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27 August 2012, 18:28

Raspberry Pi: MPEG-2 and VC-1 licences available

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Raspberry Pi logo The Raspberry Pi Foundation has made additional video codec licences for the mini-computer board available for sale. The MPEG-2 decode licence costs £2.40 (about €3); the decode licence for the VC-1 Microsoft codec is £1.20 (about €1.50). Both licences are available in the Raspberry Pi Store and must be linked to a serial number from a Raspberry Pi's Broadcom chipset, which must be provided during the ordering process. This offer is the company's response to criticism from some of its users who wanted to use the mini-computer as a media centre.

Those who turned their Raspberry Pi into a media centre using, for example, OpenELEC or Raspbmc, quickly found out that the screen stayed black for MPEG-2 and other videos. In its blog the Foundation explains that they skipped the licences in order to keep the sales price at $25 or $35, but underestimated the amount of interest in using the computer for media. Out of the box, the BCM2708 chipset in the Raspberry Pi therefore only processes the H.264 format in hardware; the 700MHz ARM processor is too weak for a pure software codec solution, which greatly limits usefulness as a multimedia client.

In the course of research on licence issues, the Raspberry Pi Foundation was surprised to find out that current standard licensing allows not only the decoding, but also the encoding of H.264 in hardware; support will be enabled in future software updates.


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