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Linux Multimedia Hacks 99

MikeD writes "I just got my copy of the latest release in the O'Reilly's 'Hacks' series, "Linux Multimedia Hacks" by Kyle Rankin. If you are familiar with the other books in the 'Hack' series, this one will seem familiar." Read the rest of Mike's review.
Linux Multimedia Hacks
author Kyle Rankin
pages 330
publisher O'Reilly
rating 8
reviewer MikeD
ISBN 0-596-10076-0
summary Tips & Tools for Taming Images, Audio, and Video

There are 5 'Chapters', each focusing on a specific multimedia topic starting from the most basic/common and moving up the multimedia food chain. The chapters cover (in order) Images, Audio, Video, Broadcast media, and the Web. The hacks in each section are similarly arranged, usually starting with the simplest and moving to more complex issues. They helpfully put a little rating symbol by each hack indicating if it is for beginners, intermediate or advanced users. While that is a little simplistic, it does give you some hint at the complexity of that particular 'hack'.

Because this is a 'hack' book, it is really designed so you can look up the topic you want. For example in Chapter 3: Video, there is a "hack" explaining how to convert from one video format to another. If that is what you need to do, turn to hack 63 and follow along and you are done.

But they put a little extra effort into the layout and topics covered here and you *could* use this as a great introduction to a particular multimedia area as well.

Lets look at Chapter2: Audio for example. The first 'hack', number 13, is titled "Mix Your Audio for Perfect Sound. This hack begins by exploring the audio systems in your system, the hardware, the sources and such then finishes by introducing a couple of common tools for controlling your audio, aumix and alsamixer. The next 'hack', "Surround Yourself with Sound" goes into details on how to get sound out of your system. It discusses speakers, 5.1 surround sound and how to use the tools alsmixer, aplay and others to set up, test and ultimately enjoy the cool audio available while watching movies.

Together those two 'hacks' make a pretty basic introduction to PC audio under Linux. From there the audio hacks include format changing, ripping, burning CDs music management and much more. You really could start at the 13 and work your way through to hack 46 and have a very good understanding of audio, PC audio and how to get the most out of it on your Linux PC.

So it really is more than just a collection of hacks. It can lead you from the basics of screen capture ('hack' number 1), to image manipulation, animation, then move on to audio and video. In Chapter 4 they get into TV tuner cards, Myth TV, streaming audio and video, ripping to broadcasting.

Chapter 5, Web hacks is sort of the odd man out in this book. In some ways it is separate from the other four in that it is directed more towards the web, which is something that would require several whole books in itself to cover well. But they included a few ideas, like "Star in Your Own Reality TV Show (hack #97), that do relate to some of the prior material.

Over all this will be a very useful book to anyone who is new to multimedia, but even some more advanced users will find some interesting and useful ideas, I think. Well worth checking out."

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Linux Multimedia Hacks

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2006 @02:47PM (#14744028)
    "If you are familiar with...this will seem familiar"

    Kind of self defining.
  • For sample hacks (Score:5, Informative)

    by dan dan the dna man ( 461768 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @02:48PM (#14744033) Homepage Journal
    and a proper index of the book you can get a preview on the O'Reilly microsite for the book here []
  • by tcopeland ( 32225 ) * <> on Friday February 17, 2006 @02:50PM (#14744047) Homepage Linux Server Hacks []. Just to "turbo mode ssh logins" hack (#67) is worth the price alone.

    Oh, and, book plug []!
  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @02:50PM (#14744053)
    I know A'rpi from mplayer.

    'Nuff said.
  • Great review (Score:3, Interesting)

    by XMilkProject ( 935232 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @02:53PM (#14744073) Homepage
    That was a well written review!

    The book sounds cool, I might go pick up a copy.

    I am curious, as I rarely purchase linux related books, is there alot of distribution specific material? Or is it overly generic to avoid being tied to a certain setup?

    For instance when dealing with the many tools i'm sure the book discusses, there could be KDE and GNOME specific implementations, as well as alot of differences on how you will find/install the tool depending on distribution. How is this sort of thing handled?
    • Re:Great review (Score:3, Informative)

      with the exception of the obviously-titled "Knoppix Hacks", "Fedora _________", etc. the subject matter is typically distro-agnostic. If this follows suit most of the tools will be console-oriented and they'll mention some GUIs for the various window managers (GNOME, KDE, etc).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2006 @02:53PM (#14744080)
    There are 5 'Chapters',
    Because this is a 'hack' book,
    here is a "hack"

    I bet the author of the post does the little bendy bunny ears gesture with his hands when he speaks...
  • Uh... hacks? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Evro ( 18923 ) <evandhoffman&gmail,com> on Friday February 17, 2006 @02:54PM (#14744091) Homepage Journal
    Most of the "hacks" described in the review seem to amount to "how to use these standard tools, which came with your distro, to do the task for which they were designed." Not really worthy of the title "hack" IMO...
  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @03:05PM (#14744167)
    While I appreciate the efforts of hackers to bring the cutting edge Multimedia experience to Linux, I always find the interfaces to programs used to play audio/video on Linux very wanting.

    In some of the cases, a choice of different engines for use is provided. Sometimes, a change in an engine will crash the app! And there is no easy way to know this choice even exists.

    I particularily appreciate the folks at [] for a job well done.

    But again, I fine Linux feels heavy, even on an AMD 2800+ Sempron processor with 512MB of RAM. On the other OS, it's all a snap.

    Can someone tell me why [] is still not that popular?

    • by imsabbel ( 611519 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @03:27PM (#14744331)
      Well, vorbis, vorbis.

      The problem with vorbis is that bad marketing meets to late to market.

      EVERYBODY has mp3. My discman can read them on cd, my car stereo does, everything. The "free" aspect doesnt matter to the end user, and the bitrate benefits got totally drowned in the storage size inflation... 8 years ago, on a 32Mbyte Rio500, every kb/s counted. By today even flash players have GBs...

      And the vidfeo container format suffered from horrible implementations, bugs, the inability to even remotely efficiently _seek_ inside the file and , of course, bad marketing.
    • Why doesn't Vorbis get more popularity? Well, only a few portables support it, the only major audio player that supports it out of the box is Winamp (which also doesn't support encoding it), MP3 is good enough for most people...

      Need I say more?
    • Actually, I am using XMMS for my video playback.
      After I dug up a package of dll's and codecs - I don't recall from where - I can watch a wider variety of feeds on my 700mhz PORS (Pile Of Recycled Scrap) linux box than I can on my W2K box with all the updates I can find.
      I also like the playlist features and the control panel.
    • The answer to your question is not piracy, nor quality or commercial reasons. Yes, there are hundreds of terrabytes in .mp3 format available on P2P networks, but let's not assume everyone is out trying to steal something. The mpeg format doesn't offer any kind of copy protection, vorbis doesn't either. I strongly believe .mp3 is the most popular simply because
      #1 it is good enough
      #2 it is free (or at least this is what the entire planet thinks, although 2-3 lawyers might disagree)
      #3 it was there first
    • But again, I fine Linux feels heavy, even on an AMD 2800+ Sempron processor with 512MB of RAM. On the other OS, it's all a snap.
      What distro and DE are you using? I found performance much better with Ubuntu on the G5 than OSX Tiger where mencoder/mplayer (encoding and playback) is concerned. Also why not just use VLC on Linux? It's a stock interface common to all major operating systems and supports a wide variety of codecs (theora included) out-of-the-box.
    • I find everything multimedia runs much smoother on my Linux box than on my nearly identical XP box (both AMD 2800 or so). Movies which stutter on explosions etc in XP never seem to on Linux.

      My guess is it's just the higher interactivity and better scheduler in Linux, and that the players tend to be more lightweight. There's been an improvement with 2.6 kernels.

      I agree with you MPlayer is great. That the interface is light is a good thing. Most of the functionality is there (plus some) in the keybo

      • i find that my suse 10.0 installation on a pentium III 700MHz mit 256MB-RAM is actually slower at times than the windows 98 SE that used to be on here (Ubuntu, however is faster than windows 98 and DSL leaves all of them in its wake). I once installed windows XP on it, but it kept complaining about lack of memory when i opened word and ie at the same time. (Strangely xp hasn't been able to start since i exchanged my very old and unreliable DVD-drive for a new, reliable one. xp just hangs while booting, and
  • I'm looking forward to getting a copy of this book. Audio and video support is basically the meat of Linux on the desktop and the source of much frustration for new users who "can't get their soundcard working". O'Reilly comes through for the Linux community yet again!

    • I'm looking forward to getting a copy of this book. Audio and video support is basically the meat of Linux on the desktop and the source of much frustration for new users who "can't get their soundcard working". O'Reilly comes through for the Linux community yet again!

      Well, I'm looking forward to the day when you don't need a f*cking book to get audio and video support running on Linux. The Linux community has screwed the usability pooch again!

      • Re:excellent! (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Halvy ( 748070 )

        I wouldn't hold my breath there buddy, cause a book aint gunna help the helpless.

        You keep waiting for Gates & Co. to deliver your stock programs.

        And several million other folks and myself will continue to improve an OS that has its roots in the worlds phone network and the InterNet.

        What's funny is people 'like you' are sort of 'locked' out of the real benefits of Linux by 'default', because of your IQ and propensity to learn. :)

        -- My favorite thing about OSS *IS* its Militancy!!

  • by revery ( 456516 ) * <> on Friday February 17, 2006 @03:14PM (#14744216) Homepage
    Linux Multimedia Hacks

    Hopefully, no one else had the same initial reaction that I had, namely:
    "Man, I hope the title doesn't perform double-duty as a description of the authors..."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2006 @03:14PM (#14744220)
    All the multimedia hacks start with; "Download an unencumbered version of MPlayer and then Bogart yourself a copy of the Win32 codecs for WMA, Quicktime, Real and all the others. You can get them from the C:\Windows\System32 folder of your pirated copy of XP."

  • by rjnagle ( 122374 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @03:48PM (#14744526) Homepage
    This sounds like an interesting book, and I'll probably buy it, but looking over the Table of Contents, this book is geared more toward Linux Multimedia Management (PVR, mp3s) than doing actual recording and capturing.

    I'm a podcaster trying to figure out the best way to input mike/mixer into my linux laptop, and had the damnest time figuring out.

    Mastering the software stuff is easy (relatively speaking). Much harder is figuring out how to get your hardware to work. About the best resource I've found for that is this usb device database []. Under each multimedia device are user comments about how they made it work.

    Also, a few months ago I reviewed a book, Digital Video Hacks []. More about video production than linux, the book nonetheless a few things from a linux perspective. Highly recommended!

    On another note, why hasn't anyone published a decent GIMP manual yet? The last book is a good three years old, and a lot has happened to gimp since then. I would love to see a Gimp Hacks book sometime. I could really use that!
    • Looks like a linux developer will be coming out with a gimp manual soon []. I think she based it on a gimp course she taught online [].
    • I would have written at-least an online minibook for The GIMP
      ( How To, for photographers who care just to get good-enough-for-results results... ), except that:

      a) The GIMP ( or its development ) won't ever be end-user or end-power-user responsive, and
      b) The GIMP won't ever support efficient workflow, and
      c) The GIMP won't ever support efficient & effective colour-calibration
      ( at-least not until EVERYone else has done it for sooo long that it finally becomes acceptable for it to do so )
      d) The GIM

  • by heffel ( 83440 ) <`dheffelfinger' `at' `'> on Friday February 17, 2006 @03:50PM (#14744543) Homepage Journal
    Amazon [] Has it cheaper than B & N. ($19.77 new, 13.12 used).
    • Because the've patented the business model of selling products at lower prices than their competitors.
      • no... B & N just has high(er) prices. Bookpool often has better prices than Amazon (in this case, the book is out of stock, but otherwise it would be slightly cheaper than at amazon).

        Personally, I stopped buying from when they stopped giving away gift certificates, raised prices, and realized that "making it up in volume" doesn't help when they lose money one every order.

  • by hkb ( 777908 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @03:54PM (#14744575)
    Wireless Hacks, that was a book largely composed of "hacks". Every other book I've seen has been a cookbook using tools as they are intended. The term "Cookbook" or "Tips" is much more accurate for these titles.

    When Wireless Hacks came out, it was great, real hacks. When the next Hacks book came out, I rushed to the bookstore to take a look and find it was a lame and inaccurate title. When the third Hacks book came out, I didn't and still don't pay any attention.

    The "Hacks" branding is effectively worthless, O'Reilly.
  • ... things like building a pre-emptible kernel (multimedia performance is like night and day with it)? ... the various sound daemons (and how to make sure they don't step on each other)? ... comparisons between vendor supplied drivers and open source ones?

    Those would be helpful.
  • Xawtv? TV Time is infinitely better for watching TV on Linux. []
  • Why must they call them "hacks" when it is really just a collection of "how-to"s. I suppose some people would be more likely to buy the book if they do that, but surely there must be people like me who see it as a gimmick?

    • Yep, it's a gimmick that sells books. O'Reilly is good at that. Hack has a sufficiently generic meaning that it will mean basically whatever they want it to mean. I'm sure once the open source community has figure out that "hack" is O'Reilly code for "book that you'll soon be buying" they'll have moved on to other words like "Make". Oh wait...

  • I hope the book specifically addresses playing streaming video from the CNN website. How many cries from the wilderness have we heard regarding that issue?

    If enjoying CNN in Linux is no longer an exercise in futility, then I'll personally buy a copy.
    • this is pretty easy.....

      1. install mplayer []
      2. install mplayer plugin []
      3. enjoy cnn videos.

      this is the simple might need to compile mplayer with different codecs for it to work....i use gentoo so its as easy as emerging mplayerplug-in for me

      • Not always so cut and dried unfortunately. For many cnn streaming video doesn't work with mplayer in Firefox. A quick google search will confirm this.

The absent ones are always at fault.