(Editorial note: I am trying to keep these posts short and to the point. I have had about 20 responses to them so far, all but one positive. So I will keep going for now.)
The woeful state of multimedia. Specifically: handling the (in)ability to play some formats.
A typical scenario that occurs at least once a week for me is that I will attempt to play a multimedia file (usually a movie), and the application I use can not deal with it. That's actually fine, especially if you are free software/anti-patent bigot like me. What bugs me, however, is that the shell (Nautilus?) will happily launch the application, or allow you to associate the application with the particular MIME type, when it is known that the application is unable to deal with the file. (I use Totem, Xine, and Mplayer by the way.)
I was going to post about something else today, but this one leapt to the fore in my brain after I had waited for a long time for a file to download (5Mb on a 56k connection) after Firefox offered me the option to save it to disk or open it with Totem. Totem starts up and then tells me it can't handle that file. OK, so it was a WMV. Try again with the Quicktime version of the file. Same result. DVDs? With Totem? Forget it. That's why I have to have three media players: to handle all the formats that I come across.
GNOME "Just Works"? GNOME is simple? I don't think so. And considering the ubiquity of multimedia in today's computing experience, I see this as a major impediment to encouraging people to start using GNOME.
The way forward: can we change the MIME type infrastructure to disallow the user associating applications with MIME types that they cannot handle? Nautilus offered to open a VOB file with Gedit. I can't remember associating Gedit with VOB files, and I am pretty sure that I would not have done so on purpose. Perhaps a distribution associated VOB files with Totem. But why would one do so? We know that will cause failure and frustration.
More: can the error dialogue of Totem be changed to give the user a clue about how to install plugins and where to find them? And perhaps a link to a page describing GNOME's stance on proprietary formats? (Does such a page exist?) I have hope on this front, and want to publicly thank the Gstreamer people for their efforts.