What is .ogg?

The following is a bit of information about the ogg audio format, in preparation for the release of version 2 of the 30 Days to Better Shime program, the companion audio files for which are released in both mp3 and ogg formats.

Ogg (or more technically, ogg vorbis) is an audio format like mp3. It enables compression of audio to make music files smaller. For a given file size, ogg is higher-quality audio than mp3, but that’s not the main reason I like it.

mp3 is not truly free (as in freedom). Although end-users can use and share mp3’s freely, software and hardware developers who create the software and devices that play mp3 files must pay a royalty to mp3’s patent owners. For those of us in the Free Software community, this means we can’t write mp3-playing software freely. Even if we had the funds to pay royalty fees, the share-alike nature of Free Software makes it extremely difficult to calculate the number of users of a particular program.  In short, license fees don’t work with Free Software.

Ogg was created to be truly free, without patent restrictions and licensing fees.  By using ogg instead of mp3, you empower software and hardware creators to create freely.  Software developers are forced to include mp3 support in their applications, and to pay mp3 licenses, because mp3 is the de-facto format.  But by using ogg-playing software and enabling your computer to handle ogg files, you free software developers and music creators from having to buy into the mp3 racket.  When you use ogg, you make a subtle contribution to freedom.

Here is an ogg file (the amazing Rahzel!) to test whether your system can currently play ogg files.

How to use OGG

Ogg is supported out-of-the box on most gnu/linux systems but on Windows and MacOS, you often need to do a few things to get it working.  Here is some information to get you started.

See this site for a long list of freely available software for Windows and MacOS that supports the ogg format.

To enable Ogg Vorbis in iTunes, my good friend Ron Golan has provided the following howto.

Using Ogg Vorbis with iTunes (Quicktime)
25 OCT 2008

This howto is written with the Apple Macintosh computer in mind. If you are using iTunes on Microsoft Windows, the step will be similar but file locations and other things will be different.

Since iTunes uses Quicktime behind the scenes to play audio files, Quicktime is the application that needs help to play Ogg Vorbis. There is a Quicktime plugin that gives Quicktime the capability to play Ogg Vorbis. It is XiphQT.  XiphQT: Xiph QuickTime Components (XiphQT) is a set of QuickTime plug-ins that allow iTunes, and other QuickTime-based applications, to play ogg vorbis files.  Once installed, this plugin should also enable other Xiph formats such as FLAC.

Download the latest XiphQT binary package to your computer from here.  There are instructions in the included ReadMe file.

On a Mac, copy the XiphQT file to /Library/Components .

Reboot the computer.

You should now be able to start iTunes, add .ogg music files to your library, and they will play.  You will not yet be able to click on a .ogg file and have the computer recognize what to do with it, however.  If you care to enable that, you need to do the following.

Select an ogg file in the finder and from the File menu, choose Get Info.  In the ‘Open with:’ section of the Get Info window, in the drop down menu, choose other and select Quicktime and click Add. Back in the Get Info window, also click on ‘Change All…’ so this will apply to all oggs. The next time you log in, Quicktime will be listed in the application list for ogg files as well as being the default application when you double click on
an ogg file.

Once you get it working, download this incredible speech by Eben Moglen, one of my very favorite speakers on the topic of Free Culture!

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