How to Install and Run Silverlight in Linux

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.

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:

This will install the Moonlight plugin for Firefox along with the core components.

silverlight-USC

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.

silverlight-plugin

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.

silverlight-bubblemark

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.

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.

10 comments

  1. Why?
    MLB tried it and dropped it in a heartbeat and since then I have never found one site I use that needs this.
    I have no great love for Adobe but Flash is in 99.9% of people’s browsers (of course, in the land of the fruit zombies, they like to pretend like Flash doesnt exist) and Silverlight offers nothing new to windows users.
    As for Linux, Ive listened to Eben Moglen and the SFLC who are THE Linux org that should now and I dont think the Microsoft community promise extends to non-Novell users (as a non-compensated hobbyist, I felt the same way about the Novell deal which protects only one group of Linux users) and see no need to incorporate Mono and Moonlight in the Linux framework.
    I think the recent lawsuits a few months ago and now prove that MS is willing to sue to protect those IP rights they claim Linux has stolen.

    If I punch you repeatedly in the face throughout the years and held my fist cocked up ready to strike every time you looked at me, would you trust me?

    That’s how many developers feel about Windows.

    Im not a purist, I use Skype and Opera on Linux with no problems because I have no problems with proprietary apps in Linux (still wishfully hoping Photoshop gets ported one day instead of running Wine). Its when it comes to the infrastructure, that its a non-starter.

    Its sort of like with STD’s, you might risk it if the girl is really hot even if she’d bedded half the football team because your lower head has take control of your brain but Silverlight isnt worth the risk, its more Rosie Odonell than Angelina Jolie.

    • It so happens that two news sites I follow are using Silverlight, so I would be very happy to be able to watch them with Moonlight. However, I’ve had no luck so far. The demos pointed to from this site and from the Moonlight site are working, so I assume Moonlight is working on my system, only not with the sites I want to watch :(

      Using Mint Linux, they worked out of the box, so I’d really like to know the secret handshake for getting it to work on my Arch Linux system…

  2. The main use case is Netflix Streaming. It requires Silverlight, but it also requires the DRM functionality of Silverlight to work, and Moonlight doesn’t support the DRM piece.

    So you can’t watch Netflix Streaming on Linux.

  3. It so happens that two news sites I follow are using Silverlight, so I would be very happy to be able to watch them with Moonlight. However, I’ve had no luck so far. The demos pointed to from this site and from the Moonlight site are working, so I assume Moonlight is working on my system, only not with the sites I want to watch :(

    Using Mint Linux, they worked out of the box, so I’d really like to know the secret handshake for getting it to work on my Arch Linux system…

  4. I’ve got two computers, both with Ubuntu 10.04.2 LTS, one 32 bit, one 64 bit. Moonlight doesn’t work in any of them. One day lost trying to make it work.
    Botnik

  5. It would be fair if the article warned you that Moonlight is two full versions behind on Silverlight.
    That’s most likely the reason for not being able to use it on the sites of your choice.

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