One of the main reasons I originally got hooked on Gentoo was because of its awesome support for multimedia applications. I think that support is still evident and strong. When I first started trying out Linux distributions in 2001, my goal was to have it replace Windows as my primary desktop. One big thing was that I wanted to play MP3s. I remember Red Hat didn’t ship with lame, and it really bugged me that I had to go to some other site, download an RPM and install all this stuff manually. I thought that was just about the dumbest thing in the world. Then I tried Mandrake and liked that a lot, and the same thing happened. It got even worse, though. I wanted to play around with some of the cool multimedia applications like MPlayer and Xine that I had heard so much about, and to do that I had to fiddle with repositories like PLF (which is a great resource, btw). I was still a linux noob, so setting all that stuff up was really annoying, especially since I was still reinstalling quite a bit to get things working right.
And then I remember I tried Gentoo. What a breath of fresh air that was. I remember how cool it was that I could set use flags and automatically pull in support for MP3s with XMMS. I couldn’t believe it was that easy. And then I got Xine and MPlayer working too, I just had to emerge them. It was great! The more I played around with multimedia, the more I realized how nice Gentoo was treating me. It was easy to install support for all these codecs so I could playback QuickTime and RealPlayer movies. Good times.
I still love working and playing around with multimedia stuff. In fact, the first team that I joined after becoming a Gentoo developer (aside from user relations) was the media-video herd. I did that so I could help out with the multimedia applications and support on Gentoo, which I think is already pretty darn good. Even if I had to cut back my responsibilities, I think the video team is one that I would never abandon. I love working on the stuff. There’s a lot to improve, but for the most part it is minor.
As far as proprietary formats, and codecs, Gentoo has excellent support for those that I don’t think you’d really find elsewhere (although I don’t know, as I haven’t really looked). Isn’t it nice that you don’t have to add all these external overlays just to play a movie? When it comes to the matter of licensing, I hate the patents and the unethical terms that they come packaged with, but I believe first in the principle of giving users the choice to decide. I help out on RealPlayer, mplayer, binary codecs and ivtv, all of which use proprietary drivers or firmware.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m certainly not in favor of using proprietary software at all. I firmly believe that users who know their stuff need to get off their butts and help reverse engineer these things, so that we don’t have to rely on them anymore. Just as ffmpeg (and MPlayer) got support to playback WMV codecs from a Google Summer of Code project, other formats and projects need time, dedication and support to make some progress. Consider getting involved if you can.
In the meantime though, I’m happy to help users get the multimedia support they want and need. If you have any problems, as always, feel free to ping me.