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Fedora Multimedia Installation HOWTO

Eric Steven Raymond

[] Thyrsus Enterprises
Revision History                                                             
Revision 5.1           2006-03-25            Revised by: esr                 
Simplified and corrected some FC5 instructions.                              
Revision 5.0           2006-03-21            Revised by: esr                 
Update for Fedora Core 5. On the one hand, we can get almost everything from 
livna now, which simplifies life. On the other hand, Totem and Xine are both 
completely broken.                                                           
Revision 4.0           2005-10-09            Revised by: esr                 
Update for Fedora Core 4. The repositories have become Fedora      
Extras. Adobe Acrobat plugin no longer seems to be necessary, xpdf and evince
must have gotten better.                                                     
Revision 3.0           2004-11-07            Revised by: esr                 
Update for Fedora Core 3.                                                    
Revision 2.2           2004-09-07            Revised by: esr                 
Corrections for 2.6.8 kernel and Mozilla 1.7.                                
Revision 2.1           2004-08-03            Revised by: esr                 
RealPlayer 10 is out in open source. This changes some things.               
Revision 2.0           2004-07-14            Revised by: esr                 
Updated for FC2. Removed up2date methods, as FC2 update seems to be broken.  
Revision 1.2           2004-02-03            Revised by: esr                 
Typo fixes.                                                                  
Revision 1.1           2004-01-31            Revised by: esr                 
Dag Wieers's repository is yum-enabled, so drop apt-get out of the picture.  
Add mozilla-acroread installation. Add some attack-lawyer repellant.         
Revision 1.0           2004-01-30            Revised by: esr                 
Initial release.                                                             

How to get various proprietary and restricted multimedia Damned Things (AVI,
Flash, Java, MP3, MPEG, QuickTime, RealMedia, Windows Media) working under
Fedora Core using your normal package-management tools. Includes
Firefox-plugin instructions. Now with coverage of both 32- and 64-bit
Intel-architecture systems.

Unfortunately, the news in FC5 is almost all bad. Totem and Xine are both
completely broken.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
    1.1. New versions of this document
2. Packages, Tools and Repositories
3. Security considerations and other risks
4. Macromedia Flash
5. gstreamer and ffmpeg support
6. MP3
7. Java
8. RealAudio and RealVideo
9. MPEG, QuickTime, AVI, and DVDs
10. Test pages for Web streaming
11. Related Resources
12. License and Copyright
13. Acknowledgements

1. Introduction

There are some Damned Things like enabling Java and Flash in Mozilla, playing
MP3 files, playing Quicktime/AVI/RealMedia/Windows Media streams, and playing
encrypted DVDs that the Fedora distro folks won't tell you how to do, either
because they're afraid of being sued under the DMCA or for various other
esthetic and political reasons.

This HOWTO collects the relevant information in one place. It is not a
general multimedia-on-Linux HOWTO; if it were, there are hundreds of nifty
tools and packages it would list (starting with the GIMP and all its kindred
and forks and symbiotes). The packages we'll cover here are just the legal
and political hot potatoes, the stuff that threatens monopolies and worries

Good background information on souping up your Fedora system can also be
found at the [] FedoraNEWS website and the Unofficial
Fedora FAQ. One assumption that distinguishes this document from these other
sources is that you are as lazy as I am ?? you want to install your Damned
Things (and, later, update them) with your normal package-management
toolswith an absolute minimum of going to special sites, download source
tarballs, or executing unique build procedures.

Legal note: No source code or locations of source code of any software
alleged to be covered by the DMCA is disclosed on this page, you will have to
look on my personal website for that. The DMCA is a bad law rammed down our
throats by fools and villains and the use of it to suppress free speech about
software is a disgrace, but in order to ensure that this HOWTO gets maximum
distribution I have remained in compliance with it here.

One reason I am doing this is that I believe I'm a harder target for the
attack lawyers than most hackers; public fame and a reputation for
truth-telling are helpful here. If you are an attack lawyer, be warned that I
invariably respond to attempts at intimidation by fighting back, that I am
legally savvy and very good at working the press, and that I will exert all
my considerable ability to make your and your client's name a public disgrace
if you try to suppress my speech. You have been warned.

1.1. New versions of this document

You can also view the latest version of this HOWTO on the World Wide Web via
the URL []  http:/

Feel free to mail any comments about this HOWTO, or additions or bug fixes,
to Eric S. Raymond, <>. But please don't ask me to
troubleshoot your multimedia or plugin configuration problems; if you do,
I'll just ignore you. Everything I know about this subject is already here.

2. Packages, Tools and Repositories

Modern Linuxes are rapidly moving towards a world in which physical media are
used for OS installation only, with updates being fetched and installed by
tools querying Internet repositories. You'll need to know a bit about some of
these tools and the repositories they get binary packages from.

Fedora packages are called RPMs. Each can be installed or uninstalled as a
unit, and provides some application together with any support files it needs.
Some packages depend on others ?? an application, for example, may require
specific support libraries. Part of the job a package installation program
does is to chase down those dependencies and install them before installing
the main package.

Unfortunately, RPMs can clash with each other ?? for example, by wanting to
put incompatible versions of a command or support file in place. A repository
maintainer's main job is to make sure that (a) the RPMs in his collection
don't clash with each other, and (b) all their dependencies are resolved
either within his repository or some 'base' repository that he advertises
depending on.

There is one base repository for Fedora Linux maintained by the Fedora
project itself, and about half a dozen extension repositories that depend on
that base. These extension or "third-party" repositories are where you will
get your Damned Things; they are run by volunteers independent of the Fedora
Project, often located in places outside the U.S. where they will be less
exposed to predatory lawyers.

The extension repositories form cliques defined by who is compatible with who
else. There is a lot of turbulence and politics around these cliques which,
as an end user, you can largely ignore. The only reason for you to know about
this at all is that you have to choose one clique in order to avoid clashes.
In early 2006 there are, essentially, three cliques to choose from, as I'll
describe later on.

First I need to introduce you to the tools you will need to fetch your Damned

    yum (the Yellow Dog Updater, Modified), is a command-line tool that comes
    installed with Fedora Core. It will help you download updates from the
    Fedora repository, and from other repositories that carry Damned Things
    that Fedora won't.
    This is a GUI wrapper around yum introduced in FC5. It's a slightly
    kinder, gentler way to use yum.

You also need to know about some repositories. Each is a collection of RPMs,
divided into subcollections called 'channels'.

    This is the basic Fedora repository. The RPMs in the 'stable' and
    'updates' channels of this repo are what go on a Fedora CD-ROM.
    Historical note for readers of previous version of this document: the Red
    Hat repo now includes, in its 'extras' part, equivalents of the stuff
    that used to be at
[] RPMForge
    A clique formed by all the major third-party RPM sites except livna and
    ATrpms. These packages are intended to extend the Fedora Core and Extras
    repositories, and the maintainers are careful not to clash with the
    Fedora repositories. The consortium includes freshrpms, Dag Wieers's
    repository, the Dries repository, NewRPMs and PlanetCCRMA. They're
    working towards merging their repositories, and already build with common
    source RPMS. Unfortunately, the RPMForge collection is known to have some
    serious clashes with livna and ATRPMs.
    A site, located outside the U.S. and beyond the reach of the DMCA, that
    specifically dedicated to providing Damned Things that Fedora Core and
    Extras won't carry. There is no official connection, and in fact the
    Fedora people won't mention livna in their web pages or documentation for
    fear of being slammed with a speech-suppressing lawsuit by the evil
    scumweasels at the DVDCCA, but the livna people track what Fedora does
    very closely. The livna repositories depend on the Fedora repositories.
    They clash with the RPMForge repositories.
    The main source for packaged versions of Macromedia Flash. It's safe to
    use this RPM with any of the extension-repository cliques.

The three cliques I referred to earlier are RPMForge, livna (all by itself)
and ATrpms (all by itself). With FC5 you can get all the multimedia support
you theoretically need from livna, rather than using RPMforge as I advised in
previous versions of this FAQ. I say 'theoretically' because, in fact, almost
none of the video stuff actually works in FC5.

To enable access to livna, do this:
rpm -ivh                            

This should drop a yum repo configuration file in /etc/yum.repos.d/

3. Security considerations and other risks

All the yum commands I give in this HOWTO have to be run from the root prompt
so the packages they fetch can be installed in your system space. This means
there is a risk that your system could be compromised by a Trojan Horse RPM,
either one inserted in one of the repositories you query or one slipped to
you by a man-in-the-middle attack getting between you and a repository.

To control the latter risk, many repositories cryptographically sign their
RPMs. You need to have a local copy of each repository's public key in order
to integrity-check incoming packages; current versions of yum will dowmload
one for you. This could be defeated by a man-in-the-middle attack spoofing
the repo site and slipping you bogus keys as you set up your configuration;
while this possibility is extremely unlikely, you should be aware of it.

A long-term risk that you accept by using the proprietary code referenced in
this HOWTO is that of becoming dependent on the whims of a proprietary
software vendor. It isn't necessary to have that old-time Free Software
religion to see that this is a problem. Some of the software we'll cover here
(the Sun Java JDK plugin is a good example) is distributed as closed-source
freeware ?? which is all very well, but what happens if the vendor changes
its mind in the future? You could be stranded.

It's unsafe to be dependent on proprietary software and proprietary formats.
When you allow yourself to be dependent, you also harm others by helping
vendors maintain an unhealthy monopoly lock on their market segment. So, if
you must buy into these tools, please find some way to support open-source
replacements ?? donate coding time or cash, or spend effort pressuring
vendors to open up. Rip your CDs to Ogg Vorbis rather than MP3. Write a
letter to your legislator urging repeal of the DMCA. The freedom you save 
will be your own.

4. Macromedia Flash

Fedora won't distribute from their site because Macromedia's license doesn't
permit it, but there are no other legal barriers to using the RPMs at [http:/

Follow those directions, dropping the Macromedia repository configuration in
your /etc/yum.repos.d/ directory. It should look much like this:
name=Macromedia for i386 Linux                                               

Then do the installation:
yum install flash-plugin                                                     

Installing this RPM should put the plugin in your Firefox plugin directories
(and Mozilla's as well).

You can test your flash support at the official test page. Note that you may
have to kill and restart your browser after installing the plugin; I tried
the Flash test immediately and it crashed Firefox.

There's a gotcha: The Macromedia plugin works only for 32-bit Intel boxes. It
completely fails on an x86_64 running in 64-bit mode (in general, 32-bit
plugins won't work in a 64-bit browser). Currently there are three projects
addressung this problem:

��*�[] gplflash1 is the orignal GPL Flash
    plugin. Only handles SWF up to level 4.
��*�[] gplflash2 half-works, with painful
    amounts of flicker, and frequently crashes Firefox. This rewrite of
    gplflash has been abandoned in favor of gnash.
��*�[] gnash promises full support for SWF
    up to level 7, but is still in early development and surrounded by

I think the right stopgap on 64-bit systems might be to build and install
gplflash1, but as of 21 Mar 2006 I can't because it needs an X header file I
cannot yet find the right RPM for. This may change as the dust settles around

5. gstreamer and ffmpeg support

FC5 has adopted a project called gstreamer as a common back end for handling
video and audio files. Totem, the standalone multimedia player shipped with
FC5, uses gstreamer; so does your Firefox plugin, mozplugger.

gstreamer itself uses plugins, one for each multimedia format it supports.
Plugins for open-source formats such as Ogg Vorbis ship with FC5. Plugins for
proprietary formats don't. To get these, do this:
yum install gstreamer-plugins-ugly ffmpeg                                    

This may also install mpeg2dec, libsidplay, libdvdread, faac, faad2, imlib,
and gsm.

The 'ugly' plugins enable gstreamer to handle MP3, MPEG2, and SID formats.
The SID format is a historical relic from the Commodore 64. MP3 is the most
popular audio format. MPEG2 is an audio/video format used in DVDs.

The ffmpeg library can encode or decode MPEG1 audio and video, MPEG4, h263,
ac3, asf, avi, real, mjpeg, and flash.

6. MP3

Fedora won't ship MP3-capable software because the Fraunhofer Institute's
patent license terms are not compatible with the GPL.

The default music player in FC5 is Rhythmbox. I struggled with Rhythmbox for
several hours, but despite its pretty face I found it unusable. It ignores
track numbers ?? or, at least, is not as smart at parsing them out of
filenames as xmms is, and doesn't document its import rules anywhere. Trying
to beat it into playing MP3s is a nightmare so scarifying that at one point I
thought I was going to have to reinstall my entire Linux system just to get
the ability to play Oggs back, because I couldn't figure out what piece of
undocumented application state had gotten scrambled or how to clear it. The
documentation is in general a bad joke ?? glossy, superficial, and with no
useful content about troubleshooting problems. The xmms player may not be as
featureful or as nice-looking, but it works better.

To install xmms and make it MP3-capable, start by doing this:
yum install xmms xmms-mp3                                                    

To actually enable MP3 playing, you'll need to run xmms and change its
configuration. Select Options ?? Preferences ?? Audio I/O Plugins from the
menu; this will pop up a window listing plugins. Select "MPEG Layer 1/2/3
Placeholder Plugin" and uncheck [ ] Enable Plugin. With this placeholder
gone, xmms will plug in xmms-mp3 automatically. Kill xmms and restart.

On my x86_64 box I encountered the problem that xmms would only play sound as
root, exiting immediately when run from a non-root account. There are a
number of mundane causes for this; check the permissions on your sound
devices. There is one exotic problem which I tripped over; you may have to
tell your sound module to grab low-memory DMA buffers and not let go of them.

To enable MP3 streaming through Firefox or Mozilla, install the
gstreamer-ugly plugin and ffmpeg as described below. MP3 streams will play
through xmms, podcasts through Totem.

7. Java

Java is downloadable and redistributable from Sun, but only for personal and
not-for-profit use. Sun's Java license is non-open-source, so Fedora and most
other Linux distributions won't carry it.

Fedora Core 5 includes an open-source Java implementation for programmers
called gcj. You only need to take special action if you want to enable
applets in your browser. The Unofficial Fedora FAQ has [http://] detailed instructions on how to do this.

You can test your Java plugin at Sun's []
Applets page. Note that some of these applets (Escher and Starfield, when I
checked) appear to be broken. BouncingHeads makes a good test.

You might also want to copy the RPMS you built out of /usr/src/redhat/RPMS/
so you'll have then handy for reinstalls.

8. RealAudio and RealVideo

I don't known anywhere this is accessible via yum, so you'll have to download
and install it by hand. Do this first:
yum install compat-libstdc++-33                                              

Then download the RealPlayer10GOLD RPM and install it.

On 32-bit Fedora Core you may need to delete HelixPlayer with
rpm -e HelixPlayer                                                           
before the 10GOLD version will work. x86_64 FC5 does not include HelixPlayer.

9. MPEG, QuickTime, AVI, and DVDs

MPEG (the format used on DVDs) represents itself as an open standard, but
most Linux distributions won't ship software that read it because of blocking
patents held by MPEGLA. AVI and Apple QuickTime have proprietary codecs
covered by patents, so most Linux distributions won't ship software that
decodes them, either.

FC5 ships the GNOME project's official video player, [
projects/totem/] totem. Unfortunately, it won't play DVDs. The symptom is an
error popup that says "Totem was not able to play this disc. No reason", but
the problem is actually a known bug in gstreamer-0.10.

Unfortunately, the alternate front end xine is even more broken. It can be
installed this way:
yum install xine xine-lib libdvdcss                                          

Doing this will also install a number of support libraries, including the
libdvdcss plugin that the xine people won't talk about on their site because
they are too frightened of the DVDCCA's attack lawyers.

The 0.99.4 xine release displays an all-white window and does nothing (at
least on my plain-vanilla Opteron machine using a nVidia GeForce2).

10. Test pages for Web streaming

Here are some test locations to try streaming audio and video clips from:

��*� [] AVI
��*� [] QuickTime
��*� [] Windows Media
��*� [] MPEG
��*� [] RealPlayer

11. Related Resources

There is a good walkthrough of a Fedora Core 5 installation procedure,
covering some of the same ground as this document, [
/fedora_core_5_installation_notes.html] here.

There is a useful Fedora Core 4 Tips and Tricks page.

There is a good tutotial on Firefox multimedia plugins.

12. License and Copyright

� 2004, Eric S. Raymond.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under
the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later
version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant
Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the
license is located at []

13. Acknowledgements

Miguel Freitas helped educate me about some of the techicalities of video

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