Thursday, November 29, 2012

Finally. Netflix on Linux.

A recent post at the "OMG! Ubuntu!" blog broke the news that there is finally a working, straightforward way to watch Netflix on Linux. Skip to installation instructions below or read on for the full story. Oh, and here's a screenshot if you're still incredulous:

For those not so familiar with the story, here's the background. These days you can do almost everything you need to on Linux. But the one gaping hole for those of us who've switched to Linux full-time has been Netflix. The streaming video on requires Microsoft Silverlight (apparently they need its DRM capabilities), and, unsurprisingly, Silverlight is not available on Linux. Last I heard, it wouldn't even run properly in WINE, the Windows emulation/compatibility layer people often use to run Windows apps on Linux. So the only standard way to watch Netflix, and the way I've been using, is to install an entire copy of Windows in a virtual machine. This is pretty clunky and slow, at best. In order to watch Netflix I'd have to start up my virtual machine, a process about as slow as booting a real computer, and often close Firefox to get the 2GB of free RAM it requires.

So naturally there have been pleas for years to get Netflix to finally support Linux. After all, they work on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android already. There have even been a number of false starts, like last year when they announced they would be supporting Chrome OS, which is a version of Linux. It turns out that even though they produced a Chrome plugin that worked on Chrome OS's Linux, no one could get it to work reliably, even moving the plugin files and executables to the proper locations in Chrome installed on a regular Linux OS.

tl;dr: We've been stuck with virtual machines for years.

But apparently two developers, Erich Hoover and David Andrews have put together a well-functioning solution using Firefox and Silverlight installed in a bundled (and improved?) version of WINE. I just watched an entire episode of Archer without so much as a blip of buffering, and this is on a Core 2 Duo 2.53GHz machine with 4GB RAM (with Firefox open!). The developers claim to have even gotten it running on a netbook. One disclaimer of note: this works on Ubuntu running Unity, but I'm not sure if it's supported outside that configuration. So, without further ado:

Here's how to install it on Ubuntu

$ sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ehoover/compholio
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install netflix-desktop

That's it. They've bundled it all into one package in their repository. It installs WINE, Silverlight, and Firefox (the Windows version) automatically. When you first start it up (search "Netflix" in Unity) WINE will do some configuration (say yes to the installation prompts) and the Netflix login page will pop open. (Important note: it's just Firefox full-screen, so hit F11 to exit full-screen mode.)

Further instructions and troubleshooting in the developers' post:
PPA for Netflix Desktop App - iheartubuntu

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The new most viewed video on Youtube

Well, it happened. Gangnam Style is now the most viewed video on Youtube, having just passed Justin Bieber's "Baby" at over 800 million views. And I have to say, I welcome this turn of events.

It's hard to explain, but my attitude is similar to when I decided to embrace the popularity of Lady Gaga and LMFAO. That attitude is essentially, "Well hey, at least they're making pop music interesting. So why not?" And, as you move from Lady Gaga to LMFAO, and now Gangnam Style, it shows the mainstream's increasing embrace of the ridiculousness and wtf nature of the internet that I'm so fond of. So in celebration, let's stop worrying about things making sense and enjoy one more round of that Korean pop maniac:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Totally off-the-cuff second term prediction

Apologies for the political post. I'm not actually taking any sides here, and I hope it won't turn anyone off, regardless of political persuasion. I just wanted to record a prediction on my mind so I can check it later. Anyway. Here's what I see happening:

So when did we last see a president facing heavy, ideologically-incensed opposition nevertheless re-elected by a slim margin? Don't have to think back too far. Yep, I'm talking about 2004. Now, the interesting thing about 2004 is that, looking at Bush's approval ratings, that's just about the last time he could've eked out a re-election:

Bush approval ratings over both terms

And despite Obama's similarly unidirectional trend in approval ratings, he seems to have just pulled off a similar feat. But I don't see any reason to believe his trend is going to reverse. So, reasoning by analogy, I'm going to put in a prediction of a similar second-term implosion for Obama. Now, where did that take us last time? Well, I suppose it brought a landslide victory for a candidate further to the left than anyone would have predicted possible. So I guess I have to assume a similar result in 2016.

I think this scenario fits with the ideas we're hearing at the moment about the Republican party. Yes, many Republicans believe Romney's mistake this year was being too far right and alienating moderates. The primaries were a circus that pushed everyone to the far right, and maybe Romney didn't pivot back to the center fast enough. But at the same time, I hear conservatives who are convinced Romney's problem was being too moderate and milquetoast. I don't see how these two movements could actually resolve in the next four years and give them a new, viable direction. But! If Obama really does undergo a Bush-level-implosion in his second term, the Republicans could easily nominate someone as far to the right as half their primary candidates this time and win. I'm not trying to lock in Bachmann/Gohmert in 2016, but I think we could see someone quite a bit less moderate than Romney.