The players reviewed here all expect to find the default hardware mountpoint at /dev/dvd. Though they all also allow a user-specified location, I suggest making things easier by making /dev/dvd. Typically the drive itself actually is /dev/cdrom, so you may need to create a link from /dev/cdrom to /dev/dvd. Simply issue the following command (again as root) to make the link:
ln -sf /dev/cdrom /dev/dvd
If you have multiple CD/DVD-type drives, you need to specify the correct device number for /dev/cdrom; for example, mine is /dev/cdrom1 because my CD-RW drive sits at /dev/cdrom.
I tested the players with a variety of DVDs, all legitimately manufactured and purchased. My local library lends DVDs, many of which are in less-than-optimal condition, and they played fine on the test system, with the single exception of an incredibly bad duplication of Bruce Lee's Chinese Connection. I even was able to watch a truly awful DVD of dubious origin, a remarkable event given that our standalone DVD player wouldn't even recognize the disc in its drive. I'm happy to report that in all tests the options for subtitling, language selection, chapter jumps and skins worked.
So your kernel is configured, the DVD drive is installed and connected, and you're ready to watch Shrek for the 40th time. All you need now is a player application, and happily Linux has some excellent DVD player software. The profiles below focus on four of the most popular players: MPlayer, Ogle, VideoLAN Client and xine. See the Freshmeat listings for other available players and DVD amenities.
I've already used a standalone DVD player, so I expect to find most of its features in whatever software player I select. In the players reviewed here, I looked for support for these minimum features: standard transport controls (start, stop, pause, fast-forward and rewind), scene selection, subtitling and audio preferences and DVD menus. In addition to the amenities found on the standalone hardware player, I expect a software DVD player to switch from windowed to full-screen view easily and to offer random seek/relocate, keyboard control of all transport functions and skin support.
Most of my expectations were satisfied by the players I reviewed. See Table 1 for an overview of versions, features, licensing and CPU stress. All of them performed with excellent results, with no clear winner in the “Best Of” category. My advice is to try them all, then use the one(s) that seem best to you. In terms of weight, Ogle is the lightest (it's a DVD-only player) while the others all come in with about the same metric tonnage. Although I briefly described building the programs, the reader should check the player Web sites for available RPMs and other prepackaged binaries.
Table 1. Comparison Table of Linux DVD Players [*Indicates whether a GUI is an optional or default feature of the build process. **The figures shown represent average low-to-peak-CPU usage reported by gkrellm during play of the Blade Runner DVD. System load included XMMS, five active workspaces (under the Blackbox window manager) and an active DSL network connection running either Netscape or Opera.]
|Player||Version Tested||Subtitles||Menu Support||Random Seek||Keyboard Control||GUI*||CPU Usage**||License|
|xine||1-beta12 (lib) 0.9.21 (ui)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Default||20%–40%||GPL|
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