January 21, 2016
How to Watch Hulu on Ubuntu and Other Linux Distributions
Hulu doesn’t work out-of-the-box on modern Linux distributions. While Netflix “just works” if you’re using Google Chrome, Hulu’s DRM has gotten old and clunky. You can get Hulu to work on Linux, but it’ll take a little tweaking.
It wasn’t always so hard. Back when Netflix was making life hard for Linux users, Hulu even offered a Linux desktop app. But that desktop app is now discontinued. Hulu relies on Adobe Flash, and Adobe Flash’s DRM code is falling apart on Linux.
You’ll Have to Use Firefox
Here’s the problem: Hulu relies on old Adobe Flash DRM code that requires a Linux library known as HAL. However, this old HAL software is fairly outdated and hasn’t been installed by default on modern Linux distributions for years. You’ll need to install compatibility packages that will allow this HAL-based DRM to function.
You’ll also have to use Mozilla Firefox to watch Hulu. The old HAL-based DRM only works in the older version of the Linux Flash plug-in Firefox offers. The newer PPAPI (Pepper API)-based Flash Player included in Google Chrome won’t work with Hulu’s old DRM code.
Yes, this means you’ll have to watch Netflix in Google Chrome and Hulu in Mozilla Firefox. Ain’t life grand?
Step One: Install Flash for Firefox
First, you’ll need to install the Flash Player plug-in for Firefox. If you haven’t installed Flash yet, you’ll see a message saying Hulu needs Flash installed when you try to watch it.
You can generally install Flash from your Linux distribution’s software repositories. For example, on Ubuntu, open the Ubuntu Software Center and search for “flash”. Install the “Adobe Flash plug-in” software.
Be sure you install the Flash plugin designed “for Mozilla,” “for Firefox,” or the “NPAPI” version of the plug-in. The “PPAPI” or “for Chromium” version of Flash will only work with Chrome and Chromium-based browsers.
Step Two: Install the Old HAL Library
Once you have Firefox and the Flash plug-in for Firefox installed, you can head to Hulu’s website and try playing a video. However, you’ll probably see an error message when you do so. The error message says “There was a problem playing this protected content. (Error Code: 2203)”. Hulu will ask you to ensure the HAL package is installed, clear your flash cache, and reset license files.
Hulu links you to an Adobe page that recommends you install the package named “hal”, but this package is no longer even present for installation on modern versions of Ubuntu and other modern Linux distributions.
Rather than have you install a version of the full HAL package — from the “zombie HAL PPA” as its known in Ubuntu circles — we’ll direct you to a more lightweight solution.
Martin Wimpress, project lead for Ubuntu MATE, provides a “hal-flash” PPA that provides everything you need to play back DRM-protected Flash content without installing the entire HAL layer.
To install this software, you’ll need to add this PPA to your Ubuntu system (this should also work on Linux Mint and other Ubuntu-derived distributions). Open a Terminal from the dash and paste or type the following commands in order, pressing Enter after each. The first command adds the PPA, the second downloads information about the packages in it, and the third installs the HAL library.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:flexiondotorg/hal-flash
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install libhal1-flash
If you’re using another Linux distribution — that is, something other than Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or something derived from Ubuntu — you’ll need to hunt down a HAL package for Flash provided for your Linux distribution. It may be part of your Linux distribution’s package repositories, or it might be in a third-party repository like it is for Ubuntu.
If you continue seeing an error message, you may need to close Firefox and restart it. If that doesn’t work, try completely restarting your computer before continuing.
This has been a problem for many years now. The Adobe page says HAL needs to be installed on versions 10.x and up of Ubuntu — that refers to versions of Ubuntu released all the way back in 2010.
Adobe no longer wants to develop Flash on Linux. The real solution here won’t come when Adobe fixes its Flash DRM. Instead, Hulu needs to switch to modern HTML5-based video playback, like Netflix uses in Google Chrome. Until they do so, Linux playback will be a bit of a hassle.