howto rip Real Audio streams to mp3 on Ubuntu

14 Apr 2008

I enjoy listening to podcasts during my commute, and most podcasts can be easily downloaded using my favourite podcasting tool (currently customised bashpodder, but I’m writing my own).

But unfortunately some broadcasters (for example a large British one) persist in using weird proprietary formats like “Real Audio”. Bah! By the curse of RMS’s Beard!

There seems to be conflicting advice (see links below) on how to rip Real Audio to mp3, here’s how I got it going on Ubuntu 7.10:

First of all I installed Real Player using instructions here and here, and checked I could listen to a stream using the GUI tool – a quick sanity check for firewalls, etc.

Then I installed mplayer and lame: sudo aptitude install mplayer lame. I got the source for a stream by right clicking a link, saving it as file, extracting the rstp:// url out of the file, and tested downloading:

$ mplayer rtsp:// -ao pcm:file=audiofile.wav -vc dummy -vo null

And it failed with these errors:

Opening audio decoder: [realaud] RealAudio decoder
Error: /usr/lib/win32/ cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory
Win32 LoadLibrary failed to load:, /usr/lib/win32/, /usr/local/lib/win32/

So I located the library, and based on the error message and digging around in mplayer using strings I linked the installed realplayer codecs to /usr/lib/win32:

$ sudo find / -type f -name “”
$ strings /usr/bin/mplayer | grep usr
$ sudo ln -s /usr/lib/realplay-10.0.9/codecs /usr/lib/win32

I repeated the above mplayer command (which worked) then converted to mp3:

$ mplayer rtsp:// -ao pcm:file=audiofile.wav -vc dummy -vo null
$ lame -h -b 128 audiofile.wav audiofile.mp3

Now, all this works for pages that have a direct link to a .ram file. But some sites (for example the BBC) have an embedded Real Player that hides the links to the .ram file – here’s how to find the .ram file:

  • click on the link and start playback the embedded Real Player in Firefox
  • a file called ~/.realplayerrc will be created – towards the end of the file there will be a section like this:
  • cat the /tmp/foo.ram file, and copy the rstp:// link – ignore the part after the ? (the UID, etc)
  • follow the above instructions for ripping :-)


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