[ubuntu-uk] codecs for mp3 media etc.

alan c aeclist at candt.waitrose.com
Wed May 27 20:33:00 BST 2009

Sean Miller wrote:
> when I try to play most of my saved music it says "sorry mate, you
> don't have those there plugins what we need to do this - do you want
> me to install them?" so I say "yeah" but then it says "sorry, mate,
> didn't work out."
> So what's the most reliable way from a "virgin install" of Ubuntu to
> get the things these days?

I put together the following information for those who may not care
about restrictions, and just need some help with multimedia.
It draws heavily on the medibuntu repositories, and is written with
novices in mind:

Multimedia and Ubuntu

How to get multimedia codecs the easy way! (amended version)

Disclaimer:   Patent and copyright laws operate differently depending
on which country you are in. Please obtain legal advice if you are
unsure whether a particular patent or restriction applies to a media
format you wish to use in your country.

For legal reasons Ubuntu (as first installed) lacks many of the codecs
which are needed to play some of the many possible audio or video
formats available. This is because of global, geographical, variations
in legislation regarding intellectual property, security and other issues.

Before following any of the procedures offered in here, please note
that immediately after installation it is recommended to first
download any security updates which are available to date. If you do
not see a pop up offer for this then use
and accept the updates (this is not the same as an upgrade to a later
version of Ubuntu, which you should avoid doing unless you
deliberately want that).

1) Multimedia – Linux native codecs
To get pretty well all of the multimedia codecs the easy way, ensure
the machine is connected to the internet and use the facility
Add/Remove applications
If the list is out of date, accept a refresh, and more recent
information will be downloaded. Then use

Ensure that 'All' is selected, and Click the choices to select 'All
Available Applications' from the list.

Then into the 'Search' space type

After a short time, the search results will display a number of
gstreamer entries and in addition the item 'Ubuntu restricted extras'.

For each of these in turn, including the 'Ubuntu restricted extras',
click the check box so that a tick is shown. As you do this you will
also be asked to confirm what you want and that you do not live in a
country where such codecs are not allowed (such as USA).

Note that in some versions of Ubuntu, for example, 9.04, the
[gstreamer fluendo MPEG2 demuxing plugin] is not required and will
conflict with other installed software. If so, you will see an error
warning message, so in this case, there is no need for this item.

When your choices are all checked and accepted, click the 'Apply'
button and they will be downloaded and installed. You will now have
installed most of the multimedia codecs.

2) Further actions:
Playing Encrypted DVDs
The several actions above will be capable of installing most
multimedia codecs. However, to play encrypted DVDs (some commercial
DVDs), the libdvdcss2 package is also an essential requirement.
libdvdcss2 is a simple library designed for accessing DVDs like a
block device without having to use decryption. This can be installed
easily after the medibuntu repository has been enabled for your
machine, please see below.

3) Playing some non-native formats
Some media formats do not have native Linux facilities. In such cases
it is possible to make use of binary Windows and other codecs through
a 'wrapper', bundled as the 'w32codecs', for playback of these media
formats. This can be installed easily after the medibuntu repository
has been enabled for your machine, please see below.
There are various ways of installing these additional packages,
although the exact details depend upon which type of computer you have
and which version of Ubuntu you use (Note 1).

4) The medibuntu repository
If your computer is configured to make use of the special software
repository for Multimedia, Entertainment & Distractions In Ubuntu
(medibuntu), then subsequent actions, including security updates, can
be handled conveniently. Unfortunately for the beginner, the
configuration to include a new software repository can seem a bit
demanding at first.
The following actions are closely based on information at

An overview of actions is:
- Get the sources list and keyring
- Then get specific information for your Ubuntu version
- Then, add the GPG Key (to help ensure you only use the repository
you are expecting).

The detailed actions for these three stages are best followed by using
the medibuntu link
(please note the leading upper case in the word Medibuntu here)
On that page please see:
'Adding the Repositories'
This technique makes use of a Terminal, and copy and paste.
If it seems complicated at first, have a look again at the overview of
actions listed above, to help see what is being done.

How to get a 'Terminal'?
It is a powerful way of doing things fast. It is certainly much more
powerful than it first appears, so do not rush with any typing or
commands. Take your time.

For example, the first action is to get the sources list and keyring,
appropriate for 'Any Ubuntu Release and keyring'. Carefully highlight
the appropriate block of text in the medibuntu page,
edit>copy, then into the Terminal, use
edit>paste into the terminal.
When you hit the Return key your password will be needed, and actions
Wait until all downloads are completed and you see a normal prompt again.

Complete the subsequent two actions listed in the overview above,
specific information for your Ubuntu version, and then the GPG key, in
a similar way. Please refer to the medibuntu page for more detailed

When these actions are completed, medibuntu repository is available in
your Ubuntu.
Well Done!

You can verify your success by looking at
System>Administration>Software Sources
and the tab
Third Party Software
and you should see medibuntu packages free and non free as being
entered and ticked (enabled).

Installing the packages:
I do not think synaptic can easily be used at this stage for these, so
please follow the instructions in the medibuntu page:

Note 1:
Q: Which version of Ubuntu am I using?
A: See
System>Administration>System Monitor
choose the tab:


alan cocks
Ubuntu user #10391
Linux user #360648

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