LOVEFiLM running in Ubuntu 12.10

‘They’ are a handful of the world’s most popular on-demand video services, whilst ‘it’ is the third largest desktop operating system around.

Between them they boast tens of – if not hundreds of – millions of users.

In theory they should love one another, right? Sadly ‘technolotics’ ( ‘technology politics’) chose to intervene in this otherwise fated relationship…

VoD Services

Netflix, LOVEFiLM and Redbox Instant don’t officially work on Ubuntu. And if their respective companies are to be believed they have no plans to do so anytime soon.

But saying ‘no’ to the Linux crowd is like waving a red flag to a bull, or a backstage pass for a One Direction concert in the face of a tween horde – one side will get what they want, pain or no pain.

The ‘Silverlight’ Issue

“Microsoft have refused to provide Linux users with a native version of Silverlight.”

To be fair to Netflix, Amazon and Verizon/Redbox, it’s only partly their fault that they don’t support Linux.

Somewhere along their respective development timelines their engineers (or middle-management) were swayed by the piracy-protected lure of Microsoft’s Silverlight plugin.

This one-time Flash competitor gives them a blanket of security with which they can use to warm up otherwise icey media conglomerates, thereby defrosting access to their chest of TV shows and movies.

“Linux developers are used to being told ‘no’. Then doing it anyway.”

No-one can blame them for seeking out a secure, well-documented way to deliver content from the amorphous mass of the cloud to users’ desktops. That’s just technology.

The ‘-olitics‘ comes into play because of Microsoft. They, for various legit-sounding but not entirely faithful reasons, have refused to provide Linux users with a native version of their Silverlight plugin.

Because of this Silverlight-streamed content cannot legally be streamed on Ubuntu.

That Red Flag…

Linux developers are used to being told ‘no’, then doing it anyway. “It can’t be done” translates as “You should give it a go…” in the Linux mindset.

So the (comparatively) good news for movie buffs and couch potatoes is that content from Netflix, LOVEFiLM and Redbox Instant can be viewed on Ubuntu.

It’s made possible using a custom build of WINE – a set of software libraries that allow native Windows apps, libraries and components to run on Linux – maintained by Erich Hoover.

Hoover’s version of WINE (named ‘Compholio’) is built with patches specific to making Sliverlight (and a handful of other apps) play nicely out of the box.

Alongside this he also provides a PPA (‘Personal Package Archive’) containing pre-built packages for Netflix, LOVEFiLM and Redbox that install everything needed to run the respective services with zero fuss.

These ‘Desktop Packages’ comprises of:

  • A patched version of WINE*
  • Firefox for Windows (with custom settings)
  • Microsoft Silverlight Plugin V4

Particular work has gone on tweaking Firefox so as to provide as native an experience as is possible on Ubuntu.

Netflix running on Ubuntu 12.10

Add the Netflix WINE PPA

The first step to getting one of the VoD services up and running is to add Erich Hoover’s PPA to your System. It supports Ubuntu 9.10 through 13.04 – so no matter which version of Ubuntu you’re on you’re covered.

This can be done in a number of ways but the easiest is to use the following command in a new Terminal window:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ehoover/compholio

Install Netflix/LOVEFiLM/Redbox Instant Apps in Ubuntu

With the PPA added the next step is to install the ‘VoD Service’ you require. Remember that all of these services are subscription based. They are not free.

To install LOVEFiLM run the following command in a new Terminal window:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install lovefilm-desktop

To install Redbox Instant run the following command in a new Terminal window:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install redbox-desktop

To install Netflix  run the following command in a new Terminal window:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install netflix-desktop

Once installed open the Unity Dash and search for the item using the service name. Click on its icon to open it and you’re all set – just log in and start watching!

*Installing this version of WINE will uninstall the ‘standard’ version.

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