October 4, 2001

RealOne for Linux preview shows promise

Author: JT Smith

- By Dan Berkes -
This past Tuesday, RealNetworks core developer Greg Wright announced a new version of RealPlayer for Linux. Instead of RealPlayer 9, the latest streaming multimedia player from the Seattle software company is now known as RealOne. Users can expect an improved interface and better video playback options. Installation can be problematic, but that's to be expected at this stage of RealOne's life.This version of RealOne for Linux is an alpha/preview release, and it would be
extremely unfair of me to write a review of a work in
progress. So before I get started, I'd like to make something perfectly clear:
This is not a review of RealOne, but a collection of first impressions of
a long-awaited update to RealNetworks' Linux offering. When and if RealNetworks offers
up a final or stable release of RealOne for Linux, I'll be back in this space
with an in-depth and critical review.


Finding the free stuff on the RealNetworks Web site has always been something of
a challenge. Going to the main page at Community Supported RealPlayer Download Page. Fill in and select information for the various options as you see fit, but for the "Select OS" drop-down menu, be sure to select "Linux 2.x (libc6 i386)" and then click on "Download Community Supported Player" to continue.

The results page will display the usual selection of links to download the latest RealPlayer -- ignore them. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and you will see the download link (a button, actually) to download the RealOne Player for Linux, which will then finally deliver you to the download links for RealOne. File size is approximately 6MB.

I installed the RealOne preview on a home-built computer using version 7.1 of Red Hat's Linux distribution.

The RealOne download page provided brief installation suggestions:

Once you've successfully completed the download, you will be ready to install the RealOne Player. To do this, you must make the installer executable and then run it:
chmod u+x r1p1_linux22_libc6_i386_a1.bin

I typed the magic words, crossed my fingers, and waved Chester, the plush toy snail mascot that lives on the top of my monitor, over the system, and pressed Enter. A few seconds later, the RealNetworks installer appeared on my KDE 2.1 desktop. The installer offers two choices -- typical install, which assumes certain things about where files should be placed, your desktop settings, and file type associations, and custom install, for users who want or need to make specific configuration choices.

For the sake of time and knowing that there's nothing out of the ordinary about my current Linux installation, I choice the typical install option. The next steps are minor: Click through the license agreement, select Internet connection speed, and the installer starts copying files.

Segmentation fault (core dumped)

Damn! So close, too. Lather, rinse, repeat above steps:

Segmentation fault (core dumped)

Something's wrong. I go to to the Community Supported Player Forum to see if anyone else is having this problem; other than the announcement and a few replies, there's not much discussion about the RealOne alpha preview happening yet. I re-check the list of basic requirements against the contents of my system, and everything appears to be in order. I try installation again, with no luck.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I took the very Microsoftian step of rebooting the system. What can I say? Old habits die hard. Tried the installation again, and much to my surprise, everything went smoothly. I'm not sure why this time was the charm, but I'm sure my (lack of) system administration skills was the culprit. Or, as my friend Tom would say, "PEBKAC" -- Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.

First run
The RealOne for Linux interface has been redesigned a bit, and is almost identical in look and feel to its Mac and Windows cousins. That's a nice improvement, but I was more interested in checking out the technical enhancements touted for this release.

According to a post at the RealNetworks discussion forum for Unix-based players, Wright, the company's core director, mentioned that some of the new features include new support for xvideo, better video rendering, and a full screen playback mode. I clicked on the link to play the preview for the latest Survivor series from CBS, and nothing happened. Clicked again, and got the same result. Guess I'll have to reconfigure Netscape to play nice with Real content. I had to copy and paste the URL into the RealOne interface in order to play each clip.

The improvements to the video display quality are immediately apparent to my untrained eye. The graphics aren't as choppy as they were in my previous version of RealPlayer. Where the previous version would sometimes stutter or pause to buffer on clips my DSL connection has always been capable of handling with ease, RealOne doesn't take any breaks. About the only problem I had with playback was using the full-screen mode, which managed to bring my KDE session to a rather abrupt conclusion.

First impressions
RealOne for Linux promises to be a major improvement over previous versions of the streaming media player. I like the new interface, and I definitely appreciate the improvements in video quality. I plan to become an active and vocal participant in the feedback process to improve RealOne for Linux, and that's something I would encourage every person who downloads the alpha preview and future releases to do as well. The developers of RealOne for Linux are very active in their user forums, and seem to genuinely appreciate all the suggestions, bug reports, and feedback the community cares to provide.

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