XMMS is pretty much the standard Linux media player, but it is much more than a music player. Properly used, it is a spectacular lightshow as well. It supports OGG Vorbis, MP3, and WAV formats. With the right extensions, you can also use it to play RealAudio and even MPEGs. More on that later.
Every major Linux distribution comes with XMMS, so you don't have to go far to find it. If it isn't already part of the installation, look on your distribution CD-ROM. If all else fails, you can always go to the source at http://www.xmms.org for the latest and greatest.
To start the program, look for XMMS under your Multimedia menu, or type xmms & (either from a shell or by pressing <Alt+F2>) and press the <Enter> key (Figure 18-4).
Figure 18-4. XMMS amp, equalizer, and playlist.
Notice that the figure shows three components. If you are starting XMMS for the first time, you are likely to see only one component, the amplifier module at the top left of the figure. Look at the small buttons on the right side of the amplifier, labeled EQ (the equalizer) and PL (the playlist). Clicking these buttons will bring up the two additional modules for your stereo system. The buttons themselves may take some getting used to. They look more or less the same as you would expect on a home system and perform the same functions, but, as you shall soon see, when I explain skins, the look is very flexible.
If you want to play songs, click the +FILE button on the playlist editor, and select the songs you want from the file menu that appears. If you hold that button down for a second or two, you'll also have the opportunity to add either a Web link (+URL) to a collection of songs or a directory (+DIR). The button directly to the left of it ( FILE) lets you undo your choices. Once you have made your choices, press the Play button.
XMMS has extensive plugin support for input, output, and visualization. To get at these, use the Preferences menu (the shortcut is <Ctrl+P). A new window will pop up offering you tabs for various runtime options, fonts, and so on. This is also where you find the control for the various audio I/O, special effects, and visualization plugins (Figure 18-5). If you find yourself having problems with sound when you first start up XMMS, this is the place to start. Look under the audio section and check the output plugin. Running under KDE, you will likely use the aRts driver. But if XMMS is a little too silent, try the OSS driver.
Figure 18-5. Some visualization plugins accompanying the music. The spectrum analyzer plugin is the small window at the top left, the blur scope is the window at the top right, and the OpenGL Spectrum Analyzer is the larger window behind.
I could spend a great deal of time talking about the various options. Instead, I invite you to check out the various options on your own. What I wanted to talk about is the little lightshow effects, the visualization plugins. To activate a plugin from Preferences, click on a plugin, and then click the Enable plugin radio button.
We have things here such as Spectrum Analyzer and Blur Scope. Another cool plugin I very much enjoy is the OpenGL Spectrum Analyzer. It provides colorful 3D visuals to accompany your music you can even launch that one full-screen; sit back, and enjoy the show.
One of my favorite features of XMMS is its skinability, if you will. Using skins, I can change XMMS's look from its default black metal face to something more classic, such as cherry wood or a refined brushed aluminum. The <Alt+S> shortcut brings up the Skin Browser, which you can also select through the right-click menu. Mandrake Linux is particularly nice this way. This distribution includes a large number of skins for XMMS.
If you don't have any skins in your list, you need to get yourself some skins. For that, head to the XMMS Web site at www.xmms.org and click Skins on the menu. I guarantee you won't be getting bored anytime soon. There are literally tons of skins available.
So how do you install them? All of the skins on the Web site are in either tar.gz or .zip format. Find one that appeals to you, download it, and save it to your $HOME/.xmms/Skins directory. You don't need to extract the file just save it to the directory. Now right-click on the amplifier, select Options, and click on Skin Browser. Your installed skins should be available for you to select (Figure 18-6). To preview a skin, click on it, and XMMS will change to the new skin. You can even click the Select random skin on play button if you'd like some automatic variety.
Figure 18-6. The XMMS Skins browser.
I'm going to conclude this discussion of XMMS at this point because the next application also does skins in a great way. I started off with XMMS, but KDE also has an excellent little program called Multimedia Player or, more rightly, Noatun.