[conspire] (forw) Re: Arnold -> Rick

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Dec 18 22:05:24 PST 2009

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Fri, 18 Dec 2009 22:05:09 -0800
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
To: sait8so <sait8so at yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Arnold -> Rick
Organization: Dis-

Quoting sait8so (sait8so at yahoo.com):

> Hi Rick,

Hi, Arnold!

> I'm the guy with the red Karman Ghia who showed up at the Linux
> meeting a while back. Been looking into a problem and narrowed it down
> to two questions. Thought of you because you've been around open
> source lots longer than me and have a better understanding of the
> issues. One's a hardware question and the other's a perspective, both
> of which I've searched for and been unable to find.
> Hardware: Specs: Debian/Lenny, 22" widescreen, 780G mobo (AM2/AM2+),
> Athlon X2 5400+
> Got a Netflix account and use it from a desktop setup (no HTPC
> software). Instead of rebooting to WinXP each time for a movie, I'd
> prefer to watch from the WinXP loaded in VBox. Problem is, my CPU
> doesn't have the horsepower to do it; best res for smooth playback is
> maybe 600x800.
> Question 1: Would a quad-core have the power to do it? 
> Mobo's CPU compatibility includes AM3 PhenomII x4 Deneb series, up to
> the 925, so the selection's okay. Other than Netflix, no problem
> watching smooth, full-screen playback online (Hulu, etc) or DVD. 

Certainly should have more than sufficient CPU power, at least on native
Linux.  (No idea about MS-Windows XP.)

Disclaimer:  I'm not very current on what CPU power is required for
tasks on Microsoft OSes, since I very seldom use them.  On Linux for
x86 (run natively), pretty much any CPU of the last six years or so
has the power to do real-time video.  It's so automatically the 
case that, as long as you have something as good as, say, any P4
whatsoever (and, say, half a gig of RAM), you just don't worry 
about hardware.

In fact, I used to get away with doing video playback on my 700MHz
PowerPC G3 iBook (w/256 MB RAM) running native Xubuntu. 

> I loaded Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10 in VBox, installed the Moonlight plugin
> and codecs (versions 1 and 2 separately), and both played Silverlight
> videos fine, small or full-screen. Logged in to Netflix but couldn't
> watch a movie: "Our apologies — streaming is not supported for your
> operating system."  Found others posting the same problem, although
> not in VBox, in forum threads at Ubuntu, Netflix and several lists,
> throughout this year.

Um, well:  Do I correctly guess that "VBox", here, means VirtualBox?

Going by reputation, VirtualBox is not bad as a VM engine, but any VM
engine (VMware, Xen, etc.) is going to complicate pretty much any
software situation.  I don't know if that's your problem, but it might

Separately from that, I have to admit that I have absolutely no idea
what Netflix's video streaming requires.  Logic suggests that Netflix,
since they're obliged to deal with Our Masters in Hollywood, are
probably really paranoid about what they're willing to stream to on the
client end.  The Hollywood boys are paranoid about losing control of
'content', e.g., if they allow you to stream video to an operating
system you can actually control, you might divert the bitstream to
disk elsewhere without DRM handcuffs.

The paranoia has been particularly severe concerning any digital
bitstream in HD quality, which is why all new high-quality digital 
video connections on computers are HDMI, a, Intel hardware standard
polluted at the design phase by Hollywood:  If the signal is
HDCP-encrypted (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection [sic]),
then the HDMI interface will refuse to transmit video across the wire at
all to any device on the other end that doesn't authenticate to it as
also being HDCP-handcuffed, and digital audio output is automatically
degraded to CD-audio quality or less if the remote device doesn't 

> Perspective:
> The above stuff lead me to the second question, about a perspective.
> Dunno the details but... MS comes out with new video software, then
> releases part of the underlying code to open source. Devs work their
> butts off to get Moonlight working and do a great job... it plays
> Silverlight videos. Ubuntu, a major distro, changes their system to
> include the Mono infrastructure. Netflix, a major content provider,
> excludes anyone (current or potential customers) using an open source
> OS. 
> I don't understand. Why are so many devs and Ubuntu all rushing to
> accommodate an MS platform in open source, when open source users
> can't use it?
> Question 2: If I can watch a Silverlight video from Linux, why am I
> blocked from watching a Silverlight video on Netflix? What am I
> missing? 

Speculation:  Netflix's server-end software might be trying to check not 
merely that you're using a Silverlight runtime, but that you're on an
OS platform that Our Masters in Hollywood wish to provide data to.

I see from looking online that Netflix's streaming is claimed to be
designed to stream only to MS-Windows XP SP2 or Vista running MSIE 6 or
higher or Firefox 2.x or higher with the Silverlight runtime, and to
OS X running Safari 3 or higher or Firefox 2 or higher, again with the
Silverlight runtime.

You _could_ try installing the User Agent Switcher extension into your 
Linux copy of Firefox, and setting User Agent Switcher to send Web
servers a user agent string of "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0;
Windows NT 6.0)" (which is one of the presets provided with that

If Netflix is merely doing a Javascript call to the browser and
verifying user agent identity, that might suffice to solve your problem.
On the other hand, it's possible that they are also making the Web
server query the remote Microsoft Silverlight runtime engine about 
whether it considers itself to be running in a Hollywood-friendly 
environment.  Of course, since the Redmondians are deep in cahoots with
Hollywood, they would have Silverlight send back "Eeek!  Beware!  I'm 
running on Linux."

To get around _that_ sort of obstacle, you would probably need to resort
to running a Win32 version of a Netflix-supported browser on Linux,
e.g., under WINE.

----- End forwarded message -----

More information about the conspire mailing list