Watching GA from a Linux machine (and open formats)

(Please read to the end; I have something to ask you.)

UU Mom was looking to watch tonight’s opening session of the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly (UUA GA) online, but it is only available in a proprietary Windows format. She noted:

It would be nice if they’d use an Open Source program. We missed part of the banner parade due to a streaming problem & we didn’t see our banner (if it is there). We’re now watching it with the audio & visual out of sync.

I took a post-work and by the time I roused myself, got to the computer, checked GA, and tried to both feed myself and make a work-around to see the stream on my computer, it was over. (I’ll try again tomorrow and put up as comprehensive a set of directions as I can.)

But her point about the proprietary format isn’t avoided. It seems strange that there’s only one way to see this media and that we have to go through a single company’s technology to use it. And there’s a good free and open source option.

As it happens, I spoke to an advocate in this field a few weeks ago — I run in a fun crowd at work, but too recently for this GA — and to the technology lead at the UUA. We have a meeting penciled in for July.

I hope to make an airtight case why the UUA ought to have plural streams and why one should be in a free and open-source format. Until then, if you’re interested in seeing this, leave me a note in the comments.

Open media formats for Unitarian Universalists

Are there any Unitarian Universalists — or keen open codec advocates who read this blog — who use Ogg Vorbis (audio) or Ogg Theora (video) to play, share, stream or store media? These are free and open-source media formats.

I may have a project.

In related news, I bought a refurb digital audio player (“MP3 player”) that supports Ogg and am enjoying it much. Of course, it takes a bit of work with Linux, but I hope to tell all once I have a successful workflow.

Boston NPR station streams in free format

Good news from the Free Software Foundation: Boston National Public Radio broadcaster WBUR has begin streaming its content in the free Ogg format. The importance?

Unlike MP3, Windows Media, Real Audio or Quicktime, Ogg Vorbis is not restricted by software patents. The threat of these patent lawsuits chills independent development of multimedia software tools. The use of unencumbered formats like Ogg Vorbis is necessary for providing access to publicly funded news and other programming without dependence on the patent-holding corporations and proprietary software vendors.

Patent-encumbered formats owned by companies like Microsoft and Apple require listeners to use non-free software; controlled by them, not by the users. They design their software to restrict the users and spy on their activities. If users choose Ogg Vorbis for audio and Ogg Theora for video, they can use many different media players, including free software designed to respect their freedom and privacy. (Full press release at FSF)

In short, you shouldn’t have to go through a proprietary gate to get to content supported by the public purse. For more background, I wrote about the Ogg format twice last year here and here.

Good for WBUR. You can listen to the stream (in a number of different formats) here.