Microsoft Brings Silverlight 2 to Linux

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 21, 2009

One of the difficulties open source software faces is in implementing support — where it is even possible to do so — for the wide variety of codecs, formats, and other proprietary technologies that users have come to rely on. One such technology is Microsoft's Silverlight framework, which until early this year, was a no-go for Linux users.

That changed in January, when the first version of the Moonlight project — a collaboration between the Novell-sponsored Mono project and Microsoft, begun in 2007 — was released, providing Linux users with Open Source Silverlight support. Also included, provided that Moonlight has been obtained via Novell and meets certain other conditions, is a license to Microsoft's free but closed-source Media Pack, containing codecs needed to decode audio and video streams.

With Silverlight 1.0 support out of the way, Moonlight developers began on Silverlight 2, and late last week, delivered the results of that effort with the release of Moonlight 2. The new release implements — as the version number suggests — support for Silverlight 2, complete with a new patent agreement from Microsoft that clarifies the applicability of the commitment to Moonlight implementations obtained from sources other than Novell. Users are now protected from patent litigation without regard to who supplied a user's version of Moonlight — use of the Microsoft Media Pack, however, continues to be restricted to versions of Moonlight provided by Novell.

In addition to support for Silverlight 2, the release implements a select number of features from Silverlight 3 — complete support is expected in Moonlight 3, a preview of which is to be released in the coming months, and after a brief interim, version 4. New features include: "support for Bitmap APIs, file dialogs, easing functions, pluggable media pipeline and custom Codecs...better streaming of multimedia content based on the quality of the user's connections...[and]...his release embeds Mono runtime functionality, which allows developers to target Linux with rich Internet applications using a wide variety of programming languages, including C#, Ruby, Python and Javascript."

Moonlight — and Mono in general — has not been without its share of controversy, however. The conditions placed by Microsoft on Moonlight use produced considerable confusion regarding its status — prompting the revised commitment included with Moonlight 2 — as did the restrictions regarding eligibility to use the Microsoft Media Pack. As one might expect, those who oppose the use of closed-source software entirely object to the need for proprietary codecs. Some have objected to the patent agreement between Novell and Microsoft on principle, while others believe the project is part of a conspiracy to undermine the Open Source community.

Moonlight 2 — including a license for the Microsoft Multimedia Pack — can be downloaded from Novell's Moonlight site. Additional information about Moonlight and the Mono project is available from the Mono Project website, as is information for those interested in joining in the project's development.

Image courtesy of Bruce Tuten