Video on the Web, Linux lags in some areas (or maybe not)

I use Ubuntu Linux on my primary laptop, and on several other computers. Half our office now uses Ubuntu, the other half uses MaxOSX as the primary operating system. For many things, I think Ubuntu is now as good or better than anything available in Windows or MacOSX. In other areas, Linux is good enough. One area where Linux seemed to lag is for video. Netflix, rapidly becoming a must have service, does not stream to Linux at all. This is a significant issue for Linux users living in the US, where Netflix streaming is available.

When I first tried Hulu, it worked on Linux, but not as well as it does on Windows. But there was a reason, and I could fix it.

My main computer is a Dell m1530. I have an Intel Core2 Duo T8100 processor, and 4 gigs of Ram. The video card is very fast, and the screen has a high resolution. My monitor is a 15 inch monitor with 1920×1200 (16×10) resolution. My video card is the nVidia Corporation GeForce 8600M GT (rev a1) with 256 megs of video memory.

In Windows, I can stream video from Netflix and Hulu in full screen mode, with surprisingly good resolution. In Ubuntu, I can’t use Netfix at all, and Hulu did not stream the video in full screen mode. (This was true even with Moonlight-Mono installed as a plug-in for Firefox).

The problem, it seems, was that Ubuntu did not originally install or use the non-free drivers for my NVIDIA video card. I found this out when I tried to add some screen effects. After telling Ubuntu to install the proprietary NVIDIA drivers, the video improved considerably for the Dell m1530.

Meanwhile, in order to view Netflix, which does not work at all with Linux, yet, I have now installed Windows XP on my Dell m1530, which originally came only with Ubuntu. This turned out to be more of a challenge than one would have thought, as it was hard to find the Windows XP drivers for the Dell m1530. Dell told me my computer was shipped with Vista, which was not true. I could only find the Vista drivers on the Dell web page, and while some worked also on XP, many did not. I was able to solve some problems by taking some notes about my hardware, including by using, from a Linux boot, the Unix command lspci, which lists many of the devices attached to the computer. I used this information to hunt for XP drivers on the Dell web page, or elsewhere. The whole exercise took quite a bit of time, but now I can boot into Windows have use Netflix or Hulu in full screen.

Updates, for my m1530 with 1920×1200 screen.

Using the NVIDIA drivers in Ubuntu: now works fine.
ABC: Some videos work fine. Others don’t seem to work at all.
Comedy Central: Works fine.
Youtube: Works fine.

The change in drivers made a big difference.

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