Because of patent and licensing issues, Ubuntu has removed support for the MPEG, MPEG2, and MPEG3 (MP3) file formats in Ubuntu. Although we cannot offer any legal advice, it appears that individuals using MP3 software are okay; it is just that Ubuntu cannot distribute the code. It seemsat this pointperfectly all right for you to obtain an MP3-capable version of Xmms (for example), which is a Winamp clone that plays MPEG1/2/3 files. (You learn more about Xmms in the "Music Players" section later in this chapter.) You can get Xmms directly from http://www.xmms.org/ because that group has permission to distribute the MP3 code.
You can also enable the MP3 codec within Ubuntu by using the universe repository. You do this by installing the gstreamerio-piugins-ugly package, which will enable the MP3 codec in all of the Gnome applications.
Another alternative is to use the Ogg-Vorbis format; it is completely free of restrictions. An MP3-to-Ogg converter is available from http://faceprint.com/code/.
Ubuntu includes software (such as the sox command used to convert between sound formats) so that you can more easily listen to audio files provided in a wide variety of formats, such as AU (from NeXT and Sun), AIFF (from Apple and SGI), IFF (originally from Commodore's Amiga), RA (from Real Audio), and VOC (from Creative Labs).
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