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Making Hulu videos play in Ubuntu

August 23, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, Hulu made some changes to their video playback system to incorporate Adobe Flash DRM technology. Unfortunately, this meant that Hulu no longer functioned on Ubuntu because Adobe stopped supporting Flash on Linux several year ago, and therefore Adobe’s DRM requires HAL which was likewise obsoleted about 4 years ago and was dropped from Ubuntu in 13.10. The net result is that Hulu no longer functions on Ubuntu.

While Hulu began detecting Linux systems and displaying a link to Adobe’s support page when playback failed, and the Adobe site correctly identifies the lack of HAL support as the problem, the instructions given no longer function because HAL is no longer provided by Ubuntu.

Fortunately, Michael Blennerhassett has maintained a Personal Package Archive which rebuilds HAL so that it can be installed on Ubuntu. Adding this PPA and then installing the “hal” package will allow you to play Hulu content once again. To do this, first open a Terminal window by searching for it in the Dash or by pressing Ctrl+Alt+T.

Next, type the following command at the command line and press Enter:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mjblenner/ppa-hal

You will be prompted for your password and then you will see a message from the PPA maintainer. Press Enter, and the PPA will be added to Ubuntu’s list of software sources. Next, have Ubuntu refresh its list of available software, which will now include this PPA, by typing the following and pressing Enter:

sudo apt update

Once this update finishes, you can then install HAL support on your computer by searching for “hal” in the Ubuntu Software Center and installing the “Hardware Abstraction Layer” software, or by typing the following command and pressing Enter:

sudo apt install hal

and confirming the installation when prompted by pressing Enter.

I explain how to install software on the command line in Chapter 5 and how to use PPAs in Chapter 6 of my upcoming book, Beginning Ubuntu for Windows and Mac Users, coming this October from Apress. This book was designed to help Windows and Mac users quickly and easily become productive on Ubuntu so they can get work done immediately, while providing a foundation for further learning and exploring once they are comfortable.