Love it or hate it, we all know Flash, but Microsoft’s equivalent, Silverlight, is a bit less well known. With Silverlight you can stream video and create animations, in fact you can even use it to create Windows sidebar widgets. However, in what may come as a bit of a shock, Microsoft Silverlight doesn’t play nice with Linux. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, but true. To remedy this, the folks at the Mono project have created Moonlight – an open source implementation of Silverlight. If you find yourself wanting to access a Silverlight-only broadcast or game, but not wanting to install a second operating system for the privilege, we’ve got you covered.
As a Package
If you”re running a distribution that’s already got a Moonlight package, you’re in luck. Ubuntu Lucid Lynx has the package, and it can be installed through the Ubuntu Software Center or with the command line:
sudo apt-get install moonlight-plugin-core moonlight-plugin-mozilla
This will install the Moonlight plugin for Firefox along with the core components.
As a Plugin
If your distribution doesn’t have a Moonlight package, you can manually install it as a browser plugin. The Moonlight Download Page provides a link for the Linux plugin install. For best performance, make sure you select the proper CPU type.
Testing Your Installation
Once installed through either method, you will of course want to test your installation to verify that Moonlight is working. For that I recommend a simple website called BubbleMark. It’s a test animation designed to draw bubbles using various web technologies like Flash and Silverlight. You can select which software platform and its version, and BubbleMark will attempt to draw a series of moving, colliding bubbles on the screen. You can run the same animation in several formats to determine what gives you the best performance.
Fun with Silverlight
Now that everything’s up and running, it’s time to have some fun with our new plugin. The following are a few locations where you can find some great Silverlight/Moonlight software and games.
- Silverlight.net – the official page. Contains demos, games, tutorials, the works
- SilverlightGames.org – A great place to find loads of Silverlight games
- SilverlightClub.com – Mostly games, including a pretty good tower defense
While Silverlight itself is tied to Microsoft, Moonlight provides a way to access this functionality with open source software. Currently the platform is not hugely popular, and it’s possible it may be phased out altogether as HTML5 becomes more common, but for now Moonlight is our best bet to get this functionality on Linux.