Interview with the man behind libmimic

Notis! Dette intervjuet er også tilgjengelig på norsk.

Tuesday night, Norwegian time, Ole André Vadla Ravnås released the programming library libmimic. The news about libmimic broke on yesterday, several blogs have picked it up, and the stream of requests to Vadla Ravnås has been quite steady since the release of libmimic. The 22-year old from Bjørheimsbygd in Rogaland, Norway, is currently studying for a Masters degree in Information Technology at the University of Stavanger, and is in his second of a five year long education.

According to libmimic's homepage, reverse engineering with the purpose of interoperability is completely legal in Norway.

Libmimic is a library that is part of the FarSight project. FarSight's longtime goal is to provide an open, patent-free standard for voice and video communication with instant messengers. Vadla Ravnås, who wrote libmimic by himself, tells us more about the project in this e-mail interview.

We wish to inform you that since this interview was conducted in Norwegian, it has been translated to English by the author of the article.

Can you tell us a bit about your experiences with Linux and programming?

Around 1997 I first got interested in the operating system called Linux, thanks to Roar Idsøe, a friend who was using it. At the time, I was never satisfied with any of the distributions, so I eventually ended up creating my own, and called it JBLinux. This was sometime around 1999/2000. I had done some programming in Basic and Pascal at the time, but it was first when I started using Linux that my curiosity for programming peaked. Since then, I've done several open source projects, and speak a number of programming languages fluently (C, C++, C#, Java, Python, Pascal, PHP, Basic and x86 Assember).

In short, what is revolutionizing about libmimic?

Today, MSN Messenger is growing ever more popular all over the world, and an increasing number of people are starting to use the built-in webcam support. As known this is mainly a Windows product and users of other operating systems have been forced to use third party IM-clients to be able to participate. The problem has been that none of these clients has had support for this kind of functionality because of the proprietary video codec used. This video codec is called MIMIC, and was developed by Logitech.

What is ironic, is that even Microsoft's own client for the only alternative operating system they support, namely MacOS X, neither supports webcams. As the situation is today, only users of Windows have been able to use webcams, but with libmimic, users of alternative operating systems (including MacOS X), will be able to participate.

The article presented at Slashdot yesterday was somewhat badly articulated, as it could be misinterpreted as if it was camera-to-computer and not computer-to-computer that was reverse engineered, and that some might confuse a video conference and webcam functionality, since MSN Messenger has both. Webcams uses this proprietary codec and can traverse firewalls, while the video conference part is RTP-based, and uses more standard codecs but does not traverse firewalls that easily without special configuration.

The fact that some people confuse webcam functionality and video conferences, and the fact that the video conference part has been supported by gaim-vv for a while, makes some people think; well, well, nothing new here.

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