Back to the ‘buntus.

Ubuntu Restricted Formats

Many of you will consider this a huge step backwards. I consider it a small step forwards, and this fuzzy terminal grab is the reason why. Permit me to explain — but first, a quick refresher…

This refugee from Apple bought a Linux-powered Eee PC last spring, and promptly swapped out the default Xandros OS for the awesome Easy Peasy — basically the current Ubuntu Netbook Remix Edition with all the restricted media codecs pre-installed.

Then, this past April I went 100% Linux with a Lenovo all-in-one desktop computer running Linux Mint — a very slick spin on Ubuntu, again with the media codecs included from the get-go. Seeing a pattern here?

Over the past week I’ve been giving the latest and greatest KDE desktop a play on my Lenovo, and the lightweight PCLinuxOS ZenMini a trial on my Eee PC. As of this morning, I have nuked both drives and put Ubuntu proper on the desktop and Xubuntu on my netbook.

The ZenMini spin on PCLinuxOS was very impressive; my only issue was with streaming video to it from my NAS using Samba, a file sharing protocol developed for Windows computers. I think I found all the codecs I needed, but the playback of my (legal) BitTorrent downloads was jerky, and sometimes didn’t work at all.

On the KDE side things were even worse. Kaffeine, the default video player for KDE, has zero Samba support (nor does VLC, in case you were wondering). Same story with Dragon Player, the app bundled with Kubuntu for netbooks.

I could, of course, roll up my sleeves and at least attempt to solve these issues without changing distros, but then I started to think about why I was distro-hopping in the first place. The beauty of using Linux is that there’s literally something for everyone — and I think I’ve figured out that my baseline needs include the ability to stream media from my NAS without issue.

The ZenMini spin on PCLinuxOS remains a very elegant GNOME-based solution for low-powered netbooks, while using KDE literally felt like witnessing the near future of desktop computing firsthand. In the same vein, both Easy Peasy and Linux Mint will be the distros that I continue to recommend to new Linux users without hesitation. But it’s the official Ubuntu releases that feel like the right choice for me — right now, at least.

That’s the progress as I see it — installing codecs on my own, rather than having that done for me. Even if it’s just a command or two, that’s still a small step forward, isn’t it? Please?

Come on, I need this…


  1. Yeah that’s a good thing. Linux allows you to understand the technology you are using and therefore enables you to redesign it to suite your needs.
    Ubuntu is very rich in documentation. It is a good vehicle to get started in free and open source software.

  2. I always suggest Debian.
    Always. Should someone not be up to it, I’ll offer to set it up for them.
    If they refuse, I’ll cave and let them install Ubuntu themselves, and offer to help with a changeover to Debian at a later date, and warn them to _not_ try to customise it too much.

  3. KDE apps have great Samba-file-shares support, how are you trying to access the files? In nearly every KDE app I’ve tried, this works:

  4. Accessing the files was not the problem; getting them to *stream* from my NAS using Kaffeine (or whatever) was.

    I may well have configured something incorrectly, but it’s idiot-proof on Ubuntu et al once the proper codecs are installed.

  5. I don’t follow; you open the file in Kaffeine (by the way, Dragon is the ‘official’ default video player, but whatever) with the path as:


    and it pulls the file in fine and plays (in my experience). Or are you trying to stream the file outwards to the network, from Kaffeine? Maybe I am just not following what you want, but to pull in the file from Samba and then to push it out as a stream may indeed cause issues, I am not sure as I’ve never tried that…

  6. Nobody’s ever shown me the proper syntax for a Samba share — until now, that is… Thanks 🙂

    I was trying this two ways:

    1. Mount the NAS via Samba then launch the remote video via Dolphin;
    2. Launch Dolphin and use the ‘open file’ dialog to retrieve the file from my mounted NAS.

    Neither of these would work for me. And again, ditto for Dragon Player in Kubuntu.

  7. Client side, whether Ubuntu or Debian, is just open Nautilus, then click on network, navigate to file you want to play and “open with..”. Or just double click for the default player. The mounting occurs automatically as part of the process and VLC or whatever plays the file. Simple.

    However sharing a folder on your computer so a media player like a WDTV can find and play files is a different matter. In Ubuntu it is as simple as right click share and you are up and running. To do that in Debian is a lot more complex, creating passwordless Samba shares is a trial, yes you can do it, but easy it is not. If you do not need to stream from a share on your computer then it does not matter, Ubuntu and Debian function in the same way as Samba clients.

    I have a Debian Squeeze desktop, a D-Link NAS and Ubuntu on both a notebook and a media PC, and a WDTV media player and they all coexist via Samba shares.

  8. ps

    Gnome works smoothly in this manner, I always found KDE to add too many fiddly steps to make it worth while in this context – no matter the underlying distro. For media streaming you need easy Samba shares and Ubuntu and Gnome supply that without any effort. When using KDE on the desktop I still install Gnome as well and set up the shares the easy way.

  9. Whenever I do a new install of ubuntu I can usually get all of the codecs with “sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras && sudo apt-get install vlc -y” and I’m done with the codecs.

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