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Logitech MSN Webcam Codec Reverse-Engineered 255

Alexis Boulva writes "Tonight, Ole André Vadla Ravnås of the Farsight project (LGPL), which 'is an audio/video conferencing framework specifically designed for Instant Messengers' for the GNU Linux operating system, finished coding a release candidate of libmimic, 'an open source video encoding/decoding library for Mimic V2.x-encoded content (fourCC: ML20), which is the encoding used by MSN Messenger for webcam conversations.' Ole, on the libmimic site, remarks that 'It should be noted that reverse-engineering for interoperability is 100% legal here in Norway (and in most European countries).' Looks like the Free/Open Source Software movement is very close to closing up one of the most noticeable software gaps remaining from its glorious efforts."
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Logitech MSN Webcam Codec Reverse-Engineered

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  • by cacrus ( 705459 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @07:31AM (#12142359) Journal
    Can't wait to see video conf between windows and linux platforms . Until now a lil is achieved by Skype , which makes it possivble for linux and windows users tohaev voice chat . period. nothings else.
  • by Pants75 ( 708191 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @07:32AM (#12142368)
    So for fun, and challenge, I reverse-engineered the original implementation by studying the massive amount of assembly code involved, and after a lot of hard work I ended up with this implementation in C.

    Nice, gotta give the guy props for that.

    That is not a trivial undertaking at all.

    I tip my hat to ya.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @07:34AM (#12142380)
    > Looks like the Free/Open Source Software movement is very
    > close to closing up one of the most noticeable software gaps
    > remaining from its glorious efforts

    Why not use ichat/AIMs video protocol. It's a fully open standard, described completely on Apple's developer site. All there ready to go.

    Or is it more important to chase what Windows does, rather than what Works?
  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @07:40AM (#12142401) Homepage
    This is getting crazy , why do software companies and open source developers keep spewing out endless video codecs. We don't keep seeing alternatives to TCP popping up every week, why is video so different? WHat the hell is wrong with mpeg anyway??
  • patents? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @07:48AM (#12142435) Homepage Journal
    Reverse engineering is legal, but have they no patents or copyrights? Usually they slip in some meaningless junk so they can patent it and/or copyright it. And I think most contries do have some form of patents?
  • Re:Legality in US? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by turbofisk ( 602472 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @07:52AM (#12142450)
    Which doesn't really answer his question.... I'd be surpriced if anyone gets sued for this in the US though... The work hasn't been done in the US, so no harm done? It can't be illegal to *use* reverse engeneered software, right?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @07:54AM (#12142460)
    Umm, how else do you reverse engineer if not from ASM. (software anyway)

    If you can't read ASM then your chances of reverse engineering any IA32 program are slim to none.

    Study it for a bit, it is really not as hard as you think. The quality of dissemblers has gotten to the point where they can easily show you the outside calls, params, and windows hooks.

    Don't glorify it just because you can't program in anything but C++ and Java.

    Real men can program ASM!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @07:57AM (#12142470)
    The Logitech Sphere already workes fine with Linux.
  • by turbofisk ( 602472 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @07:58AM (#12142473)
    True, but it's also true that better codecs come out. Of course, better is in the eye of the beholder, but alot of people seem to enjoy hrhdtv xvid releases more than dvdr for example... It's of course not a good comparison, but saying that we should stop evolving codecs is just plain silly... Keeping the formats open is however another story. Goverments should force by law open formats to increase interoperability. Would Office be the moneycow it is, if .doc wasn't closed?
  • Re:Wonderful! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmayle ( 200765 ) * on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @08:03AM (#12142492) Homepage Journal

    access to young 18+ sluts on webcam

    Yeah, sure, that's funnay and all, but for anyone with friends, significant others, family distant from them, this is a godsend. I use Linux every day at work, and at home, but I used to have to boot into Windows at home every weekend so that I could actually SEE my girlfriend.

    You see, I live in France, while my now-ex lived in the U.S. On the upside, I'm now dating a French girl, but I'd still like to be able to see my mother, and my sister and brother-in-law. This way, I don't have to boot into Windows at all... (And even when if I ever have to, I'd prefer GAIM on Windows any day over MSN, which is so limiting)

  • Bounty! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @08:14AM (#12142538)
    I hate to piggyback on your post but I wanted this to be seen.

    I am currently working for a company that spends prohibitive amounts of money on videoconferencing. Not because they are stupid but rather because there are no "enterprise" quality videoconferencing products out there at an affordable price. By "enterprise" quality, I mean that the device needs to have the following:

    1) PTZ Camera [] (PTZ = pan, tilt, zoom)
    2) Complete control from remote control (including PTZ)
    3) H.320, H.323 and SIP
    4) Massive profit

    Currently, we are paying about $50,000 USD for a dual plasma installation. While I realize that the 42" plasmas are a reasonable portion of the cost ($10,000), the rest is just a PC with a camera and some software. We don't even do any advanced multi-party capabilities - just connect to a bridge and let it do the work. It would be real nice if some bright spark would enter this market and offer something at a reasonable price (but still at huge profit).
  • Re:Wonderful! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ark42 ( 522144 ) <slashdot&morpheussoftware,net> on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @08:45AM (#12142683) Homepage
    Really? My 2wire firewall/router/wireless/dsl combo I got for free from SBC has a single checkbox, to allow H.323. It seems to do some smart state checking with TCP port 1720 and allows TCP port 1503 as well, just like the FTP server checkbox does some smart state checking with TCP port 21 so it can open up other ports as needed.
  • by hhghghghh ( 871641 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:08AM (#12142789)
    WHat the hell is wrong with mpeg anyway?? Which MPEG? MPEG-1? MPEG-2? MPEG-4? Most of these are pretty high bandwidth, even at crappy webcam resolutions, and aren't tailored to lots of data-errors (crappy cable internet bandwidth) or streaming in any way. Even the MPEG people think so. That's why there's now MPEG-4 part 10 for low-bandwidth streaming. MPEG-4 part 10/AVC/H.264 is a likely candidate for all these sorts of applications (wrapped in 3gpp protocols for instance), but it's rather cpu-intensive, and you don't want to use 99% cpu for your crappy webcam. In Microsoft's case of course, the goal is to keep people from using non-Microsoft msn messenger clients; particularly seeing as Microsoft had already standardized on H.263 in NetMeeting (which, like windows messenger, comes with Windows XP's default install). Though admittedly, NetMeeting's use of H.323 makes it unsuitable for most home-users who are behind NAT boxes or funky firewalls; but nothing would keep you from using H.263 over SIP - SIP, which is also supported by windows (not msn) messenger. Microsoft replacing windows messenger and NetMeeting with msn messenger is basically a big push towards proprietary standards over open standards.
  • by 0x461FAB0BD7D2 ( 812236 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @10:13AM (#12143390) Journal
    Perhaps, but it's not a good strategy. They did it recently with forcing people to upgrade to MSN6.

    If they continue forcing users to upgrade all the time, they would lose users to other services, like Jabber, ICQ, AOL and YahooIM, due to frustration.

    ICQ's networks still work with older versions of the client. I'm currently using 2003b.
  • by mo^ ( 150717 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @11:18AM (#12143985)
    Isnt over-bundling of software the reason MS got sued in the first place and one of the many points thrown against them by MS disparagers?

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