Friday, 15 June 2007

RealPlayer

One area where it might be thought that Linux lags behind Windows and OS X is in delivering multimedia content, and in particular video. Possibly this is because the idea of a free Operating System does not sit comfortably with the restrictions imposed by Digital Rights Management (DRM) and enforced - not to say embraced - by Windows Media Player, QuickTime and iTunes.

So what if I want to watch some free content, say from the BBC news website? Well, things aren't good. If you try to watch a news story you just get a error saying "Not yet supported."


The software that does not yet support the video format is the Totem Movie Player for the GNOME desktop. At this point you only have one option, and that is to install RealPlayer.

Now sometimes small things trip you up. How difficult could it be to get RealPlayer working with Firefox? I've been trying (on and off) for a week.

There are two ways to download RealPlayer: as a binary file - RealPlayer10GOLD.bin - and as a .rpm. If you go for the binary you have to make it executable first:

su
chmod +x RealPlayer10GOLD.bin
./RealPlayer10GOLD.bin

You then get prompted for the install directory:

Directory: [/home/David/RealPlayer]: /usr/share/RealPlayer

Note that the default install location is completely unhelpful...

Unfortunately, there is a good chance that the install won't run at all. Instead you will get an error along the lines of "error while loading shared libraries: libstdc++.so.5: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory." RealPlayer, it turns out, tries to link to an old C++ library. We fix this by calling yum which installs compat-libstdc++-33:

yum install libstdc++.so.5

At least if you run the binary you see this problem early. If you use the .rpm everything appears to be OK until you try to run RealPlayer. As is so often the case with the Linux GUI nothing happens. You have to run RealPlayer from a terminal to see that the library is missing.

Run RealPlayer from the "Applications/Sound & Video" menu first. RealPlayer will then configure the (Mozilla) Firefox plugin for you. So we're good to go, right? Er... no. If I go back and try and watch the news story again all I see is this:


Now what I can do is launch the video in a standalone RealPlayer, although that is hardly ideal. Sadly, that is as far as I've got. I've spent a long time trying different configurations and on searching for a solution, but without success. The BBC website itself notes:
You may find that you are only able to listen to live radio using the Listen using stand-alone Real Player link.
Disappointing.

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