Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hulu quest, Part 2: OpenSUSE

Ubuntu 9.04 was working just fine on my laptop. It did everything I needed it to do, and we lived happily until one fateful day when I tried to watch a show on Hulu. My Flash plugin couldn't handle the content, so I decided to do some distro hopping to see if I could get it working.

My first stop was OpenSUSE 11.1. I lost some time trying to use the network installer, which I chose because it was a smaller download, and after messing with it a bunch I was able to get it to start the install, but it got stuck on Step 2 of 6. It was probably doing stuff in the background, but I didn't feel like waiting all night for it to give me more feedback, so I abandoned the network installer and installed OpenSUSE using the KDE Live CD.

OpenSUSE showed a lot of promise for the first ten seconds or so, because that's how long I used it before I realized that my wireless card wasn't working. I have a Netgear PCMCIA wireless G card that I've had forever and have been able to get it working on multiple machines using Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and Slackware. It works right out of the box on Ubuntu, and for the other distros I've used ndiswrapper along with wpa_supplicant so that it will connect to my WPA wireless network with no problems. I've built up a decent bag of tricks for getting this card working over the years, so I was pretty confident that this would turn out to be a minor annoyance and I would be able to move on before long.

I installed the card drivers using ndiswrapper and went into knetworkmanager to connect it to the wireless. I could see the wireless network, and when trying to connect to it it looked like the WPA key was accepted but it hung and eventually failed trying to get an IP address. I got the same results using YaST2. I also tried using ifup from the command line but the laptop refused to pick up an IP address. I tried giving it a static IP address and that appeared to work but I couldn't browse the web from Firefox. This was clearly going to take some elbow grease, if I was going to get it working at all.

I pulled out all the stops and tried pretty much every set of instructions I could find, including totally removing knetworkmanager and installing Wicd. I've used Wicd before and it is a fantastic network manager but it couldn't detect the wireless card, which is odd because knetworkmanager detected it just fine under ndiswrapper.

At some point I decided to return to the initial goal of installing OpenSUSE, which was getting Hulu to work. I got the Adobe Flash plugin installed and browsed to Hulu, but it was worse than anything I saw on Ubuntu. My Hulu show looked more like a slideshow than a motion picture. I'm sure there are settings that can be tweeked to speed it up, but I was fed up. Just a few hours short of 2 days after installing OpenSUSE I wiped it and moved on to the next leg of my quest: Crunchbang.

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