February 17th, 2009
Elisa just keeps on rocking more each week. They release an update to the 0.5 series every week with useful bugfixes and small new features, and rarely break anything. This week’s update – 0.5.28 – is particularly dear to my heart, as they implemented a feature I’ve been bugging the poor Fluendo guys about for months now – in-container soft subtitle support. This is a feature widely used by anime, which is mostly what I use my HTPC for. Rather than being simply burned in as part of the video stream itself, or supplied as an entirely separate file, subtitles are provided in text-with-timing-information format, to be rendered by the player, within the video container (MKV is the container format usually used to do this). Gstreamer has basic support for rendering these subtitles, but it’s utterly non-configurable, and shows up in rather ugly – and small – yellow text, which was pretty unwatchable. Finally, with this update, they get rendered in nice, sensibly sized, white letters by default in Elisa, and you can configure how you want them to look as well. Awesome stuff, guys.
With all these quiet weekly updates, Elisa is turning into a real contender. With this fix I can pretty much use it full time for my HTPC. This is nice because it’s a very pretty and clean interface, and also because Gstreamer actually seems to render video more smoothly than xine or mplayer – I get quite a bit of tearing, especially on HD videos, with xine and mplayer, but not so much on Gstreamer. Not sure why this is, it’s a bit of an opaque area for non-experts to investigate. It’s not maxing out the CPU, so that’s not it, and I did test briefly with VDPAU, which didn’t seem to make any noticeable difference.
I’m still packaging Elisa for Mandriva, because my HTPC is still running Mandriva (don’t really see any need to go through unnecessary work to convert my servers and HTPC to Fedora, Linux is Linux…). Fedora has good Elisa packages already, maintained expertly by Matthias Saou, so my services are not required there. He doesn’t update quite as fast as me, though.