My Steam Box – Amazon Instant Video on Ubuntu

While my Steam Box is running XBMC for media playback, there’s one service I use which XBMC can’t provide: Amazon Instant Video (formerly Lovefilm Instant).

AIV can be streamed through various apps or through Silverlight in a web browser. However, none of these options are supported on desktop Linux.  Of course, with the Ubuntu ecosystem being what it is, “not supported” is far from “impossible”.

The solution to the problem comes in the form of Pipelight – a browser plugin for Firefox which runs Silverlight and other Windows-only browser plugins in a special version of Wine.  This clever little hack (installed from a PPA through apt-get) allows you to watch Silverlight content within Firefox for Linux! It’s worth noting that I use the pipelight-multi package which allows you to set up Pipelight and Pipelight’s WINE installation for specific users, rather than for every user on the system.

With this problem solved, I wanted to make the user experience of accessing AIV a bit smoother.  To acheive this, I created a small autorun script which runs when the lovefilm user logs in to openbox.  The script contains the following commands:

firefox
switch-to-xbmc &
pkill -u lovefilm

This means that firefox launches on login. Firefox is configured to open AIV when it starts, and to run in fullscreen mode, has all but a few toolbar buttons removed and consolidated into a single toolbar. When we’re done watching, we close firefox, which lets switch-to-xbmc execute to return us to the XBMC menu, then pkill kills any other processes belonging to the lovefilm user, logging it out.

The final issue with using AIV on a TV is that the web page is noisy and not designed to be used on a big screen on the other side of the room. To fix this I’ve written a GreaseMonkey userscript (very much a work-in-progress) to remove a lot of the Amazon bumf and reformat the page to make it work better on a large screen.

My next and final post in this series will look at how I’ve got Steam and some associated utilities set up.

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