Desktop Applications for GNU/Linux – Part 2: Music, Movies & TV

There are plenty of applications in GNU/Linux for playing music or watching movies and TV, and many of them will work perfectly fine on old computers that choke on the simplest of tasks in Windows XP.

There are plenty of applications in GNU/Linux for playing music or watching movies and TV, and many of them will work perfectly fine on old computers that choke on the simplest of tasks in Windows XP.

Music

For playing music XMMS is one of my favourites. It is a lightweight and very simple to use player that resembles Winamp 2. It has a graphic equaliser to adjust the sound and also lets you control your music library using playlists. Amongst various other formats it can play mp3, aac, ogg and flac files. You can add support for other music formats, visualisation and sound enhancement features by downloading various plug-ins.

Amarok is included with KDE, and has a more modern look. It has the general features available in XMMS but additionally can synchronise with various digital music players including iPod, iRiver, Zen, as well as generic mp3 players that let you copy the music without special software. It also has support for last.fm and podcasts.

The upcoming Amarok 2 will have integration with online music stores such as iTunes

Songbird

Songbird is another popular player with a graphical interface familiar to iTunes users. It plays the same popular file formats supported by XMMS and Amaraok. It can be used as a web browser where any music links on the web pages appear as playable files. It supports GreaseMonkey scripts (which will be familiar to many Firefox users) for customising the player. It also has many add-ons for extra functionality e.g. synchronising with your iPod or other mp3 player.

Movies and TV

Xine is a very popular DVD player for linux, as it can play CSS protected DVDs provided that libdvdcss is installed. It can also play many other video formats including DV, MPEG4, DivX, WMV 7/8, QuickTime etc.

Ogle is another DVD player and it was the first to have support for DVD menus in linux. Both Xine and Ogle support DVD menus, subtitles and multiple languages.


VideoLan Client (VLC) is a player that supports a wide variety of video formats including the popular ones listed above, and it has a nice graphical user interface. As well as supporting these formats and DVD playback, VLC can be used to watch TV on your computer provided you have a supported TV card/USB dongle and the drivers for it are correctly installed.

MPlayer is another popular player that can play many proprietary video formats as well as the ones listed above. Support for these formats would not be enabled out of the box in most systems. You would need to get the codecs for the video formats you want and compile mplayer with the correct settings.

However, mplayer is useful to have installed as there is a plugin available for web browsers such as Firefox which allow you to watch online video of various formats.

There are many sites on the web (youtube being the prime example) which use Flash Video (flv) movies. For these just the flash plugin for your browser would be enough to watch the videos.

There you go, now you can waste just as much time in linux as you used to in Windows!

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Author: Musaul Karim

Software Engineer, Hobbyist Photographer, and a bit of a gadget geek.

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