Furrygoat writes, Are Codecs the Next DLL Hell? I will be the first to tell you yes, and it will be a huge downfall of the HTPC (Or PC used for any type of audio and/or video decoding or encoding).
Alright, I know more then the average person when it comes to audio and video decoding. That's a problem! The average person on the web searches there favoirte search engine for “codec” and will mainly get a bunch of crappy sites offering pirated and hacked codec downloads. These Codec Packs, as some refer to them, are hell on your PC. They will install a number of codec's that you don't need or want. However, many people think it's the more the merrier type of thing here. The truth is far from this! Taking MCE PC's for example, the MPEG-2/DVD decoder is a rather large part of it working or not. Most “Codec Packs” include at least one (and it some cases up to 4) MPEG-2 decoders. Okay, that is a huge problem for anyone running Media Center. You now have a number of codec's that are basically wanting to decode the video, and only one can win for it to take place.
Another huge issue is that everyone in the world is now developing DirectShow codec's/decoders. Install Nero and you get MPEG-2 decoders, MPEG-2 encoders, MPEG-4 decoders, MPEG-4 encoders and more! Install Sonic Primetime and you get the same. Tons of applications now install decoders and encoders (collectivity “codec's”) and all of them like to register themselves as the highest pritory with DirectShow. DirectShow is this magically part of DirectX that allows Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, RadLight, DVDShrink, PowerDVD, WinDVD, Media Center (MCE), MusicMatch Jukebox, Nero, Easy CD Creator, and just about any program you use for playing back audio and/or video to decode or encode video and audio. Some codec's don't always follow the best way of registering themselves, for example some applications re-register there own codec's everytime that program is launch. This is great if you have PowerDVD on your machine and you want to play a DVD. However, it not so great when you want or have other DVD decoders installed that might be being used by a different applications via DirectShow. In turn, that other application is likely trying to use PowerDVD's codec's even though you might want it to use Nero's or NVIDIAs!
Another big issue is that these companies are wanting there codec's to decode everything. Not only does the DivX codec from DivXNetworks decode DivX, but wll also do XviD and 3ivX decoding. The 3ivX Suite decodes 3ivX, XviD, and DivX IIRC. So you get people installing DivX, XviD and 3ivX becuase they all have different names, and all the decoders can basically do the same thing (Not always true, decode quality can be very different). In addition with Nero and Easy CD Creator (I think Easy CD does, don't quote me on that) shipping with MPEG-4 decoders, they will generally also decode XviD and DivX. Are you counting how many things on the system can decode the same content? It's too many!
Microsoft has always been slow to correctly address these problems, and they really are problems. They can't address or fix people on the Internet being dumb and offering packs of pirated and hacked codec's (Or maybe they can, that's copyrighted materials people) but I would say a good 60-70% of the problems people have with WMP is because of codec's. People have issues with MCE and codec's all the time. The main problem is that a large pool of companies are the problem (or maybe it's just Microsoft with DirectShow, I don't know). Microsoft should take a stand and do a good job of educating people on what codec's are, what they do, how to find out what codec is used in a file, where to download the correct codec, etc.