MP3 audio, Flash and Microsoft Fonts Working In Ubuntu


There are restrictions on audio and video formats within Ubuntu. The upshot is that there are patent and copyright restrictions which make it too complicated to provide the required libraries and software required to include them.

Ubuntu is developed under the philosophy that everything included should be free.

The key bullet points are as follows

  • every computer user should have the freedom to download, run, copy, distribute, share, study, change and improve the software for any purpose without paying license fees
  • should be able to use the software in the language of their choice
  • should be able to use all software regardless of disability

Using Proprietary Formats in Ubuntu

What this all means is that there are a couple of hoops to jump through to play any proprietary formats.

During the Ubuntu installation process there is a checkbox which allows you to install Fluendo. This will make it possible to play MP3 audio but to be honest this isn't the best solution.

There is a metapackage called ubuntu-restricted-extras which installs everything you need for playing MP3 audio, MP4 video, Flash videos and games and also common Microsoft Fonts such as Arial and Verdana.

To install the ubuntu-restricted-extras package do not use the Software Centre.

The reason for this is that during the installation a license message is supposed to appear which you must accept the terms of before the Microsoft fonts will install. Unfortunately this message never appears and the Ubuntu Software Centre will hang forever more.

To install the ubuntu-restricted-extras package open up a terminal window and type the following command:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras

The files will be downloaded and the required libraries will be installed. A message will pop up during the installation with the license agreement for the Microsoft fonts. To accept the agreement press the tab key on your keyboard until the OK button is selected and press return.

The following files are installed as part of the ubuntu-restricted-extras package:

  • Gstreamer plugins (ability to play MP3 audio)
  • Microsoft web fonts
  • Adobe Flash plugin
  • LAME (ability to create compressed audio)

The ubuntu-restricted-extras package does not include libdvdcss2 which makes it possible to play encrypted DVDs.

As from Ubuntu 15.10 you can get the files necessary to play encrypted DVDs by typing the following command:

sudo apt-get install libdvd-pkg

Before Ubuntu 15.10 you have to use this command instead:

sudo apt-get install libdvdread4
sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/

You will now be able to play MP3 audio, convert music to MP3 from other formats and from MP3 to other formats, play Flash videos and games and watch DVDs on your computer.

When you use LibreOffice you will also have access to fonts such as Verdana, Arial, Times New Roman and Tahoma.

When it comes to playing Flash video I personally recommend installing Google's Chrome browser as it has a version of the Flash player which is continually kept up to date and is less vulnerable to the security issues which has plagued Flash for so long.

This guide shows you 33 things that you should do after installing Ubuntu. The restricted extras package is number 10 on that list and the dvd playback is number 33.

Why not check out the other items on the list including how to import music into Rhythmbox and how to use your iPod with Rhythmbox.