Page 7 of 9: Multimedia Playback

Multimedia Playback

Finally back to a topic where I'm not talking out of my you-know-what. Oops ... revealed too much ...

So your new computer now has a great web browser, secure as a safe, you can download things at 100% of your maximum Internet speed, and you've found a neat way to make all your photos look great. So now for the fun part, let's play some music and movies!

Using Windows, you should probably first install Windows Media Player. I know it's not the sexy thing to install Microsoft software, but it is a nice way to get started nevertheless. You should probably also install iTunes for your music purchase needs and your iPod.


Let's start with audio:

  • Winamp - the mother of all free audio players. Includes CD ripper and burner.
  • Quintessential Player - the name is hard to spell, the software is easy to use. Includes CD ripper
  • jetAudio - a free basic version is available that has CD ripping and burning support

Moving on to video playback, specifically DVDs and your AVI/DivX/XviD/H.264/MPG/MKV/OGG/WMV/MOV/RAM and other video files. I could go on all day about which players I like, which codecs you should download, but at the end of the day, it might be just easier to download a codec pack and install that. Codec pack have come a long way, and in the past I would avoid them like the plague, but the newer ones install just the right amount of codec/filters/software and they are easy to select during install and relatively easy to uninstall. The codec pack I am going to recommend is one I've been recommending for a few of my other guides recently, K-Lite Codecs Pack.

Download the pack and use one of the pre-defined install profiles (or follow these instructions). You will end up using Media Player Classic (MPC) to play back most files, including DVDs. MPC is not the prettiest player around, but it works damn well, even for DVD playback.

Media Player Classic: DVD Playback

Other notable free video players include VLC media player, another simple and effective media player that won't require you to install a bunch of codecs. The same deal with MPlayer. For a full featured dedicated free DVD player, you can also try AVS DVD Player.

Troubleshoot your AVI playback problems using afreeCodecVT, download subtitles for AVI files using SubDownloader and display them in the video using VSFilter.

If you have a multimedia device that supports UPnP streaming (eg. Xbox 360, or the PS3), then you could set up a UPnP server on your computer to share all your photos, audio and video files. Windows Media Player 11 (and Zune) comes with Windows Media Connect, which allows you to share your Windows Media Library, but it will only share formats that WMP (and Zune) supports natively. A better bet is TVersity, which allows you to share pretty much all file formats. You can even use Orb to share your media online.

Want free Internet TV? Try Joost - all you need is a broadband connection and Joost does the rest. Joost currently offers around 2 dozen channels (availability depending on your location), including National Geographics channel (US/Canada only), Comedy Central (US), SI Swimsuit on Demand, Aardman Animation and more.

Need something like Windows Media Center, but don't want to buy Windows MCE or Vista? Try Got All Media, MediaPortal or Xlobby.



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