Multimedia support in Ubuntu: how to complete it

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By default, Ubuntu doesn't have full multimedia support. Because of patents and copyrights that apply in some countries. However, it's easy to plug in the missing codecs and players yourself. This simple how-to will provide you quickly with nearly 100 % audio and video support.

You'll need several players, because sometimes you'll need to switch players for certain file types. Don't worry: none of the players is bloatware....

This is how you do it:

First step: install nearly everything with Ubuntu Software Center

1. The "software store" Ubuntu Software Center, where most software is for free, is very easy to use.

a. Establish internet connection.

b. Click on the icon of Ubuntu Software Center (the shopping bag) in the side panel
Query: restricted ubuntu (don't press Enter, just wait)

c. Click on Ubuntu restricted extras and install them.

Installing may take some time; at times the installation seems to be halted, but it hasn't really. Just wait patiently....

"Ubuntu restricted extras" contains a lot of various software, among which Adobe Flash Player and mp3 playback support. Also it contains a series of gstreamer plugins, which are supporting files for mediaplayer Totem.

Note: on some old computers, you won't be able to install Adobe Flash Player (item 14, right column).

You've probably already installed most multimedia support earlier on. Namely, when you've ticked that option when preparing to install Ubuntu (click on the picture below to enlarge it):

With that, you've installed ubuntu-restricted-addons. But even so, it's still necessary to install ubuntu-restricted-extras as well. Because that contains some extra software that you need, too.

Note: the installation of ubuntu-restricted-extras will necessitate the removal of two previously installed codecs. Simply agree to that proposal.

Note: don't install any more gstreamer plugins! Now you've got all the gstreamer plugins you need (you already installed a bunch of them as part of the package "Ubuntu restricted extras"). When you install even more gstreamer plugins, they may cause malfunctions.

d. When it's finished, use the query VLC (don't press Enter, just wait). Click on VLC media player and install it.

e. Repeat these steps for the following applications:

* SMPlayer

* Audacious

Note: do not install the Mozilla plugins (Firefox plugins) for VLC or Mplayer! The default Totem plugins perform much better in rendering video's on websites.

f. When it's finished, close Ubuntu Software Center.

Second step: check for wrong Flash players and remove them

2. Perform a check on the possible presence of wrong Flash players and remove them:

Install Synaptic Package Manager, by means of Ubuntu Software Center.

Click on the grey Ubuntu logo (Dash home). Query: synaptic.
Click on Synaptic Package Manager.

Search first for swfdec and then for gnash (don't use the buggy Quick search, but use the Search button next to it).

When found, mark them for "complete removal", and then press Apply.

(continued in the column on the right)

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Third step: install Java (optional)

3. Java is no longer such an important part of the web as it used to be. Should you need it: an easy how-to for the installation of Java can be found here.

That takes care of 99 % of multimedia support.

Fourth step: don't install Moonlight

4. More of a caution than a step, but here goes:
Novell has developed Moonlight, as a means to enable Linux users to view web content that has been created for Microsoft Silverlight. It's more or less dead and abandoned, and doesn't deliver. Expect frequent malfunctions....

Advice: do not install Moonlight at all.

Fifth step: enable playing protected DVD's

5. Adding the missing last 1 % of multimedia support in Ubuntu, requires use of the terminal (shock!). You want libdvdcss2 (for playback of encrypted DVD's).

This is available in a third-party software source (repository or repo), which isn't enabled by default. Because you can use an installation script for libdvdcss2, you won't have to enable this repo permanently. Which is an advantage, because the slow servers of this repo have been known to slow down the update function of Ubuntu from time to time.

For this, you need internet connection.

Open a terminal window:
Click on the grey Ubuntu logo (Dash home). Query: terminal.
Click on Terminal.

Avoid errors: use your mouse to "copy and paste" this blue text into the terminal:

sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/

Press Enter. When asked, type your password and press Enter again. Your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots, this is normal.

When the installation is finished, you can close the terminal window.

And now...

You're done. Have fun with Ubuntu!

Want more tips?

8. Do you want more tips and tweaks for Ubuntu? There's a lot more of them on this website!

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