by August 10, 2001 0 comments

“Can I play Video CDs or MP3s on Linux? Can it play AVIs too? Really? I bet it can’t play DivX, though!” And the answer to that widely popular question is “Yes, it can!”. Allow us to present a few players for most of your audio/visual needs.

The X MultiMedia System (XMMS)

The most popular of the Linux media players and why wouldn’t it be, if it looks and acts like the most popular MP3 player on Windows, Winamp. If you’re a Winamp lover, you definitely won’t feel out of place with this player. But this clone can do something else too, and that’s play VCDs and MPEGs.

By default, XMMS will be installed and is available in almost all the desktop environments. If you can’t find it in the menus, use the run command or a prompt at type “xmms”.

To play tracks or streams, just add them into the playlist by either selecting the directory, selecting the files themselves, or specifying the URL of the stream.

It comes with various input and output plugins and one of the is these S-MPEG plugin, which when enabled lets you play a VCD or MPEG file.

To find out whether this plugin is installed, from a command prompt as root, type:

# rpm -q smpeg-xmms
If it isn’t installed, put the PCQ Linux 7.1 CD2 into your drive, and as root:
# mount /mnt/cdrom
# rpm -ivh /mnt/cdrom/RedHat/RPMS/smpeg-xmms-0.3.3-1.i386.rpm
To enable this and other plug-ins, right-click on XMMS and choose Options >Preferences.
In the Audio I/O Plugins tab, the s-mpeg-xmms plugin is located in the Input plugins box. Select the plugin from the list, press “Configure” to configure the plugin and select the options you want, like “Start in fullscreen mode”. 
To start playing, put the CD into the drive, do not mount the CD, right click on XMMS and choose “Play Location” or press CTRL+L and in the location box type “vcd:/dev/cdrom” (without quotes) and press “OK” for playing it instantly or “Enqueue” to add it to the playlist for queued playback.

If you do not start in fullscreen mode, right clicking on the window will enable fullscreen. Also note, that switching to fullscreen mode with a badly configured X display may result in the machine coming to a halt.

You can also enable plugins to play Audio CDs, ID Software’s .cin files, OggVorbis files and waves too.

In the “Output Plugins” section, you can choose between OSS drivers, or send it to ESounD or aRts sound servers. Most plugins are configurable and are configured by clicking the “Configure” button.

The popularity of this player lies in the plethora of options and plugins available and the fact that most window managers have dockable applets that can control it. Even other system monitoring applications like Gkrellm can provide controls for XMMS through plugins. Skins and themes can be applied as well as a number of plugins that are available. In particular, the OpenGL Spectrum Analyzer Plugin will be of interest to those who own OpenGL 3D cards.


The Gnome CD player is a really small application that’s very simple to use. It can be started from the Gnome Menu. Its located under the Multimedia sub menu as CD Player or you can just type ‘gtcd’ at a command prompt in X.

The Preferences button

The Preferences tab is where it lets you adjust settings when it starts up and exits, you can also change the track/title colors and font.

The Keybindings tab lets you change the default keybindings to whatever you require. The CDDB tab lets you change the CDDB server, plus it also shows you what all CDDB entries are stored in GTCD’s local database. You can even edit these entries.

The Track Editor button

In the Track Editor dialog, you can change the names of the track/title of the CD. If the CDDB server cannot find the CD in its database, you can manually edit the track and give track titles and then by clicking the “Submit” button, you can submit your CD track listing to the CDDB server.

While it plays only audio CDs, the seek facilities are better than that of KSCD. Its also dockable into Gnome as an applet.


The KDE Small/Simple CD player, is another CD player for all you fans of KDE. It even looks like a CD player. It can be found under the Multimedia menu as CD Player in the KDE Programs Menu or can be invoked by typing ‘kscd’ at a command prompt in X. It works just like any other CD player.

Pressing the Compact Disc Digital Audio button on the top left toggles between the various time settings. TheCDDB Dialog brings up the track listing editor, where you can edit the CD/track titles and the sequence in which it should be played.

The Configure KSCD button

The CDDB tab lets you edit the timeout values for the CDDB server, plus proxy settings. In the CDDB server box, enter the CDDB server of your choice for instance, cddbp 888, and then click ‘Update’ to update the list of CDDB servers. The SMTP Setup tab is used when you want to submit CDDB info using SMTP. In the KSCD Options tab, you can set the color of the display, the cd rom device, the browser to use, and other miscellaneous settings.

It can also be docked into the Kpanel. A cool feature is that it updates and gets a list of all CDDB servers under the base CDDB server. A perfectly good CD player, except for the fact that the seek facility does not match up to that of


An MP3 and Audio CD player that’s been around for a long time and has been through a couple of face-lifts, you’ll find Freeamp on this month’s CD.

To install Freeamp and its other components from this month’s CD:
# rpm -ivh /mnt/cdrom/linux/ desktop/audio/ FreeAmp/*

To start Freeamp, type ‘FreeAmp’ from a command prompt or use the ‘Run Command’ menu applet.It’s a slick looking player, and has different skins that can be applied. Freeamp uses the Xing decoding engine which offers great sound quality.

My Music

Clicking on the ‘My Music’ button, brings up a dialog that allows you to specify a location for it to find MP3s. The ‘My Music’ library collects all the files and sorts them alphabetically based on Artist Name. In each artist’s folder, you will find the albums by that artist and inside, you’ll find the individual tracks on that album. If it doesn’t know where to put a track (in the case of unknown artist tracks), it puts them into the ‘Uncategorized Tracks’ folder. These can later be edited, and put into a separate folder.

The ‘CD Audio’ folder contains tracks from your Audio CDs. The tracks are removed once the CD is ejected. 
To playback from streaming MP3 sources, add entries into the ‘My Streams’ folder. By default, there are a few streaming server URLs in it. These tracks/sources have to be added into the My Playlist pane to be able to play them.


In the ‘General Preferences’ Pane, you can specify whether the toolbars in ‘My Music’ should have images only or text only or both. You can also set it to save your playlist upon exit and queue tracks rather than play them at once. Converting underscores to spaces will change the underscores in filenames to space when the track is displayed. Freeamp can also claim files based on the extensions, so that clicking on an mp3 file automatically runs Freeamp and queues it for playback.

The Themes panel lets you select the various themes that come for Freeamp to whichever suits your fancy. You can also download and add new themes from the Freeamp website.

The Stream Preferences pane lets you configure Freeamp to handle streams. ‘Save SHOUTcast/icecast Streams Locally’ allows you to save SHOUTcast/icecast streams on your computer. Streams are typically very large and can fill your hard drive very quickly. Use this option to save a single stream. After you have saved the stream, make sure you return to this setting and deselect the ‘Save SHOUTcast/icecast Streams Locally’ option. If you leave this enabled, all streams will automatically be saved on your hard drive.

‘Save Location’ sets the folder where you want to save your stream. Type in the full path to the folder or use the Browse button to navigate to the folder where you want to save your stream. You can also set it to use a Proxy Server.

‘Use Alternate IP’ sets an alternate IP address to receive the stream. Some computers may have more than one network card. In this case, you can set the IP address for the network card you wish to receive the stream.
In the ‘Plugin Preferences’ tab, you can choose which sound card driver you want to control the audio output for

When Freeamp is installed, it detects and then displays the names of the .pmo files–the Physical Media Output (sound card drivers) that are installed on your computer. Audio Output Soundcard.pmo is the default soundcard driver.

ALSA setup: Default ALSA Output Device supports the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture. 


Enabling ‘Automatically update the CD Audio item in MyMusic’ will make the CD Audio tree in the My Music browser update automatically when you insert a new Audio CD. Audio CD data is looked up using the MusicBrainz server.

CD-ROM path allows you to choose the path to your CD-ROM drive. This is usually

‘MusicBrainz Server URL’ is a complete URL to the MusicBrainz server. You may like to use this for Audio CD and other metadata lookups. The default server is

With the ‘Contribute metadata to MusicBrainz and Bitzi’ option enabled, the metadata (artist, album, track name, etc) from your MP3 file will be sent to MusicBrainz for inclusion in the MusicBrainz and Bitzi community metadata projects.

Advanced Preferences

‘Input Buffer Size’ [64] Kilobytes is only used when playing MP3 network streams. It determines the size of the Input Buffer as the compressed MP3 data awaits conversion to uncompressed WAV data. When the Input Buffer is half-full, Freeamp begins playing the stream.

‘Output Buffer Size’ [512] Kilobytes determines the size of the Output Buffer as the uncompressed WAV data awaits processing by the decoder.

Prebuffer Streams [0] Seconds sets Freeamp to place a specific amount of audio data in a buffer before beginning playback of the stream.

Relatable Profiles


  1. Freeamp homepage :
  2. XMMS homepage :
  3. Xine homepage :

‘Enable Relatable Features’ when selected, allows Relatable to automatically recommend music playlists and streams based on the music you currently listen to in

Profile Selection: Relatable uses your anonymous “profile” to determine the type of music you play in FreeAmp, and then recommends music playlists and streams that you would enjoy based on other Freeamp users that listen to music similar to your taste.

The ‘Playlist’ pane enables you to customise the fields which are shown in the Playlist editor.


This video player is definitely something to watch out for. You can play VCDs, MPEGs, AVIs, DivX and even DVDs (unlocked/unencrypted) too. It uses Media Resource Locators (MRLs) to play different files. Right-clicking on the Xine window toggles the control panel.

To play from a file on your hard disk 
# xine file://path/to/file.mpeg

To play a VCD, first mount the CD
# xine vcd://<> eg. # xine vcd: //1

To automatically start playing a VCD in fullscreen, hide the GUI and quit after playing
# xine -pfhq vcd://1

To enable it to play DivX, you will need to install libavifile codecs which can be found along with

To install Xine and its other components from this month’s CD:
# rpm -ivh /mnt/cdrom/linux/ desktop/video/xine/*

Now, it’s time for to you hit the audio/video store. 

Sony Philip is a technology research consultant with Exocore Consulting

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