Minutes of the Xiph.org Monthly Meeting for May 2003

Author: Carsten Haese
Contact: carsten@xiph.org
Date: May 10, 2003

Table of Contents

1   Introduction

The monthly meeting for May 2003 took place on May 4, 2003, at midnight UTC in the IRC channel #xiphmeet on irc.xiph.org. The following people were present, in no particular order:

The meeting was moderated by Jack Moffit.

2   Organizational Status

Jack Moffit gave an introduction to Xiph.org's organizational status. Xiph.org is a Delaware corporation and is now recognized as a tax exempt 501(c)(3) entity. Xiph.org has 5 board members: Monty, Patrick Mahoney, Jon Callaghan, Mike Person, and Jack Moffit. The board is responsible for matters of financial concerns and to settle disputes. Monty and Jack currently run the organization.

Since Xiph.org is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt entity, about half of Xiph's funding should come from public support, like donations and sponsorships. The other half can come from contract work and other income. Currently, about 90% of Xiph's income comes from contract work.

Ed asked about how membership in Xiph.org is defined. The answer is that there is no formal definition beyond the board members, and Monty is currently Xiph.org's only employee. Informally, active volunteers seem to be considered members of Xiph.org.

Dan asked about a rough idea of Xiph's current budget. Jack estimated that Xiph has funds to operate at current pace for a year into the future. Patrick added that Xiph has taken in about $100,000 since its inception in September 2001.

3   Current Contract Work

Monty and Jack reported about current and future contractual obligations. Currently, Monty is working full time on the Neuros firmware. There was a technical setback due to lack of any 8-bit type in the compiler for the processor that the Neuros uses, but Monty has the situation under control.

All other contract work by Monty is currently on hold while he is working on the Neuros project. Outstanding contracts for Monty are:

The other currently ongoing contract is with Real Networks to develop playback plugins for the RealPlayer/Helix architecture. It's looking good so far, but the project stalled last year after the initial work. Jack will complete the work this summer.

4   Neuros and Positron

Stan gave a brief introduction to Positron. Positron is part of the Neuros contract. It is a Neuros synchronization manager for Linux that copies songs from the host computer to the Neuros and updates the device's database. Positron is written in Python. While the contract calls for Linux only, we hope to provide is for MacOS X as well. Windows already has a synchronization manager.

5   Administrative Issues

Xiph.org's bookkeeper is Emily Katt. She is currently doing our taxes, and she will provide financial statements for future meetings.

Ralph Giles will free up Monty by taking over as primary system administrator. Mike Smith volunteered to be the new Bugzilla maintainer. Carsten Haese volunteered for the position of Secretary.

Jack asked all volunteers to email him with contact information, so that he can keep track of who does what and how to reach them.

6   New Projects

6.1   Speex

Jean-Marc Valin, principal author of Speex, gave a brief introduction to Speex. Speex is a codec specifically designed for speech, mostly for Voice over IP (VoIP) applications. It's meant to provide an open-source alternative to G.723.1, G.729, ACELP.xxx, and all other proprietary codecs.

For being patent-free and being mostly developed by one programmer, Speex compares quite well to the state of the art. Speex needs about 15 to 20% more bandwidth than AMR-NB, the current state-of-the-art codec, to achieve the same quality. The compression ratio is therefore a little worse, but Speex is completely free. Since it is free, many game companies are becoming interested in it.

6.2   FLAC

The other new project that joined Xiph.org is FLAC. Unfortunately, Josh Coalson, FLAC's lead developer, could not attend the meeting.

7   Project Status

7.1   Vorbis

Vorbis needs a bugfix release. A number of bugs are fixed in CVS, and a few new features have been added, like Speex and FLAC support in ogg123.

7.2   Icecast

Icecast is 99% of the way to a 2.0 release. Most issues are related to autotools problems. The Windows port is maintained by Ed, who keeps his binary releases in lock-step with CVS activity.

7.3   Theora

Dan Miller summarized the status of Theora. Theora is Xiph.org's implementation of the VP3 codec that On2 donated to Xiph. Unfortunately, Theora is suffering from the lack of a full-time lead developer. Monty has done what he can, but he is of course busy doing other things. Dan has done some work on encoding codebooks in a setup header packet, but he is unable to be Theora's lead developer. Everybody agrees that Theora needs a lead developer, and Dan suggested asking Mauricio Piacentini if he is willing to fill the gap.

8   Standardization Efforts

Silvia Pfeiffer and Phil Kerr updated us on the current status on the standardization efforts. RFC3533 and RFC3534 for the Ogg encapsulation format and the application/ogg MIME type are well on their way and should be out soon. The Vorbis-over-RTP draft is still being worked on: Phil is investigating an addition for caching codebooks. Phil also volunteered to write an internet draft for Vorbis.

Jean-Marc mentioned the Speex RTP payload profile that was written by Greg Herlein, and pointed out that somebody needs to apply for an audio/speex MIME type. And of course, audio/vorbis and audio/flac should also be applied for, as Nathan pointed out.

There was a question about what kind of specification is necessary to apply for a MIME type. There is a specification for Speex, but it is not complete enough for an independent decoder implementation, and it's not an RFC.

9   Short Term Objectives

9.1   New Releases

Both Vorbis and Icecast are in need of new releases. The icecast release hinges mostly on documentation and on autotools issues. For documentation, it is planned to contact the authors of various unofficial and partial FAQ's and HOWTO's to see if their works can be combined into an official icecast documentation. The tentative target for the icecast release is the end of summer.

On the Vorbis front, there are autotools issues, too. We are in need of an autotools wizard that can help us out. An update of the API is needed. There are also some bugs that only Monty knows how to fix, and since he is busy for the time being, the Vorbis new release is also slated for the end of summer.

There was some discussion about whether it's desirable to integrate FLAC and Speex into oggenc and oggdec. The problem is that there is currently no unified codec API, which would result in a lot of code duplication. An alternative would be to stick with the philosophy of "one tool for one task" and rename oggenc and oggdec to vorbisenc and vorbisdec, respectively.

9.2   Website Overhaul

Currently, the web presence of Xiph.org is split into many different websites for each project. To learn what Xiph.org is about, one has to do a lot of browsing. This needs to be improved in order for Xiph.org to get wider recognition. There are some ideas in the Wiki at http://wiki.xiph.org/WebsiteOverhaul, and some more ideas were mentioned:

  • Consolidated news page with news from all projects
  • Consolidated downloads
  • www.xiph.org should become more public friendly, and each project would be at project.xiph.org

9.3   Client Support

We don't have a clear picture of what works and doesn't work. Everybody that has a little bit of time is asked to contribute what they know to the Wiki. The biggest unknowns at the moment are DirectX plugins and MacOS (both classic and OS X) support.

10   Long Term Issues

The long term issues of Theora and Fundraising are closely linked to each other: We need a Theora lead developer, and we need more money. Regarding fundraising, Dan pointed out that industry consortia like MPEG, ISMA, and MAIF get good money from corporate pockets simply by offering "involvement." Since our stuff is free, we can't sell access, but we can offer "legitimacy."

Also, Xiph's free and open standards keep the MPEG patent holders from charging arbitrary licensing fees. There must be companies that see the value in this and who would prefer donating to Xiph over paying high patent licensing fees.

Another possibility for fundraising is to have people make donations towards future developments. This is a tricky issue, though, because donations must not have any strings attached. Several options were mentioned, like setting up donation pots for specific features, or assigning bounties to certain future developments or bugfixes. However, these options need to be discussed with our lawyer to determine what procedures are allowable in the context of public funding and donations.