How To Easily Enable Silverlight, And Watch Netflix, on Linux

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Netflix depends on Silverlight; Silverlight doesn’t play well with Linux. But Linux users have an easy-to-use workaround.

Lots of progress has been made when it comes to watching Netflix on Linux, but now it’s even easier than ever thanks to something called Pipelight. Here’s what you need to do to get Pipelight working on your Linux machine.

About Pipelight

pipelight_silverlight_test
Pipelight is a project that aims to get Netflix (and other Silverlight applications) to work on your Linux machine, inside your favorite browser. It’s a lot easier to use than Netflix Desktop, a previous tool for the job that required you run a complete Firefox browser in Wine.

Pipelight allows you to use your favorite Linux browser and you can use it for more than just Netflix. Read more about why Netflix normally doesn’t run on Linux, if you’re curious.

Installation

Getting Pipelight is pretty straightforward. Except for the very end, all you need to do is copy and paste some commands.

Ubuntu

The first thing you’ll need to do is add the necessary repository. In Ubuntu, you can add it with this command:

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sudo add-apt-repository ppa:pipelight/stable

Then, install Pipelight using the command:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install pipelight-multi

Fedora

In Fedora, you’ll first need to install the Microsoft Core Fonts (fonts like Arial and Times New Roman) manually:

sudo yum install cabextract && sudo rpm -i http://sourceforge.net/projects/mscorefonts2/files/rpms/msttcore-fonts-installer-2.6-1.noarch.rpm

Once this has completed, you can add the Pipelight repository and install the package:

sudo wget http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/home:/DarkPlayer:/Pipelight/Fedora_19/home:DarkPlayer:Pipelight.repo -O /etc/yum.repos.d/pipelight.repo && sudo yum install pipelight
pipelight_fedora_install

Other Distributions

If you’re a user of a different distribution than the two mentioned above (or their derivatives), then just go to this page, where you can find the instructions for your distribution. The general flow of commands will remain the same – it’s just different links and syntax.

Finishing It Off

Once Pipelight has been installed, you need to configure it and enable Silverlight using the command:

sudo pipelight-plugin --enable silverlight

Congratulations! Once you launch your browser, Silverlight should now be functional on your computer! This includes all Silverlight applications that you come across, and not just Netflix.

If you happen to come across any SELinux issues (and Fedora users might) while using Pipelight, you can make SELinux play nice with this command:

sudo setsebool -P unconfined_mozilla_plugin_transition 0

Getting Netflix to Work

If you stopped here to go try out Netflix, you may have noticed that Netflix still doesn’t allow you to watch any of their content, even though you have Silverlight ready to go. Netflix still checks your user agent and recognizes that you’re using a Linux machine, and therefore continues to block you.
pipelight_netflix_error
This can be easily circumvented, however, by installing an extension to your browser that can alter your user agent. I’d recommend User Agent Switcher for Firefox (which we reviewed here) and User-Agent Switcher for Chrome. The ideal setting seems to be “Firefox 15 Windows” for Netflix to allow you to continue, but any setting that switches your user agent to Windows should work. The extensions apply the changes to all tabs – not just individual tabs – which is something to take note of. Thankfully, this trick is only needed while you use Netflix – it’s not needed by any other major Silverlight applications.

Conclusion

pipelight_netflix_running
I’m really glad that Pipelight came out and is working well — although Netflix Desktop was a good temporary solution, I much rather prefer Pipelight’s implementation. Hopefully Netflix is still planning on making an HTML5 player that doesn’t block Linux in the same way they currently do for their Silverlight player.

How have you been accessing Netflix from Linux so far? Are there any other Silverlight applications you like that this would enable? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Penguins in Antarctica Via Shutterstock

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