Open Source

Linux 101: Getting Netscape to play well with media

Linux users, rejoice! With a bit of minor tweaking, RealPlayer 7 allows Linux' own Netscape to (finally) run movies and audio files just like the Windows version of Netscape.

We've all clicked on a link to a form of multimedia while browsing the Web. Until recently, if you were using Linux Netscape, you were out of luck. In order to view and listen to those precious miniature video and audio bytes, you'd have to spin over to your Windows machine and retype the URL so that beautiful moving picture and music would sing its glory onto your grand 19" monitor and thump its thumpity bass through your monstrous 3D speakers. Well, now you don't have to. With a bit of tweaking to the long awaited upgrade of RealPlayer (to version 7), Linux' own Netscape can run those movies (and audio files and various sundry file formats unsupported by standard Netscape).

First things first
The first step you must take is to download the latest Linux upgrade for RealPlayer from freshmeat. In order to install this application, simply cd to the directory you saved the file in and run the command:

and you'll see a standard installation wizard appear.

Running the RealPlayer is as simple as executing the command:

The fun begins!
Just being able to start the application doesn't mean squat when you're trying to pick up those streaming video/audio files from the Web. In order to make streaming video/audio files available, you need to do some configuring to Netscape. Fortunately we're not going to have to rewrite any code here.

The first step toward solving this haunting issue is to open Netscape and then open the Edit | Preferences window. On the left-hand side of this window, you will see a navigational tree that includes the Navigator entry. Click the small triangle to the left of Navigator to expand that menu and reveal the Applications submenu.

Figure A shows the actual configuration window with the Application edit window open to the MPEG option. You will notice that the Suffixes window contains the mpeg, mpg, mpe, mpv, vbs, and mpegv formats.

Figure A
Netscape's configuration window.

Now that you have the Applications submenu available, open it. Within this submenu you will see a large main window that contains a list of applications (and the programs that handle each application). Within this window, scroll down until you see MPEG Video. Highlight this entry and click Edit, and then select the Application check box and replace whatever is in that text area with the following:
~/RealPlayer7/realplay %s

Before you click OK, check the Suffixes window to make sure it includes the following:

The next step is to edit the entries necessary to make RealPlayer open all of the supported file types. In order to do this, you will edit the following list in the same fashion as you did the MPEG Video entry:
  • RealAudio (using the ra and ram suffixes)
  • MPEG Audio (using the mp3, mp2, mpa, abs, and mpega suffixes)
  • WAV Audio (using the wav suffix)

Once these are entered, you will be able to surf over to your favorite video-enhanced site and enjoy everything just like your Microsoft-using friends and family.

There are two ways to open RealPlayer:
  • Run the command realplay
  • Click on a link that has one of the configured extensions

Either method will open the RealPlayer software. The first method will open only the player, while the second method will open the player with whatever file you were linking. Figure B shows the main RealPlayer7 window without an open file.

Figure B
The Linux version of the RealPlayer7 main window.

Figure C shows the RealPlayer7 application (for Linux) running a Smashing Pumpkins video.

Figure C
A mug shot of Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins as seen through the eyes of the penguin.

Jack Wallen, Jr. is very pleased to have joined the TechRepublic staff as editor in chief of Linux content. Jack was thrown out of the "Window" back in 1995, when he grew tired of the "blue screen of death" and realized that "computing does not equal rebooting." Prior to Jack's headfirst dive into the computer industry, he was a professional actor with film, TV, and Broadway credits. Now, Jack is content with his new position of Linux Evangelist. Ladies and gentlemen—the poster boy for the Linux Generation!

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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