Now playing: DVD movies, Windows audio files on Ubuntu Linux

Users can now find the audio codecs, media player app to watch DVDs on Ubuntu machines

Life just got easier for users of the downloadable or boxed retail versions of the Ubuntu Linux 8.04 operating system who want easy and cheap ways of adding DVD playback and improved audio capabilities to their machines.

Inexpensive add-on applications that will provide audio codecs and a DVD player to expand the multimedia capabilities of the four-year-old Linux operating system are now available for purchase in the Ubuntu online store.

Previously, users of the freely downloaded or boxed versions of the Ubuntu Linux 8.04 could run into compatibility troubles while trying to play DVD movies or some types of audio tracks on their computers.

That was because many DVD player applications and audio codec files are proprietary, fee-based and owned by the vendors that created them, making them impossible to include for free in Ubuntu products.

Canonical Ltd., the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu Linux, said today that it has reached deals with two software vendors, Cyberlink and Fluendo, to sell their DVD player and audio codec applications directly to consumers through the online store. The products are already installed under previous licensing agreements for many laptop and desktop computers that are sold preloaded with Ubuntu Linux from hardware vendors, according to Ubuntu.

"It is important to us that no matter how you choose to access Ubuntu, pre-installed or as a free download, that you can have a similarly rich experience," wrote Gerry Carr, Canonical's marketing manager, in a blog entry today. "The vast majority of our current users will have installed Ubuntu themselves. These users should also be allowed legal DVD and media playback and so we have built a way of letting them do this."

Carr said in an interview that some open-source projects have tried to tackle the missing codec and DVD player issues but that such reuse of the codecs is not necessarily legal.

"They've found a technical work-around, but it hasn't been legally verified," he said. "This is a way to use your Ubuntu Linux distro and legally play back your music and DVDs. At some point, somebody's got to pay these codec providers" for use of their products.

The complications of trying to find, install and maintain the proper audio codecs for Linux operating systems like Ubuntu has long been one of the main consumer complaints about the open-source OS. In many cases, it can be discouraging to deal with the not-so-easy-to-configure audio capabilities, especially when compared with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows and Apple Inc.'s Macintosh computer operating systems.

The Cyberlink PowerDVD software sells for $49.95 in the Ubuntu store and allows users to play commercial DVDs on the latest version of Ubuntu Linux, v8.04. OpenGL driver support for graphics hardware is also required.

From Fluendo, two audio codec applications are available in the store. The basic Windows Media and MP3 Playback Pack provides plug-ins for the most common Windows Media formats, including Windows Media Audio Decoder (Windows Media 7, 8, 9, 10, Pro, Lossless and Speech), Windows Media Video Decoder (Windows Media 7, 8, 9 and VC1), Windows Media MMS Protocol Support, Windows Media ASF Demuxer and MP3 Audio Decoder. It retails in the store for about $25.

Also available is the Fluendo Complete Playback Pack, which adds a wider assortment of needed codecs for more file compatibility. The Complete Playback Pack retails for $39.95.

Ubuntu has been selling boxed versions of its Linux operating system in Best Buy stores since July.

The new Ubuntu store offerings will allow users to eliminate audio and movie compatibility problems on their computers with single-click installation procedures, Carr said. "This has been a problem for consumers in the past," he said. "With this, you can play anything ... with no restrictions at all."

This scenario doesn't mean that Ubuntu is looking to find ways to make consumers pay to use Ubuntu, Carr said. "We're never going to make you pay for anything that is fundamental to the operating system," he noted. "You do need this to play DVDs. You do need this to play certain types of audio.

"We are not diametrically opposed to anyone selling software" to add on for Ubuntu users, he continued. "We will be adding additional software to that store as we can. It's entirely optional. It's building that ecosystem."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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