Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hulu quest, Part 3: Crunchbang

In my quest for Flash that could handle Hulu videos, I started distro hopping and settled on Crunchbang 9.04. I've used Crunchbang before; it is basically a slimmed-down customization of Ubuntu, with all the bloat removed. Gnome and all of its various supporting applications such as Nautilus and Evolution have been stripped out and replaced with Openbox, a lightweight window manager and such applications as PCManFM, the lightening-fast file manager, Claws mail, Terminator, the terminal emulator, and a lot of the usual suspects like Firefox, Rhythmbox, VLC, AbiWord and Gnumeric, and Pidgin. It even comes with a few things that Ubuntu doesn't come with by default, such as Skype, MP3 and DVD playback capabilities, and our friend, the Adobe Flash plugin.

Crunchbang, like Ubuntu, automatically installed the drivers for my wireless card and I was back on the internet within minutes of completing the installation. I can't tell you what a relief it was to have wireless back after a few days of sitting in the corner of Mrs. Jizldrangs' office, tethered to the router with a LAN cable!

To make a long story short, I never did get Flash to where I could use Hulu. I tried a bunch of stuff after getting Crunchbang set up, such as installing libgl-mesa-dev, and after that didn't work I installed Hulu Desktop and that was pretty terrible.

The closest thing I had to success was when I went directly to Adobe's website and downloaded their Flash plugin for Linux. The version up there at the time of this posting is, and it didn't exactly give me smooth Hulu shows but the shows were the smoothest yet. You can get it by going to the Adobe's Flash Player Download Center, dropping down the menu at the bottom and selecting ".deb for Ubuntu 8.04+", then hitting "Agree and Install Now". That will download the package to your desktop. When it is finished you will have to install it using:

$ sudo dpkg -i /path-to-deb-package/install_flash_player_10_linux.deb

When I did that I received an error that there were 2 dependencies, libnspr4-dev and libnss3-dev that were not installed, so I did:

$ sudo apt-get install libnspr4-dev libnss3-dev

It took about 15 seconds to install those libraries, after which I reran the dpkg command above and I was in business (or, at least, as "in business" as I was going to get, considering that Hulu still wasn't watchable). If you do this, watch out for the update manager as it will try to "update" your flash player to the worse one in the repos.

So I spent several days distro hopping to get this working and came up empty-handed. I really don't understand why this is so difficult; I realize that this is an older laptop but it has been playing full-screen DVDs since Mrs. Jizldrangs bought it for grad school way back in 2003. It has a lot more memory now than it did back then, so it seems like it should definitely be able to handle these lower-quality videos on the web. On the other hand, my desktop, which is a quad-core machine with more RAM and a much newer graphics card, handles Flash just fine, so I guess that either my laptop doesn't have the resources or the hardware is not adequately supported under Linux (it has an ATI Radeon Mobility 7500, and I've seen several forum posts saying that ATI, now AMD, is dropping support for it after a certain version of Xorg; that angle may be worth chasing down).

Hopefully some of my future posts will be about how I was actually sucessfull in getting stuff to work...

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