Media support in Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn

Today I continue my "Windows to Linux Chronicles" by looking at what media support is like under Ubuntu 7.04.

Today I continue my "Windows to Linux Chronicles" by looking at what media support is like under Ubuntu 7.04.

The test is simple. Take a few test files and see if they'll play. For the test I chose the following files:

  • An MP3 test file
  • A WMA test file (a DRM-free file of course)
  • A QuickTime 7 movie

Note: Full image gallery available here.

The test is simple. Save these files onto the Ubuntu desktop, double-click and see what Ubuntu does. I already know that Linux will try its best to find a way to run the files so it'll be interesting to see how easy this process is and how well it works.


When I clicked on the MP3 file a program called Totem Movie Player fired up. This seemed odd to me, I was expecting an audio player, or a generic player, not one that specifically referred to movies. Anyway, a few seconds after it fired up I got a message saying that a codec was needed.

OK, under Windows this kind of message can be pretty hit-n-miss so I wasn't sure what to expect. However, within seconds it has found some codecs for me and I chose one (GStreamer extra plugin) and installed it. What happened next bugged me a little and it would continue to bug me each time I came across it during the test. I kept being presented with dialog boxes telling me that the codec was "restricted software" and that I had to verify that I was allowed to use the software:

Media support in Ubuntu - Call a lawyer!

Hmmm. Now, I'm not a lawyer but at this point I sure felt like I needed one. If this kind of thing makes me feel nervous then I'm not sure how it's going to make less confident users feel. The bottom line (I think) is that liability for use of the codecs (or certain codecs anyway) is passed onto the user. Is this legal? Is this ethical? No idea (maybe someone else can clarify this). One thing's for sure, it feels dodgy. This kind of grey area is yet another example of why Linux is far from ready for prime time.

Putting aside the feeling that I was agreeing to something that felt ambiguous (although I think I can safely say I fall into the "research purposes" category) the remainder of the installation process was fast and within a few seconds the MP3 file was playing in Totem Movie Player.



For the next test I tried playing a WMA file under Ubuntu.

The results were pretty much identical to playing an MP3 file. I double-clicked the file, Totem Movie Player fired up, and after thinking about the situation for a few seconds decided it needed to look for a codec. I agreed to the search and soon a suitable codec was found and downloaded. I then had to swear that I was entitled to use the codec before it installed. After all this was completed (a process that took a couple of minutes) the file played perfectly.

Another success.

Next -->

QuickTime 7

Drunk on the success of getting two file types running under Ubuntu, I was convinced that I could get a QuickTime 7 movie to play.

It certainly looked like it to begin with. I double-clicked the file, Totem fired up again, and wanted a codec. Having been through this loop a couple of times it now seemed familiar. However, while I was told that a codec was found and I managed to successfully install it, the file wouldn't play and I got an error message worthy of Windows:

Media support in Ubuntu

No go. However, rather than give up, I decided to give Automatix a go and see if that could find an application or codec that'll get the QuickTime file running.


Automatix is an application that I've been waiting to take for a spin for some time now. What is it? Well, here's how it's described on the website:

Automatix2 is a graphical interface (written in python and bash) for automating the installation of the most commonly requested applications in some Debian based distributions.

The website also proudly announced that Michael Dell uses Automatix on his home PC. That boast is supposed to make me think that since it's good enough for Michael Dell, it has to be good enough for me. Hmmm, I not too sure about that. I'm pretty sure that Michael Dell is running his Automatix on a Dell PC and I wouldn't want one within fifty feet of the PC Doc HQ, and if Automatix really is that good, why doesn't Dell install it as standard on Ubuntu-powered Dell boxes?

Anyway, Michael Dell aside, I wanted to give Automatix a go. It was yet another pain-free install and within minutes I had it up-and-running. Once again however I was faced with more legal mumbo-jumbo that I had to agree to.

Media support in Ubuntu

I selected a number of downloads from Automatix, including the AUD-DVD codecs (for research purposes, Your Honor!) and began the download and install process. This process took a long time compared to other installs (about 20 minutes) but the whole thing went smoothly and soon I had a bunch of new apps installed.

Did any of them manage to run the QuickTime 7 file? Nope. And from what I can gather, it's not possible to run version 7 files on Linux, only earlier versions (or at least not a way that I've found yet). Doesn't matter, the movie was rubbish anyway.

Next time, I want to see what DVD support is like under Linux.


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