Applications – Sound & Video

Having been side-tracked for a little while on newer releases of Ubuntu and, in particular, on the mysteries of the Unity interface, it’s time to complete our look at the wide range of software that is bundled with Version 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx).

The final entry under the Applications menu for installed software is labelled Sound & Video. The available programs all relate to playing, recording and/or editing sound and video files. The specific software packages provided are: Brasero Disc Burner, Movie Player, Pitivi Video Editor, Rhythmbox Music Player, and Sound Recorder.

The name of each of the packages is fairly self-explanatory and, since I only make use of a couple of the programs, I will limit my comments to Brasero and Rhthymbox.

Brasero is a multi-purpose CD/DVD burner, allowing music, video and data files to be burned onto writeable optical disks. The program also provides the facility to copy disks, and to burn ISO files to CD’s/DVD’s in order to create bootable disks. Adding files to a compilation for burning to a CD is simply a matter of dragging and dropping files into a project window, or selecting files by browsing through the file system. Pressing “Burn” allows a number of options to be set before the files are actually written to the disk.

One trick that usually avoids creating “coasters” (i.e. unreadable disks) is to use a lower burning speed than the maximum speed of which the optical drive is nominally capable. Pressing the Burn button produces a dialogue box, with the first drop-down menu showing “Maximum speed” by default. I have had considerable success burning disks when I have changed the burn speed to 10x or less. Sure, it takes a little longer (a very little) to complete the job, but it’s time well spent if the resulting disk is useful (for something other than as a stand for a coffee cup!)

Another option on the dialogue box is a check box labelled “Leave the disc open to add other files later”. By default this is unchecked and the resulting disk will be closed once the project files have been burned to it. As the legend notes, checking this box will leave the disk open at the end of the writing process, in which case additional files can be burned to the same disk at a later time. This feature allows the use of the available disk space to be maximized so that even 25-cent CD’s can be fully utilized.
If a music CD is placed into the computer’s optical drive, by default, a pop-up dialogue will offer to load Rhythmbox in order to play the disk.

The music tracks on the disk are shown in a program window and a set of controls (e.g. Play, Next song, Previous song, etc.) appear as icons on the menu bar. In the simplest user mode, pressing Play causes the tracks to be played in order. A Pause/Stop control is noticeable by its absence (!); however, with a track playing, pressing Play again puts the player into pause mode.

This marks the extent to which I have used the program’s capabilities; however, Rhythmbox has considerable additional power, with features that include access to podcasts and Internet radio stations, playlist management, and visualization.

In wrapping up this brief look at Ubuntu’s bundled software, it’s worth noting that if one or other of the default applications doesn’t do what you want, they can easily be replaced with other programs, either by searching through the Ubuntu Software Centre (the last entry on the Applications menu) or using Synaptic Package Manager (from the System – Administration menu).

There are lots of free and open-source programs available on the Internet so one doesn’t have to be limited to the packages that are bundled with Ubuntu even though, as we have seen in this series of posts, the latter are both numerous and generally quite serviceable.

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