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(last updates 1. Sep and 9. Dec 2001, see at mplayer below and crossover plugin!)

Meanwhile a wide variety of digital video systems and codecs exists. Roughly speaking, these can be divided into some older, more special ones like FLI etc., the most widespread MPEG and the Apple Macintosh Quicktime and last the Intel/M$ AVI format.

The last three bigger ones come with a lot of different codecs each: while MPEG-3 is for audio purposes, MPEG-1, the most widespread and standard one, and MPEG-2 and -4 are video codecs.

Quicktime is a large collection of several ones, like Radius Cinepak and so on, they can roughly be divided into the older Quicktime <= 2.x codecs and the newer Quicktime >= 3.0 ones. Sadly enough Apple has resorted to a typical, M$ monopoly style regarding the main codecs like Sorenson supported by the versions since Quicktime 3.0, and so it's not legal --- despite technically no problem, as some LINUX hackers have shown in the past ---, to play them on any LINUX platform: Apple offers no UNIX system players, but only for their own Mac and the evil M$ Wins, and we can only hope, that their new, BSD-UNIX based Mac OS X may change this in future. Anyway, the importance of the Quicktime system seems to be decreasing in the last time. Current remark: Apple has now allowed a company by a special change of their licenses to offer a Quicktime (and more) capable plugin, read more below.

AVI finally is another large collection of codecs, for example Indeo codecs. In recent time there is also an overlap with MPEG: some of them are available as and/or under the name MPEG-4 respective AVI DIV 3 or X. Another time the evil M$ shitware company tries to suppress alternative OSs like LINUX by illegal license manipulations, but this time with little to no success (opposed to Apple!). Details see below. Some informations can be also found on my general computer/LINUX intro page, relevant especially for older Quicktime codecs and the herein not treated RealVideo streaming system.

A LINUX Hint at First

Very important is the SDL (Simple Direct media Layer) system for all of the following, you can get it from the site of LokiGames developer SDL always in a current version. It's rather important, to get a recent one indeed! As with the qt library mentioned below, you lose the ability of players to work at all, fast or to created video files, if you have not a rather recent library installed...

New AVI/MPEG codecs

Since xanim (see there, hint above) can't cope with newish AVI codecs since I263, you have to get another one for these. If you want to play MPEG-4/DIVx/3 codec family (and also the infamous highly proprietary *.asf and *.wmv M$ shitware codecs), still a good choice for well done clips is avifile with its simple player aviplay. You can get there also the codecs as M$ DLLs, but in usable way. For the special video codecs I263 and WMV you can get these through the links section of that site (I263 is a still useful codec with high compression and quality); copy it into the same directory, in which the others DLLs for aviplay reside. If you have no rather new distribution like SuSE 7.1 installed, this is a tricky path to get a working version: with configure script and make call, which requires you to have a rather new qt library package (at least 2.1 for playing and 2.2 for recording such codecs), and for SuSE users even with version 7.0 there is a little problem: they forgot to include then an executable with name uic. But don't be afraid, it's only needed for recording, not for playing. On all other systems you have simply to consider above preconditions.

Generally speaking, you need sufficient fast hardware to make use of it. For playing the lower limit is either a 300 MHz Intel Pentium II or equivalent with simple graphics adapter without acceleration or a 200 MHz Intel MMX with a good accerated graphics adapter. Otherwise you will get much frames dropped during playing... This has nothing to do with OS, but with the high compression, which requires a lot of uncompressing work. This whole aviplay project is still in its infancy, but already relatively stable and complete regarding codec variety.

This doesn't hold true for Lamp, a full-screen player based on avifile, which can use a variety of anims with xanim and other players too. Requiring even more hardware power (nothing to wonder about!), it can often quit without playing on not so fast machines, and I witnessed also an X-server crash, rendering the display useless flirring and had to kill the X server from the console. The also offered plugins I haven't tried yet, but even the creator(s) warn about their use as "not reliable". But it's still an interesting project, even available as RPM package for LINUX, and I could install it easily on SuSE 7.0.

The Currently best LINUX Movie Player!

The highlight of video play was just recently discovered by me: with the somewhat imagination lacking name mplayer comes a fine LINUX player, which combines superior speed and efficiency with flawless playing of even damaged video files of all kinds of MPEG, AVI and proprietary M$ shitware codecs at the moment, the there also available codec zip file is rather up to date and complete. It offers also hotkeys while playing (you have no control panel at now), and you can switch at every time to fullscreen mode and back. Indeed I could play a number of video files with it easily and flawlessly, which aren't displayed by avifile. Go and get it! (don't forget to get the above mentioned SDL library and the codecs zip file too, of course) --- It contains a CD and DVD player interface too...

Quicktime/Sorenson on Linux

As mentioned above and elsewhere, Apple revised the Linux/UNIX hostile licensing politics regarding Quicktime player and Sorenson codec. The Linux company Codeweavers, contributors to the wine project, offer now version 1.01 of the so-called
crossover plugin for all usual browsers on Linux, explicitly including support not only for Netscape 4.7x, but also Mozilla (and therefore Netscape 6 too), Opera and even Konqueror. A somewhat useful, but very annoying shaped demonstration version can be downloaded, and to get rid of these frequently displayed disturber messages you have to pay 20 US $. If you're interested, I propose to skip the demonstration version and to go straight for the pay version, which will spare you another 8 MB download --- unless you have a high bandwidth connection to the Internet available. I've tested it with the mentioned browsers: Netscape 4.7x, Mozilla 0.96 and Opera 6.0TP 1 and 2 (remark regarding Konqueror: after all I have read and tried, Konqueror is still not really useful for true, heavy Internet usage: it launches slower, than the dynamically linked Opera, both using the same qt library on KDE, as I could witness on the computer of my father, running a fairly recent Linux version, and lacks a lot of special features and standard compliant support of several widespread web constructions, unlike the browsers presented on my overview page). In all browsers it worked nearly flawless (sometimes you may need a reload to activate it in Opera) and surprisingly fast with the Quicktime plugin, with a performance comparable to MPlayer, so far a comparison makes any sense. Technically speaking, it uses wine and other contributions as well as the widespread Netscape plugin API, to make it work on Linux; useful are the two elsewhere mentioned plugins, which are not yet available as native Linux solutions: QuickTime and Macromedias Shockwave Director (opposed to the Flashplayer plugin, which is offered for Linux, Solaris and IRIX already since autumn 1998). While I have downloaded the director plugin, I have not tested it yet --- it's not so widespread in use. But tests with the Quicktime plugin were very successful, as stated above. Of course this works even with old Quicktime videos, so far I know with all available, and you can even stream MPEG 1 clips with it. The latter can be done with plugger anyway, you know, or played directly with MPlayer, mpeg_play or others, of course. The also included standalone Quicktime player isn't useful in my view: slow and unstable, it is much better, to load a clip within a browser with the plugin, then to watch it seperately. Just copy the npwine*.so objects into the browsers plugin directory (which is, what is virtually done by Codeweavers plugin setup tool), then it should work either during running the browser already (Mozilla) or at least after restarting it. --- The other highly proprietary plugins suggested there are such, you can easily do without. Just download such proprietary format documents --- if at all! --- and view them with Suns StarOffice or AbiWord after finishing...

DVD players

Another topic, which causes trouble for free OS and software: the CSS decoding is technically available, but it's distribution and usage are still illegal (therefore I will not set a link to such a formally "illegal" site, despite I'm sure, that the true criminals, getting money by playing another information monopoly, in this regard are elsewhere, on another side). Therefore you can legally only play unencoded video DVDs on LINUX. Another general drawback is the even higher needed CPU and graphics power than with above mentioned AVI/MPEG clips, and finally not every hardware works correctly or/and is supported yet --- yet very inmature all this stuff is.

The highest demand is created by the DVD media, which are relatively new playable on LINUX: there are two players, supporting some graphic adapters better than others:

Under xine you can get a simple MPEG-1 and -2 player with video CD and video DVD playing capability. With XFree 4 it works better then with XFree 3.36; but you will make your own experiences...

The alternative can be found under LiVid team site. This pure DVD player requires a 2.4 Kernel or a relatively new 2.2 Kernel with some extra patches; and only Matrox G200/G400 or ATI-Rage-Pro hardware gives you really high performance. But it's also in an early stage of development, and so you can expect big improvements in near future.


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