Saturday, April 23, 2011 streaming videos and Linux

IMPORTANT: Updated 06/13/13. Just recently, I could no longer watch Prime Instant Videos at Amazon. There was a very unhelpful error message about upgrading my Flash player, but that was not the actual problem. I found a fix that worked like a charm. Note that I'm using Kubuntu, version 12.04, on this particular laptop. The fix is in a YouTube video by Sterling Chase and can be found here. It LITERALLY boils down to typing two commands at a prompt:

$ sudo apt-get install hal

Let it do its thing...when it's done:

$ hald

That's it! It worked perfectly for me; all my browsers can again play Amazon Prime Instant Videos. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

------- Original Post ---------------------------

I'm a PC. A smart PC. I run Linux, Linux merchandise including t-shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs and much moreBecause I order frequently from, I recently decided to go ahead and get an Amazon Prime membership. With it, you get free 2-day shipping on eligible products. It's a pretty good deal, if you're ordering frequently as I do; it's $79 for one year. When I signed up for it I was in the process of checking out an order I was already placing, so other than the free 2-day shipping and the $79 charge, I didn't notice any other info about the membership. It came with a free 30-day trial, and I figured I'd come back later and look at its conditions/benefits and then decide whether to keep it.

Before I had a chance to do that--I procrastinated, and the 30 days came and went!--I received an e-mail from Amazon saying:

"Did you know that your Amazon Prime membership now includes instant streaming of over 5,000 movies and TV shows at no additional cost? Visit the Prime instant videos store to learn more, and start watching today, online or on your TV."

Wow. I had no idea! That's great, I thought to myself...and then a feeling of dread started creeping over me. You see, I've heard/read bad things about Amazon's streaming video service as it relates to Linux--and as a Linux only user, that's not good.

So I followed the link to check it out, and braced myself for the bad news. I got to the first intro screen and there was no mention of system requirements, so I moved on. Next screen said "watch on a Mac or PC"--and keep in mind that PC does not mean "personal computer running windows," it just means "personal computer":

Okay, I'm gearing up for the letdown. They're saying this works on PCs, I use PCs--with Linux as their operating system--so they'd better not mean PCs running windoze! I check out their system requirements (select image for larger version):

Wow, still no mention of windoze. So I proceed to try watching something...and it works! Yay!

For the record, I'm using Kubuntu Linux and my browser is SeaMonkey. Although the system requirements only mention Firefox, it does indeed work perfectly with SeaMonkey, which is the older sibling of Firefox and was formerly known as the Mozilla Suite.

After my initial glee at finding that I now have access to thousands of streaming movies and TV shows, I poked around a little more. The "Unbox Video Player" says:

"Download the same high-quality videos and watch them anytime you're away from an Internet connection. Perfect for plane trips or when you're away from home."

Sounds good, right? Um...yeah, until you read this:

"Note: The Unbox Video Player is not compatible with Mac or Linux computers. Downloaded videos cannot be transferred to iPods."

(Select for larger image.)

So I guess if you're a Mac or Linux user, what?, you don't take plane trips? You don't want to watch movies/TV away from home? I don't get it.

At any rate, at least the millions of us Linux users (keep in mind that the WILDLY popular Android operating system on smart phones, such as mine, is Linux, too) who want to watch streaming video on Amazon can definitely do it. Thank you, Amazon! You're already running your entire business on Linux, so I guess it follows that you're FINALLY starting to support the millions of us intelligent people who've chosen to do the same for our personal computers and smart phones. Now you just need to lose the windoze-only requirement for watching downloaded videos offline and we'll be good.


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