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CrossOver Brings QuickTime Movies to Linux: Part 1

by Derrick Story

Editor's note: CrossOver is a plug-in designed to bring native QuickTime and Shockwave Director functionality to the Linux platform. When properly installed, the product's developers claim that Linux users can play QuickTime movies and experience the same performance that Windows and Mac users currently enjoy.

CrossOver incorporates another technology developed by CodeWeavers called Wine, that is a collection of libraries that have been built from scratch and that provide specific functions that standard Linux installations lack.

This article is part one of a two-part series. Part one is the introduction to the CrossOver plug-in, and part two will evaluate its performance.

At this year's LinuxWorld SF, CodeWeavers released the 1.0 version of its CrossOver plug-in for the Linux platform. Among other things, the plug-in enables high-performance playback of .mov files in Linux browsers and with Apple's QuickTime Player.

As a QuickTime author (and a fan of online QT movies), this couldn't be better news. If indeed CrossOver performs as advertised, then we finally have an ubiquitous multimedia platform for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh. Content creators can assemble their movies once and stream them to the majority of computers connected to the Internet.

Apple strengthens its multimedia cross-platform position

When I interviewed Jim Graham, CodeWeavers CTO, at LinuxWorld SF, he told me that Apple had provided them with great support during the CrossOver project.

"Not only was Apple helpful with the technology issues," Graham said, "but they even changed the QuickTime license to accommodate CrossOver. The previous license stated that the QuickTime plug-ins could only run on the native platform they were designed for. That wouldn't work for CrossOver because we're using the Windows QT plug-in on the Linux platform. Apple changed the license so we could do that."

A smart move by Apple. The Linux audience continues to grow, but licensing issues often stand in the way of bringing popular proprietary applications from other platforms to the open-source community.

QuickTime has been one of those tools that Linux users have wanted. It is a versatile set of multimedia goodies assembled into one package. Once installed, users can display virtually every still image format available including .jpg, .tiff, .png, .psd, .pict, .bmp, and .gif. Video playback is often handled via .mov files that are native QuickTime format, but the player can also handle MPEGs and most versions of Avis. Even popular MP3s can be decompressed and played with a QuickTime player.

Over the last few years, competing technologies by RealNetworks and Microsoft have dominated the online multimedia market. RealNetworks has fallen off the pace a bit, but Microsoft continues to improve its products and bundle them with its operating system. Media Player 7 is terrific if you're on the Windows platform. The Mac version isn't quite as user-friendly and not nearly as popular as QuickTime for the Mac OS.

But Media Player isn't even available for Linux, and I think it's safe to say, never will be. The RealNetworks product isn't as well-designed as either Media Player or QuickTime, and its codecs (compressors/decompressors) are inferior to those of its rivals.

Now, with QuickTime available for the Linux platform, we finally have a high-quality, versatile, multimedia tool available to nearly everyone on the Internet. QuickTime movies can be authored on any of its platforms and played on the others without further adjustment. When the movies are served via HTTP, they can be downloaded, stored on the hard drive, and played over and over.

Comment on this articleIf you had the ability to download and play QuickTime content on your Linux box, would you use it?
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As of version 4, Apple introduced the QuickTime Streaming Server (under its public source license) that uses the Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP). And in version 5 "skip protection" was added so that network traffic wouldn't interrupt the smooth playback of multimedia streams.

In addition to independent QuickTime servers popping up all over the Net, this new capability allowed Apple to launch its own streaming project, QuickTime TV, that supports dozens of "live" channels and is available for free to everyone who has a QuickTime player.

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