The XMMS in GNU/Linux Manifesto v.0.1

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(Complete, I think, Ubuntu specific information on how to best get XMMS up and running at the end.)


The XMMS in GNU/Linux Manifesto v.0.1


The problem concerning the X Multimedia System (XMMS) is really a test for the wider community. It seems to affect users of Debian, Ubuntu and openSuse directly, but essentially it concerns all GNU/Linux users and the rest of the Free Software community, because it is a test of our social organisation: when and why can tribes be excluded and left to their own devices on the prairies of cyberspace?

This is written from the perspective of an Ubuntu user, but as you will see users from the Debian and openSuse communities also protest against the discontinuation of the XMMS. There might be other communities that have the same problem, but the Fedora leaders continue to give their users XMMS.

If the Debian, Ubuntu and openSuse leaders won’t put it back in, it is a great loss for their respective communities in terms of their social organisation. No one was asked and after consistent complaints since Feisty in the Ubuntu world nothing has happened.

To provoke, excluding XMMS users in this manner is not unlike, by analogy, the forceful evictions that slums and shanty towns are subjected to: just get out of the way for progress?!?!

That’s no way to talk to people! And there are many of us.

Of course we can hope for someone to create a third-party repository, like PPA (for Ubuntu). But why should it not be in the main repos?

One Ubuntu Forum thread about installing XMMS in Hardy has been viewed 3678 times and generated enough discussion to establish that XMMS is still the preferred player for many, no matter how inferior and unmaintained it allegedly is.

I posted about it three times (1,2,3) when installing Intrepid and there have been close to two thousand hits by now, including hundreds of downloads of a .zip file collected in a very unconventional and quick manner, but with all you need to get XMMS up and running in Intrepid (and maybe Hardy) and that shows that a central source is desired. By popular demand!

  • Here is another discussion in which it is clear, if contested, that there still is a definite popular demand for XMMS in Debian and a lack of proper reasons for excommunicating the application and its users:

An openSuse user says at the release of 11:

One thing that has me slightly worried is that it deleted xmms and all reference to it. I LOVE that program, and would sorely hate to see it deprecated from the SuSE repositories

There might be a way for openSuse users with third-party repo, – so people are keeping it alive and protesting against its exclusion from the community. In other words, XMMS is alive. There are XMMS tribes in the distro landscape. Are we confined to compiler and dependencies?

People love this little player.

Ubuntu’s Popcon tells us that:
#rank name inst   vote  old   recent no-files (maintainer)
1971 xmms 87047 2035 84811 179    22       (Unknown)

Debian’s Popcon also shows that many people are using it.

¿So, what? – it has no database and it can’t handle UTF-8 characters? Maybe it has many bugs, some say, I don’t know, but for the last six years it has served me well and others since 1997. More than a decade.

And guess what, it can handle very big collections, 40k+ – in a single playlist where you can search quickly – without any problems – and it uses very little resources.

Amarok and Rhythmbox – to the best of my knowledge – still cannot import huge collections – around 20k they started to stall last time I checked, – and searching can get slow if the collection is large. They are great players, for sure, and I dream of the day that they can fully deliver what I want – all my tunes organised in an intelligently designed GUI on top of a state-of-the-art database. Can I have it with an XMMS skin? For now, however, can I just keep the old tested and tried version, please?

Although, apparently, Banshee can now handle 60k+ (it is now in 1.4, I tried 1.0 when the new database architecture was implemented and it could not), according to the friendly people at #banshee. So maybe it is a solution, but that maybe gets you into issues concerning freedom: – but for a perfect music player I might even compromise just a little bit on freedom. (Don’t tell Stallman!, but it can be that important, I also sin with Internet Exploder on Crossover Pro to access a router that only accepts changes from that that ghastly thing).

All that you need to get XMMS with codecs installed is still out there, googling and searching with Synaptic, because XMMS is a very popular player and it is here to stay. You just have to fiddle and for many users that is not what they want to do. (For Ubuntu users all necessary info is collected below).

Of course it is a great way to learn about computing. It is fun to do for some and great if you have time on your hands, maybe a second box to checkinstall the stuff that you need to compile to get your favourite player up and running. However, it really puts some people off and it is a hassle for others. For some it is maybe just something extra to do, but the issue here is really that no one i the end-user community was asked whether they thought it was appropriate to exclude XMMS from our communities.

This shifts power towards the developers and leaders and builds a little wall between developers and users, the blurry boundary that we are so proud of is vanishing, XMMS is just one little brick in a wall of seperation.

No matter what anyone says about Free Software and freedom, one thing is clear: freedom must be defended by a good dose of principles and dialogue. From Bruce Perens´ return to the Free Software terms in 1999 to the SCO case and other FUD and pathetic patent trolling we have seen again and again that we have to stand together as a community against patents, other privateering attacks and laizzes-faire attitudes towards freedom.

Where concerns have been raised about the exclusion of XMMS they have been met with support by many and with throwaway statements by some about the uselessness of the XMMS player – its many bugs and outdated libraries and its lack of maintenance – showing that people continue to use it and do whatever is necessary to install it on their updated systems, exactly because it is a olden golden little app, and never mind that others don’t like it for this or that reason.

If the popular demand does not bring XMMS back into Debian, Ubuntu and openSuse as an automated install option via the repos, with all codecs possibilities offered as well, then at least the XMMS users can maintain the old (dying?) spirit of Free Software and continue cooperating to be able to use that fine old interface to listen to tunes. Like outlaws. Then XMMS will really become a cult object and maybe that is for the better, maybe the movement needs a living martyr?

XMMS, despite whatever is claimed, is not entirely dead, KnutA is maintaining repos and the topic in the IRC @ #xmms reads:

* Topic for #xmms is: HAPPY 10TH ANNIVERSARY || || 1.2.11 RELEASED 1211 days after 1.2.10 || Ubuntu/Debian packages:
* Topic for #xmms set by Fatal at Thu Jun 5 10:55:15 2008

As an Ubuntu user I would be happy if there would be a PPA that provided the option:

sudo apt-get install xmms xmms-codecs-all (or xmms-wma xmms-mp4 xmms-shn etc.) xmms-pulseaudio xmms-whatever

¿Will a voluntary technoshaman help or will the great leaders of our communities have mercy on us – will they listen to the popular demand and stick it back into the repos, perhaps with warnings that it is outdated, unmaintained? At any rate, XMMS is historical, it is a cult object.

Happy listening!


Ubuntu specific information on how to best get XMMS up and running:

First go to KnutA’s site:

…where he kindly hosts an XMMS repository that allows you to add it to your apt-get system and it will pull the dependencies. Set up for Lenny, Hardy and Intrepid (which is just a copy of the Hardy repo, but it works). If you don’t know how to add a third-party software source (or repository) then look here.

That should be your first step. Install XMMS that way:

sudo apt-get install xmms (or search in Synaptic).

Then you have to add various encoding and decoding tools if you need them.

Pulseaudio, the new system:

I do not use that. Choosing ALSA as output in XMMS works better for me. With Pulseaudio there were funny issues with other channels, losing sound for a half a second every now and then.

There is still an mp4 .deb here, which also works in Intrepid:

To get FLAC follow the second part of this how-to (you don’t need to compile XMMS as outlined in the first part of the how-to, since you can get the .deb with apt-get from KnutA):

More relevant compile info here:

You might also want .wma (but much better is to convert your files), but if you need it, then you have to compile it (or google for an .rpm and use alien to convert it):

More relevant information here:

However, if you trust me you can also just download this file, Plugins.tar.gz and unzip to your:

/home/user/.xmms/Plugins folder (shut down XMMS, of course, for good measure):

That file contains the Flac and .wma plugins that should work in Intrepid and possibly Hardy, but why not go ahead and do it yourself, you might just learn something in the process?! 🙂

Maybe you also need Shorten (shn) for XMMS:

– about which you can find useful information here:

Anything else that anyone’s uses or maintains?

If you have a virtual machine or an extra box to play around with it might be a good idea to compile your things somewhere else then your production system, but a similar environment, since it most likely will send you in dependency hell, chasing packages discerned from compiler output and with the aid of the higher spirits of telepathy. I just couldn’t be bothered to keep track of them. I know, I should have extracted it from the Apt logs and and and …

Anyway, in the end you have a system with a load of stuff that you don’t need and I ended up doing a fresh install, but I mostly do that when a new distro comes out, – first install it to check it out, stress it and try different things, before settling for a plan for the final, hopefully, install. NOTE: If you do it this way do remember to use checkinstall, which generates .debs that you can use the second time around. That is also how you should do it in a virtual or other machine, so that you can transfer it to your favourite stable machine where you just want to play music while you work on something else.

13 thoughts on “The XMMS in GNU/Linux Manifesto v.0.1

    colono responded:
    Friday, November 14, 2008 at 00:21 (056)

    So we see that Gentoo users might be in the same boat..

    Anonymous said:
    Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 18:38 (818)

    XMMS users: Stop whining and use audacious, it’s the same thing, it’s available in the repositories and it’s actively maintained.

    Hell Noire said:
    Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 16:57 (748)

    Hey Anon, too scared to use your name?

    I’m an XMMS user because it uses less ram, does exactly what it should do (play audio files with no issues) and is a nifty little program. I’m all for it and wish Ubuntu would include it in the repositories. Audacious is a JOKE compared to XMMS, a complete rip off. And XMMS is what actually made me try Linux in the first place, and now I love it.

    I just wish it could get ported to Windows, I’m sure it would destroy the market share of WinAMP. 😉

    colono responded:
    Monday, November 17, 2008 at 11:14 (509)

    The reason that XMMS is increasingly being removed from Linux
    distributions is not for any of the reasons suggested by that article,
    but is actually somewhat simpler.

    Nobody is maintaining XMMS anymore.

    While it may have a large number of users for whom it is very popular,
    nobody is responding to bug reports, nobody is responding to security
    issues and nobody is keeping it up to date.

    Distributions will increasingly hit problems (such as build problems)
    that they cannot solve, and without an upstream to turn to for help,
    there is nothing they can do but drop it (or spend a lot of effort on
    it, at the cost of other things).

    My understanding is that XMMS has been completely replaced by the
    “xmms2” package, which is installable on Ubuntu.

    — Scott James Remnant scott -at-

    colono responded:
    Monday, November 17, 2008 at 11:19 (513)

    Thanks for that, which still leaves the question how/why Fedora still offers it in its next release, while Ubuntu removed it way back when….. Is Fedora a bunch of irresponsible, dare devils, or do they simply care enough for their users to deal with the problems?

    So, either the XMMS crowd moved to Fedora or keep adding XMMS manually.

    XMMS2 is not an alternative, neither is Audacious

    Jon Parshall said:
    Wednesday, November 19, 2008 at 15:33 (689)


    (Don’t tell Stallman!, but it can be that important, I also sin with Internet Exploder on Crossover Pro to access a router that only accepts changes from that that ghastly thing).

    You are absolved. Many people feel this sinful urge, for lo! they are constrained by websites that only run under IE. And *that* is truly the graver sin. 😉

    -jon parshall-

    flameproof said:
    Saturday, December 6, 2008 at 01:10 (090)

    who is this ‘anonymous’ user who keeps saying in almost every “bring back xmms” blog or forum to ‘stop whining and use audacious’??? Hey – prop-boi; AUDACIOUS SUCKS!!! Can you not hear that or are you just one of the Audacious Devs who have created this problem in the first place? Lay off and go tout the beauties and wonders of your lame, bloated, unfriendly and nearly completely useless player elsewhere.

    There are very specific reasons xmms users are very, very content with this player despite the fact that it’s like, a decade old, first amongst which: IT WORKS. And works WELL. It’s beautiful, it’s elegant, it PLAYS, it lists a HUGE amount of files and keeps on ticking – HEY! IT PLAYS SHOUTCAST! You can skin it – the plugins are awesome (visualizations especially) – and on and on and on; it did the job and although it had it’s quirks and was linked to a depreciated toolkit (gtk1) it never ceased to just do what it was intended for – playing tunes out of the box.

    For me – it wasn’t ugly and didn’t go looking all over the internet for art and DRM and all kinds of ‘behind the back’ stuff I didn’t need a over-glorified “media bucket’ to do – it just played the music.

    And if somehow the clod-hoppers at canonical manage to erase it and it’s dependecies altogether – I swear – I personally will figure out some way of keeping it on the map because (perhaps I mentioned this): IT WORKS.

    Brent Fisher said:
    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 13:55 (621)

    I love XMMS, it’s the only way to play PSF music on Ubuntu (once you succeed in ‘pirating’ the open-source xmms). Sure, you can listen to PSF music on Audio Overload, but if you want to burn a CD of it, you got to resort to the analog hole. XMMS has a disk-writer plugin. I actually had to go without my PSF music for SIX MONTHS because the anusses at Canonical tried to wipe XMMS off the face of the earth as if it was some type of RIAA-copyrighted obscene porno.

    Karel said:
    Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 18:31 (813)

    XMMS just works, as somebody has already noted. It’s a music player – it plays music, doesn’t crash and doesn’t stop playing when the CPU usage (Core2Duo) just slightly increases (like Audacious *shit* does). Also, it starts in two seconds – not in ten, like Audacious.

    Matt Ramo said:
    Saturday, May 9, 2009 at 20:51 (910)

    Count me in. Been using it for over 12 years now. I love it. Someone should be able to maintain it. It’s simple and works. What more does a Linux user want, when they want to listen to music?

    I found this site because I just clicked on a .mp4 song. It opened in another player (video player). I immediately shut it down and tried to open it with xmms, which didn’t play it. The repositories at PCLinuxOS does not have any plugins that deal with mp4 music for xmms and I started to look.

    If maintaining it is the only reason that it is dying, then we should put out a ‘call to arms’ to find someone to do that. I wish I had the time, I’d offer.

    Please don’t give up on this great player. Just because it’s getting old and doesn’t feed you and do the dishes and laundry for you, is no reason to abandon it. I didn’t realize it was in danger of being buried since every distro I use still has it in their repositories.

    I would never touch Ubuntu distros. I installed one a long time ago and was shocked that it tried to keep me from doing things to my own system (no simple su root). That stayed on my system for about 10 minutes before being replaced with Mandrake.

    If people want simple, then run windows. Linux users want the freedom, power, flexibility, stability and security that comes with the Linux territory.

    Keep shouting and let your voice be heard. Xmms should never die!

    ‘Never give up, never surrender!’

    XMMS in Jaunty Jackalope 9.04: How to install with codecs. « colonos said:
    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 16:31 (730)

    […] use. The colonos blog has provided some detailed explanations for installing XMMS in Intrepid (see this entry for an overview) and now the time has come for installing XMMS in Jaunty Jackalope, also known as […]

    ingemar said:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 07:57 (373)

    May those whose ears can perceive the flashy GUI’s on their screens use whatever flashy GUI player they like.

    May those who like playlists use playlists as much as they want but don’t tell me that my first need is playlists.

    I do care for a player that lets me click another mp3 and it immediately stops whatever is already playing and immediately starts playing my choice.
    XMMS does just that.

    The players they insist will suit me better, the players still being maintained, are still under development. They just keep changing with each distro – look differently, work differently.

    I love XMMS just because it stays the same – development has finished.

    The day I cannot get XMMS to work in the new distro I am going to keep my old distro and stop updating.

    shan said:
    Monday, December 28, 2009 at 16:11 (716)

    thanx for all of that i needed the help on the flac plugin had tried allpossible combinations with .debs but none of them worked too many missing dependencies

    by the way i am doing this on 9.10 so XMMS is still alive and well in 2009/10 i love the shorten format so it was a must i use QMMP otherwise which is nice too but no shorten there

    the sound on XMMS for me better than QMMP louder and better defined so again thank you

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