Open source regression

On a previous episode of “Core Intuition”, number 14, Daniel and I talked about open source. One LGPL tool I use in Wii Transfer is called FFmpeg, a very popular video conversion project that forms the base of many video web sites, as well as the Mac QuickTime component, Perian.

In the latest Wii Transfer I updated to a new version of FFmpeg, which it turns out had a major bug: “broken audio for 8-bit input sources”… Of course I am including the fix in a bug fix update to Wii Transfer (still “beta in the forums”, but not before many customers were hit by the problem.

Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it reminds me of one annoyance with FFmpeg: no releases. You basically just follow trunk, and if there’s a bug, sorry. This is understandable. It’s open source, after all, and the developers don’t owe you anything. But at the same time, it’s one of the reasons I’ve moved to Perian-only in my new app, and left the FFmpeg trunk and other similar open source command line tool projects behind. With Perian I can track specific major releases and know that someone has tested them. QTKit is good enough now on Leopard that I feel comfortable basing on app on it.

Daniel also mentioned in passing that violators of open source licenses are likely to get away with it. I think that’s largely true, but I found that the FFmpeg developer base has a pretty keen eye to this issue. If they notice that commercial software is using FFmpeg or MEncoder or other portions inappropriately, they will list the software in their “hall of shame”…

Manton Reece @manton