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Getting the Most Out of XMMS
Pages: 1, 2

5. Get the Sound Just Right

It is pretty fair to say that music played with XMMS is as good as the speakers you use. Computer speakers being as inexpensive as they are these days, there is no excuse not to get a good pair yourself (preferably with a sub-woofer unit). In addition to such inexpensive hardware upgrades and settings, there are also a few other ways that you can manipulate the output of the music you play with XMMS.

The most obvious of these, as I have already mentioned, is the XMMS Equalizer. You probably have some experience using an equalizer with your home or car stereo, so I won't go much into how to use it. I will mention, however, that you must click the ON button in the Equalizer window before any of your settings take effect. Also, just as is the case with the volume control slider, you can also use a mouse wheel to adjust the various sliders in the Equalizer.

XMMS also includes several add-ons, called plugins, which allow you to add various functions to the application. Included in these are a number of Effects plugins, which allow you to tinker with the quality of your audio output. Every distro that includes XMMS comes with a number of these. To see what the plugins you have do to the sound of your system (and to you in the process), right-click anyhwere in the main XMMS player or Equalizer windows, and select Options > Preferences in the pop-up menu. When the Preferences window appears, click on the Effects Plugins tab.

Try each of the plugins out by first playing a song of your choosing (so as to hear the effects), then clicking on the name of the first plugin in the list at the top of the window, and finally checking the check box next to the words Enable plugin. Many plugins allow you to configure them, so if the plugin you have selected and checked is configurable, you can also click the Configure button directly below the plugin list to see what you can do with it.

Once you have heard what the plugin you're trying out does for you, uncheck the Enable plugin checkbox, and then repeat the process for the next plugin. Click the OK button, leaving the Enable plugin checkbox checked, if you find one that sounds good to you.

6. Visualize Your Music

Another set of plugins available for XMMS provide some sort of visualization of the music being played. These visualizations, when enabled, appear in a separate window, as shown in Figure 5. Usually there are a few of these plugins included in every Linux distribution that comes with XMMS (Wouldn't be much point to having the plugins without XMMS, eh?). To find out what plugins there are on your system, and what they look like, play a lively music file of your choosing (for maximum visual effect), and then right-click anywhere in the main player or Equalizer windows. In the pop-up menu that appears, select Visualization > Visualization plugins. The XMMS Preferences window will then open to the Visualization Plugins tab.

XMMS visualization plugins
Figure 5. XMMS visualization plugins

That window shows a list of all the visualization plugins available on your system. To check each one of them out, click on the name of a plugin in the top pane, and then check the checkbox next to the words Enable plugin. The visualization window for that plugin will then appear. As is the case with the effects plugins, many visualization plugins also allow you configure the way they look and/or behave. If the plugin you have selected and checked is configurable, you can also click the Configure button directly below the plugin list to see what you can do with it.

Once you have seen enough of the plugin you're trying out, uncheck the Enable plugin checkbox to close the open plugin window, and then repeat the process for the next plugin. If you find one that you wouldn't mind looking at all the time, leave the checkbox checked for that plugin, and then click the OK button.

7. Change Your Skins

As I mentioned before, you can change the look of XMMS by changing its skin. Most distros include plenty of skins (you can see some examples in Figure 6), so you can probably try some out straight away. Right-click anywhere in the main player or Equalizer windows and then select Options > Skin Browser in the pop-up menu. The Skin Browser window will then appear with a list of all the skins installed in your system. To see what each one of the skins you have looks like, just click on it. The effects will take place immediately. Once you find a skin that strikes your fancy, simply click the Close button in the Skin Browser window.

XMMS skins
Figure 6. XMMS skins

8. Pick the Right Fonts

If you are a customization freak, you may want to change the fonts that XMMS uses in its player and Equalizer windows. To do this, all you have to do is right-right click anywhere in the main player or Equalizer windows, select Options > Preferences in the pop-up menu that appears, and then click the Fonts tab once the Preferences window opens. You can then click the top Browse button to open the Select "playlist" font window, from which you can choose the font, style, and size you want. Once you've done that, click OK to close that font selection window, and then OK in the Preferences window. To change the font settings for the main player window, click the bottom Browse button, and follow the same simple procedure.

If you deal with songs or sound files with titles that have letters not normally used in English, such as å, æ, œ, ß and so on, you may well find, depending on how XMMS was originally configured for your distro, that such letters come out as something other than they should. For example, in Figure 7 in the next section, song number 6 in the playlist shows that the song "Nordic City" is by a group by the name of Bazar blÄ¥, when in fact, as you can see in Figure 3, it should show Bazar blå. If such things matter to you, you can easily change things in the Fonts tab of the XMMS Preferences window. Just click the two checkboxes you find there, and then click OK. That's all there is to it.

9. Download and Install Additonal Skins and Plugins

If you are not satisfied with the collection of skins and plugins that comes with your distro, you needn't worry; it is quite easy to download and install others. Additional skins (and plenty of them at that) are available from the XMMS skins and WinAmp skins sites. In the case of WinAmp skins, be sure to download only those that are listed as Classic, as only these are compatible with XMMS. All XMMS-compatible skins come as compressed files with .zip or .wsz file extensions. You don't need to extract these files, so you can save them directly to the .xmms/Skins in your home directory. Assuming you are using Mozilla as your web browser, you can find this "hidden" folder by right-clicking on the download link for the skin you want to download, selecting Save Link Target As in the pop-up menu, and checking the checkbox next to the words Show hidden files and directories in the Save As window that will appear.

You can also download additional effect and visualization plugins, though there are fewer of these. Many of those that are available come as easy to install RPM packages (for Red Hat Linux, Fedora, Mandrake, and other RPM-based systems), or as .deb packages for Debian-based systems. The majority, however, come as source tarballs that you will have to compile and install from the command terminal, though it is a very easy process for most of them. To go this last route, you will have to have the XMMS development libraries installed, but as most distros come with it, that should not prove to be a major obstacle. To have a look of what plugins are available, check out the XMMS site and click the appropriate links on the left side of the page.

One of my favorite plugins is XMMS CoverViewer (Figure 7), which automatically displays the cover of the album of any song you are playing. It is compatible with whatever skin you are using, it melds with the other XMMS modules onscreen, and, more interesting yet, it automatically downloads the cover for that album and stores it on your disk for future use. The newest version of the plugin is only available as a source tarball right now, so you might be reluctant to fiddle around with it, but if you are willing to get just a tad geeky for a moment or two, you can read my set of XMMS CoverViewer instructions. It's all really easy, actually, so fret not.

XMMS CoverViewer
Figure 7. XMMS CoverViewer

10. Find Further Resources

Despite the detail I've given in this guide, XMMS is, all in all, very easy to use. As with any application you are using, don't be afraid to experiment. Right-click here and there to see what pops up and try out things you didn't notice before. Part of the fun of using Linux, and XMMS, is exploration and discovery. You will find that things will become all too intuitive as time goes by. And best of all, you'll hear a lot of great music in the process.

If you do want to find out more about the ins and outs of XMMS, check out the resources available on the XMMS Support page, or if you have some specific questions you would like addressed, don't be afraid to ask them on the XMMS Forum, or on one of the many other online Linux forums, such as Just Linux.

Rickford Grant Rickford Grant, author of Linux for Non-Geeks, has been a computer operating system maniac for more than 20 years.

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