Sunday, February 11, 2007

Episode 4: Optical Drives

The continuing adventures of one man's attempt to migrate his desktop PC from MS Windows to Ubuntu/Linux.

My PC has two optical drives, a CD-RW and a DVD/CD-ROM. I don't expect to use these drives often, but since I've got them, it would be nice to have them work in Ubuntu. And they do, pretty much.
  • Putting a CD-ROM in either drive puts an icon on the desktop that says, "Audio Disk" and launches the Sound Juicer player with the disk ready to play. I can listen to the CD using the default Sound Juicer or I can manually launch Rhythmbox, which I have installed, and play the CD using that.
    • If you know the command line syntax to launch your preferred media player, you can change the default as follows. Go to System/Preferences/Removable Drives and Media/Multimedia and input the appropriate command.
    • Interestingly, neither Totem nor the VLC media player can play the CD-ROM. I must not have the codec where those apps expect it to be.

  • Put a DVD in the DVD-ROM drive and nothing happens... not even a DVD icon on the desktop.
    • According to the configuration in System/Preferences/Removable Drives and Media/Multimedia, video DVDs are supposed to play when inserted using the Totem Movie Player. That doesn't happen.
      • If I manually launch Totem and select the Movie menu, Totem doesn't see the DVD-ROM drive.
    • If I go to Places/Computer, the DVD-ROM Drive icon does not show up. I have to right-click on the CD-ROM Drive icon and select Eject, after which a DVD-ROM icon pops up. (According to the Device Manager, these are IDE devices, and the CD-RW is slave to the DVD-ROM's master.) I can then double-click the DVD-ROM icon and get a list of the files on the DVD.
      • Now I can manually launch Totem, and it sees the DVD-ROM drive. If I select the DVD-ROM drive from the Movie menu, however, the result is an error message: "Failed to mount /dev/hdc."
    • VLC rides to the rescue! If you haven't done so already, you need to add this application to your system. It is described as, "the cross-platform media player and streaming server." It manages to find the DVD drive, mounts the disk and plays the movie, apparantly without relying on Ubuntu's GUI to resolve all the peculiarities of my PC. It also offers to play the disk in both "simple" mode and "menu" mode. Sweet!
    • Sometimes, I cannot get a DVD out of the DVD drive by pushing the button on the DVD drive itself once Ubuntu is charge. I have to go to Places/Computer and right-click on the DVD drive and select Eject. Of course, if the DVD drive doesn't show, I have to eject the CD-ROM drive first...
What conclusions do I draw from Episode 4? It seems that the Ubuntu GUI is a bit buggy, since it cannot figure out how to play DVDs with the configuration of optical drives that I have. Fortunately for all concerned, the VLC media player cuts through Ubuntu's muddle and shows videos.

Episodes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.


Keegan said...

Actually, your problem is that it is (allegedly) illegal by the DMCA to circumvent the encryption technology on the DVDs, which is precisely what must be done in order to play them. Unless Ubuntu wants to get sued off their asses, they cannot include DVD support out-of-the-box. Microsoft and Apple can afford to pay a licensing fee for every copy of Windows and OSX sold - something rather difficult to do with a free/cheap OS. So, don't blame Canonical, blame US legislation for passing laws that support monopolies.

Outside the US and France, though, it is perfectly legal to download the proper codecs. Not that anyone is going to care enough to notice, if you do in fact live in the US/France.

John Redmond said...

Thanks for your comment. I understand and respect Canonical's position on copyrighted file formats.
My "problem" is that I have chosen "Proprietary drivers...(restricted)" from Software Sources. And I have loaded the codecs that do the job. Still, Ubuntu's GUI seems to be buggy about seeing the drive and playing DVDs. It only works using VLC Media Player.

cameron said...

xine and mplayer both seem to have noticeably better playback picture quality than vlc and all work just if only i could figure out why the also perfectly working cli command for rhythmbox to autoplay a cd will not work when entered in the removable drives and media dialog i'd be a much happier camper...