What is Ubuntu and why would I want to use it?

Ubuntu is an operating system that anyone can download and use on their personal computer, free of charge. If you’re not very tech-savvy, you can think of it as a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Windows that comes with all the necessary software including a word processor, spreadsheet program, music / video players, email and web browser.

Ubuntu is based on a fork of Debian Linux. While there are hundreds of Linux-based operating systems available to download and distribute freely, Ubuntu is known for being among the more well-established and easiest to use.

While Ubuntu software is considered to be open-source, the software is actually maintained and distributed by a for-profit company called Canonical Inc. This makes Ubuntu one of the more mature Linux-based platforms which means it tends to be fairly stable with nice modern software and frequent security updates.

Using Linux used to be a daunting task, but now with more user-friendly options like Ubuntu available, anyone can download, install and begin using the software with minimal knowledge of computers. You can even install the software alongside your existing Windows instance, or try the software live from a USB stick or CD/DVD without installing!

A screenshot of the Ubuntu Desktop operating system

Why don’t some streaming services work out of the box?

While Ubuntu comes with almost everything you need to have a functional computer and pleasant experience for day-to-day use out-of-the-box, one of the philosophies behind FOSS (free open-source software) is to avoid using proprietary closed-source solutions whenever possible. This means that Ubuntu does not enable any software by default for which the code is not freely available for anyone to look at and modify / distribute.

With that said, the open-source community has made it possible to utilize closed-source software on their operating systems – you just have to enable it first.

Some software companies don’t allow anyone else to view their source code

But that’s enough about open-source software for now – you can always learn more on Wikipedia or the Ubuntu website! Without further ado, let’s move on to how you can get streaming services working on your Ubuntu operating system.

Instructions

Ubuntu comes with Mozilla Firefox installed by default. If you’re on the latest version of Ubuntu (17.10 at the time of this writing), you should also have the latest version of Mozilla Firefox, also dubbed Firefox Quantum.

The new version of Mozilla’s latest web browser is incredibly fast – and as with other open-source software, it’s 100% free to download, modify and use. I have actually started using Firefox again in favor of Google Chrome, because the new browser works extremely well. But, as it turns out, Firefox doesn’t work well out of the box with DRM-protected video content – including Twitter Video, CBC News and of course Netflix + CraveTV.

While I was able to get CraveTV working in the Windows version of Firefox running under WINE, it wasn’t ideal and suffered from slight loss in quality. So I continued searching for a native Linux solution!

  1. Install ffmpeg (make sure Firefox isn’t running in the background)
    sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install -y ffmpeg
  2. Enable DRM: **Preferences -> search for DRM
     

**
3. Ensure the following are enabled under Add-ons -> Plugins:
-Open H264 Video Codec by Cisco Systems
-Shockwave Flash
-Widevine Content Decryption module by Google


4. Restart Firefox

Bonus: enable streaming on Fedora Linux

Fedora is a little less friendly than Ubuntu when it comes to enabling 3rd-party software. In order to get the ffmpeg codec installed on Fedora, you need to first enable the RPMFusion repo for your version of Fedora.

Enabling the repo is super-easy – you don’t even have to use bash commands. Instead, just go to https://rpmfusion.org/Configuration/ and click the version of Fedora that matches your install.

If you aren’t sure which version of Fedora you’re running, just search for “About” in the Gnome menu:

Next, install ffmpeg:

sudo dnf install ffmpeg

Alternatively, if you prefer to add the repo through command-line, you can use the following:

sudo dnf install https://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm https://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm

That’s it! You should now have the most common video formats working under Linux. Happy streaming!