Linux Mint – Enjoying Multimedia on Mint

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Now that we’ve learned how to get our work done in a Linux Mint system as well as how to maintain it, it’s time to show you how to have some fun and relax. Out of the box, Linux Mint comes preconfigured to allow you to enjoy multimedia files such as videos and music. In addition, more applications are available in the repositories to enhance your media even further. In this chapter, we’ll take a look at listening to music, playing video files, photo management, and desktop recording.

In this chapter, we will discuss the following topics:

  • Understanding issues concerning codecs
  • Playing music files
  • Ripping an audio CD
  • Editing MP3 tags
  • Playing video files
  • Playing a DVD
  • Viewing photos
  • Editing photos with GIMP
  • Accessing your webcam
  • Recording your desktop

Understanding issues concerning codecs

Codecs (C oder Decoder) are software plugins that allow multimedia files, such as MP3 and AVI, to be recognized on a system. For example, if your system lacks the necessary codec to support MP3 files, you won’t be able to play these files on your system. At first, you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal?” These types of files work immediately on Windows and Mac OS X. In these platforms, you typically double-click on a multimedia file or insert a DVD, and the content plays without any extraordinary effort on your part. It’s very easy to take this ability for granted, as most people expect these types of things to work. In Linux, however, it is the norm for these types of things to need a bit of configuration on the user’s side to function properly. As a result, media files such as MP3s, some video formats, and DVDs won’t play unless you manually install the software that makes them work.

So, why don’t all distributions just give their users a break and include these codecs by default? For the most part, the reason has to do with licensing as well as ethics. Various codecs (such as those required to play MP3 audio and DVD video) are not free, and many Linux developers prefer not to include any technology that has a proprietary license attached to it. As a result, users of some distributions are forced to do a bit of search on Google to figure out how to get various multimedia formats working on their systems.

Some distributions make this easier than others. Ubuntu, for example, will display a pop-up box to give you an option to install the missing software as you run into files that need them. Other distributions such as Debian and Arch barely facilitate this and need you to perform some magic in order to find out how to manually add the missing software. Thankfully, Mint chooses to include these built-in codecs so that all of your multimedia files will work right away, without forcing you to investigate what you need to install to get things working. In short, everything will just work.

In regards to ethics, some developers in the Linux world will refuse to include drivers or codecs that are not free in their distributions due to their beliefs that all software should truly be free. In the Linux community, there are often two types of developers and users: those that will use proprietary technologies where required as a means to an end and those who will refuse to use proprietary technologies even if it means less functionality or slower performance. The Mint developers fall into the first category. They prefer not to use proprietary technologies, though they will use proprietary components wherever it’s absolutely required in order to facilitate common usage. In the Mint community, it’s believed that it’s better to include proprietary technologies where required rather than hearing comments such as, “Mint sucks, because it can’t play MP3 files” from those who don’t understand or care about the politics.

Depending on where you live, using proprietary codecs that you don’t hold a license for may fall into somewhat of a legal gray area. Whether or not it is illegal for you to use these codecs depends on your local laws as well as whether or not you hold a license for such codecs. With regards to personal use, such as enjoying multimedia files on your computer, you’re safe; however, if you work in a company that produces multimedia files for profit, it’s best to ensure that you hold a license for the technologies that you plan to use in your projects. Especially in corporate environments, it’s important that you do your research. Neither the author nor Packt Publishing is accountable if you choose to not respect licensing rules.


Linux Mint also releases a “No Codecs” version of its releases. If you reside in a country where it is illegal to use codecs you haven’t paid for, you can either purchase licenses for the required codecs or download the No Codecs release instead. To do so, head over to the following site, find a mirror near you, and then browse the mirror for the No Codec version:

You may be wondering how Linux Mint is able to offer preinstalled multimedia codecs if there are legal/ethical issues surrounding their use. The Linux Mint developers make no assumptions based on whether or not you are legally allowed to utilize the codecs that are not free in your country, and leave the research up to you. The developers wanted Mint to support all the typical formats out of the box, and they included the codecs for this purpose.

A detailed discussion regarding licensing and patents is beyond the scope of this tutorial (and the subject of many debates in the Linux community). If you would like to learn more, conduct an Internet search on the topic. If you search for the phrase, “Why should we pay for codecs when working on a Linux Operating System”, you will find a PDF document by Fluendo that explains this further, though be advised that it is a sales document.

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