non-starter, but we
certainly couldn't do any less than that.

 > I understand. Believe me, I'd love to see more mainstream support for
> Theora and Vorbis. Perhaps we can brainstorm a bit about how to make
> this happen. I like the Java player idea.

Sounds like a plan. In any case, as a top popularity site on the
internet we are in a position to drive adoption. We just need to make
sure that we're making it as easy as possible.

Java player is perhaps a good idea, although I don't like the idea of
Wikipedia distributing more executable code than we must. (The next
request will be for java or flash widgets in articles  to act as
interactive illustrations...).  That said, I find the idea of shipping
out a GCJ/Kaffe compatible Java module a heck of a lot less
distasteful than shipping out content in a patented codec.

Plus, there is a lot of other potential use for a Wikipedia player...
For example, wikieditable time synced overlays and subtitles... with
working Wikilinks and the like.

> > The RIFF wrapper used for most of the microsoft formats is a
> > multiformat wrapper (Just like OGG) and can happily be coerced into
> > containing executable code (unlike OGG).
>
> Do you have some useful background links on the topic of executable code
> within wrapper formats?

There have been a couple of cert advisories on it.. There are
basically two problems: one, windows apps sometimes have a tendency to
ignore extensions and just follow file magic and end up running code,
this is far less common in the apps typical setup to handle OGG... the
second is exploits in the various substreams, for example embedding
WMF in AVI.  It's a corner case concern, I had intended to say it was
probably as much of a real problem as theora being alpha but I hit
submit too early.

 > > 'Mode widely used' is a broken argument by itself. If we were going
> > for most widely used, for revision controlled text we'd be using
> > Microsoft Word rather than Wikitext.
>
> Well, that's not a very fair comparison, since at least there are
> feature-complete open source encoder and decoder implementations of the
> codecs in question. According to Wikipedia, there's also debate about
> whether the patents are actually enforcable, at least in the EU.

StarOffice :) ... The patents may not be enforceable in the EU but
they are in the US. ... but even if they may not be enforceable in
some or all places we would be asking all involved to accept
liability.  Most of the big media names have pulled out their
checkbooks, the licensing fees are high but they are less than the
cost of the liability, and thats no accident. :)
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Re: File format policy

Erik Moeller-2
Gregory,

I'm a bit busy, but I'll have access to an IE machine soon (they're so
elusive these days ;-) so I'll try out the Java solution. I don't think
a reasonably well-policed dual format policy which strikes a balance
between usability and openness would be such a terrible thing, but
patent-encumbered formats should only be a last resort, and we should
spend some more time thinking about how to improve the situation without
taking such potentially divisive steps.

I don't know what caused the troubles at Wikimania - your explanation is
probably correct. As for how users in general perceive the situation, it
might be desirable for us to set up a survey to ask our users, or to
pull an Ellen Reitmeyer and do a real usability test. However, at the
moment, videos on Wikimedia are so elusive that it might not make much
sense.

My own little video contribution, taken during a visit to a Leonardo da
Vinci exhibition:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flywheel

More later,

Erik
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Re: File format policy

xkernigh
In reply to this post by Erik Moeller-2
Erik Moeller wrote:

> "It is allowed to upload files in patent-encumbered formats like MP3 or
> the MPEG-4 codecs only provided that a version in a non-encumbered
> format is also uploaded. Files which are only provided in
> patent-encumbered formats should be deleted."

The problem is, someone would need to check that each MPEG file had a
matching Ogg version. To do this, you need to play the MPEG file...

Some users complain that they can play MPEG but not Theora. I am in the
opposite situation. I installed MPlayer a few minutes ago to play
Storm.ogg, so I can play Ogg Theora, but I cannot play MPEG-4 because I
live in the United States but have not paid license royalties. I run
OpenBSD, so I also cannot obtain a licensed MPEG-4 player such as
RealPlayer, QuickTime, or Windows Media Player.

Suppose some user wants to check if the Storm.mp4 that someone uploaded is
the same as Storm.ogg. If this user has QuickTime, or lives in the European
Union, that might be easy. If I did the check, I would go to a different
computer with Mac OS X and QuickTime, which is an inconvenience for me, but
not impossible.

-- [[Wikibooks:en:User:Kernigh]], and there is almost no audio or video at
   en.Wikibooks, but I sometimes find it at Commons and en.Wikipedia


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Re: [Foundation-l] Re: File format policy

Ed S. Peschko
In reply to this post by Gregory Maxwell
On Sun, Feb 12, 2006 at 05:51:56AM -0500, Gregory Maxwell wrote:
> On 2/12/06, Erik Moeller <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > Yes, there were misunderstandings -- that doesn't change the facts: that
> > Windows does not support Ogg Theora natively
>
> Our media help page provides a half dozen players with Theora support.

>
> Windows also does not support SVG natively, IE renders PNG with
> transparency wrong (at least I think it still does). There was also a
> time when Windows included no support for MP3. Windows 2000 didn't
> ship with an MPEG4 codec, and I don't think that XP does either
> (although it will happily download one).
>
> A huge amount of streaming video on the Web requires codec downloads,
> but Windows Media player will autodownload most of them, although it
> will not autodownload theora this is why the en vogue video glurge
> sites use flash based players.
>
> If you want mostly painless universial support for Windows users, what
> you should be arguing for is a java Wikipedia player (which is
> certantly possible).

I just wanted to throw in my two cents here - why don't you see if you can't
google to provide their video player?

It works great here, where quicktime, real, and microsoft video fail
due to proxying issues. It also is quite easy on bandwidth use.

Ed
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Re: [Foundation-l] Re: File format policy

Brion Vibber
In reply to this post by Gregory Maxwell
Gregory Maxwell wrote:
> A huge amount of streaming video on the Web requires codec downloads,
> but Windows Media player will autodownload most of them, although it
> will not autodownload theora this is why the en vogue video glurge
> sites use flash based players.
>
> If you want mostly painless universial support for Windows users, what
> you should be arguing for is a java Wikipedia player (which is
> certantly possible).

Fluendo's got a GPL'd Java applet player that can play streaming Ogg Vorbis and
Theora. I've tossed up a quick test page using a random short video clip I
grabbed off of Commons:

http://test.leuksman.com/video/

Seems to work for me in:
* Mac OS X 10.4: Safari 2
* Mac OS X 10.4: Firefox 1.5
* Windows XP SP2: IE 7
* Windows XP SP2: Firefox 1.5

I haven't tested other systems extensively but would like to see some
compatibility feedback.

NullC reports it works with gcjwebplugin on Linux/Firefox, though perhaps slowly.

Unfortunately the market penetration of Java on Windows and Linux isn't what it
was at the peak of the browser wars; Microsoft no longer seems to bundle Java
and many Linux distributions still aren't shipping a Java plugin. So it may
require some people to separately download and install Java.

-- brion vibber (brion @ pobox.com)


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Re: [Foundation-l] Re: File format policy

Daniel Schwen-2
Works ok, minor video artifacts. The demo on the fluendo website even has
working sound.
* Debian Sid: Konqueror 3.5.1 (Blackdown j2re1.4)


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Re: [Foundation-l] Re: File format policy

Finne Boonen-2
works for me, apart from green flashes of the screen sometimes

on:
Windows XP (don't think I installed any service packs)
  -internet explorerer 6
  -firefox 1.5.0.1

Linux (Gentoo)
  -firefox (blackdown installed)

henna


On 2/14/06, Daniel Schwen <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Works ok, minor video artifacts. The demo on the fluendo website even has
> working sound.
> * Debian Sid: Konqueror 3.5.1 (Blackdown j2re1.4)
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikitech-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://mail.wikipedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikitech-l
>


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unlike you I wasn't given a map at birth!" Alyssa, "Chasing Amy"
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