As part of the new LTS version from Ubuntu, some of the more “long standing” ways of doing things have changed just a bit. Multimedia and codec installation when using Ubuntu on your desktop has long been a staple of the “things to do after installation” crowd. A few things are different now (and a bit simpler), so let’s take a look at the lay of the land for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

A Quick Installation
The first thing you will want to pull down for your desktop environment is a common package for the more prevalent codecs. This is now more of a one liner whereas in the past it meant including this package along with a large number of others. In the case of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, we can get most of what we want by doing a:
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras

The items that you will see installed include the following:

  • Flashplugin-installer
  • gstreamer-ffmpeg
  • gstreamer-pitfdll (helps with Windows binary codec play)
  • gstreamer-plugins-bad
  • gstreamer-plugins-bad-multiverse
  • gstreamer-plugins-ugly
  • gstreamer-plugins-ugly-multivers
  • icedtea6-plugin (java browser plugin for java applets)
  • libavcodec-extra-52 (linux ffmpeg codec – used in majority of files)
  • libmp4v2-0
  • ttf-mscorefonts-installer (Microsoft fonts for better display)

At this point, for most desktop users, you can call it a day. This will allow you to play a large array of videos using mplayer or your browser. However, we can add a bit more flexibility with just a few more items.

The “All In One” Solution for Desktop Media Playback
Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t briefly go over the easiest way to play any video that you may want to play on your desktop including DVDs, BluRays, HD Videos, MP4, etc. etc. etc. Thanks to the efforts of the kind developers at VideoLan, we all can download and install a native Linux media player that is completely self contained (in terms of codec support – no external library, links, versions or otherwise needed), and its in the repositories:
sudo apt-get install vlc

That will quickly give you a full media player for playing any content your heart desires that looks like this:

VLC Media Player in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

Final Thoughts
In the not too distant past, you were left with needing to install and configure a number of codecs, libraries and their dependencies. Most sites and browsers now are perfectly happy using the comprehensive set of codecs included in the restricted package. Finally, for your desktop needs, the all in one media player that VLC has become (for the price of… free!) cannot be beat with a wooden stick. Although Ubuntu continues to distance itself from the generic “Linux” association, it continues to make strides in usability in an arena (desktop) that has been hard for anyone but Microsoft and Apple to become a player in.

If you use Ubuntu or Linux in general for specific multimedia tasks, hit us up in the comments below and share your experiences.

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