Select provider of libav* libraries

Dmitry Smirnov onlyjob at
Mon May 11 03:44:27 UTC 2015

On Sat, 9 May 2015 16:00:49 Andreas Cadhalpun wrote:
> What would you count as very compelling reasons if more features, less bugs
> and better security support are not sufficient?

More features is not necessary means less maintenance burden;
Less bugs is not always means better software (it is a matter of how upstream 
manages bugs);
Quality of security support is something that remains to be seen.

Those are all technical concerns but to me there are other concerns that I 
believe are more important. I think we are all can agree that it would be 
beneficial if both projects join forces and abandon competition in favour of 
cooperation. Therefore if one project disappear then another one would 
naturally unite remaining contributors. Then we will have all technical 
benefits of better upstream support, less bugs, more features, stronger 
security as well as less duplication of effort, less fragmentation and less 
maintenance burden.

When we were choosing init system I was against upstart because I did not want 
Debian to become its life support. Remember how quickly upstart faded into 
obsolescence when it became clear that Debian is not going to use it?

I have a feeling that Debian already became life support for libav.
Ever since Debian chosen libav, ffmpeg remained alive and apparently doing 
well without our help. I'm not too sure if libav would be able to stay alive 
without Debian.

From maintenance prospective libav seems to be a liability. We have to carry 
patches for packages where upstreams are not too concerned about supporting 
libav. I maintain 4 packages with patches to replace `ffmpeg` with `avconv` 
(blktrace, seekwatcher, synfig, zoneminder). I maintain at least four  
packages depending on libav libraries:

  * xpra: upstream cares for other distros so he supports ffmpeg and 
(reluctantly) libav because we are using it. He prefers ffmpeg. Packaging 
contains three libav-specific patches.

  * tupi: was using ffmpeg but switched to libav following our trend. Still 
builds with ffmpeg (as far as I'm aware).

  * synfig: upstream could not care less about libav; supports only ffmpeg and 
fails to build with libav. Also contains patch to replace `ffmpeg` with 
`avconv`. We build synfig without ffmpeg/libav libraries at all.

 * zoneminder: supports both but upstream once commented that "Staying on top 
of the libav/ffmpeg mess seems to be a full time job in and of itself".

Also in the light of past libav transitions and deprecations that required 
multiple changes in Debian and upstream I know no upstream who is happy to 
support libav.

All my experience tells me that with ffmpeg we shall be just as good as with 
libav, or better.

I am not qualified for technical comparison between ffmpeg and libav. My 
assessment is purely from maintenance prospective, both in Debian and 
upstream. Although I have no first hand experience with ffmpeg I tend to 
support switching to ffmpeg because upstreams that I'm in touch with seems to 
prefer ffmpeg over libav.

Best wishes,
 Dmitry Smirnov
 GPG key : 4096R/53968D1B


However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the
        -- Winston Churchill

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