How bad do you want Netflix on Linux?

path3191How bad do you want Netflix on Linux? Lots. Do you want it enough to beg Microsoft for it?  Whoa now… :/

Miguel de Icaza recently revealed in his blog,, that Netflix won’t be coming with Moonlight 2.0 (as was largely anticipated) unless Microsoft actively intervenes and ports its DRM stack to Linux.

Miguel suggested that we put some pressure on Netflix and Microsoft directly, asking that they do this. There was a thread created on the Silverlight forum pleading with Microsoft to port its DRM stack over. So far, the responses on the thread vary between desperate sob stories and cookie cutter anti-MS attacks.

What is the solution to this mess? Clearly, Netflix shouldn’t have chosen an engine that doesn’t have cross-platform support for its streaming video service. But, what can Linux Netflix users do now? Well, you could cancel your account, as many are suggesting.  But, I like the Netflix regular disc service too much for that.  You can run an XP virtual machine in VirtualBox. This works quite well.  However, firstly, it isn’t really linux, and secondly, it doesn’t really help people running Boxee or MythTV (i.e. me). netflix_logo1

Is it better to compromise our principles a bit to get a service we want? Should we boycott Netflix until they change services? Perhaps we should just spin around in circles and cry because we are so confused…

8 thoughts on “How bad do you want Netflix on Linux?

  1. I’d be fine not having access to Silverlight content, thanks 😉

    What is Miguel thinking? He is such a great figure in the Linux world but why is he so into working on this awful Microsoft stuff?

    Netflix by mail is/was a great service, but it is already outmoded. Hulu is quickly proving that web video will work well following the tried and true television model: programming supported by ads. People are used to it, it works well, it’s an established compromise between the content provider and the user.

    Subscription based services have not fared well on the net. It’s pretty easy to see Netflix failing as DVDs become dinosaurs and more quality content becomes available on ad supported sites “for free.”

    And Flash has now become so ubiquitous, who is going to use Silverlight going forward? YouTube? Hulu? Apple? Huh?

    Our energies would be better spent on getting Adobe to open source Flash than in joining Miguel in petitioning MS. As it stands Adobe are doing an admirable job of providing Flash to Linux users, and despite any shortcomings, it works. Why waste time with Silverlight?

  2. Hulu is definitely a much better model. But, I think it will be a long time before we see many movies hit the web DRM free (hulu’s movie content is limited). I am afraid we may see more DRM proprietary Flash stuff (like Move Media Player) come up, as well. It is not clear to me that it is in Linux’s interests to turn a cold shoulder to these things. Certainly it would be better if they didn’t exist, but since they do, I would rather they exist in a cross platform way that doesn’t require people to stick with a particular OS. I.e. what I really do not like is how MS has tied this to Windows/OSX, it probably violates some sort of antitrust regulation. Which is why I think asking MS to port this to Linux is just asking them not to behave badly.

  3. Miguel forgets Plan C: Get Netflix to grow a spine and tell Microsoft to provide the functionality it promised them. The could threaten to either sue or switch to a different technology unless MS makes Moonlight *truly* cross-platform.

  4. Maybe if Netflix could convince Microsoft that this is as big a deal as Obama’s inaguration, they might work harder with Mono developers? Or.. Maybe if Netflix could realize they stand to make more money, they would push Microsoft to help the Mono developers, or .. work with them.

    Why can’t we all just get along?

  5. Linus has taken what he believes is a practical approach to DRM and he believes that if you want to live in the commercial space you have to figure out how to coexist with it. A lot of people at the GNU foundation including the venerable author of the GNU license Eben Moglen have encouraged Linus to embrace GPL3 which does protect any DRM protection schemes from disabling Linux actually as explained Richard Stallman’s Q and A at about why to migrate to GPL3 he succinctly explained it in “One major danger that GPLv3 will block is tivoization. Tivoization means computers (called “appliances”) contain GPL-covered software that you can’t change, because the appliance shuts down if it detects modified software. The usual motive for tivoization is that the software has features the manufacturer thinks lots of people won’t like. The manufacturers of these computers take advantage of the freedom that free software provides, but they don’t let you do likewise.

    Some argue that competition between appliances in a free market should suffice to keep nasty features to a low level. Perhaps competition alone would avoid arbitrary, pointless misfeatures like “Must shut down between 1pm and 5pm every Tuesday”, but even so, a choice of masters isn’t freedom. Freedom means you control what your software does, not merely that you can beg or threaten someone else who decides for you.

    In the crucial area of Digital Restrictions Management—nasty features designed to restrict your use of the data in your computer—competition is no help, because relevant competition is forbidden. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and similar laws, it is illegal, in the US and many other countries, to distribute DVD players unless they restrict the user according to the official rules of the DVD conspiracy (its web site is, but the rules do not seem to be published there). The public can’t reject DRM by buying non-DRM players, because none are available. No matter how many products you can choose from, they all have equivalent digital handcuffs.

    GPLv3 ensures you are free to remove the handcuffs. It doesn’t forbid DRM, or any kind of feature. It places no limits on the substantive functionality you can add to a program, or remove from it. Rather, it makes sure that you are just as free to remove nasty features as the distributor of your copy was to add them. Tivoization is the way they deny you that freedom; to protect your freedom, GPLv3 forbids tivoization.

    The ban on tivoization applies to any product whose use by consumers, even occasionally, is to be expected. GPLv3 tolerates tivoization only for products that are almost exclusively meant for businesses and organizations.

    Anyway a lot of Linus’ friends including Dr. Andrew Tridgell, developer of SAMBA who got Linux in the front door of Microsoft shops as a superior NT Domain PDC and BDC and has lobbied Linus hard on this issue but he to this point has been stubborn on this issue.

    I suggest you investigate this issue an you decide. Maybe in a few years Minix will be the best solution. Who knows.

  6. Hi, I found this blog article while searching for help with fixing Microsoft Silverlight. I have recently switched internet browser from Chrome to Internet Explorer 7. Just recently I seem to have a problem with loading sites that have Microsoft Silverlight. Every time I go on a website that needs Microsoft Silverlight, the page does not load and I get a “npctrl.dll” error. I cannot seem to find out how to fix the problem. Any aid getting Microsoft Silverlight to function is very appreciated! Thanks

  7. I would like to watch streaming movies on my Netflix account. I can’t, not for any technical reason, but because Microsoft, Apple, and Netflix have entered into a licensing agreement that restricts viewing streaming movies to computers using Windows or Mac OS. I believe that Microsoft is again trying to use its vast resources to restrict competition. I believe they should be prohibited from this type of activity. I believe they agreed not to engage in this type of activity in their previous settlement with the justice department. Perhaps they were just kidding about not trying to stifle competition.

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