Originally Published: Monday, 8 October 2001 Author: Michael & Melinda Petruzziello
Published to: learn_articles_firststep/General Page: 1/3 - [Printable]

Notes from the Command-Line Commando: Multimedia

Linux.com irregulars Michael & Melinda Petruzziello return this week with another installment of Command Line Commando, your regular view of working with the Linux command line especially for newer users. This week we take a look at playing music and video on your Linux box, even streaming MP3s from, well, the command line, of course!

Introduction   Page 1 of 3  >>

Notes from the Command-Line Commando: Multimedia

Multimedia is a staple of "gooey" interfaces such as RealPlayer, Windows Media Player (sorry!), Winamp, and xmms (aka x11amp). One of the most popular things to do with any computer is to use it to run your CD player, DVD player, video capture card, web cam, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera... Can the Linux command line offer the same functionality? We are here to answer this question with a resounding... "Sort of!"

(The all important questions of "Would we even want it to?" and "WHY would we want it to?" will be answered later in this article.) But first...

Previously On Command-Line Commando

Before we tackle the topic of multimedia from the Linux command line, we would like to thank all of you who posted and emailed in response to our previous article on fetchmail. This was our first time publishing an article on the Web, and we enjoyed the nearly instant feedback from those who read the article and liked it (or didn't) so much that they couldn't contain themselves. Thusly, the esteemed Editor-in-Chief of Linux.com was motivated to offer us another shot at entertaining, educating, and extolling the virtues of the Linux command line. Either that, or another shot at reconciling ourselves to the Linux community (depending on your point of view).

Two questions were asked most frequently. The first question was "Why didn't you mention using fetchmail -k?" So that the millions of you who sent us this query can sleep at night, we'll answer you. We don't know. We are aware of the "-k." We frequently use the "-k" ourselves. Sometimes we even eat "Special K" for breakfast while waiting for "fetchmail -k" to download. We believe that originally we mentioned the "-k" in the article, but we suspect that unknown entities, intent on making us look like absolute fools, removed all references of the "-k" from the final copy of the article before it was submitted. For those of you who have no idea what this "-k" is and why we are raving on about it, the "-k " option tells fetchmail to leave a copy of your email on the server, which everyone knows is just about one of the most useful features any email program can have.

The other most frequently asked question was, "Why not just use a 'gooey' mail reader instead of fetchmail?" Our answer to this question is pretty simple. Why would ANYONE want to use ANYTHING that takes you away from the command line??? No, seriously, if you're just checking a single email account and you're using Netscape, Mozilla, or Opera, there really is no particular advantage to using fetchmail. (Unless, of course, you happen to like using the Linux command line as much as we do.) However, as we stated in the previous article, we use fetchmail to check one "catch-all" POP account that receives email for an entire company. We also have used fetchmail to troubleshoot email problems for our clients from our offices by typing in one line at a command prompt instead of reconfiguring an entire "gooey" email client. There are other uses for fetchmail also. It really depends on individual needs and what you want your system to do. And now, on with the show!

Audio/Video Extravaganza!

You may be saying to yourself right now, "So, you are about to tell me how I can watch high-quality video and listen to stereophonic sound right from my Linux command prompt, right?" You betcha. First, go to your command prompt and type:

startx <Enter>

(HA! Had you going there for a second, didn't we?)

To be perfectly honest, the "gooey" X interface provides the best means for watching video on your Linux box. RealPlayer or kwintv will do just fine. Oddly enough, however, we have discovered a way for us command-line commando types to actually view video from our beloved command lines. We recently saw posted on our local LUG mailing list a link to http://n00n.free.fr/aatv/, which is devoted to a little command-line multimedia gem known as aatv. This program will actually take a video signal and turn it into an image formed of ASCII characters. It isn't pretty, but if you think ASCII characters are good for your complexion, it can be a pretty nifty webcam utility.

"Oh, great, how cute..." you say. "Now I can make myself look like a bowl of alphabet soup. What about audio from my command line? Eh???" This brings us to the subject of mpg123. By far, this little program is our favorite command line multimedia utility. After all, it allows us to listen to John Tesh MP3s 24/7! Before we begin our discussion of mpg123, some of you may be curious about what kind of machine we have. Our computer and sound gear is a Pentium 233 with 32 MB of RAM, a 4 GB hard drive, and an SBLive! Value card running RedHat 7.1.

Introduction   Page 1 of 3  >>