Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

How hard is it to play an MP3?

How hard is it to play an MP3? Well, if you’re using Linux, harder than it should be, as far as my experience goes.

I’ve lamented before how Ubuntu neglects to include any MP3 support out-of-the-box – if you want to play MP3 files you have to enter a series of terminal commands to enable support for the less ‘pure’ application package repositories and then install it manually. I’m using Mandriva at the moment and so I hoped the experience would be better. And it is, somewhat. It comes with a confusing array of sound programs, several of which seem to do the same thing, and I eventually settled on Rhythmbox. This was happy to play the first MP3 I gave it, but trying to play anything else gave me the error ‘Could not open /dev/dsp’ which may as well have been ‘Ooga Booga Shmoo!’ because both mean about the same to me. I then tried Amarok, which played about half a second of each song, before the system just turned itself off.

After rebooting (which takes a while on a Live CD) I did manage to get Rhythmbox to play a few songs without it moaning. But why the cryptic error message? And why did Amarok totally crash my system? I thought those sorts of things didn’t happen on Linux. I could have installed VLC, but this is a Live CD so I’d lose it when I reboot and it requires lots of long terminal commands and downloading huge files.

Anyway, apologies for the rant – I was stressing out over a plugin for some PHP guild software that I was trying to install and wanted some music to calm me down, when actually it did the opposite and just frustrate me even more. I am so looking forward to going back to a Mac.
(By the way, if you want to tell me that MP3 is evil and that I should be using Ogg Vorbis – screw you. I have an iPod.)

7 Comments

  1. In Ubuntu and Xubuntu; I’ve never had any isues with MP3s. Works for me post-install with no tweaking needed. :/

  2. MP3 support can’t be included because of legal reasons, but it can actually be enabled very easily if you use Ubuntu with Automatix: http://www.getautomatix.com

  3. Yeah whatever happened to Ogg Vorbis? It was all the rage a while back.

  4. After rebooting (which takes a while on a Live CD) I did manage to get Rhythmbox to play a few songs without it moaning. But why the cryptic error message?

    Either some other program locked up your sound card, or (if the file was not a MP3) Rhythmbox did not have the codecs to play it, or the Mandriva LiveCD sucks.

    And why did Amarok totally crash my system? I thought those sorts of things didn’t happen on Linux.

    The only reason I could think of this happening is if there was something wrong with the sound card drivers in the kernel. If this was the case, then the Mandriva LiveCD sucks.

    I could have installed VLC, but this is a Live CD so I’d lose it when I reboot and it requires lots of long terminal commands and downloading huge files.

    I have never tried to download and install VLC off the Ubuntu LiveCD, but I suspect that it would be easier.

    (By the way, if you want to tell me that MP3 is evil and that I should be using Ogg Vorbis – screw you. I have an iPod.)

    What about the fact that the iPod is evil and you should be using a USB Mass Storage-compatible player that does not endorse DRM? Also, if you have an iPod, why don’t you use that to listen to music? 😛
    P.S. Comment preview seems to be broken.

  5. Erm, the iPod is a USB Mass storage-compatible player, albeit one with the library metadata stored in a proprietary format 🙂 . And I don’t have any DRM’d music on it.
    As for the /dev/dsp thing, I suppose another program locking the sound card could be plausible as I launched Gaim after running Rhythmbox. The second time I ran Gaim first and then Rhythmbox.
    It may just be that Mandriva sucks – it won’t let you save settings between reboots, it’ll only let you install the entire OS. It would be nice if I could just mount my /home/ folder on a USB mass storage device and have it carry my settings around.
    And thanks for the note about Comment Preview – I’ve fixed that.

  6. MP3 support can’t be included because of legal reasons, but it can actually be enabled very easily if you use Ubuntu with Automatix: http://www.getautomatix.com

    Yes, automatix is the way to go. Install, tick a few boxes and off you go – works a charm.
    I’ve not tried Mandriva because of the painful experience I had with Mandrake

  7. mmm you need rockbox.
    i have it on my 5g ipod.
    apart from not being able to view vcard contacts and it automatically going into disk mode when you lug the usb cable into the puter for charging. …rockbox is choice…
    I no longer need to waste time compiling piffy itunes dbase files on the puter.
    rockbox will compile its own dbase if you want to use the genre, artist, album type interface….and not at all if you just want to use a file explorer type interface..
    Oh and i can play doom, chess, read fifty million page text files, run 3d screen savers.
    seriously, put rockbox on your pod and stop winging about ogg….ogg rocks and so does rockbox….just remember to put it on charge when you go to sleep. as it s the only time you might not wnat to use the pod…but then who knows.