FFhistory: zeal and passion

Before moving to people who have contributed greatly to the functionality of the project let’s talk about the two people who have made an extremely large impact on the perceived image of FFmpeg. Of course I’m talking about Diego Biurrun (the passionate one) and Carl Eugen Hoyos (the zealot).

Both of them come from MPlayer and have contributed to both projects in technical way. For example, Carl Eugen is responsible for VDPAU support in some decoders (or maybe all decoders in libavcodec that support it, I can’t bother to check). Diego not only performed massive code refactoring and spell checks, he has also contributed to the newer build system FFmpeg uses up to this day. But that’s not what they are famous for, right?

Diego’s father was a scientists working on toxic waste management—which seems rather fitting considering that Diego joined MPlayer and worked on refactoring FFmpeg codebase. Diego was not merely improving the existing code but he also performed reviews of the incoming patches for spelling errors and code formatting. And he was passionate about his work indeed, sometimes he had to be told to be stopped. Since his was often the first review many external contributors received, they had an impression that the project is all about nitpicking. I remember some j-b saying once that CEmpeg and libav probably could merge back together after they kicked Carl Eugen and Diego respectively. If you wonder how Carl Eugen got similar reputation, we’re getting to it.

Carl Eugen Hoyos is an Austrian with a specific personality. While Diego acted out of passion for the ideals and caused harm unintentionally, Carl Eugen acted as a huge fanboy of Michael Niedermayer and caused harm consciously (hence me calling him a zealot). I don’t remember much what he did before the project split but after that he was a very active fighter for CEmpeg. And by fighting I mean writing nastygrams to fresh developers sending their patches to libav telling them that it is an illegitimate fork and they should send patches to FFmpeg instead, to various distributions telling them libav is an illegitimate fork and they should switch to FFmpeg instead and so on. I have no evidence but I heard that he sent the similar letter to the Summer of Code organisers so they were rightfully disgusted and neither project was selected for participation. He also regarded libav people as thieves since all admins joined the new project and it does not matter that the domain name was in possession of Fabrice Bellard (who obviously had the final say in the name dispute), Git repository was hosted by VideoLAN and the old MPlayer/FFmpeg server was given to Carl Eugen’s acquaintance at the first possible moment (remember, it was hosted as a favour to one of the admins and he had no obligations to keep it online forever). As I mentioned before, to me it is a lot thanks to his actions that libav is now dead, otherwise it had a chance of more or less peaceful coexistence (some attempts were made several times after all).

And to end it on a slightly lighter note, Carl Eugen is also famous for his activity on FFmpeg bug tracker. There he acts as anal-retentive watcher, always correcting ticket statuses and asking for more information. Thanks to his constant reminding of attaching complete console output, the phrase “full, uncut X is needed” has become a local meme. This is what makes him about as loved by first-timers as Diego was.

But if you think that he’s an unpleasant character nobody likes you’d be wrong. He is liked by many, especially by Kieran Kunhya and Paul B. Mahol (unless he’s joking about it), and he even has his own great fan—Thilo Borgmann. IIRC Carl Eugen, Thilo and Alexander Strasser often stick together, attending conferences or even manning a booth there.

This series of posts is about real people and you should remember that real people are not fully good or fully bad so you should judge them in whole. There will be more examples in the following posts (but probably nothing as extreme in the next one).

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