Thursday, September 28, 2006

Using Helix Player From Emacspeak

In the spirit of You can never have sufficiently many media players, I now have Helix Player working under Emacspeak i.e., I can now run Helix Player without having to start up X. This is useful because there are still media streams on the Web that sometimes fail with mplayer, and from the minimal testing I've done so far, Helix Player is successful in those cases.

What Is It?

HelixPlayer --- installable on modern Linux distributions as hxplay from package HelixPlayer is the community-supported version of RealPlayer 10. The well-distributed and documented client, hxplay is capable of playing a wide variety of audio and video formats over HTTP and RTSP/RTP, and specifically, can handle RealPlayer10 formats which includes support for 5.1 audio.

A lesser known set of tools available from Helix --- Helix DNA Client is a bare-bones UI-less player which can be used effectively at the shell. You can download pre-built binaries for your flavor of Linux (GCC3.2 or later vs GCC 2.95 based systems) note that these are nightly builds. You can also download a source zip archive. Note that all of these requires you to accept a End Users License Agreement (EULA) before being taken to the download link.

The links on the page above can be confusing; Here are pointers to the specific packages you need to grab if you want a player that has all of the functionality described above.

Sep 26, 2006 build for Linux GCC 3.2
Source archive from September 27, 2006

Using The Binary Distribution

Here is what I did you set up the binary distribution on my Ubuntu 6.0.6 (Dapper) machine

  • Unpacked binary package under /usr/lib.
  • Created a symlink /usr/lib/splay to point to the directory created by unpacking the binary package.
  • Created the following shell script /usr/bin/hsplay to launch the player:
    #Use Simple Helix Player:
    exec /usr/bin/aoss $SPLAY_LIB/splay -iss -s "$@"
  • The above script assumes you have the alsa-oss package nstalled; you will need this to have Helix Player use ALSA --- something that is essential if you want to be able to use your sound card with other applications while playing media streams.

With this setup, you can launch one or more media streams (both local, as well as remote HTTP/RTSP/RTP streams) from a shell. This player successfully plays the BBC Radio4 LW stream, something mplayer fails to play on my Ubuntu box.