Curious Multimedia Dependancies

The jokes made about confusing Linux dependancies may at times seem funny, but they reflect a sad truth. After my previous complaint about gui nuisances in Rythmbox, I installed of copy of FC6 – 64bit to a spare partition. Following my own FC6 Guide, I came upon the MP3 section.

Adding MP3 support to Rythmbox (GTK based GNOME media player) requires:
yum install gstreamer-plugins-ugly
This downloads 7 packages which are less than 1MB and most come from the Livna repository.

However the popular MP3/media player in KDE, Amarok, is not included in the distribution so when you install it your yum command will look like:
yum install amarok amarok-extras-nonfree
This pulls down 26 packages totalling 31MB!!! However 18MB alone are for the single Amarok package.

The funny thing was near the end of the yum download list:

Updating for dependencies:
 libgpod           x86_64    0.4.2-0.1.fc6   updates     202 k
 rhythmbox         x86_64    0.9.8-1.fc6     updates     4.0 M

So basically installing Amarok with MP3 plugins will require you to install Rythmbox — a totally unrelated media player.

At first this may seem confusing but the real reason for this is the dependancy on libgpod which is a helper library to interface with your iPod. Since amarok requires libgpod as does rhythmbox, an update to libgpod will pull down an update to both media players. While this isn’t very confusing if you take a moment to think about dependancies, it would make someone wonder why they have a GNOME media player when they only use and install KDE applications.

At first I thought it was curious. However most Fedora users know that it is pretty rare to live without any GTK or GNOME apps on their computer. Even if they entirely prefer KDE.

From XMMS to Rhythmbox

Back in 2000, xmms was the hot MP3 player for Linux that everybody loved. Most likely due to it’s near perfect match in design and functionality to Winamp. Well time makes you bolder and MP3 players get older. And with no major updates (not even a port to GTK2), xmms just sits around. Recently some distributions have stopped including it in favor of more modern players. So I tried Rythmbox (the Music management and playback software for GNOME.). After 2 week I can say modern does NOT mean better.

A look at XMMS, a very simple interface.

xmms

All the standard playback buttons including play, pause, previous, next. As well as volume, balance and position sliders. Note that I’m at track 330 (Velvet Revolver) in my playlist.

A look at Rythmbox, a very simple interface as well. Maybe too simple.

rythmbox

Hmm, so I can hit play, go previous or go next. But wait how do I stop? Of course silly me, I can hit Play again to Stop. Or wait is that hit Play to Pause?? Hmmm? I guess play just isn’t what it used to be. Perhaps I have no Pause or Stop because I have no room. That must be it. Why? Because on my toolbar I have my most common functions which includes “Create an Audio CD…”. Yup, that sure sounds like something I do every single day.

Okay, so the toolbar buttons aren’t intelligent. At least we have a button for volume. I don’t know who prefers a button, but press it and lo and behold it reveals a slider. The whole volume changer is absolutely quirky. Why oh why hide the slider? Another space issue?

While I could go on, there’s one more absolutely annoying feature. Why is it everytime I close the player listening to Oasis, I start again with .38 Special? The position in the playlist is lost. Lost! Like the tv show.

Before 2 weeks ago, I had never really used any other MP3 player other than XMMS. I was using FC6 and Rythmbox 0.9.7 and to be fair there are many features I do like. However the small issues can be incredibly annoying. I plan to try some other players as well.

Flash 9 Final Released for Linux

Although there is no update on the official Linux Flash Blog from Adobe, it does appear that a final NON-beta version of the Flash 9 Plugin has been made available for Linux.

The release version is 9,0,31,0 (the last beta was 9.0.21.78 on Nov 20, 2006).

So update!!!

Fedora Users: The official Fedora Flash repository has not been updated. However if you pick:
Option 2: .rpm
Download the Flash Player .rpm for Linux

Install it simply with:

rpm -ivh flash-plugin-9.0.31.0-release.i386.rpm

And restart your browsers!

Updates: 1/17/2007:

Both the blog the repository have been updated!

Virtualization and Emulation Choices in Linux

I have a decent computer with a large hard drive. My initial intent was to boot multiple different operating systems (as can be seen by the 6+ EXT3 partitions). However the latest technology hype is the need for virtualization or emulation. In effect, this would allow loading one operating system inside another without any reboot.

I use the term “hype” because the consumer demand (i.e. non admins, non developers, people with real lives) is very low. My personal issue, as is shared by Linux users in general, is often the need to boot into windows for a single website or for developers testing a webpage. Additionally some users prefer to test a new Linux without having to lose their primary system. Not everyone has a convoluted partition scheme like I do.

So I did some hunting (well not much). Being the frugal fedora friendly fellow that I am, I wanted a general purpose low cost solution. The choices I have are VMware Server, Xen and QEMU.

VMware Server

VMware is a professional NON-open source software. It provides virtualization so that the client operating system running inside the server can see the resources of the host directly. This is good.

The good:

  • Full virtualization
  • Free download
  • Provides prepackaged RPM’s
  • Can run Windows inside Linux

The bad:

  • Registration key requires full address, email, phone and other information
  • Not open source, EULA, etc.
  • Known to have problems with system updates

Xen

Xen is an fully open source package for unix-based operating systems. It provides virtualization with support from the kernel.

The good:

  • Supported directly through Fedora
  • Kernel support drastically improves performance

The bad:

  • Requires separate kernel
  • ACPI does not properly work in xen-enabled kernels. Hence no cpu frequency scaling or suspend. (very bad)
  • Some drivers have problems running inside a Xen client operating system.
  • Cannot run Windows on all hardware

QEMU

QEMU is an open source CPU emulator. Emulators have to re-interpret every instruction from the client operating system, hence significant speed loss. It supports various cpu’s including x86, x86-64, ARM, PPC, etc. It has a kernel accelerator module which helps performance.

The good:

  • Supported directly through Fedora Extras
  • Can run Windows inside Linux
  • Can run 2 completely separate architectures together

The bad:

  • Very very slow
  • Kernel accelerator is proprietary with a restrictive license

Thoughts and Concerns

I have not yet tested VMware server because I personally think that the information collected is not worth it. I would rather pay a nominal fee ($10-20) for a key. I have tested WMWare Player (no registration required) which can load virtual machines created in the Server. I found it incredibly slow and some non-trivial setup steps.

I do not plan on bothering with Xen due to the loss in ACPI functionality. I don’t think I want my computer hardware limited just so I can load another operating system with less memory running slower which is already limited due to the virtualization. Some newer CPU’s from Intel and AMD have been reported to support features that will allow Windows to run in Linux in Xen. Of course, obviously will require new hardware. Additionally Xen still has quite a few bugs. Perhaps once it is running smoothly and the hardware becomes standard I will switch to that solution.

So far, I am using QEMU which seems to work well enough. I have tested Windows 98, NT4, 2000 and Fedora Core 3 all with adequate performance. I even once tested FC5-64bit inside of FC5-32bit (3 hour installation and 30 min boot is NOT worth the time) — (there is a Youtube video loading XP on the PlayStation 3 using QEMU). Even though QEMU can be horribly slow it does serve its purpose. I have seen IE6 in Windows 2000 emulated loading pages faster than Firefox 1.5 native in FC6!!!

I have a working solution currently. I am keep a watch on the emulation and virtualization technologies hitting the market. Not having to reboot to test something would be wonderful. My ultimate configuration would be a 64-bit host Linux with a virtualized Windows XP 32-bit and virtualized Linux 32-bit. … The time will come eventually.

Sun Java Changes

Sun has made a significant step for providing users and developers better access and freedom with Java. Sun announced this week they will be open sourcing key parts of Java under the GPL. In effect most users should not see a direct impact on their Java usage, however in the long term Java will have a more widespread usage, subject to fewer problem and more readily available on different systems.

Due to licensing and Sun’s tight control of Java (TM), an open implementation of a Java compiler (GCJ) is being actively developed. Previously any Java developer risked the possibility that an adverse change in policy by Sun could affect their Java development. Although the intention is good, the vast majority of developers still used Sun Java, leaving GCJ very immature. Distributions like Fedora included GCJ, but prohibited Sun Java. However since most GPL software is acceptable in Linux distributions, Java will most likely will show up in Fedora, Debian and others which formerly banned it. At least it should make for an easier installation of Java in Fedora Core!

In other developments, Sun has release the Java 1.6 RC (Release Candidate). Included in the Desktop Features are improvements to the GTK look and feel. Hopefully this should make Gnome Eclipse users happier!

For those who wish to try Java 1.6 along side 1.5 in Fedora Core:

Download the JRE (jre-6-rc-linux-i586.bin) from … Sun Early Access Downloads.

As root:

# sh jre-6-rc-linux-i586.bin
# mv jre1.6.0 /opt/jre1.6
# alternatives --install /usr/bin/java java /opt/jre1.6/bin/java 3
# echo 3 | /usr/sbin/alternatives --config java

# java -version
java version "1.6.0-rc"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0-rc-b104)
Java HotSpot(TM) Client VM (build 1.6.0-rc-b104, mixed mode, sharing)

I don’t recommend testing the web browser plugin (as if Firefox doesn’t have enough reasons to crash). However playing around with Eclipse may be nice to see if you notice any changes!

PHP4 on Fedora Core 5 x86_64

I do not know how many people require PHP4 on Fedora Core 5. However since I find that I use it, I am providing PHP4 binary RPMs.

Since I made the files available I did receive some complaints. Primarily a compile failure on x86_64 architecture and a compile failure on PPC architecture. I have no means to test PPC, however I have tested with x86_64 and had success.

For x86_64 architecture, I have tested the src.rpm against the default FC5 rpm’s and the latest updated rpm’s (as of 08 July 2006), both work without problem.

PHP4 on Fedora Core

MPlayer 1.0pre8 Released

After almost 14 months, the MPlayer developers put out a new release: 1.0pre8 (I doubt 1.0 will ever happen). The official announcement was made on the mailing list on Monday. The mailing list had implied a release was pending.

In the meantime, Fedora Core 4 came and went and Fedora fans are on FC5. The good news is that MPlayer properly supports GCC4.x (which FC4 and FC5 use). Anyone who has used a development build already knows these improvements. Additionally the long overdue GTK2 update for the GUI was available. However the most significant changes will be in the background with many improvements in file format support as well as DVD and MPEG updates.

As always, I updated my MPlayer compile guide for Fedora. It never ceases to amaze me how many people actually read it and use it. For the more practical users, most repositories should be coming online soon with updates for yum. Simply run:

# su -c 'yum update mplayer'

I’ve checked Livna, FreshRPMs and ATrpms, none seem to have the update yet. So yum users will have to wait.