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UK trumps Europe on Linux streaming

Local council's multi-platform streaming service wins funding and an award from the European Commission, which itself only supports Microsoft
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor on

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.

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