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With the market for consumer digital devices growing by the day, Linux works better than ever to act as a digital hub for your modern consumer lifestyle.

Digital means loud, as any moviegoer knows. The increased fidelity offered by digital audio makes the whispery scenes on your DVDs quieter and the explosions and car crashes noisier. With the market for consumer digital devices growing by the day, Linux works better than ever to act as a digital hub for your modern consumer lifestyle.

One of the most welcome advances comes in the form of DVD-playing software. Granted, most people don’t want to sit in front of a small PC screen and watch movies. Televisions and DVD players are cheaper than most PCs and provide better picture quality. But it can be quite handy for playing DVDs when you travel. Between proprietary formats and lots of legal action, Linux users had been prevented from playing DVDs on their PCs. That’s all changed with a number of applications filling in the gap.

Ogle plays DVDs on your desktop. Created by students at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, Ogle’s claim to fame is that it’s the first free DVD player software to support DVD menus.

Goggles and oKle improve on the user interface of Ogle. Both applications layer a new interface on top of Ogle.

The VLC player, part of the VideoLAN project, plays DVDs along with most other video formats. I use VLC to play movie trailers and other video files that I’ve downloaded.

The gPhoto application works with many digital cameras. How many? The current version supports 433 different digital cameras, including the Barbie and Hot Wheels cameras, along with Canon, HP, Fuji, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, and other devices. In addition, Linux supports most USB card readers, so even if gPhoto doesn’t support your camera, you can easily transfer files from your camera’s CF, MMC, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, or SD card. Most USB card readers work right from the get-go. Some of the multiformat readers, such as the Sandisk six-in-one reader, require extra effort to get recognized by your Linux system. The emerging standards for storage and for USB connectivity work to the advantage of Linux users, making more and more systems accessible. This is great because few vendors support Linux for all their consumer devices.

If you have an old PC and a TV card, you can turn it into a Linux-based personal video recorder (PVR) without having to pay any service fees (such as those required for TiVo units). The Linux Toys book and Web site include instructions. The Video4Linux (v4l) project provides software for capturing and playing video data, just as long as you have the right hardware cards to interface with your television.

It’s no secret

The consortium of entertainment and technology companies known as DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) recently called for dismissal of a lawsuit against Andrew Bunner, a California-based republisher of a computer program created to allow movie lovers to play their DVDs on computers running Linux.

The association had sought an injunction against Bunner after he published a computer program known as DeCSS, which circumvents DVD copy-protection measures.

The request for dismissal came after a Norwegian court twice upheld that the writer of the DeCSS program (Jon Johansen, also known as “DVD Jon”) was also innocent in creating the code and posting it online. The move was viewed as an acknowledgement that the DVD descrambling code is not a trade secret.

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