Practical Technology

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Moonshine brings Windows Media to Linux

When I first looked at Moonlight, Novell’s open-source version of Microsoft’s Sliverlight, I liked it, but I didn’t really see much of a point to it. Silverlight, Microsoft’s latest answer to Adobe Flash, isn’t used in many sites. What I liked the most about Silverlight was that it provided a fully legal way to access WMV and WMA (Windows Media Video and Audio) from Linux. Unfortunately, since you could only use it to get to content hidden in Silverlight streams, that didn’t seem to matter much. Now, it does matter.

It matters because Aaron Bockover has created Moonshine, a program that encapsulates any WMV or WMA content into a Silverlight container so you can view or listen to this content from your Firefox browser. Neat!

Moonshine is both a Firefox browser plug-in and a desktop player. The plug-in can be downloaded and installed just like any other Firefox extension. The desktop player, which plays WMV/WMA content on your PC through Firefox, has to be built from source code.

I was able to install first Moonlight, then Moonshine and finally the Microsoft Media Pack in no more than five minutes on my ThinkPad R61 running openSUSE 11.1 in less than five minutes.

By the sixth minute, I was viewing WMV movie trailers and CSPAN. The videos ran exactly as they would have under Microsoft’s own Windows Media Player. While only at a 0.2 release, this is not a half-baked attempt to bring Windows media playback to desktop Linux. This is the real thing.

While I dislike proprietary media, we’re stuck with it for now. Programs like Moonshine that make it possible for me to get at these videos is a big win as far as I’m concerned. Until Microsoft, Apple, the studios, and everyone else, who seem to think that having dozens or proprietary media formats is a good idea, finally open up their standards, programs like Moonshine will always have a welcome place on my Linux PCs.


  1. Heh. So I made sure Firefox was 100% up-to-date, installed the Moonlight plugin, then Firefox crashes any time I go back to the site to install the Moonshine plugin.

    I think I’ll stick with my flaky, buggy, proprietary flash video… as unreliable as it is from a linux box, at least it doesn’t make Firefox insta-crash.

  2. Now that the cat is out of the bag, shouldn’t Microsoft allow the codecs to be freely distributed? Or are they going to stick their corporate heads in the sand again, as the have been doing with the Internet fonts?

  3. Pingback: Boycott Novell » Moonlight Called “Patent Encumbered“, Crashes Firefox

  4. Demosthenes: Please submit a bug report so that we can work out what is causing the crash and fix it.


    Jeffrey Stedfast (Moonlight developer)

  5. I installed the plugin out of curiosity and it does nothing but crash. I honestly don’t see the usefulness of it. Flash is the defacto standard and I see Silverlight going the way of the Dodo.

  6. Well, it’s working fine for me on openSUSE, MEPIS, and Fedora. But, if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for you. I know Bockover is working hard to improve it–too hard if you listen to Miguel! ;-)–so I suspect it will run on most Linux distributions soon.

    As to why. while Flash is #1, this particular program doesn’t just let you play Silverlight, it also lets you play all Windows Media, and there is a lot of that on the Internet.


  7. cj100570: Please, please, please submit bug reports to us. We’ve had a handful of people say they get nothing but crashes but not one of them have reported their problem to us and we are unable to reproduce the problems on any Linux distribution we’ve tried (Ubuntu 8.04 & 8.10, Fedora 9 & 10, SLED10, openSUSE 11.0 & 11.1, gOS 3.1 and a number of others).

    We really want to make the best possible user experience that we can for everyone no matter what distro they use but we need users to tell us when they encounter problems and to give us as much info as they can so that we can fix them.


    Jeffrey Stedfast (Moonlight developer)