Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Windows is better?

One area that Linux geeks usually have to concede superiority to Windows is the handling of multimedia. Many of the codecs are closed source and some are unavailable to Linux users.

I recently got an old, used notebook which had a DVD player and decided to try to get it to play DVDs. It had been loaded with WinME and had the DVD software bundled with it. But everyone I talk to says that WinME is a poor OS and so I decided to install WinXP.

After several trips to the Windows Update site and many reboots (why, oh why, can't they just download all the updates I need in one swell foop and install them just once?) I confirmed that WinXP cannot play DVDs. The rescue disks for WinME were constructed in such a way that I could not install the DVD player software from them without reloading WinME. Full blown DVD player software costs about $50, but an article (at Microsoft, no less), claimed that I could buy the codecs unbundled for about $15 and use them with Windows Media Player. The software companies actually did this and were happy to take my $15.

I installed the codec as described and now Windows Media Player was able to recognize the DVD in the drive (telling me the title, etc.). But it couldn't play it. Every time I tried I got a message about an error and having to close ... so sorry. Internet searches for a solution (including the codec vendor's support page) proved futile, as did removing and reinstalling the software, downgrading Windows Media Player, reupgrading, rebooting -- all in various combinations.

Then, I decided to try RealPlayer. It hadn't worked before I bought the codec, but it was worth a shot now that I had a codec. It worked!

So I happily took my new old laptop on a business trip. But when I tried to play my DVD it didn't work. Same error as Windows Media Player was giving. WMP didn't work either. So I rebooted into Linux and decided to give it a try, not expecting success, but it doesn't hurt to try. Guess what? Linux (totem) played it just fine.

Scratch one more thing off the list for why I need to load Windows on my machines.

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