ogg means freedom, my brothers and sisters!

The Short Version.

.ogg is short for "Ogg Vorbis," which is a file format similar to .mp3, but completely free for use by consumers and media producers (which .mp3 is not). It is at least as good as the .mp3 format, often better, and in many cases the file sizes are much smaller, which means less download time for you at home. It's unfortunately not as common as .mp3 (yet!), which means that you may need to install some software on your computer to play .ogg files. Fortunately, I've provided links for you!

Quick Links:

w i n a m p   a u d i o   p l a y e r   f o r   w i n d o w s
[download]
(3.4M)
winamp is a free audio player that is capable of playing OGGs and MP3s as well as many other kinds of audio. If you download this, you also need to download and install the ogg vorbis plugin below.
[winamp homepage]
o g g   p l u g i n   f o r   w i n a m p
[download]
(113k)

this is a "plugin" that you download and run -- it will install the capability to play ogg files in winamp.

NOTE: New versions of Winamp support ogg "out of the box" so if you upgrade winamp instead, you do not need this plugin -- huzzah!

o g g   p l u g i n   f o r   w i n d o w s   m e d i a   p l a y e r
[download]
(1.6M)
this is a "plugin" that you download and run -- it will install the capability to play ogg files in windows media player, but I recommend that you download winamp instead.
v o r b i s   p r o j e c t   h o m e p a g e
Ogg Vorbis Homepage
get ogg and read more!
t h e   g n u   p r o j e c t
The GNU Project
learn more about Free Software

The Long and More Informative Version.

As some of you know, I'm very interested in Free Software, and particularly Linux. I think that most software patents are bad for competition, and especially bad for innovation and the software community. Sometimes this can be as inane as a patent on the idea of a "hyperlink," or as understandable as a patent on a compression algorithm. The problem with software patents in my opinion is twofold -- sometimes patents are granted for exceptionally lame things -- like "the hyperlink". Yes, someone actually tried (succeeded?) to patent the hyperlink so that they could potentially charge you or a company for every click you make on a web page. The other kind of patent covers things like MP3s -- a company owns the patent on that compression technique, and in an attempt to charge people for their "intellectual property" they hunt down individual software designers and artists to squeeze royalties out of them, or try to stop their work because it competes with their own software development. The Mpeg Consortium (owner of the MP3 patent) have sought to lay claim to their invention now, long after the fact by imposing royalties and restrictions with what one can do with their product.

To a certain degree, I respect the idea of "intellectual property" and their right to protect their interests should they so choose. However, I also see how this leads to domination and extortion. MP3 is such a vital part of the music world, but since the Mpeg Consortium holds the patent for their "invention," so they are free to charge whatever they like for people who choose to use MP3. The same is true for Real Audio and Windows Media. Incidentally (but not coincidentally) this is the same problem with nearly all software patent lawsuits -- either something is painfully obvious (hyperlink) or so widespread that royalties and fees choke out competition and innovation (MP3). Does someone really deserve to get royalties for the invention of a hammer?

Wouldn't it be great if there were an alternative to this mess?

THERE IS, and it's called Free Software. We like to say "Free as in speech, not as in beer." What this means is that with free speech you have the right to say or do anything you choose, whenever, wherever you want. With free beer all you can do is drink it, albeit without paying anything. While some people might think that free beer is better than free speech, I disagree.

Free Software is software written by individuals and companies with no restrictions on it for use, development or royalties. Kind of like free speech. Individuals hold copyrights on their works, but they allow people to use and develop those tools as they see fit. Things you might have heard of, like Linux, Apache Web Server, Tivo, all run on software that can be used by anyone, developed by anyone, and improved by anyone for the cost of a download. Movies like Shrek were made using Free Software. Nearly everything computer related involved with the production of this album, including web space, computer software, format encoders, etc., were done using Free Software. This means that I don't owe anybody anything, nor can someone come back and say, "we've decided to charge you for X." That is a refreshing feeling, my brothers and my sisters.

MP3 is, to a certain degree, "free beer," in that I did not pay to create these MP3 files -- but that is strictly at the whim of the owners of the MP3 patent. They could, at any time, decide to charge for every MP3 that exists on the 'Net, every piece of software (commercial or not) that can play them, etc., etc., and I, as the holder of these MP3s, would owe them money for their "intellectual property". The MP3 encoders I used to make the MP3s for Skates are Free Software, but in utilizing the intellectual property of the Mpeg Consortium, they exist at the whim of said consortium. Lately these software packages have been disappearing from the 'Net because the Mpeg Consortium wants people to use their software, and so have been threatening legal against the programmers who created these tools, and others who make them available.

(As a side note, Free Software is almost always far more secure than proprietary software, but that is a different discussion entirely.)

Again, while I support their right to do this, I think it is ridiculous in the computer software realm, particularly in the design and use of file formats and other "standards" and subsequently have no intention of being under someone else's yoke in this manner.

This brings us to Ogg.

There is a piece of Free Software called Ogg Vorbis, which is a Free compressed audio file format (like MP3) which does not infringe on any of the Mpeg Consortium's patents -- this means (among other things) that it is completely free (as in speech) for artists to use, and does not jeopardize either programmers or artists' security. Neither the listener or the artist will ever be charged royalties or brought to court for using Ogg (which could very easily happen with MP3).

What's more, is that in many cases, Ogg files are actually smaller and sound better than MP3. Because I want to support this community-oriented, good-to-your-neighbor and freedom-minded software, I support Ogg Vorbis, and even recommend that you listen to my music in Ogg format, rather than in MP3 format. If someday it comes to the point that I would have to pay fees simply to make MP3s of my music, I will remove the MP3s and use Oggs exclusively. Frankly, I believe this is why the Mpeg Consortium hasn't charged individual artists like me -- if they thought they could get away with it, they would have tried it by now.

It is easy to use Ogg instead of MP3 if you use Linux, but is a little trickier if you use Macintosh or Windows as your primary operating system. If you use Windows, I recommend that you use the Winamp MP3 player, and you can get an Ogg "plug-in" for Winamp -- this means that you can play and use Ogg files on your computer for no charge! If you use (and want to continue to use) Windows Media Player [not recommended], you can get a plugin for that below, too.

Download Links:

w i n a m p   a u d i o   p l a y e r   f o r   w i n d o w s
[download]
(3.4M)
winamp is a free audio player that is capable of playing OGGs and MP3s as well as many other kinds of audio. If you download this, you also need to download and install the ogg vorbis plugin below.
[winamp homepage]
o g g   p l u g i n   f o r   w i n a m p
[download]
(113k)

this is a "plugin" that you download and run -- it will install the capability to play ogg files in winamp.

NOTE: New versions of Winamp support ogg "out of the box" so if you upgrade winamp instead, you do not need this plugin -- huzzah!

o g g   p l u g i n   f o r   w i n d o w s   m e d i a   p l a y e r
[download]
(1.6M)
this is a "plugin" that you download and run -- it will install the capability to play ogg files in windows media player, but I recommend that you download winamp instead.
v o r b i s   p r o j e c t   h o m e p a g e
Ogg Homepage
get ogg and read more!
t h e   g n u   p r o j e c t
The GNU Project
learn more about Free Software

Please taste the freedom of totally Free Software and help eliminate the monopolies that companies are using to get rich and control you.

Yours,
Peter and all of us at Tastytronic Records (ha!)