Article from Issue 210/2018

Graham checks out VLC 3.0, MenuLibre 2.1.5, Texttop, Flameshot, Chomper, Godot 3.0, and much more!

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VLC 3.0

There can't be many Linux users who haven't heard of or installed the venerable VLC. For many years, it's been an essential installation requirement, even if you don't play back movies on your Linux machine. It's just as good at playing YouTube videos and for listening to Internet radio, which is why the release of version 3 is such a milestone; it's perhaps one of the biggest updates to one of the most popular open source projects out there. This is reflected in the download links. These prominently list iOS, Android, Mac OS, Windows, and even Windows Phone, while Linux users are challenged by asking their favorite packager rather than providing a direct download. There's not a snap or flatpak in sight, reflecting the origin of the majority of VLC users. Fortunately, for most distributions, the latest release can indeed be installed with a simple sudo snap install vlc without even asking your packager.

It's surprising that something called the "VideoLAN client" has taken so long to get its best new feature: the ability to natively browse network filesystems such as Samba, SFTP, NFS, and FTP. You've always been able to paste an accessible URL into the network file requester, but you needed your desktop or background operating system to have mounted a remote filesystem first or delivered the data via its own transport mechanisms. As most of us like to store our media on remote devices, such as a NAS, this was always a problem. Now VLC can access these files without any extra help, and it makes a big difference, especially on Android.

While the VLC user interface looks largely the same as version 2 – complete with an even larger set of advanced settings – it can play back far more media. In particular, thanks to a considerable number of OpenGL acceleration additions on Linux, you can now play 4K and 8K videos at 60 frames per second, as well as 360-degree videos, such as those recorded for virtual reality headsets. Video playback now includes support for the latest home-theatre buzzwords, including the ability to play back high-dynamic range video and ambisonics 3D audio, if you have the hardware configuration to make sense of these.

This is where another great addition makes more sense. You can now send video directly from your desktop VLC to a Chromecast plugged into your television. This is a fantastic upgrade simply because Linux (and open source!) lacked an easy and reliable way of doing this. It's a great way of storing and managing your movie collection on the go. And if you do plug your Linux box directly into the TV or amplifier, you can now choose to passthrough high-definition audio codecs, such as E-AC3, TrueHD, and DTS-HD. Because this is a version that's going to be around for some time (it's an LTS release), you can build your system around Linux and VLC and know it will remain working through various updates.

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1 Browse networks: You can now access remote locations directly within VLC. 2 Chromecast support: You can't see it, but these menus hide the option to beam your video to your TV. 3 360-degree video: Play fully immersive video without resorting to Chrome. 4 Playlist improvements: Stated simply, they now work, unlike with version 2.5. 5 Adjust pitch: This new real-time audio effect is perfect for learning Prince's guitar solos. 6 HDR, 4K, and 8K playback: Thanks to lots of new OpenGL acceleration, Linux can now be part of the extreme bandwidth and storage party. 7 Cross platform: The same VLC will run on your Android device, your Linux box, and even any other computers you may have.

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