Help (for Linux and Unix users)

This page provides help for playing the music clips in Linux and Unix (there are separate pages for Windows and Mac users). There's also a separate page for help with printing. If your problem isn't solved by the advice on this page, feel free to mail me, but please bear in mind that although I've long been intending to set up a Linux box at home, I am as yet completely unacquainted with either it or Unix, so I'm not sure how useful I'd be!
To play the sound clips, you need an audio player capable of handling both OGG and M3U file formats - luckily, there are lots around, mostly free. I'm not sure how Linux et al work with audio, but you may have to download some OGG Vorbis libraries from, in addition to one of the following players, if you don't have one already. As to advice about installation and configuration of software, on Unix and Linux I have no idea ... yet.
Audio players and plug-ins
-  Audio players for Linux and Unix (quick descriptions and download links)
-  Configuring MIME Types
-  The wrong player starts when I try to play a clip
-  My browser displays an internet address when I try to play a clip
-  My browser downloads the file instead of playing it
-  Playback takes a long time to start
-  The sound keeps breaking up
-  Playback doesn't start at all

Audio players for Linux and Unix

Some recommended free players and plug-ins (no spyware or adware), are listed below, together with brief descriptions and download links. If anyone can give me installation instructions, I'd be happy to post them to this page. More OGG software can be found at the OGG Vorbis website.


646 Kb
For Linux (most versions, it seems), this has built-in support for OGG files as well as MP3, WAV, audio CD and CD ripping, and FLAC.



795 Kb
A comprehensive and powerful audio player for Linux/KDE and Windows, with full support for playlists, OGG, MP3, WAV formats, and ID3 tag editing. Unix and BSD users will also have to download the "snack extensions engine" at



758 Kb
An easy to use and versatile audio editor and player for Linux, BSD and compatible systems, with built-in support for OGG as well as WAV, AIFF, Speex and MP3.



2794 Kb
Full name, X Multimedia System, this is seemingly the most popular player for Linux, and draws comparisons with Winamp for Windows. However, it's quite a bulky download and potentially fiddly to install. It has tons of features, though, including a comprehensive plug-in system, visualizations, Winamp skins, and input/output formats. To play OGG files, you'll also need to install ogglib, the Ogg Vorbis Input Library (199 Kb). The plug-in versions of XMMS for Redhat Linux are more manageable downloads at around 1.5 Mb.



Configuring MIME Types

During or after installation of the player or plug-in, you may have to associate M3U files with your player. In case things go pear-shaped when you click on a link to a sound clip like this tuneful chorus of red-banded rubber frogs from Kenya's Arabuko-Sokoke forest, you'll have to fiddle around with your system's settings to get M3U files (MIME Types) to open with your preferred player. The correct MIME Type for M3U files is audio/x-mpegurl. That's as far as my advice can go on this, I'm afraid, as I've yet to even see a copy of Linux or Unix. If you wish, see the sections on Configuring MIME Types in the help files for Windows and Macs.


Problems: the wrong player starts when I try to play a clip

If, having installing a new audio player or plug-in and correctly associated M3U and OGG files, your browser starts the wrong player when you click on a link to a sound clip like these frogs and yet you've correctly set up the M3U file extension in your preferred audio player, you'll have to manually remove the existing M3U MIME Type association (which points to the wrong program) before attempting to reassociate M3U files with your preferred player.


Problems: my browser displays an internet address when I try to play a clip

This is because the "MIME Type" for M3U files is incorrectly set up on your computer, or is absent.


Problems: my browser downloads the file instead of playing it

Then the "MIME Type" for M3U files needs to be reset. To do this, you'll first have to remove the existing MIME Type for M3U files, and then reassociate it. Once you're through, ensure that you choose the option to "Play" or "Open" the file next time you try to play a sound clip.


Problems: playback takes a long time to start

This is normal behaviour, so long as your audio player keeps you waiting for less than 20 seconds or so, because the player may need time to "buffer" the first part of the sound clip in its memory before playback. If the wait is really too long and you think your connection is okay, verify your player's buffering options and reduce the buffering time or size required before playback starts.


Problems: the sound keeps breaking up

First, check that you're trying to play the low-quality clips instead of the high-quality ones. If you're still having problems with the low-quality clips, it's more than likely a problem with your internet connection (a noisy telephone line is the main culprit), and sadly there's not much that you can do about it. Still, you could try connecting at the site's off-peak times, ideally between midnight-7am EST (4am-12am GMT). Other than that, you could also check your memory usage, and disable all those run-in-the-background programs like email messengers and other gizmos that you really don't need.


Problems: playback doesn't start at all

If your media player starts up when you try to play a sound clip but then does nothing, there are two possible causes, both equally likely: one is that firewall software installed on your computer or on the local network you're using doesn't allow files to be streamed. This is most likely to occur if you're connecting from a computer at your place of work (some companies understandably don't want their staff chewing up their bandwidth by downloading music files). No solution other than connecting from another location. The other possible cause is that a program that can't play OGG files is associated with the M3U file type, meaning that it starts when you click the link but then gets all confused and does nothing. The usual culprits, on Windows and Mac systems, are RealPlayer/RealOne and Microsoft's Windows Media Player. The offending program should have an option somewhere to turn off automatic reclaiming of file types. Of course, you will also need a player that can read OGG files; see the list of players above.

If nothing at all happens when you try to play a sound clip (try our old friends the red-banded rubber frogs: no sound, no media player starting, and no response or error message from your browser), then you'll have to Configure MIME Types for M3U files (assuming you actually have a player installed).


Traditional Music & Cultures of Kenya
Copyright Jens Finke, 2000-2003

also by Jens Finke
Chasing the Lizard's Tail - across the Sahara by bicycle - fine art photography