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What's in a name?


Xiphophorus helleri is a small aquarium fish (the common Swordtail). What's special about it? Not much, really. The Xiph.Org logo doesn't even look anything like a real swordtail, but it's a logo that's been in use a long time.

What the name does have is the minimum requirement of one letter 'X' for a technology-related organization. That fact that it's impossible to spell is an added bonus.

The Xiphophorus name was later shortened to Xiph.org. English speakers tend to pronounce this [zɪf] (short /i/) while non-English speakers favor [ksif]. Either is acceptable.


The Ogg project began with a few-weekend-attempt at a simple audio compression package as part of a larger project in 1993. At the time, the software was called 'Squish'. The project and the general problem of music compression became a personal fascination, and Squish took on a life of its own far beyond the proportions of the original digital music studio project of which it was to be part.

A few months after the first Squish webpage, I received a polite but firm letter informing me that Squish is a registered trademark (for a mail transport system). Mike Whitson, a contributor to the cause in the early days, suggested the name 'OggSquish' as a replacement.

An 'Ogg' (pronounced [ɑg], [ɒg], or [og]) is a tactical maneuver from the network game 'Netrek' that has entered common usage in a wider sense. From the definition:

3. To do anything forcefully, possibly without consideration of the drain on future resources. "I guess I'd better go ogg the problem set that's due tomorrow." "Whoops! I looked down at the map for a sec and almost ogged that oncoming car."

(see the rest of the definition for the original Netrek usage.)

At the time Ogg was starting out, most personal computers were i386s and the i486 was new. I remember thinking about the algorithms I was considering, "Woah, that's heavyweight. People are going to need a 486 to run that..." While the software ogged the music, there wasn't much processor left for anything else.

These days, Ogg has come to stand for the file format that developed from that early compression work and is part of the larger Xiph.org multimedia project; Squish became just the name of one of the Ogg codecs. For that reason, we usually just refer to it as Ogg when there's no Netrek context nearby. The Ogg project has nothing to do with the common surname 'Ogg'. Nor is it named after 'Nanny Ogg' from the Terry Pratchett book Wyrd Sisters.

The 'Thor-and-the-Snake' logo is drawn somewhat from Norse mythology; the real symbolism is the sine-curve shape of the snake. Thor is hefting Mjollnir about to compress the periodic signal Jörmungandr... See, it all makes sense.

Ogg Vorbis

Vorbis, on the other hand is named after the Terry Pratchett character from the book Small Gods. The name holds some significance, but it's an indirect, uninteresting story.

Ogg Vorbis (pronouned [vōr'bĭs]) was the first CODEC in developed as part of the Xiph.org multimedia project, begun immediately after Fraunhofer issued its 'Letter of Infringement' to freeware MP3 encoder efforts. Vorbis is intended to go head-to-head with MPEG codecs like AAC and has historically achieved comparable or better quality.

paranoia IV

Paranoia IV is the upcoming release in the logical progression of Paranoia, Paranoia II, Paranoia III... Release IV is a cross platform library project that combines a portable SCSI packet command interfaces with platform-independant code to find specific hardware devices. On top of these it places specialized interfaces that wrap the hardware in an error correcting layer to make up for deficiencies in specific device examples. Paranoia IV provides the CDDA and error correction engines to cdparanoia series 10.


Cdparanoia is the error correcting compact disc digital audio extraction (CDDA DAE) tool built using Paranoia III (currently, up to release 9) and Paranoia IV (release 10, to be announced).

The name should be somewhat self-explanatory; the logo is a bit weirder. Dubbed 'the All-Seeing Laser Playback Head of Omniscience' it's a takeoff of the eye-and-pyramid symbol of wisdom. Think you've seen it before and can't quite place where? Look on the back of a US one dollar bill.

An interesting note on the 'eye-in-the-pyramid' symbol from Nathan Myers:

In the [this] page, you can explain the "eye in the pyramid" symbol as indicating that which exists solely because people believe it exists. (Money and gods are examples, so it being on the dollar bill is appropriate.)

The eye is placed on a starburst pattern emanating from the hub area of a compact disc.