Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hulu quest, Part 1: Ubuntu gets the axe

I have an old Dell Inspiron 5100 laptop that has a Pentium 4 processor, and came with 256 megs of RAM, which I upgraded to 1 gig, the max for this unit. I'm not trying to game on it or anything (that's what my desktop PC is there for); I generally just use it for the less resource intensive computing tasks.

I was running the "flashplugin-nonfree" plugin, which is the official Flash plugin from Adobe, and to its credit it generally worked pretty well. Grooveshark and Homestar worked just fine, and YouTube worked OK as long as the video wasn't too long, so up until this point I didn't have any complaints. But suddenly my wife and I started watching a few shows a week on Hulu and my Flash plugin fell flat on its face.

It fell hard, too. The show would play for about 1 minute, then the picture would freeze for a few seconds, then pick up for a few seconds and freeze again, with the audio cutting in and out accordingly. Needless to say this does not make for a relaxing evening, so I started a quest to get Hulu working on my laptop.

I Googled all over the place and tried a bunch of stuff to get it working. I created the config file /etc/adobe/mms.cfg and added "OverrideGPUValidation=true" to it and that didn't work. I tried Gnash and Swfdec and both were worse than the Adobe plugin. I tried installing libflashsupport but that didn't help (I found out later that this library was created for earlier versions of Flash and Flash 10 no longer needs it). I even tried using Hulu in Seamonkey to see if the problem was in Firefox, but no dice. I read in several locations that recent versions of Ubuntu had messed with some of the PulseAudio settings and this was the cause of the problem, so I decided to do a little distro hopping to see if the grass really was greener on the other side.

More on that later...

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