The third in our series on Mandriva Linux looks at picture editing, playing CDs and converting files to digital format
A Mandriva Linux PC is a multimedia powerhouse. It is excellent for playing and editing audio and video in many formats, although running multimedia applications under Linux poses challenges.
In the third of our five-part open source academy, we’ll show you how to overcome them. If you missed the previous parts, find them at computeractive.co.uk/tags/linux.
Linux also plays DVDs, but because commercial DVDs are encrypted, most official distributions will not play DVDs out of the box. The required software, called libdvdcss, is available for download, but breaches patents and is illegal to use.
If you buy the boxed version of Mandriva then a version of the WinDVD application called LinDVD is included; it’s legal to use for DVD playback. Another hassle is that Apple’s iTunes will not run on Linux, though it is possible to connect an iPod and manage its music library.
In some ways Linux users get the best deal, since free software such as Amarok lets you copy music from and to the iPod, which iTunes does not. Some things in Linux take a little more work, but the outcome may be better than the alternatives.
Essential multimedia add-ons
Linux distributions come with generous amounts of free software and we’ll explain how to install various packages from within Mandriva soon. There are a few programs that are difficult to do without, although they are not open source. Adobe’s Flash is in this category. This is best downloaded from the vendor’s website. Browse to adobe.com and click on the button for Get Flash Player.
If Flash is already installed you will be informed, otherwise it opens the Linux download page, offering a choice of tar.gz or rpm. The first of these is a compressed set of files with an installation script, while the second is an installation package for the RPM package manager.
The rpm option is a little easier. Download it with Firefox, and then click on Open in the download window. Mandriva prompts for your administrative password, then proceed with the installation. Now sites such as Youtube and thousands of Flash games and applications are open to you as a Linux user.
While on the Adobe site you may want to pick up Adobe Reader for Acrobat files. Next, head over to real.com/linux and download Real Player, enabling broadcasts on the BBC site and many others.
We would like to say all these downloads went without a hitch on our test PC, but they did not. At first, Real Player failed to open, and there were glitches with the sound. Linux is a reliable operating system, but the myriad variety of PCs and the differences between Linux distributions mean that problems sometimes occur.
Most issues can be fixed, provided that drivers are available for your hardware. When Real Player failed, we typed the command ‘realplay’ in the Command Line, which shows messages that the GUI hides. It reported an error loading the library c++.so.5. We installed libstdc++5 through Software Managment, and Real Player ran. However, there were still glitches in the sound.
Mandriva should configure the soundcard automatically, but if this fails it is worth trying alsaconf, a sound configuration tool. The first step with alsaconf is to install it via Software Management. Open a terminal and give yourself root permissions with the su command followed by your root password. Type alsaconf and press Enter. Follow the prompts to configure your soundcard. In our case, accepting the alsaconf defaults fixed all the problems.
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