Practical Technology

for practical people.

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.