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Monday, November 15, 2010

Running Netflix on Linux - It Can be Done! Sort Of...

     So after some extreme disappointment in finding out that Microsoft won't license the DRM on the Linux platform for Netflix I ran some experiments to see what could be done and I've got some good news and some bad news.

     The Bad news first, Even using Moonlight you cannot run Netflix on a Linux based machine.

     The Good news, You can run Netflix on Linux inside of a Virtual Box running Windows XP.

     While this is not an Ideal solution it is very workable. You will need a moderately higher end PC. I would recommend nothing under a Dual Core processor and at least 2 Gig's of Physical Ram in your system. Sata II compatible hard drives wouldn't hurt either, but are probably not essential.

     Now I won't go into detail on how to install Virtual Box on Linux. The simple solution in Ubuntu is to simply go to the Software Center and Search for Virtual Box and install it. You could also go to Oracle's Web site if you want the latest version, however Oracle's Version isn't strictly speaking Open Source. Both do work and are Free Downloads though.

     The one catch here for all of this though is that you will need an Available (meaning unused) copy of Windows XP in order to install in the Virtual Box Guest, but if you are moving to Linux as your main operating system then you probably should have a copy of Windows XP that is no longer being used on a Physical PC.

     Now that we have everything lined up, you can open the Virtual Box interface and click on the "New" button in the Upper Right hand corner of the App. Walk through the Setup Wizard to create a New Virtual Machine Guest and Create a New Blank Hard Drive for Windows XP installation. Give the Virtual Machine at least 512mb of Ram and 1 Gb if you have enough on your physical PC. Enable 2D and 3D acceleration for your VM if possible based on your physical hardware setup.

     Put your Windows XP CD in your CD drive Start your VM by clicking on the "Start" button. It should come up and indicate that No Operating system found. Go to the Hosts Menu Options at the top of your screen where it says "Machine   Devices   Help". Select Devices then CD/DVD Devices and finally on the Popup menu Select "Host Drive". Then go to "Machine" and Select "Reset". Now your VM Guest will reboot and Start the Windows XP installer from the CD.

     I won't go into How to install Windows XP as that's way too much to include here. Just follow the installation Wizard and get XP installed. Again make sure that you have a Valid and Available License for this installation or you won't get very far with it.

     Once you have Windows XP installed and Updated on the VM Guest, Start it up and go to the Netflix website like you would normally do. Everything will load and and execute just like it was running on a dedicated Windows XP PC. You can make it Full screen, or watch in a Window.

     The only thing to watch out for here is again that you have a Valid/Available license for Windows XP and that your Physical PC has enough horsepower to run the setup. Performance of the Video will depend entirely on the Physical Specs of your PC running the Windows XP virtual machine. The faster the Physical PC, the better the performance.

     If you have enough horsepower though, you should be able to then Run Netflix on a Linux based PC. Alright, it's not exactly running directly in Linux, but until something can be worked out to get the DRM licensed for Linux this is the only way to make it work.

     I hope you found this useful. If you did, leave a comment and let me know.

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