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Gxine Media Player: Just Press Play

Gxine Media Player: Just Press Play

The world of open source software has lots of options for editing and manipulating audio and video media files. However, when you want to just sit back and watch, Gxine will get the job done, usually with minimal fuss. Don't look to the app for a built-in help file, though -- if you need to work out a problem with this community-supported project, a little online leg work will be in order.

By Jack M. Germain LinuxInsider ECT News Network
05/26/10 5:00 AM PT

It's difficult to talk about the Gxine multimedia player as a separate app from Xine. Both do pretty much the same tasks -- let you watch videos and listen to audio files. Both of these apps hale from the same Linux library of codecs and other gutsy stuff, Xine-lib. The key difference between these almost identical twins is the family lineage each one serves.

Gxine is a media player based on the GTK style GUI (Graphical User Interface) with a Mozilla plugin. It plays CDs, DVDs and VCDs in most of the popular media file formats. These include AVI, MOV, WMV and MP3 as well as MPEG1/2 and Quicktime files from local disk drives. It also displays multimedia streamed over the Internet.

Gxine played all of the less-common formats I threw at it from my eclectic collection of audio and video files on several disparate Linux distros. In fact, Gxine performed as well or better than Xine itself and Gnome Mplayer. I didn't find much difference among these multipurpose media players aside from some quirkiness in using them on different Linux distros.

Multi or Solo

The Xine family of media players is fairly standard across the Linux lineup. In much the same way as Microsoft's proprietary Windows Media Player (WMP) is the go-to program on that platform, Gxine and Xine fill that role in Linux. While Windows users pay for that OS, the media player -- like all of Linux -- is free.

Deciding whether to use Gxine for both audio and video chores or separate apps is up to you. From a convenience factor alone, Gxine gets the job done without having to run separate audio and video apps depending on the type of file you want to play.

For instance, stand-alone audio players include apps such as AlsaPlayer, Aqualung and Audacious. For stand-alone video watching, apps such xfmedia do a fine job.

Ripping and editing audio and video files are beyond the scope of apps such as Gxine and Xine, however. These apps are designed for listening and viewing, not modifying or managing audio and video file collections. For that advanced usage, you will need something else. Again, all flavors of Linux have a hefty selection of stand-alone apps available for more than just viewing and listening.

Quirky Installation

Gxine is a GTK+ based GUI driven by the libxine video player library. See a detailed list of all supported formats here. If this app is not listed in your distro's package manager, you can download it here.

Depending on your particular Linux distro, you might have to do some tweaking to get Gxine to play. It has a fairly light requirement. It should run on GTK+ version 2.6.x. You will also need Xinelib and its dependencies.

I had no trouble running Gxine in Puppy Linux. It is part of the pre-installed, or base-level, apps. However, Ubuntu version 10.04 was another issue. I installed the app directly from the Ubuntu Software Center, but until I had all of the dependencies added through the auxiliary deb package installer (not the native Ubuntu installer), the program would start to load and would then drop out. That issue was absent in earlier Ubuntu issues.

Gxine closeup

This app is based on a series of plugin engines that supplement the Xine library. Its modular, advanced multi-threaded architecture contributes to its relatively small footprint and speed.

Gxine media player
Gxine media player
(click image to enlarge)

The xine-engine is the core that is responsible for synchronizing audio, video and the overlays. Input plugins provide data as an abstraction layer for DVDs, files, http, pipes, VCDs. This eliminates the need to build in these routines in Gxine itself.

Demuxer plugins provide Gxine with knowledge about the file formats' multiplexing. For example, it tells Gxine if the file has DivX4 video and MP3 audio or MPEG2 video and AC3 audio. Decoder plugins get encoded data such as video, audio and subtitles and let Gxine display the data uncompressed. It handles encoding formats such as MPEG2, MP3, Ogg Vorbis and Windows Media Video.

Think of xine's output plugins as drivers. By having them talk directly to the system, the xine-engine is freed from those details. Some video output plugins handle several hardware capabilities like color conversion, scaling and refresh sync consuming less CPU processing.

Other plugins kick in to finesse the audio and video results before going to output. For instance, Goom is a visual plugin that generates colorful images from the music being played.

Using It

The Gxine interface is typical for a Linux app. The menu bar shows drop down lists for File, View, Audio, Media and Help. However, don't expect to find any built-in help. As I said, Gxine is typically a community-supported project. Not even a link to an online help document is provided.

The File menu gives access to media types and playlists as well as opening specific files. It also has an extensive configuration panel. I especially like the Snapshot feature that lets me save the displayed image.

The View menu toggles full-screen mode, toolbars and windows size. It also controls zooming and aspect ratio settings. Visualizations have selections for None, goom, oscope, ffscope and ffgraph.

The Video and audio menus provide settings for video, audio and equalizer changes. Other toggles are post-processing, deinterlace and the option to prevent screen blanking in windowed mode.

Ample Media

The most extensive list of choices comes in the Media menu. It is here that listening options are selected. An ample listing of musical categories available from the Internet are displayed.

Categories include alternative, rock, pop, oldies, college and hot adult contemporary. You can also choose from top 40, dance and several British-based talk radio options.

Under the News & Sport and the News & Talk categories is a much broader listing of both European and U.S. stations.

Overall Impression

Once you configure the necessities and select the available plugins, Gxine can be a good choice for viewing and listening all in one place. It is design for compactness and speed.

Gxine does not come with much glitz and glitter, but it gets the job done nonetheless.


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