Using Linux Iplayer in Different DIstributions

Using Linux Iplayer in Different DIstributions
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In this article I am going to go through how to use BBC Iplayer with Linux. BBC Iplayer primarily uses Flash so it works on most systems including Linux and Mac OS. Iplayer is a web-based video site which allows you to watch repeats of BBC programs such as Eastenders and Doctor Who from your computer. It is however restricted to the United Kingdom only.

Many video sites, such as Youtube, use Flash to display their videos so the likelihood is if Iplayer works, others will work as well. Flash is a well known and widely used platform for publishing games, videos and other goodies on the web.


Installing Flash can be a pain, especially if you have a 64-bit operating system. However, we can use workarounds provided by the Linux community to avoid the common problems. If you are using Ubuntu, Flash comes with the restricted extras package which can be installed by typing the following into your terminal:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras

If you do not want to get all of the restricted extras you can instead just download Flash by typing the following:

sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree

You can also go to the main Flash website if for some reason apt is not working, or you are using a Debian system. For other Linux-based operating systems you may need to go to the download site mentioned before, download the .tar.gz and compile it yourself. They do have RPM and YUM images as well if your Linux distribution supports either of these. The website does provide downloads compatible with most major distributions.

If you are unfamiliar with package management systems on Linux a read through of this article will help you understand what they are, and how they work.

There are also many open source versions of Flash player but you get the most quality and ease of use by using Adobe’s own player. Gnash and other open versions generally do not provide the enhanced power we need to watch videos on Iplayer.


Iplayer under Ubuntu

BBC Iplayer should now work on your Linux box if you are in the United Kingdom. (Iplayer is not open to residents outside of the UK at this time.) Other flash sites such as Youtube and ITV Player should also now work as well. If Flash is having issues with pausing and playing the clips you watch it is most likely to do with 64bit Linux.

There is a workaround for this which involves opening up this file: /usr/lib/nspluginwrapper/i386/linux/npviewer in your favourite text editor and putting at the very bottom: export GDK_NATIVE_WINDOWS=1 and then saving.

You should now restart any browsers which you have open and try to watch a video site again; it should now allow you to click on the Flash media.


This concludes my simple article on watching Iplayer under Linux. Because it is Flash based it can be watched under almost any environment including mobile phones and tablets, so there is no reason why you should miss your favorite shows because you have made the switch to Linux.

If you have any issues with the above please write a comment below describing the issue, and I will get back to you with a solution.