≡ Menu

mp3 player

In the United States and many other countries, companies or developers or manufacturers must pay patent royalties to use an MP3 player or MP3 Encoder or Windows movie decoders. There is also conflicts between patent licenses and the licenses of application source code, so mp3 support is not provided out of box. This has been done for legal reasons. Now, Canonical (parent company for Ubuntu) offering proprietary Codecs for Ubuntu Linux. From the blog:

For the first time we are making codecs for media playback and a DVD player, from our partners at Fluendo and Cyberlink, available through the Ubuntu store. We have had relationships with these companies for a while and to date we have offered their products to our hardware partners as pre-install options.

Now though, we are making them available to all users. It is important to us that no matter how you choose to access Ubuntu, pre-installed or as a free download, that you can have a similarly rich experience. The vast majority of our current users will have installed Ubuntu themselves. These users should also be allowed legal DVD and media playback and so we have built a way of letting them do this.

This is available for both supported and freely downloaded version.

BMPx is the successor to the Beep Media Player. BMPx has simple user interface which is simple to use while being very powerful under the hood.

It can play all standard media file such as mp3, vorbis, ac3, wma and other popular formats. You can listen to shoutcast and icecast radio (internet radio or stream) using BMPx. It offers a list of thousands of free web radio station. Just pick your radio satiation and you are good to go.

GStreamer is a multimedia framework used to drive BMP's audio backend. GStreamer is a library that allows the construction of graphs of media-handling components, ranging from simple Ogg/Vorbis playback to complex audio (mixing) and video (non-linear editing) processing. Everything that is playable under GStreamer is automatically playable in BMPx as well.

Install BMPx Audio Player

Simply use apt-get command to install BMPx:
$ sudo apt-get install bmp
Alternatively, you can grab BMPx source code here.

BMPx Linux / UNIX Audio Player
(Fig. 01: BMPx playing my favourite radio station)

One of the best thing about this software is it just works out of box - without constant crashes or weird behavior. Other bmpx cool usage:

  • Listen CNN or BBC news / radiopod
  • Use Last.fm's service
  • Use correct and canonical metadata

BMPx project home page

This question is asked again and again. Why Linux don't support mp3, allow watching DVDs and selected wifi cards out of the box?

Short answer - copyright/IP laws prevent shipping all these software(s) and technologies/plugins with each Linux distribution. However some distribution comes with all these goodies but they are not free (try Linspire, which is not free but support is included for many common software). You need to purchase a subscription.

In the United States and many other countries, companies or developers or manufacturers must pay patent royalties to use an MP3 player or MP3 Encoder or Windows movie decoders. There is also conflicts between patent licenses and the licenses of application source code, so mp3 support is not provided out of box. This has been done for legal reasons. No one wants to get sued for breaking patent laws.

Most of these drivers are "restricted" because they are not available under a completely Free licence.

In short GNU/Linux and other distro try to follow rule:

  1. If something is proprietary, it cannot be included in Linux
  2. If it violates United States federal law (most popular distros are manufactured in USA), it cannot be included in Linux
  3. Patent-encumbered software etc

Following packages/drivers/encoder are not includes in most distros:
=> Nvidia /ATI graphics card
=> Vmware player kernel modules
=> Wifi chipsets
=> MP3 Support
=> Real Media and Player
=> CSS encrypted DVDs (DVD Playback)
=> Cryptography
=> SUN JAVA
=> Adobe Flash Player etc

The patent holder is not ready to give an unrestricted patent grant, as required by the GPL license. To get mp3 support for your distribution you must use third party repositories (or vendor site) to download application.

So how do I get working mp3 and other stuff?

You need to download RPM files or add selected repositories to your distributions. Following list summaries the work around for popular distribution:

Debian Linux

Use apt-get to install required software. However you may find Debian-multimedia repo good to install few codecs.

Add debian-multimedia.org repositories to your /etc/apt/sources.list file:
# vi /etc/apt/sources.list Append following line:
deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org sarge mainORdeb http://www.debian-multimedia.org stable mainJust update all packages list:
# apt-get update
Use apt-get command to install multimedia packages such as mp3 players, DVD players etc.

=> Download and more information available at debian-multimedia

Ubuntu Linux

Use Automatix which is a graphical interface for automating the installation of the most commonly requested applications in Debian based linux operating systems. See how to install and use automatix to run mplayer music player

For Intel Centrino wifi card and other graphics card you need to use Ubuntu binary only package called linux-restricted-modules. Common modules are:
=> nvidia-glx/ATI graphics card
=> vmware-player-kernel-modules
=> Wifi chipsets etc

Most of above are restricted formats and as an end user you need to download and install them on Linux desktop system.

Under Ubuntu Linux linux-restricted* package is installed by default. You can always update this package to get bug fix and stability via update manager or type following commands:
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install package-name
$ sudo apt-get install linux-restricted-modules-x.x.xx

Always use latest kernel. Replace x.x.xx with your kernel version number. Use uname -r to find out kernel version. If kernel version number is 2.6.17 use package name linux-restricted-modules-2.6.17

Fedora Core (Red hat and friends)

Dag's RPM/ RPMforge.net repositories provides support for following Linux distributions:

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux
  • Fedora Core
  • Old Red Hat Linux
  • Yellow Dog Linux
  • Aurora Linux
  • CentOS
  • Scientific Linux
  • TaoLinux
  • WhiteBox Linux
  • Lineox
  • BLAG

See how to play mp3 under Fedora Core Linux.

Download and more information available at following urls:
Dag's rpms
Freshrpms
Rpmforge

Don't forget to check out your distributions help documentation and official forum/mailing list :)

Please note that I am not a lawyer but just trying to answer a question which is asked by new Linux desktop users again and again. Hope this small how to provide answer and work around. If you have a better solution or thoughts on how we can help to solve this problem please comment back :)

Other possible solutions

If possible, use patent unrestricted formats such as Ogg Vorbis or FLAC.

Further readings

Updated for accuracy.