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I am Eric Hameleers, and this is where I think out loud.
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VLC media player

Are you one of these people who puts Slackware on a computer and then immediately follows up with the installation of another media player than Xine?

Well, I am one of these people. I have been using MPLayer a lot – it builds relatively easily and because it uses Windows codec DLL’s it supports a multitude of audio and video formats. But it is not cross-platform, and it does not give me a happy experience when I use MPlayer to watch DVD’s (the way it handles DVD menus is clumsy at best). And why do I still have to use these Windows codecs when I am running Linux??

The videolan project addresses my issues with MPlayer. Once started as a student project at the French École Centrale Paris it is now an international development effort. The videolan flagship product is VLC (it used to be called the VideoLan Client). VLC is a cross-platform media player which supports many multimedia formats as well as input- and output devices through a plugin architecture. The project went through some tough times when many of the core developers left around two years ago. Ever since, the 0.8.6.x versions have matured so that the current version is stable and great to use. Around the same time, development on a re-designed version of VLC – using Qt4 instead of wxWidgets as it’s GUI – was started.

It is probably due to the fact that the remaining developers plus those who joined the team in the past two years had to figure out VLC’s architecture that it took them so long to produce a version of the 0.9.x series that is stable enough to be useable.

I have had a package for the VLC 0.8.6 series in my repository for some time now, and have been using this alongside MPlayer. I have videos on my hard drive that play fine in MPLayer while VLC will just choke on it, so unfortunately I can not just ditch the MPLayer. The VLC developers tell me that this is a sign of a badly encoded video, and that VLC is not going to try and make the best of it like MPlayer (successfully) does. I think that is just too bad, because this philosophy prevents VLC from being the best media player all around.

Anyway… I had to give that rant a place. Let’s continue with the actual post.

Now that vlc 0.9.1 has been released as source only (the developers do not consider it stable enough to release official binary packages) I decided to upload a Slackware package for it. I have been building betas for many months now, and was not impressed at all by it’s terrible instability, hard lock-ups, and lack of media support. But surpsisingly, the 0.9.1 release shows that an enormous amount of work has been done in the past month, and this version is actually enjoyable. I invite everyone who wants to find out how well it runs, to download my package at one of these locations:

and tell me what you think of it.

Also, you may want to re-build the package in case you already have the Qt4 libraries installed – for instance when you have KDE4.x on your system. The static Qt4 library in the VLC package adds a full 8 MB to it’s size. When you want to make use of the system Qt4 instead in order to slim down the VLC package, you need to run the following commandlines (as root) to download build script and sources, and compile these into a Slackware package:

# lftp -c “open http://slackware.org.uk/ ; cd 3rd-party/alien/restricted_slackbuilds/vlctest/ ; mirror build”

# cd build

# STATIC_QT4=NO sh vlc.SlackBuild

Note: if any of the required source tarballs are missing from your system, the script will download them automatically. You will find the “vlc-0.9.1-i486-1alien.tgz” Slackware package in the /tmp directory after the compilation has finished.

Enjoy! Eric

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