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RealTime IT News

Real's Helix Now in Linux Distros

Linux players Novell and Red Hat are teaming with media company Real Networks to include its RealPlayer and Helix Players on their distributions.

As part of its news, Real Networks also said it would release Helix Player, the underlying technology of RealPlayer 10, on Linux under the General Public License .

The Helix player is Real Networks' open source effort to allow media formats, including its own RealAudio and Video formats, to be distributed in Linux. Real's player would join at least three current media player projects in the Linux/open source community: Xine, MPlayer and VLC (video lan client).

Novell also said it would make RealPlayer 10 for Linux the default player for RealAudio, RealVideo, Ogg Vorbis and Theora media codecs on its upcoming desktop Linux release. Red Hat plans to include the Helix Player with its desktop offering and offer a no-cost upgrade to RealPlayer10 when available.

RealPlayer10 is currently available as a beta download and it expected to be available as a stable release later this summer.

But RealNetworks, for the first time since it launched its open source initiatives, will now release Helix Player under the GPL . The new license offering is one of three that developers can choose from, including the RealNetworks Public Source License that is compatible with other non-GPL open source licenses. A third option includes the RealNetworks Community Source License (RCSL) that enables development of proprietary applications.

The Free Software Foundation, author of the GPL, hailed the move. "We encourage interested free software developers to learn from, improve and share the Helix Player," said Eben Moglen, general counsel and director of the group. "Real's understanding of the power of the free software development paradigm and adoption of the complementary commercial license and the GPL license allows both Real and the free software community to benefit from the GPL's 'share and share alike' approach."

But others in the open source community were not as enthusiastic about a new competitor. "The Helix player will not add much to what users already have in Linux," said James Courtier-Dutton, a xine media player community member and developer. "The Helix player does not support as many codecs, so users are better off with free Linux players that do, like MPlayer, xine and VLC," he told internetnews.com.

Diego Biurrun, an MPlayer developer and community member, chimed in. "MPlayer (www.mplayerhq.hu) is entirely free software. Apart from a few binary codecs it supports almost all formats, codecs and streaming protocols," Biurrun said. "Helix just cannot compete on a technical level, except maybe for nicety of packaging/installer/GUI."

However, Biurrun said he thinks the move to the GPL by Helix is a good thing. "I welcome Helix being available... under the GPL, though." Biurrun said. "Now that it's GPL, we may have a look at it. The other licenses were not an option."