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If you’ve been getting blue faces when watching YouTube clips, or any other Adobe Flash videos, the cause can be hard to pinpoint. When faces and flames, and other red/orange elements, turn varying shades of blue, it can be due to a buggy Flash update (especially for 64-bit users), or it can be due to video card driver issues (currently it seems to be affects a few Nvidia users after upgrading to Ubuntu 12.04 – read more at the bottom). Whatever the cause, this issue usually drives people to uninstall Flash, then reinstall an earlier version.

But hopefully the following fix will correct the colours in the movies you watch in Firefox or Chrome (and any other web browsers) without having to resort to such drastic measures. All you need to do is create a text file and paste a line of text into it, but since saving it will fail unless you create the folder first, do so by running the following in the terminal:

sudo mkdir /etc/adobe/

Now to create the file and open it for editing:

gksu gedit /etc/adobe/mms.cfg

When it opens, paste in the following:

EnableLinuxHWVideoDecode=1

Close the file, and confirm you want to save the changes. Now, all you need to do is restart your browser and your clips should look fine. If not, you may need to reboot, and hopefully all is fine when you return.

The EASY WAY: Now that you understand what’s needed, you could cheat and just do the whole process with one command:

sudo mkdir /etc/adobe/ && echo -e "EnableLinuxHWVideoDecode=1" | sudo tee /etc/adobe/mms.cfg > /dev/null

If you also want to force the Flash player to bypass its GPU validity checks (GPU validation – see below), then the command would be:

sudo mkdir /etc/adobe/ && echo -e "OverrideGPUValidation=1\nEnableLinuxHWVideoDecode=1" | sudo tee /etc/adobe/mms.cfg > /dev/null

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That Didn’t Work, or Caused Problems? In some cases, you might find you need to disable GPU validation in addition to, or instead of, telling Flash to use vdpau hardware acceleration. If you’re experiencing trouble at some sites but not others (like YouTube videos are now fine, but at Vimeo the Flash plugin crashes), you may want to play around with the settings. For example, to enable the acceleration but bypass GPU validation, the text in mms.cfg would be:

OverrideGPUValidation=1
EnableLinuxHWVideoDecode=1

… or the following to just bypass GPU validation:

OverrideGPUValidation=1
EnableLinuxHWVideoDecode=0

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To Revert Back: If these tweaks have caused you more headache than it was worth, just delete the entire folder you created with:

sudo rm -r /etc/adobe

Or you can just edit the file with:

gksu gedit /etc/adobe/mms.cfg

… and set EnableLinuxHWVideoDecode= to 0 if you prefer to keep it.

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Nvidia users: Apparently the issue (which Adobe reportedly won’t be fixing) is caused by having hardware acceleration enabled, so right-clicking a Flash video, choosing Settings… and disabling “Enable hardware acceleration” can often fix this. However, the above fix is perhaps more elegant since you’re allowing Flash to use vdpau hardware acceleration, rather than just disabling it altogether.

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Besides moving to the Unity interface, one of Ubuntu‘s other big moves in 11.04 Natty Narwhal will be the replacement of the default music player, Rhythmbox, with another popular media player, Banshee. This is actually because the Rhythmbox development team has announced that while they might push out one more version, it’s the end of the road for this popular music player (PLEASE NOTE: This situation only lasted a couple of Ubuntu versions, and Rhythmbox is again being developed, and is once again the default music player).

We’ll have a general look around the new default player, as well as cover everything you’ll need to know if migrating from Rhythmbox.

Those upgrading won’t have to worry about Rhythmbox being uninstalled, and any installing a new system can always install Rhythmbox as well, and even uninstall Banshee if so desired. But Banshee is a worthy successor, and is very much like Rhythmbox anyway, just with more bells and whistles. Not just that, if you’re planning on trying it out on your current system, it can import all your Rhythmbox playlists to make the transition less painful.

At first glance, Banshee is almost identical to Rhythmbox, except that it displays album covers in the browser. But besides having all of the features of Rhythmbox and some of its plugins, Banshee is a full media player, able to play video as well as all sorts of audio.

Setting it up is easy, as it will automatically scan your ~/Music folder’s contents (you can of course change it to wherever you store your music via Banshee‘s preferences; whenever you want to force a scan, go to Tools > Rescan Music Library).

Importing Rhythmbox Playlists

You can then import your Rhythmbox playlists via Media > Import Media… (if you also have Rhythmbox installed); the Import Playlist… option you’ll also see is for importing individual playlists you may have saved, which would be the case if you’re migrating settings into a fresh install.

When you import your Rhythmbox playlists, you might find the tracks listed in alphabetical order (by band), instead of the order you previously had.

Just click above the track names (on “Name“) and it will cycle through different methods of arrangement, including the original setup you had saved in Rhythmbox. Actually, you can do it with “Artist” and “Album” as well, with it arranging tracks alphanumerically by artist or album, then the reverse order, followed by the original custom layout.

Importing Your Rhythmbox Covers

Your Rhythmbox covers may be something else you wish to import. For many, it won’t matter at all, as the covers Banshee fetches are quite adequate. But if you find some of your old covers are better, or you went to some effort to find better covers than Rhythmbox offered (or couldn’t find at all), and don’t want to waste those, you will find all your covers in /home/yourusername/.cache/rhythmbox/covers. (Note that the period (.) before “cache” denotes it is a hidden folder, so you will need to enable viewing of hidden files and folders if you haven’t already done so).

Simply locate the desired cover – which is easy, since they are named in alphanumerical order by band, followed by album title – and drag it on the cover you see in the bottom-left while a song is playing. If you don’t see a cover, you’ll just have to go to View > Show Cover Art to enable it (currently the default is to have it off, but I imagine that will soon change).

You’ll probably want to know where your covers will be from now on, so the location is nearby at /home/yourusername/.cache/media-art. Note that your covers will no longer be listed in the logical order you’re used to.

While there currently doesn’t seem to be a way to import Rhythmbox‘s album art easily, you might find many are better than what Rhythmbox found anyway, so you’ll probably only need to replace a few covers, notably those Banshee can’t find either. Also, if your music folders contain cover art with names like cover.jpg, then Banshee will probably use those instead of looking for them.

When Banshee can’t find a cover for you, or you just want a better one than the one that’s offered, simply search online, save the picture, then drag it onto the cover in Banshee‘s bottom-left, and it will save a copy in its art folder.

Where’s the Shuffle Button?

Banshee might at first glance seem devoid of a shuffle button for mixing up the order of tracks played, but it actually has a much better one than what you’re used to in Rhythmbox. In fact, you can look at it more as a shuffle menu, as you can not only enable it, but chose the method of shuffling.

All you need to do is click the little down-arrow at the end of the Next button, and a menu will drop down. From there, pick anything other than Shuffle Off.

You will notice the Next button is now a Shuffle button (actually, it’s a Next button that shuffles), and you can choose to shuffle by song, artist, album, rating and score via the menu.

And Where’s… ???

As you can see with the seemingly hidden shuffle button, all you need to do is look around a bit, and you’ll soon find your way around. If you’re migrating from Rhythmbox, some things might be named different, and found in different menus than you’re used to, but you’ll get there. Banshee will probably surprise you with a few cool features, and you should find you can do everything you did in Rhythmbox. If there’s still something missing in comparison, then it was probably a Rhythmbox extension that gave it to you, and you’ll probably be able to find the same as an add-on for Banshee.

Installing Plugins

To install additional features, you can just search for “banshee” in Synaptic. You’ll be presented with a bunch of extensions, including support for visualisations (banshee-extension-openvp), an alarm with variable volumes (banshee-extension-alarm), a radio stream recorder (banshee-extension-streamrecorder), support for displaying lyrics (banshee-extension-lyrics), and much more. There is even a plugin that changes your desktop wallpaper to the album art of the currently playing track (banshee-extension-coverwallpaper).

The Context Pane

One cool feature of Banshee is the Context Pane, which basically adds a section at the bottom that lets you view other data, like lyrics, YouTube videos, and even the Wikipedia page! You can be forgiven for thinking it is overkill, but it actually comes in handy, though you might not want it visible the whole time.

Obviously it will show you lyrics (if it finds them, though it looks to more sources than Rhythmbox, which is a pleasant surprise), but the Wikipedia option is actually quite neat, as it will automatically look up the band currently playing.

The initial viewing area isn’t that huge, and can’t be customised by dragging any borders (more on that in a second), but most of the time, this will do fine for a quick bit of info.

The YouTube plugin is another that is a great feature, yet also appears limited in its appeal due to the size, however the pane can actually be expanded via a hidden button. In the seemingly blank area above the plugin icons/buttons on the right side of the context pane, if you hover your mouse cursor there, you will see a small button appear with the tooltip “Make the context pane larger or smaller“.

Use that toggle button to enlarge the context pane, and shrink it back again.

When you find a clip you want to play, click it to play it in the context pane, or click the down-arrow to the right of it and choose either to “Play in Banshee…” or “Play in Web Browser…“.

Now, there is one more way to expand your viewing area, which makes playing it in Banshee even more valid an option, and that is by selecting “Now Playing” in the top-left, instead of “Music” or one of your playlists. The context pane will then take up the bulk of Banshee.

And you can then go one better by clicking the Simplify button that will now be present above the context pane. This will hide the menu bar, as well as the left-hand pane. Click the button again to toggle back to the previous made.

(At the time of writing, playing YouTube clips inside Banshee doesn’t seem to work, so unfortunately I can’t illustrate what that would look like, but the size seems adequate, and for now at least the option to play the selected vid in a web browser works).

To hide the context pane, next to that little hidden toggle button you’ll find another that will “Hide context pane“. To show the Context Pane again, simply go to the View menu and click Context Pane.

You might not be impressed, especially if you just want a music player, but you have to admit it will catch on with those used to doing it all (ie: looking up info and YouTube vids while playing music) in the one place, namely their smart phone.

And don’t forget to keep an eye out for extensions for the context pane, as there are already a couple out there, and soon there should be a whole heap to choose from.

(Note: to enable or disable any plugins, go to Edit > Preferences, and in the Extensions tab scroll down to Context Pane and either tick or untick the desired add-on).

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As you can see, Banshee is quite a full-featured media player, and will be even more so as more extensions are developed. And if you’re making the move from Rhythmbox, the transition should be a lot easier than you imagined.

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K3b is a versatile CD/DVD burning utility that makes a great addition to anyone’s arsenal of multimedia apps. It has features many others lack, like the ability to successfully burn VIDEO_TS folders to playable movie DVDs, and even if you’re happy with your current burning app, it’s good to have just in case. But it is so feature-rich and easy to use that it could well become your disc burning app of choice.

K3b is actually made for KDE (Kubuntu’s desktop environment), but runs fine in Gnome. If you have KDE installed as a secondary desktop environment, then you’ll already have all the libraries and dependencies K3b will need; if you’re only running Gnome, when you install K3b any bits and pieces of KDE it needs will be installed along with it. It will probably look a bit different than your Gnome apps, because it will be themed by KDE, but should work absolutely fine.

K3b is user-friendly, yet has advanced options, and is even customisable. If you’re using another app and come across something it can’t do for you, you’ll probably find K3b has no such problem. And even if K3b can’t seem to do it, there is probably a way, if you just look around.

In this post you will find all tips related to K3b, so hopefully you can find answers for your burning needs, whether you currently use another program (like the default Brasero) or already use K3b.

If you don’t already have K3b, you can install it via Synaptic, or enter sudo apt-get install k3b into a terminal. Any dependencies will be installed automatically.

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Burn VIDEO_TS Folders to Playable Movie DVDs

Customise K3b: Add or Remove Quick Start Buttons

Long File-Name Support for Burning Data Discs with K3b

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32-bit Ubuntu users: You can read this for some general info, but for installation of Flash use this guide instead.

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While Flash support on Linux distros used to be a nightmare, most people these days rarely need to bother fiddling with it. In fact, installing Flash support on 32-bit i386 systems it can be even easier than doing the same in Windows. But 64-bit users often find it is one big mess, and this has nothing to do with Ubuntu, as Adobe has only ever released a 32-bit version, as incredible as that may seem.

At the time of writing, there is the first alpha 64-bit version available, so things are looking up. While you could be forgiven for not trusting a product that isn’t even at its first beta level yet, from what I have seen it is stable, and should be the answer you are looking for. While this might not be the solution to help everyone, hopefully it is the answer to your Flash woes.

What you first need to do is go into Synaptic and completely remove the package flashplugin-installer, or do so with the following command in a terminal (if you never installed it, obviously you can skip this step):

sudo apt-get purge flashplugin-installer

If you suspect you may have installed some open source Flash plugins, open Synaptic and enter “flash” in the Quick search bar. I personally removed the popular gnash just to be safe (since it and the Adobe one always fought for supremacy, though that was never the problem, considering I installed Gnash after the Adobe product failed me). You can leave swfdec-gnome if that is installed, as that handles things like giving thumbnail previews for .swf files in Nautilus, etc, and doesn’t appear to cause any conflicts.

You can always try just skipping all that and seeing if the 32- and 64-bit versions happily co-exist, but since the 32-bit one is failing you anyway, you may as well uninstall it and save any potential headaches.

Next, we need to add the Adobe Flash repository to the APT sources, update the sources list, then download and install the 64-bit plugin. This is easily done by pasting the following into a terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:sevenmachines/flash && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install flashplugin64-installer

Note that if you get an error, most likely because during the sources update it failed to fetch some info, this install will fail (since it won’t actually get to the last command and download and install anything). However, if you open Synaptic and search for “flash“, you will see there is now flashplugin64-installer included in the list of found packages, and is then easily installed (though you could always just run sudo apt-get install flashplugin64-installer in a terminal).

If you prefer, you can run each of the three commands separately:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:sevenmachines/flash
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install flashplugin64-installer

That way if the update fails, you can run it again and then run the last command when ready.

After that, you should have Flash support in Firefox and other web browsers, and you shouldn’t even need to reboot (though if you didn’t already exit Firefox before installing Flash, restart the program now, and you should be able to watch Flash vids).

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If you want to make sure the plugin is installed properly (without viewing a Flash clip, which is obviously the best way to get this info), just enter about:plugins in the Firefox address bar and hit Enter. You should see the Flash section right near the top.

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By far the best method of getting your package manager Synaptic to be able to find lots more useful software is to add the Medibuntu (Multimedia, Entertainment & Distractions In Ubuntu) repository. By adding it, you in fact get access to a whole lot more repos, and you could end up finding packages in a Synaptic search that you couldn’t even find via Google when hoping to download them from the developers’ sites.

Besides finally being able to install those programs you’ve seen recommended but could never locate, Medibuntu makes it painless to get a whole bunch of “non-free” packages (proprietary, copyrighted, or other legal issues). This can range from popular software you usually need to download (and often register for first), like Skype and Google Earth, to even more multimedia codecs that you didn’t get with ubuntu-restricted-extras.

Codec packs and multimedia extras to install once Medibuntu has been added are libdvdcss2 (for playing encrypted retail DVDs), non-free-codecs, and “Win32” codec binaries (required for the decompression of video formats that have no open-source alternative) w32codecs (for 32-bit “i386” systems; for 64-bit systems, install w64codecs, and PowerPC Mac users install ppc-codecs).

For those who just want libdvdcss2, you can download the 32-bit, 64-bit and PowerPC versions (37Kb .DEB installers).

Go to the Medibuntu documentation page for more info, or just enter the following command in a terminal, and it’s all done for you! You can then open Synaptic and see all the extra software available to you, and install those invaluable codecs. Note that all of the below is one command, so copy and paste the lot:

sudo wget http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/$(lsb_release -cs).list \
--output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list &&
sudo apt-get -q update &&
sudo apt-get --yes -q --allow-unauthenticated install medibuntu-keyring &&
sudo apt-get -q update

If this doesn’t work, you could be reading this when it’s outdated, so go to the site and check the command is still the same.

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In Ubuntu, you can get many multimedia players – programs that play both audio and video – and you may find one that fulfills all your requirements. Personally, I don’t mind having different apps for different tasks, since I was already used to that with Windows (I mean, who seriously uses Windows Media Player for everything?). Amarok is a great flashy audio player, but I generally just use the default Rhythmbox for music; for DVDs, I prefer Kaffeine, but for playing all my video clips (and DVDs that Kaffeine is spitting the dummy over), I use SMPlayer.

It’s just an alternative to MPlayer, but has a lot more features, and can can be customised a fair bit. For example, you can skip backwards and forwards using the scroll wheel on your mouse, and you can edit the amount skipped. In fact, you can assign another function to the scroll wheel, just as you can change functions for all mouse actions, as well as edit and add to existing keyboard shortcuts.

You can also edit certain control buttons, like Skip Forward and Skip Back, with times like 10 secs, 30 secs & 1 min (note that with earlier versions, you would have 3 extra buttons on each end of the progress bar, while now they are inside a menu accessed by clicking the little arrow next to the single button shown on each end).

You can change the interface to a mini GUI, or to the Media PC (MPC) one if you prefer something different to the default. You can also choose to show the playlist as a separate window which becomes a handy way to access and add to your playlist (which you can then save for future use).

As far as advanced features go, you can tweak performance in many ways, fiddle with audio/video synchronisation for problem clips, and even get it to autoload subtitles for clips that come with subtitles files. Also, because of issues due to Ubuntu’s move to Pulse Audio, all my DVDs and movies had no sound for a while in the other players, but in SMPlayer it wasn’t an issue; not sure why that was, since MPlayer was mute, but I was certainly glad I had installed SMPlayer!

So there are a few reasons worth try SMPlayer. It’s lean, yet feature-rich, with a good level of customisability, and it will play any media file you throw at it, including YouTube (.flv) clips. It’s easily installed via the repos, and it might just end up your default movie player.

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Even Windows does not ship with the ability to play DVDs and many media types by default, due to copyright/proprietary issues. Ubuntu respects these as well, but by installing one simple package, you not only get DVD playback – even on copy-protected discs – but support for basically every type of video and audio file out there today! If you’ve got two different codec pack launchers in Windows pumping codecs into Windows Media Player and there are still heaps of clips you can’t play, then Ubuntu will amaze you. You will suddenly be able to play all those XviD .AVI movies that only had sound till now, .FLV clips from YouTube, and the latest formats like .MKV.

All you need to do is open Synaptic and mark ubuntu-restricted-extras for installation, or just paste the following into a terminal:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras

When codecs are updated or added, you will receive them with your system updates! How easy is that?!

* For info on adding even more codecs and the ability to play encrypted DVDs, read about adding the Medibuntu repository.

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