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Linux Audio / Music - XMMS

Novell Cool Solutions: Tip
By Jason Jones

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Posted: 17 Nov 2004

A little bit ago in computing history, Linux was considered a fantastic operating system for servers, or workstations for developers. During this period, if you asked a Linux geek about his or her favorite media player, they'd give you a blank look, probably shake their head a bit and walk away. Well my friend, the times are changing and Linux is evolving; no longer is it just for servers, or developers. Enter the Linux Desktop.

If you were to ask almost any Linux geek about his or her favorite media player today, they'd most likely give you answers like "Xine is the bomb" or "Mplayer rocks". Since I am considered by many to be a Linux geek, I feel entitled to give you an answer of my own:

My Linux world would definitely be a dark place without XMMS!

Any windows user holding out on moving to Linux because he or she loves WinAmp or any other Windows-based media player, shouldn't have any excuses now. XMMS puts up a pretty hefty defense on features and compatibility for serious audio playback.

On NLD or SUSE 9.2, XMMS usually comes installed by default. Press ALT-F2 and insert "xmms" into the run field, press enter and if it comes up, you're good to go. If you don't have it, use YAST to install it, and you'll be up and running in no time.


XMMS face plateWhen you first load up XMMS, you will most likely see a little window that looks something like the figure to the right. To all you Winamp users out there, it will look strikingly familiar. The interface is equipped with all the appropriate buttons. If you're worried about not having enough features to do what you want with XMMS, let me put your fears to rest. If anything, XMMS has too many features. You'll notice the normal play, stop, fast forward, rewind, and pause buttons along with randomizer, repeat, play list, and equalizer buttons. It also fancies a slick LCD-esque monitor of the output e.q. bands. For sliders, it has a seek bar, pan bar, and volume bar. And that's just the front panel.

For compatibility with different audio formats, it comes already configured to play wav, mp3, ogg, flac and CD audio files. It can expand to play mp4, aac, aif, and just about any other audio format you can think of.

Using XMMS

First off, XMMS is a program that can be used in a variety of ways. It can be used as a playlist manager, an audio streamer, a media organzier, etc... This article will assume you want to use it as a media container / player.

Most people out there now-a-days have directories full of audio files they want to load and listen to as a huge "music library" of sorts. In order to do this, we need to follow some simple steps.

  1. Start and configure XMMS
  2. Import the music into XMMS
  3. Set up playlists
  4. Enjoy your music!

Starting and Configuring XMMS

If XMMS isn't already installed, you'll need to get it through YAST. After it's installed, run it by pressing ALT-F2 and entering xmms into the field. You should see it start up.

Now that you've got it running, let's tell XMMS which audio driver you want to use. There might be a few that will work, but in my experience the ALSA drivers work the best. The ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) drivers come pre-installed with the NLD, so you shouldn't have any problems switching to them in XMMS.

In order to get to the menu, I recommend you right-click your mouse on the area circled in red below:

XMMS face plate

After right-clicking, you'll see a couple of menus pop-up like the ones below.

right click -> options -> preferences

First, roll your mouse over the "Options" item, and then roll your mouse over the "Preferences" item on the resulting menu. Click on "Preferences". You should see the following menu appear:

preferences window

output plugin optionsToward the bottom, you should see a pull-down menu below the text "Output Plugin" Click on it and choose your driver. If you choose to leave it as it is with the default set to "Automatic detection", you should be alright. I prefer to set mine to "ALSA" because I'm not sure what Linux will choose otherwise.

That's really all the configuration you need to get started. There are many, many things you can configure, but everything should be already set for you to play mp3's, ogg's, or wav's. Anywho, on with the music!

Importing Your Music

To get your audio imported quickly, click on the playlist button on the main XMMS interface (circled in red below).

XMMS face plate - right click area

This should bring up a new window that looks like this:

playlist face plate

You can click and drag this window to the side of the main XMMS interface and it should "snap" into place so it can be used as one application as seen below.

playlist and main face plates 'stuck' together

playlist add button The window we just opened is your "playlist" window. This will contain all of the songs currently loaded into XMMS. You probably don't enjoy listening to nothing, so let's get some audio in there. playlist 'add' option listTo populate the playlist window, simply click on the Add button, keep it depressed, drag the mouse up to the Dir button that appears, and let go of the mouse button. You'll then be presented with a list of your directory tree on your hard drive.

playlist add directory dialog box

If this list looks confusing, don't worry. Most of these folders contain things you'll never need to know about. The only directories you're most likely going to need to fiddle with are the sub-directories of your "home" directory.

All of my music happens to be in my "Desktop" folder (I have many music folders on my Desktop - and I want to include them all, so I choose "Desktop" as the folder I want to import, and XMMS will import all the music in all the subdirectories of that folder.)

After you find and choose the directories of music you wish to include, you should see your playlist window fill up with the appropriate music.

playlist add directory dialog box

Now, there's only one more step before you're listening to your favorite audio on your SUSE Linux box - and it's not too difficult. Simply double click on the song you want to hear in your playlist, and listen to it play!

There's much more to this program, so look for more advanced tutorials on XMMS in the near future!

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