Interview with Arpi
This is an as-is extraction of the
posted on the
Hungarian Unix Portal
on 2001.11.16 and copied here with the permission of the original
author, trey. It was translated
to English by Gabucino.
I've already written numerous articles on
this site about MPlayer. In one of them I claimed it's the fastest, most
usable MOVIE player for Linux/Unix. It's also famous, known in every single
corner of the world (not joking). In my latest article I also wrote that
- according to me - more people know it abroad than in Hungary. I think
we Hungarians should be proud of the projects which gain us fame all around
the globe. Thus I decided to make an interview with the creator and main
programmer of MPlayer, Árpád Gereöffy (A'rpi). I've asked him about
quite some topics: GPL, MPlayer's history, development, etc.
- When did you start programming? Where did the
idea to write a MOVIE player come from?
- These are two questions :)
- Well that was a long time ago, at my age of 10, on c64 :). (Like Pontscho,
but he had vic20). I've got bored with the games quickly, and started to
write miscellaneous things, of course not big stuff like MPlayer... I've
been unsatisfied with ready things even at that time, and wanted to rewrite
everything. After all, this is what keeps Linux alive, and evolving. Everyone
touches into the programs, which in turn gets better.
- The idea came a year ago. Somebody lent me a VCD, and - needless to say -,
neither of the current players could cope with it. I wasn't satisfied with
mpegtv anyways, and that was the only working mpeg player available at that
time. So I stayed with the well-working method: let's rewrite one :) My
victim was XMPS, I've spent a lot of time (1 week :)) fixing bugs, and at
the end I realized that the codec (SMPEG) was bad, so all is in vain.
Plan "B": let's write one. You know what happened :)
- Who develops MPlayer? Who are the team members, and what
their tasks are?
- Well that's a complicated question. As with the opensource
projects in general, this one also has much (several hundred!) developers,
most of them submit only few line fixes, but those are also very helpful!
I would split the "team" to 3 parts: core members - this is their main
project, spending most of their free time on MPlayer, the contributors who
send patches, developing smaller parts of the code, and the "outsiders"
who don't have anything to do with MPlayer, but write libs which we use,
and which are essential in out progress. The developers' list is available
in the documentation, so I'd just outline the most active core members here:
- Gabucino - documentation and homepage maintainer and translator, user-whacker,
IRC admin, morale decreaser, and the winner of the face compo, btw :)
- Pontscho - GUI hacker, master of the CVS :)
- LGB - rewrite-o-maniac Debian + GPL fan, part-time DVD store :)
- Szabi - parser generator :)
- Atmos - SDL fan, windows porter :)
- Nick Kurshev & Michael Niedermayer - MMX/3DNow/SSE gurus, mostly they are
responsible for MPlayer's speed
- Strange that although most of the team and even you are hungarians,
you are very rare to be heard from in Hungary. What could be the reason?
- Maybe because we aren't politics, and we have nothing in common
with the oil case :)
But seriously: MPlayer is a pretty new program (1 years old), people have just
started using it, and this is the first big project for most of us - apart from
the demoscene. We mailed some forums, newspapers (like CHIP), but nobody
bothered. Now all of them want interviews... On the other hand, even most of
the users don't know that it's from Hungary. The reason for this is maybe
that we propagate the program, not us :)
- There are multiple MOVIE players for Linux/Unix, like for example
Xine. What makes MPlayer differ from the other players?
- Well a year ago my answer would just be: this one works. This
one year was very active in linux multimedia, a lot of players have born
from nearly nothing, and then disappeared according to the laws of the
evolution. Either of the players still actively maintained are good, but
each of them has its bias on different things. The speciality of MPlayer
is running in one process. Many people think this is a Bad Thing, but they
can't deny that it works, and gives greater performance than the concurrent
players, like xine of avifile. Also the audio & video synchronizing code is
special, when I coded this, neither of the current players cared about it.
This has changed now, but bugreports like "the audio was synced only with
MPlayer" are frequent even now. Nowadays we grew above the other players
in supported platforms, output devices, and fileformats.
- What are your plans with MPlayer? What new features are you
working on now?
- Plans? World domination. :)
We are developing three big things now: TV cards' support (so MPlayer will be
usable also for TV watching, using the supported output devices). Mostly Alex
is working on this. The other is the MEncoder. This is a converter/encoder
program. The reason for it is the same as for MPlayer: there is no stable,
working linux/unix encoder with proper A/V sync. Now there is, or will be.
The third is a bit dark area, namely the support of windows quicktime plugins.
The development is proceeding pretty slowly, and we don't even see 50% chance
for success, but the crossover plugin showed it's possible, so we won't
give up either.
And the documentation will also be rewritten, as always :)
- Where can the MPlayer users go with their problems? Is there an
on-line forum or iRC channel where they can get help?
- On IRC there is the #mplayer channel, but it's a very "lonely"
place as far as I know. If the user wants fast and usable answer, I recommend
reading the appropriate documentation (bugreports.html), and then writing
to the mplayer-users mailing list. Neither us, or the other recipients of the
list like questions already answered in the documentation, so those usually
get RTFM answers. The documentation is very good, and continually extended
according to user questions, thus in case of problems it's a must-read!
The list's language is english by the way, because there hasn't been much
requests for a hungarian list.
- Is it possible for someone would like to join the development, or
is it closed?
- Not at all closed. Anyone can send patches, of course according
to the rules (see tech documentation), and if we checked it's fine, we
commit it. After more good patches the submitter is offered the CVS write,
though often we felt sorry for this afterwards.
- I heard you hate the GPL. Could you explain the reason?
- The reason is: Gabucino ;)
The "hate" is a bit harsh, let's just say I don't agree with it. Why? The GPL
doesn't allow using non-GPL licensed codes in GPL programs. This gives us big
bother, because half the code is GPL, the other half is not. Last time the
kernel was giving such problems, because starting with (I think) 2.4.10 all the
drivers had to be GPL. This is pissing off developers (many hardware
manufacturers just can't release the source, due to license of used
technologies) and users (they can't compile such drivers into the kernel, only
- Something was removed from the MPlayer homepage. It was about the
gcc 2.96 and was removed due to RedHat's request. Could you explain this?
- We've been asked what our problem is with gcc 2.96 (mainly
because such version does not exist, at least not on GNU site, and it compiles
broken code in numerous ocassions, or doesn't compile at all). We got bored
with answering so we rather wrote a section about this into the documentation,
and part of this went to the homepage as well. RedHat didn't like it though,
they said we decrease their reputation and we can be sued for it :(
- I saw there was a window$ port of MPlayer. Many people didn't like
it, could you tell me about this?
- This was only for a joke, we don't intend to release or
continue it. Atmos was too bored on an afternoon, and he messed and messed
with cygwin and objdump until he got a minimal MPlayer compile on windows.
It was unusable as there was no optimized code in it, but worth to take
a screenshot ;)
- In the latest version the MPlayer has a GUI. Did it went in on
user request or will this always be implemented?
- It was done on users' nagging, and of course we'll develop it
further. It's worth to check the skins, some of them can concur with windows
- How much are you interested in users questions?
- Barely. Interesting questions are asked very rarely because
those things are already implemented, or still have technical reasons for
being not. For lame ones we answer: ok, write it and send the patch. Then
either someone writes it, or it's forgotten :)
A'rpi / Astral & ESP-team
So this was the interview, thanks to A'rpi for it, particularly for the
quick response ( I wrote the mail at 22pm, I got the answer at 1am =] ). I
hope this helped spreading MPlayer. I'll be announcing the new features
of this project as before.