Linux Multimedia Hacks: A Book Review

by Philippe Bardet

Title: Linux Multimedia
Hacks: Tips & Tools for Taming Images, Audio and Video

Author: Kyle Rankin

Publisher: O'Reilly & Associates

ISBN: 0596100760

Price: $29.95 US; $41.95 CAN


Linux and multimedia once again is the target of a book, this one coming from the long
series of Hacks books published by O'Reilly. Although the cover credits one author,
Kyle Rankin, about a quarter of the hacks were contributed by various people.
I therefore refer to "the author" in the rest of this review.

If you're interested in multimedia and the penguin, you certainly must be
puzzled by the plethora of software available for Linux. Which one
fits your needs?

Linux Multimedia Hacks (LMH) explores several software
options, the ones the author feels are worth spending time with. In
terms of the hacks I tested for the purpose of this review, as well as
my personal tastes, I have to say that I'm pleased by the choices the
author made. With the help of this book, I've been able to solve all of
the issues I encountered while trying to edit video on my Linux box.

Software in the open-source world evolves at a quick pace. Even though
LMH was published in November 2005, it still is up-to-date.
For example, my distribution of choice, Gentoo, still lacks some of the
software addressed in this book. But even if your specific distribution does
not include such software, the author doesn't hesitate to explain how to
download the software directly in order to install the latest version available.
Some solutions, however, can be extreme and require another distribution
to be installed, such as the MythTV hacks.

To be honest, you won't find anything in LMH
that you can't find on the Internet. But if you choose that route,
you'll likely spend hours hunting down the right software, plus all
if the installs necessary to test each of them. Alternatively, you
can check one of the 100 topics contained in LMH
and find a fairly quick solution to your problem. And if you can't find
a complete solution to your specific problem, you still can find a good
starting point. For example, the Festival Hack for speech synthesis mentions
multiple-language capability, without explaining how to use it.

If you have other books in the Hacks series, be prepared to find some
repeats from one book to the other. I happen to own Linux
Desktop Hacks
, and I found at least two Hacks that appear in
both books.

LMH is open to a wide range of readers. Some
sections are reserved for power users, but most of it is suitable for
"beginners". A knowledge of the Linux world is required, though. With the
constant evolution of Linux distributions, I wouldn't be surprised if
those power-user sections become trivial in a near future, especially if
distribution maintainers read this book and include the software

Philippe Bardet is a programmer/analyst in the lottery industry as
well as co-host of a radio show at Envol 91FM, a French community
radio station in Winnipeg, MB.

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