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Open source media framework rev’d

Aug 21, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

The Novell-backed Moonlight project announced a beta version of Moonlight 2.0, an open source Linux/Unix clone of Microsoft's Silverlight multimedia framework. Moonlight 2.0 offers improved media streaming enabling media codecs like Ogg Vorbis, Ogg Theora, and BBC Dirac, via a runtime for its sister project, .NET clone Mono.

An offshoot of the Novell-sponsored Mono project, which created the Microsoft .NET clone, Mono, the Moonlight project introduced the first version of its Silverlight clone in beta last fall, following up with a final release in February. In May, the project unveiled a preview version of the open source browser plug-in.

Moonlight 2.0 video playback

(Click to enlarge)

Moonlight 2.0 supports Silverlight 2.0 features that enable users to provide their own code to fetch media from a server and provide their own stream de-multiplexors, says the Moonlight project. This is said to enable developers to take advantage of content distribution networks, multiple-quality video and audio streams, and BitTorrent on demand. The player is said to add a Mono runtime, enabling programming in C#, Java, Python, IronPython. Ruby, and IronRuby.

Open source veteran and Mono project chief Miguel de Icaza (pictured) acknowledges that Microsoft has already moved on to releasing Silverlight 3.0, but claims that while the Moonlight project is working to catch up in a future release, the current version "will allow users to access most Silverlight content out there today."

Moonlight 2.0's API is a slight superset of Microsoft Silverlight 2.0, writes de Icaza, and already contains some Silverlight 3.0 features. For example, the software supports Silverlight's 3.0 media pipeline, which is said to allow developers to plug C# code at various points in the media playback process. As a result, Moonlight can be used with the Mono project's OGG, Vorbis, and Dirac codecs to play media files, and users can plug in their own media codecs, writes de Icaza.

Silverlight 3.0 APIs said to be supported in Moonlight 2.0 include:

  • Easing functions
  • SaveFileDialog
  • MultiScaleImage 3.0 API enhancements
  • Enhanced MediaStreamSource, now with support for PCM audio data, RGBA, and YV12 video data for pluggable media codecs
  • WriteableBitmap (said to be "for your Quaking needs")

Moonlight 2.0 installation

(Click to enlarge)

So far, Silverlight has received relatively little support, but if it does, with Novell's backing Moonlight could establish itself as a major presence. Other open source multimedia technologies include MPlayer and Gnash, which seek to duplicate RealPlayer and Adobe Flash technology, plus Moonshine, which depends on Moonlight to help play embedded Windows Media content within Firefox.

Meanwhile Adobe and RealNetworks continue to reach out to the open source and Linux communities, especially on mobile platforms, without actually making their products fully open source. Adobe has open sourced portions of Flash, and with its Open Screen Project, has published APIs, and removed licensing fees and restrictions for embedded versions of Flash.

RealNetworks, meanwhile, has expanded its Linux-compatible offerings by introducing small-footprint RealPlayer versions for Moblin, Ubuntu, and Xandros, as well as for fast-boot Linux distributions from Xandros, Phoenix Technologies, and DeviceVM. Despite RealNetworks' sponsorship of the Helix open source project, however, RealPlayer remains a proprietary technology.

Ultimately, all these media playback technologies may be made somewhat irrelevant when the media-savvy HTML 5 is approved and accepted.

A cooperative clone

Led by Chris Toshok, the Moonlight team has worked directly with Microsoft's Silverlight team, following the somewhat controversial "coopetition" practice of Novell and its Mono .NET clone project that spawned Moonlight. Such collaboration is necessary to deliver a highly compatible, feature-complete clone of Silverlight, argues the Moonlight project.

In his blog, de Icaza writes, "We consider [Moonlight 2.0 beta] ready to test against Silverlight 2.0 sites." In the release notes, however, the Moonlight project cautions that its beta has "various known bugs," and two early-look reviews from BetaNews and ComputerWorld found the bugs to be substantial (see below for links). In many cases, Silverlight content simply would not play, say the reviews. A final version is due by the end of the year.


The blog announcement of Moonlight 2.0 beta is available here, and beta release notes may be found here. New users can download the free Moonlight 2.0 release here. Previous users of Moonlight 2.0 will be offered a chance to upgrade next time they start Firefox, says the project.

The BetaNews first-look review of Moonlight 2.0 beta may be found here, and the ComputerWorld version should be here.

This article was originally published on and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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