Desktop Apps Training - Other Applications


Helix is an Open Source project that is trying to provide a platform to run rich media player on Linux, Solaris, etc. This is an alternative to the Real Player which requires a license. The Helix Player supports a number of open media formats like Ogg Vorbs and Theora. This project also has a RealPlayer that is built to run on topof the Helix Player if users choose to do so and will run realAudio/RealVideo as well as MP3. The distributions like Fedora that include the Helix Player are trying to provide an open Source alternative to Real Player.

Installation of the Helix Player


Once the program is loaded onto the system the opening configuration window appears when the program is started.


Choose forward to complete the installation. The version and release notes are available during the installation process.

Once the installation is complete the interface will open and provide access to programs as well as URLs that contain media.


The interface is a basic interface to locate files using File on the Menu Bar and then choosing to open a location where the media is located. The Play option provides Play, Pause, Stop, previous Clip and next Clip as well as controls for volume. The View option on the Menu Bar allows a user to view the media full screen or to zoom into the media. When a user explores the Tools option there are several significant considerations located here. First, the user can view plugins for the player which determine the media that is available to the Helix Player. Most plugins that a user will be interested in are already loaded including Ogg Vorbis, Theora and RealNetworks. Under Tools the Preferences option is the heart of the configuration for the program.

The configuration window provides settings for all of the connections users may choose to use. The General Tab provides a way to locate media files by browsing for directories that contain the media. In addition, recent clips that the user has accessed are listed in the file menu.


The Content Tab allows users to adjust CPU usage and increase the Cache size. Typically the slower or lower the CPU usage users will need to increase Cache to compensate. These settings really are about what works, so if there seems to be a problem with media increase Cache and CPU usage before taking other steps.

The Connection Tab determines what speed of network connection will be used to stream the media. Bandwidth is basically a pipe which allows information to flow down, the bigger the pipe, the better the quality because media is smoother and higher quality. Dial-Up connections can be difficult and will need to add a much larger buffer to get things to run. If a user is unsure of what bandwidth is available it would be a good idea to talk with your system administrator. Keep in mind that typically these connections will go through a firewall, router or hub that may be the bottleneck in terms of speed.


Buffering allows the user to read ahead so that part or all of the clip is downloaded before the clip actually begins playing. The slower the connection that is available the greater the buffer will be needed to get it to work. Partial clip buffers get the media running sooner but if there are problems then a full buffer will be needed. It is one of those things that will need to be tried before it will be certain how it will work and it may be different for each site as connections and locations vary so much.


The Internet Tab determines what kind of information will be made available to the servers that are connected to the Helix Player. This information may be valuable toward providing a more stable connection but at he expense of providing information about your computer and connection.



A proxy server actually makes the connection and transfers the media in behalf of the computers that connect up to it. This advantage helps to increase speed as proxy servers are typically faster than desktop computers and proxy servers will often maintain a cache of media that has already been accessed so that it will not need to be downloaded again. This is only useful if the same information is accessed repeatedly.


There are two methods of transporting media. Typically it is best to allow the program to automatically select the best transport method. If a specified transport is used it will allow configuration of transport methods using UDP,TCP, HTTP or multicast as well as setting timeouts for each protocol.


The Hardware Tab enables the user to modify sound configuration for drivers.



The Advanced Tab allows the user to determine if they would like to use subtitles or play an overdub track. The system defaults are show below.



Here is what Helix looks like while it is playing music. The users is provided with all of the standard controls for enjoying music formats.

The Helix Player is a nice addition to any Linux distribution, though some will be frustrated that it is designed for use with Open Source media only. However, users can access RealAudio and RealVideo options using Helix as a foundation. The downloads for adding RealAudio and RealVideo are available at http://helixcommunity.org.

One of the advantages of RealAudio is that it is now using the MPEG-4 AAC codec a bitrated over 128 kbps. This provides a new higher quality sound at a wider bandwidth range. RealAudio can deliver near CD audio quality at 64 kbps. The current RealAudio provides 100% perfect fidelity of audio at less than half the size of the original file in addition to multichannel sourround-sound experience.

RealVideo now is able to deliver high quality at 30% less bitrate. These features are all available by adding the RealAudio and RealVideo downloads to the Helix Player. One item to note however is that the RealAudioand RealVideo additions will mean that the user will need to choose either a Research & development License or a Commercial License which are easy to add.