UK trumps Europe on Linux streaming

UK trumps Europe on Linux streaming

Summary: Local council's multi-platform streaming service wins funding and an award from the European Commission, which itself only supports Microsoft

TOPICS: Tech Industry

When the European Commission launched a streaming video service last year which excluded Linux users, large swathes of the open source community became deeply angry. Now, a Surrey local council has shown that open source operating systems can be included in such programmes.

The Commission's service, which streams key decision-making meetings over the internet from the Brussels council chamber, can only be viewed by individuals using Microsoft Windows or an Apple's Mac OS X. More than 18,000 unhappy Linux users signed a petition demanding that the Commission allow them to view the streams.

The Commission was unmoved by these calls, and claimed that supporting Linux was illegal — a claim it rapidly dropped when the petition was brought to its attention by ZDNet UK.

In the meantime, a local council in Surrey been developing an identical streaming project over the last 18 months. And unlike the Commission's project, developers behind the UK version have made their service available to Linux users.

So impressed is the Commission that it has awarded the project, run by Waverley Borough Council, £40,000 to help continue its efforts. The Commission has also awarded Waverley's project — called eParticipate — the title of eTen project of the year, beating 700 other e-government projects run across the European Union.

Waverley council is now streaming two key council meetings a week to its constituents, plus one-off special events. Interested parties can use either Windows or an open source distribution to access the service. ZDNet UK accessed a stream, and found a near-faultless video and audio stream when using the Firefox browser on the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

The council is supplying related documents to users during the webcasts — such as PowerPoint slides, PDFs and planning applications. It also indexes the streams whenever a new person speaks, so users viewing archived material can jump straight to any point in the webcast.

Waverley is now passing the secrets of its success to 40 other UK councils, some of which have themselves secured funding from the Commission to develop streaming services.

Topic: Tech Industry

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  • Linux Streaming

    "The Commission was unmoved by these calls, and claimed that supporting Linux was illegal
  • Still the Waverley Council Site not quite telling the truth.

    On the Waverley Council site they tell you that you will need MS IE6. Of course I like this article tried it out with Firefox on Ubuntu (using the Mplayer plugin for Mozilla) and indeed it does work.

    Of course the EC site would always work for such a setup. They just told you you couldn't and if you could it would be illegal. Well they first recanted about it being illegal and they have now grudgingly but completely recanted:

    "On which platforms can I view the live streaming media service of the Council of the European Union?
    The live streaming media service of the Council of the European Union can be viewed on Microsoft Windows and Macintosh platforms.

    The open source community can follow the public events in the Council, broadcasted through video streaming on the Internet, via means of an open source player like VLC which is available at no cost on the Internet and which is running on several platforms as e.g. MS WINDOWS as well as several LINUX distributions."
    (From the EC site FAQ)

    However the EC site is only available on wmv so you are in the legal grey area of a download of the codec from a site in Hungary (well Hungary is an EU member) maybe not legal in the States but legal here in Canada. The Waverley stream is available on RealMedia as well as wmv. You can of course 100% legally download Real Player for Linux and the Realmedia codecs. The Waverley site integrates with my Linux system better than the EC one and is more pleasant to use.
  • Fear

    "Fear makes people do strange things", you say, ator1940. Very true. But whether the European Commission is more scared of Microsoft or open source, I could only guess.
  • Europe is yet to learn

    Pleased to see the streaming project worked for you as well, but I agree, it's a shame the European Commission hasn't embraced the same techniques Waverley has. Thanks for the tech tips as well.