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How to Install the Hulu Desktop in Linux (And get your Remote Working, too)

written by: Lamar Stonecypher•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 12/10/2009

Want to watch Hulu Desktop, a "Better TV than TV" on your 32 or 64-bit Ubuntu or Fedora system? It's available now and it works with your MCE or eHome remote (with some setup). Interested? Let's try a walk-through of downloading and installing it, and then trying it out.

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    Install 64-bit Flash Player (If Needed)

    In order to run Hulu Desktop for Linux on a 64-bit system, you'll need the prerelease version of Flash Player for Linux 64-bit. Installing it requires the removal of the nsplugin and flashplugin-nonfree plug-ins which you're probably already using with Firefox. This can be done in System → Administration → Synaptic Package Manager in Ubuntu.

    The download provides You should create a new folder in your home folder under .mozilla named "plugins" and place the extracted file there.

    If that was Greek to you, here's what to do. Download the tarball "" from the page above to your desktop. Once it's saved there, right-click the file and select "Extract Here."

    Under "Places" in the Ubuntu main system menu, select "Home Folder." Under "View" in the File Browser, select "Show Hidden Files." Then scroll down and open the folder named .mozilla (note the dot). In this folder, right-click and select "Create Folder." Name the folder "plugins" and then open it.

    Drag the file from your desktop into this folder.

    And that's it. Hulu Desktop will be able to find it there.

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    Download Hulu Desktop for Linux

    Packages are pre-compiled for both 32 and 64-bit versions of Fedora and Ubuntu. I downloaded the 64-bit version for Ubuntu, and it came as a .deb package named "huludesktop_amd64.deb." As shown below, it was about 658.5 KB.

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    .deb files can be opened directly from the Package Installer, so right-click the file-name on your desktop or in File Browser and select "Open with "GDebi Package Manager."

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    GDebi Package Installer 

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    The Package Installer should report that "All dependencies are satisfied" so click "Install Package" when you're ready.

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    This will lead to the EULA- end user license agreement- dialog which you can read - or not - and dismiss by checking "I have read and agree…" and clicking "OK."

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    Hulu EULA 

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    And if there are no problems, the installation will soon complete.

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    Installation Complete 

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    Starting and Using the Hulu Desktop in Linux

    The application is installed under Applications → Sound & Video, but let's get directly to the bad part: the performance of the application, in its present state of development, is poor.

    Look at this CPU usage.

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    CPU Usage 

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    And this is a 2.2 gHz dual-core "2" laptop with 2 GB of RAM. Compare it with the same application running on a 2.6 gHz AMD 64x2 desktop with 3 GB of RAM in Windows Vista shown below.

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    CPU Usage Windows Version 

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    It's averaging 55-65% CPU usage in Ubuntu 9.04 and 18% in Vista. Ah, the joys of alpha and beta software.

    Note that the application runs completely in Flash, so the problems are probably related to the current condition of the Adobe Flash Player in Linux. Adobe has stated that they want performance and feature parity across the major platforms. It's nice that they have included Linux, if only Ubuntu and Fedora so far, in that group.

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    So is this acceptable? That depends.

    It runs watchable well at half-screen and with only a little jerkiness at 1680 x 1050 full screen, but that high CPU utilization is worrying. You would want to make sure that nothing is blocking the outlet vents of your laptop, and this would not be a good app to use when running on battery. On a powerful desktop running Linux (with better temperature management), it might be acceptable, particularly if you can get it working with your remote.

    The remote? That's another story.

    Next: Using a Media Center (Microsoft eHome) Remote with Hulu Desktop

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    If you have a media center remote compatible with Windows Media Center, you can use it to control the Hulu Desktop in Linux. Ubuntu out-of-the-box provides some support for a remote- it identifies the device- but some steps need to be followed and another package downloaded before one can find out what the remote is saying to the PC. In this part, we continue the walk-through by looking at "irw," "lirc" and "hardware.conf" in order to set up the PC to use the eHome Media Center. We found Hulu Desktop to be watchable, although a bit resource intensive.
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    Using a Media Center (Microsoft eHome) Remote with Hulu Desktop

    This worked out-of-the-box with the Hulu Desktop in Windows, but, of course, it was already working with Windows Media Center. "lirc" is the term used for infrared remotes in Linux. The generic Ubuntu kernel setup runs a daemon process just in case you happen to have a remote receiver attached, but does not include the package that allows you to query it.

    The following applies only to a Windows 2005 or later eHome remote and receiver. If your remote or receiver is not compatible with Windows Media Center, please stop here. You'll need to look further for instructions for your particular brand of hardware.

    But for those with known Media Center-compatible hardware, let's find out if the PC is recognizing the receiver. Open a terminal and enter


    on the command line. If you see "Phillips eHome Infrared Receiver," you're off to a good start. (I fully expect that you will, but if you don't, try unplugging it, plugging it back in, and rebooting the machine.)

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    Next, let's find out if Ubuntu can "listen to" the remote. In the terminal, enter


    If the command succeeds, you can point your remote at the receiver and see in the terminal what the remote is sending when you press the different buttons.

    This means that you're further along. Press Ctrl-c to exit the command.

    If, however, it tells you that the "lirc" package is not installed, you can enter the command that it lists there to download and install it.

    sudo apt-get install lirc

    It will have a few options. For the receiver, select "Phillips eHome Infrared Receiver" and for transmitter, select "None." When it completes, you'll be able to see (in the terminal) what the remote is sending.

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    The README file for Hulu Desktop is in


    It advises that it expects an "-r" or "-- release" switch added as an argument to lircd. To edit the file, enter in the terminal

    sudo gedit /etc/lirc/hardware.conf

    Find the line that says REMOTE_LIRCD_ARGS="" and insert -r between the quotation marks. Then click "Save," close the editor, and close the terminal. It's time to reboot Ubuntu.

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    After the reboot, open a terminal and enter


    Point the remote at the receiver and run through all the buttons. The driver correctly identified every button on my Media Center 2005 remote (which I'm still using because the 2007 version left out the all-important "Skip" button).

    When you have verified that the driver is identifying all the buttons, press Ctrl-c to exit the command. Now you're ready to start up Hulu Desktop and see if the remote works.

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    Finishing Up

    If it does not work, don't despair yet! Reboot it one more time, check the remote in "irw" and if it's picking it up, great! At this point, it worked perfectly for me, if a little sluggishly, in Hulu Desktop. Thus our narrative has reached the reasonable conclusion.

    But, what if it's still not working? Run "irw" again and verify that pressing "Up" on the remote generates a string for the press and another string for the button "up." For my system, I get entries like

    00 Up mceusb

    00 Up_UP mceusb

    Then go read the README file in


    and note the section where it talks about placing key mappings in a ~/.huludesktop file.

    If your button up event is generating 00 Up_Foo, change the line that says lirc_release_suffix to _FOO. Then if your remote isn't generating "00 Up" when you press Up, enter whatever its name is (not the number) under

    button_name_up =

    Double-check that the "-r" made it into the hardware.conf file, too, as that was what made the "Up" (or release) events appear in "irw."

    Then restart Hulu Desktop and see if it works for you. At this point, I wish you good luck with this. I also can conclude that Hulu Desktop is a welcome application in the Linux ecosystem, and I await the Flash Player update that will make Hulu Desktop more of a joy, or at least less of a pain, to use.