MPEG2 video playback not functioning?

MM IconI first noticed a problem with MPEG2 file playback on my simulator.

As I wasn’t running the correct hardware, which includes an on-board MPEG2 decoder, I assumed that was my issue.

It now appears that MPEG2 video clip playback, within Firefox, is not working even on the official hardware. Nor is desktop MPEG2 playback.

As I’ve said before, the box can impressively handle almost any media format I’ve thrown at it so I was a bit surprised by this discovery. One sample clip that it can’t seem to handle is this one:

So I set about exploring why that might be the case…

Can media player handle the clip?

To make sure it was a plug-in problem in Firefox and not a general MPEG2 playback issue, I downloaded the file to my desktop and opened it with the “Media Player” application.

It failed to play back the file as well.

Make sure it isn’t the clip

On the off chance that my random sample clip was bad I Googled for some more. I found a bunch here

I downloaded the first clip and saved it to the desktop. Same problem. Media player launches but does not play the video.

Firefox hangs? No, it’s the MPlayer plug-in

When you try and click on MPEG2 links from the web, the MPlayer plug-in is spawned. MPlayer happily plays WMV and various other files within the browser but when you feed it an MPEG2 file, it loads 100% of the file and then hangs.

Firefox appears to be frozen, but if you use CTRL-ALT-DEL to bring up the task manager, you can terminate MPlayer and Firefox snaps back to life.

Which reminds me, the Task Manager needs work, it is not at all intuitive to a new user how you terminate a task.

In the Task Manager, you select the target application and choose quit and instead of quitting the application you selected (an reasonable assumption) all it does is close the Task Manager again.

You need to right click on the application and choose Kill or Terminate, depending on your goal. That needs some clarification in layout and function.

DVD Playback?

As I failed to order the DVD drive (or the WiFi dongle, oversights on my part, looking back now), I can not test MPEG2 playback from the drive. I know from other reviews that it did work on the units they shipped to the press, so I can only assume a bug was introduced in one of the updates.

Console errors

I did notice, looking at the console, that the version of MPlayer was tagged SVN (ie the developer repository that can change daily), which kind of surprised me.

I just looked at the console again (ALT-F1) and I see error messages about my driver claiming “not to support visual 0x46”, whatever that means. I also see a number of other errors that I wasn’t getting on the previous build.

It looks like some more development/troubleshooting work is in order.


MPEG2 playback is not functioning in the latest release of the Zonbu stack.

An update is needed ASAP to fix the lack of MPEG2 file support and additional research in to the video driver error messages appearing on the console is needed.

-Mr. Zonbu


5 Responses to MPEG2 video playback not functioning?

  1. This seems to be an error due to a misconfiguration of mplayer. More precisely, removing the line vc=ffmpeg12mc, in /etc/mplayer/mplayer.conf fixes the problem for this specific video. You need to be root to modify this file. There is an explanation on the developer page of the website how to get root privileges.

    We will push an update soon but we would like to do more tests to be sure that we are not breaking any other video.

  2. mrzonbu says:


    We appreciate you posting this detail.

    In my case, I want the regular customer experience, so I’ll wait for you to push the update. Others may want to kick in to developer mode and make the edit you suggested.

    Can you confirm that you consider current owners to be in “public beta”?

    -Mr. Zonbu

  3. mrzonbu says:


    I don’t want to wander in to an adult content discussion, but I can tell you, having spent more than a decade running ISP services, about 40% (by bytes transferred) of what people do on the web is adult content.

    I’ve seen this across a number of countries and installed bases, it just seems to be part of human nature.

    Given the aforementioned, I wouldn’t focus in on the video samples I used, although they should also work.

    For testing, I would suggest someone surf random adult sites and check the player against all the various video types, including mpeg2, that show up.

    Amazingly, not everyone is shy would this behavior and we’ve had some *unusual* support calls. Were we to deploy the Zonbu to our customers, I’m sure they would find video problems for you rapidly.

    -Mr. Zonbu

  4. Another technical precision: the file /etc/mplayerplug-in.conf should be modified too.

  5. […] were the media playback capabilities. Other than the outstanding MPEG issue, the box handles media really well, which is important for web surfing in todays […]

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