Linux Multimedia

Sander gives tips on how to play CDs, MP3s, MPEGs and DVDs on Linux.

One of the greatest challenges, if you are working with Linux, is to fulfill all your multimedia needs. In this article we explore some of the available possibilities, using Red Hat version 7.2. Only the first two CDs were installed because the third CD only contains commercial software, and we don't want to use anything commercial, only openly available software.

Music

Generally, there are two kinds of music one can listen to on a computer. There's the CD you buy in a store, and there's the MP3, which can be downloaded from the Net. Let's start with the first and put a CD by the woman who is also known as "la guitara" in the drive. You would think you could put the CD in the drive, activate the CD player from the "Multimedia" menu item and it would work, but it isn't always that easy. On our first try, the system was mute. In such cases one should use the Red Hat-based tool sndconfig. This tool tries to find out which kind of sound card you are using. Alas, we had a card from Avance Logic with an ALS4000 audio chipset, which isn't supported. In this case, you could go out and buy a different card or try another Linux distribution. So, we tried SuSE Linux. SuSE has a very nice graphical tool to configure the sound card included in its YaST2 configuration tool, and yes, this time it worked. The card was recognized without any problem. Before you can listen to a CD with SuSE Linux, you need to open the Sound Mixer and switch on the CD as a sound source (which is not done automatically). Once that's done, you can use the CD player to listen to music. No big deal.

Listening to some MP3s is not a big challenge. All you have to do is find some MP3s on the Net and launch the KDE Media Player. In the media player, activate the File menu, select Open and play the MP3; that's all.

Video

Now that we've got sound working, which isn't very complicated if you use the right distribution, let's go on to the next step: the movies. Generally, there are three different kinds of movie files available. First, there are MPEG-1 files. There should not be any problem playing these because there is no proprietary compression program/decoder (codec) needed. This means you can just play the file on any player.

Besides these generally available MPEG files, there are AVI files. Most of the time, these are files that are coded and compressed by means of a proprietary codec. This means that if you want to play them, you need the right proprietary codec. This can be a real challenge because these codecs almost always are developed for the Microsoft Windows platform and not for Linux. So in fact, there are two problems if you wish to play any of these files. First you have to get the right codec, and second, you need a Linux program that is able to handle the codecs, which are developed for the Microsoft platform.

Apart from this, there's also a legal issue. Many of these files are compressed and encoded by means of the MPEG layer 4 codec, which is illegally ripped and used anyway. This codec is also known as the DivX codec, and the problem with it is that it isn't even legal to have it on your PC. Most PC users don't really care about that, but it does mean that it can be hard to find the right codec for a DivX-encoded file. If you try to watch these kind of files with the KDE Media Player we mentioned before, you won't see anything if you try to open it.

Figure 1. AVI is not among supported files in many players.

So, we have to try something else. One of the best things you can try in these cases, is Xine, which can be downloaded from xine.sourceforge.net. You will need two parts to be able to use Xine. One is the file with the necessary libraries in it and the other is a file that contains the binaries. The right procedure is to download the libraries first, compile them and once you've done that, go over to the ui-files. After downloading the files, compile and install them. Then go to the source directory, which was created while extracting the files, and give the following commands:

./configure
make
make install
make clean

First do this for the Xine libraries, then download the Xine ui-files and perform the same procedure on them. Chances are that you will get a nice error message while trying to configure the Xine ui. This could be because the installer couldn't find the Xine libraries. This is no problem. Just open /etc/ld.so.conf, add the location of your newly installed libraries (of course you didn't install them in /root/xine-lib-n.n.n did you?), save the file and run ldconfig to let your system know about this location. After that, you shouldn't have any more trouble running ./configure on the Xine ui-files.

Now that everything is configured and compiled, start it up by running the command xine. This starts a window and a panel like that of a CD player.

Figure 2. The Not-So-Intuitive Xine Panel

Now, in the Xine panel, click on the button with "://" on it in order to browse your filesystem. Browse to the file you want to play and when you find it, click on it once and select the Play button. The system should start playing your movie file now.

Figure 3. Playing an AVI File in Xine

Now the big question is, how does it work? Because most codecs are written to run on Windows exclusively, Xine looks for them in the directory /usr/lib/win32. So if you ever get a new Windows codec, put it there and you also will be able to use it in Xine.

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Use Vector Linux. It

Anonymous's picture

Use Vector Linux. It supports everything out of the box...DVD, mp3, windows media formats etc...

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

Sounds quite, uh, amateurish to change distro just because sound card X isn't officially supported by distro Y. Just compile the kernel module for card X and install it with the help of one of the best configuration tools in existence, the vi editor. It's not rocket science after all...

Amateurish

jazzfixer's picture

"Sounds quite, uh, amateurish to change distro just because sound card X isn't officially supported by distro Y. Just compile the kernel module for card X and install it with the help of one of the best configuration tools in existence, the vi editor. It's not rocket science after all..."

Logically, it's not rocket science. But assuming you're not a dentist, consider this: "No problem. Just fix that cavity and the pain will be gone…"

Please post some guidelines for those not in the know but close to, will U? Thanks…

MPEG 4 comments

Anonymous's picture

MPEG-4 is an internationally recognized standard, not a hacked codec. There was once "DivX ;-)" which was indeed a hacked codec, but now DivX represents a legal codec available for commercial and personal purposes at www.divx.com.

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

Remind me...

If you bought the CDs, why wouldn't you use CD #3?

You aren't advocating that people *NOT* use the software they paid for, are you?

Re: mplayer ?

Anonymous's picture

Somehow you skipped the most impressive video tool in linux - mplayer. It will play anything Windows Media Player plays, and then some.

http://www.mplayerhq.hu/homepage/

Mplayer

Anonymous's picture

I couldn't care if the MPlayer team aacrificed small animals as part of their morning ritual...MPlayer woeks really well as does videolan-client.

Re: mplayer ?

Anonymous's picture

Some how you forgot to mention that the mplayer authors are *howling loons*.

Re: mplayer ?

Anonymous's picture

Hmm. Is Linus T. a kindly user-firendly guy?

Mandrake!

Anonymous's picture

Hi,

Mandrake 8.2 comes with Xine as an application already integrated in the menu system. It has every (legal) plugin available for Xine.

Why, when talking about Desktop applications for Linux you always left *The* Desktop Linux Distribution out?

With Mandrake all the "desktop goodies" are already there, configured and properly available on the menu.

And, also, with some imagination, you can get the DeCSS / DivX stuff for your Mandrake.

Thank you.

Re: Mandrake!

Anonymous's picture

I know what you're saying.

I just downloaded and installed Mandrake 8.2 and it came with Xine perfectly installed. I was surprised because I had never seen the app before.

After I loaded it (curiosity), I recognized the design because of my girlfriend's ATi DVD player... I don't have a DVD Drive, but I was excited because it opened many of the movie files that I wasn't able to access in Linux before.

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

Playing CSS-encrypted DVD's on linux using any of the existing apps (xine, ogle, mplayer, ...) is only illegal in the US. For someone with a decidedly non-US name you should know that. Ofcourse, it won't be long till laws are approved in europe and Japan that contain comparable language to the DMCA (the EU law is drafted and will pass this year, despite it being even worse than the DMCA and drawing heavy protest from tech circles)

Also, CSS' focus is not on blocking people's ability to copy DVD's, after all, you can copy a DVD if you want to, because a DVD is just a series of bits, and you don't need to decrypt those bits to copy them. The real purpose of CSS is to stop people accessing and using DVD's in non-approved ways, like happened with music CD's. You can't skip past commercials on DVD's, you have to suffer with region coding (which stops parallel import, so the movie industry gets 100% of profits, instead of 95%), you can't make screenshots, you can't cut segments out of movies (both of these severely cripple any possibility of fair use; too bad it's not a right, or we could sue 'em).

There will also never, ever, be a commercial player for linux that will be publicly released. Why? To make a DVD player you need to get a license from the DVD-CCA, which among other things says that it must be impossible to make a screenshot. The open code of the linux kernel and xfree86 ensures that whatever trick any company would use to try to stop people from making screenshots would eventually be circumvented. Only closed source OS's, or integrated systems (which don't allow access to the system's innards) have the option of running a legal (in the US) DVD player, in other words.

Mind that the plan is to switch music CD's over to music DVD's eventually, which will no doubt have exactly the same problem, and have no legal players on linux. Ever.

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

>To make a DVD player you need to get a license from the DVD-CCA, which among other >things says that it must be impossible to make a screenshot.

I don't think that this is one of their rules. I have a commercial 'legally purchased' DVD player for Windoze that allows screen shots and saves them to files. I'm sure you've heard of WinDVD from Intervideo?

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

I use CyberLink PowerDVD 3.0 on Windows, and it can save screenshots as .BMP files

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

Hmmm, I'm just wondering what a "decidedly non-US name" is.

Anyone who lives in the US has a European/African/Asian name. (unless you are Native-American).

RPMs for Mandrake ...

Anonymous's picture

... capable of doing almost anything you want relating to MP3s and video (DVD/MPEGS/AVIs etc) can be found the the Penguin Liberation Front Lair

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

At gape.ist.utl.pt/ment00/linuxdvd.html we found a tarball named complete_xine_0.4.3.tar.gz, which contains a complete version of our favorite player Xine--complete in this case meaning including the CSS snapin.

xine 0.4.3 is *ancient*. You really should grab the latest version of xine from its homepage and use the dvdnav plugin (which provides full DVD menu support for xine) and the libdvdcss library which dvdnav uses to access encrypted discs.

Secondly, the later xines (0.9.x and above) natively support DivX videos and many other codecs (e.g. cinepak, etc) and some quicktime files and ASFs/WMVs without the Windows DLLs via code from the ffmpeg project.

--
Damocles

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

At gape.ist.utl.pt/ment00/linuxdvd.html we found a tarball named complete_xine_0.4.3.tar.gz, which contains a complete version of our favorite player Xine--complete in this case meaning including the CSS snapin.

xine 0.4.3 is *ancient*. You really should grab the latest version of xine from its homepage and use the dvdnav plugin (which provides full DVD menu support for xine) and the libdvdcss library which dvdnav uses to access encrypted discs.

Secondly, the later xines (0.9.x and above) natively support DivX videos and many other codecs (e.g. cinepak, etc) and some quicktime files and ASFs/WMVs without the Windows DLLs via code from the ffmpeg project.

--
Damocles

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

I take issue with your assertion that you can't play encrypted DVD's on SuSE Linux. I use SuSU and do exactly that.

You obviously haven't looked very hard to find Linux DVD software. Try Ogle, MPlayer or VideoLAN. All of these will play encrypted DVDs, and on SuSE.

And stop spreading FUD about the legality of playing legally purchased DVDs on Linux. Extreme paranoia about deleting the files from your disk is just scare-mongering.

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

Using Mplayer or Ogle on a linux machine, you _are_ performing acts with the css library that are a federal crime in the U.S. of A. DMCA upheld in the ebook case, right?

No problemo as long as you are on good term with your ex-. Otherwise, maybe she'll think you'd look good spending five years in a cell with "Bubba".

I just have a _real_ problem with laws that _CAN_ be used against people arbitrarily. It's a witch hunt waiting to happen.

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

Stop making assumptions and read the law!

It covers distribution of circumvention tools, not the use of them.

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

Although I'm not a person that goes around ripping dvd's, the author does have a point about the legalities of playing dvd's in linux.

So, If the cops see you playing a dvd on linux, they'll arrest you for not buying windows to watch your dvd's on.

Go figure tho, i have no idea what the legallities are. I, also, payed for the dvd player. Paid for the dvd movie. So, I should be entitled to play it on anything i want to, so long as i don't go ripping them or other obvious copyright infringements.

Yup, he's also stating that playing encrypted dvd's within linux are somewhat a pain. But after finally getting the xine libs to do encryption, I was also turned-on to another called "Ogle" that did play encrypted dvds on without any additional configuration (ogle is somewhat beta but quite usable. xine is more complete & more stable)

dvd playing

exorcist's picture

lol, if the cops see ya playing a dvd on linux they are gonna take no second glance.. christ the cops where i'm at are so stupid about technolgy claims, when i had 3 monitors on my system and was doing port scans on one, watching a movie on another, and chatting in the other monitor when the cops came for loud noise they looked at my setup and said wow i can't even turn mine on let alone do all that. I was like yeah, if you need any repairs done call me

-Exor

Re: Linux Multimedia

ghostdancer's picture

Do you want him to write an article and publicly admit/support of doing that??

You are kidding... right? ;P

---

I don't play DVD, in my part of the world, we play VCD...

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

Why not? It's _not_ illegal. He's in the Netherlands, after all, not the Corporate States of America. And, if I a.) had a DVD drive and b.) had DVD movies I would c.) find it perfectly ethical and moral to watch what I legally bought and paid for. In fact, I might even send a letter to the MPAA (cc'ed to my representatives and senators) stating exactly what I had done and why. We only legitimize the fear when we hide; if millions came out in the open, the fear would disappear and the stupid laws like the DMCA would be useless.

:Peter

Re: Linux Multimedia

Anonymous's picture

>The second solution is the DVD player that uses illegally obtained software to decode the DVDs.

in no way follows from:

>The legal status of CSS decryption is unclear

It looks like we all might ha

Anonymous's picture

It looks like we all might have too much time on our hands. Let's just go watch a damn movie.

and maybe ...

Anonymous's picture

you'll use this time movix

damn right man damn right!!

Anonymous's picture

damn right man damn right!!