Linux,  Mandriva

The right Kaffeine back-end

Big discussion tonight on the #mandriva-cooker IRC channel on apparently the management has decideded that Kaffeine will be the default KDE player (which is fine) and that it will use the GStreamer back-end, which is actually marked as experimental by its developers

The reason why Mandriva wants to ship Kaffeine with the GStreamer back-end, is because they can then include the non-free decoders by Fluendo, which implement patent-protected formats. Mandriva has always been shipping xine and mplayer with complete ffmpeg support by default, and this supports formats like MPEG4 (read: divx), WMA, WMV, MP3 which are patent-protected. Most other distributions, actually don’t even support these formats out of the box, because of the patent trap. Now instead, Mandriva wants to use the Fluendo decoders in the Powerpack edition. These codecs are non-free (in both senses), but there are no legal issues, becaues Fluendo has signed agreements with the patent holders.

Some Kaffeine developers joined the discussion, and gave arguments why this should not be done. Actually they consider the Kaffeine back-end as experimental. It is not included in a lot of distributions, and thus has not been well tested. The Kaffeine developers don’t even plan to fix and maintain the GStramer back-end in the future, as it will be removed in favour of a Phonon back-end in KDE 4. The Gstreamer back-end does not support DVB, unlike the Xine back-end. Unlike Xine with XCB support, GSTreamer is not thread-safe, which could cause again the instabilities when embedded in Konqueror. This was the reason why Kaffeine was actually not the default video player in 2007.1, but instead, KMPlayer was installed. Also because of the change this late in the release process, Kaffeine + GStreamer would be very badly tested by Mandriva users before 2008.0 final is out.

Anyway, thanks to the discussion and the arguments given by the Kaffeine developers, it seems like Xine will after all be the default back-end in 2008.0. I think that’s the only right decision. It’s stable, it’s mature, it has been very well tested. So after all the consternation, the right decision will probably be taken, and Mandriva will release with a good video player by default!