The BBC is doing more important work for everyone to enjoy:
- Dirac is a way of turning video into data and data back into video (called a “codec” for “compressor-decompressor”). But there are tons of video codecs out there (MPEG codecs, Theora, Sorenson, etc.) so what’s the big difference with Dirac? Dirac is licensed for all to share (they make a point of repeating this in their promo video for Dirac, and for good reason). Unlike MPEG, Dirac puts no licensing restrictions or patent encumbrances in your way. You can use Dirac as you wish. You can even build a business on Dirac if you want, selling your Dirac-based software and charging for services. And on the technical side, Dirac is extremely high quality. Check out the sample Dirac videos and see for yourself; sending Dirac compressed video over extant networks is very useful. Being able to do so without giving up your software freedom is priceless. The current version of VideoLAN Client will play Dirac out of the box. My 10-year old computer (which runs fine on free software) might get upgraded so I can do more with this codec. The BBC recommends using Ogg Vorbis or FLAC as a soundtrack with Dirac and this will leave you with a movie file that requires no patent licenses to play. Upcoming digital movie theater systems will probably use Dirac too.
- New user-friendly BBC free software is coming too (screenshots on their blog). Let’s hope that the shows they distribute are licensed to share (at least verbatim and non-commercially) so you can directly help people see the cool stuff you discover by sending them a copy. Miro has been doing something similar for a long time now, but not everything distributed with Miro is licensed to share and unencumbered by patents (which isn’t Miro’s fault, they don’t control what people distribute). I wouldn’t be surprised if the new BBC shows appear in Miro soon too.