You’ve switched from Windows, and you’re using your first Linux operating system. Ubuntu was your choice, and now you want to play a DVD or Blu-ray movie. Or perhaps copy some data to an optical disc.
But there’s something wrong. Why can’t you play DVDs in Ubuntu? What about other Linux distros? What’s going on here, and what can you do to fix it?
Can You Burn CDs and DVDs With Linux Ubuntu?
Yes you can, but it’s not as straightforward as it should be. There is no native tool, so you’ll need to find and install one.
For the best results, you should be running the most recent version of Ubuntu. This should be the case with other Linux operating systems. Most distros don’t have a built in optical disc writer, so you’ll need to install one.
Several Linux DVD writers are available but the best option continues to be Brasero.
Burning? You’ll Need an App: Try Brasero
As noted, Brasero is the best tool for burning optical discs for most Linux operating systems. It’s certainly the best option for Ubuntu. Intended to help you create and copy CDs and DVDs, Brasero is equipped with data, audio, and video disc burning tools.
Brasero is also straightforward to use. Simply insert the optical media, and wait for Ubuntu to detect it. Close the popup box (a hangover from a previous version) and open Brasero from the Applications menu.
All you need to do now is select the correct project type, identify the data you wish to copy or burn, and add it to the project. You can also use it to copy existing discs! Take note of the project size bar: you don’t want to add more data than the disc can hold!
Once you’re happy with the proposed contents of the disc, hit Burn… Choose the speed options you’re happiest with, and wait for the data to be written. Once the process is over, you’ll have the chance to repeat the project with a new disc. Otherwise, you can save the project for later, or simply exit Brasero.
What About Burning a Disk Image?
If you need to burn an ISO disc image file to a CD or DVD, you can also do this with Brasero. Begin by inserting the blank disc, and selecting the Burn image project.
The next screen is the Image Burning Setup. Use Click here to select a disc image to browse for the ISO file, ensuring that your optical drive is selected under Select a disc to write to.
Brasero will display the remaining space on the disc after burning. You can click Properties to select the burning speed, and when you’re happy with the options, click Burn to commence.
Note that while disk images can be burned, ISO files can also be mounted in Linux as virtual discs. This means that the system will treat the ISO as it would a physical CD or DVD, allowing you to access the data within it. Want to try out a new distro? Burn an ISO, and run the Live CD!
Playing CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays in Linux
Most Linux distros come with the basic disc-reading capability. CDs and DVDs can be inserted into the drive and the contents read but playback is more troubling. Audio CDs can be played — video CDs, and DVDs, are another matter.
To enjoy CD and DVD video files and movies, you’ll need a dedicated player. This can be easily installed via your default package manager, or perhaps a curated collection, such as the Ubuntu MATE Software Boutique.
But which player? Well, we recommend that old favorite, the extremely versatile VLC Player. The cross-platform (you might have used it on Windows), open source video player has everything you need to play DVD movies. You can install it with…
sudo apt-get install vlc
…should it be absent from your package manager. On its own, VLC Player should be enough for most situations.
If not, add the libdvdcss library.
sudo apt-get install libdvd-pkg
Once downloaded, agree to installing the library, and automate updates.
Is Libdvdcss Safe to Use?
Note that the legality of this solution is not assured. It works by breaking encryption on DVDs, but to date, no one has been charged with a criminal act. Indeed, if you were to use the popular HandBrake video editing software on macOS, libdvdcss would be compiled on your computer.
By the way, according to Wikipedia:
“In Geeks Bearing Gifts, author Ted Nelson states ‘DVD encryption was intentionally made light by the DVD encryption committee, based on arguments in a libertarian book Computer Lib.,’ a claim cited as originating from personal communication with an anonymous source; Nelson is the author of Computer Lib.”
This would probably explain why attempts to deal with the breaking of DVD encryption have been virtually non-existent.
In short, you install the libdvdcss library at your own risk.
So, you can play DVD movies on your Ubuntu (or other Linux distro) computer with VLC Player. Simply insert the DVD, click Media > Open Disc and select the Disc tab, followed by DVD. The inserted disc should be detected, and the menu should launch. If it hasn’t happened automatically, click Play to prompt it.
But What About Blu-ray?
This is where things get difficult. While it’s possible to burn data to recordable Blu-ray discs, viewing Blu-ray movies and TV shows is a lot tougher.
Until this situation has been resolved (which will require the proprietary technology behind Blu-ray to be made open source, so it’s not particularly likely) then playing Blu-ray movies on Linux will not be possible.
But is it really that big a problem? Probably not: modern internet speed and bandwidth makes the purchase and playback of HD movies (either by downloading or streaming) more practical now than it ever was.
Ubuntu and Optical Discs
Ubuntu Linux, like all of the other Linux distros, is open source. As a result, it has proven difficult over the years to reach some of the same levels of functionality as Windows and macOS.
These days, things are on a far more even keel. Ubuntu (and probably your Linux distro of choice, too) can burn and read DVDs and CDs, regardless of whether they’re music, video, or data.
Blu-ray continues to be a problem, years after its 2003 release. Using recordable Blu-ray discs for data isn’t the issue — it’s watching the movie and TV shows that are released on BRD. But this problem really only impacts those running media centers on Linux.
What do you think? Is optical disc handling is good enough in Linux? Can you forgive the lack of full Blu-ray support? Tell us below.
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