Hulu Desktop for Linux

When I first started Desktop Linux Reviews, I wanted to include some Linux applications along with the distribution reviews. I’ve finally gotten around to that now and the first application review is Hulu Desktop for Linux.

Hulu is one of the most popular video sites on the web. You can watch all kinds of different television shows and movies right in your browser. But there’s also another way to watch Hulu and that’s to download the Hulu Desktop application for Linux.

Please note that Hulu Desktop for Linux is currently labeled “beta” so don’t be surprised if you find some burps here or there if you try to use it. Also, I did not test this with a remote control as I ran the application in Linux Mint 8 in VMWare and the Apple remote I had didn’t work. So I used my trackball to navigate the application.

The package download for Hulu Desktop for Linux weighed in at a very petite 598KB.

Here are the system requirements from the Hulu site:

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz
At least 2.0 GB RAM
Fedora 9, Ubuntu 8.04 or later
2 Mbps Internet connection
Flash 10.0.22

And here are the software requirements:

GTK+ 2.12 or higher
GLib 2.16 or higher
LIRC 0.8.2 or higher (required for remote control functionality)

When you first start Hulu, a default video will being playing in the Hulu interface.
When you first start Hulu, a default video will being playing in the Hulu interface.

I installed Hulu Desktop for Linux on my Linux Mint 8 virtual machine. On the Hulu site there are two download options:

1. Fedora
2. Ubuntu

Since Linux Mint 8 is an Ubuntu remaster, I downloaded the Ubuntu package.

Installation Steps:

1. Download the Hulu Desktop for Linux package.
2. Click the package to open the package installer.
3. Run the installer.
4. Agree to the end user license agreement.

That was it for the install. It was very easy and very fast.

After it concluded, the Hulu desktop application opened and a very cool video of some fighter jets called “Speed and Angels” began playing. The sound and video looked great in Linux Mint 8. I didn’t need to do anything to get the video to play or the sound to work.

The Hulu install was quick and painless in Linux Mint 8.
The Hulu install was quick and painless in Linux Mint 8.
After the install finished, the Hulu application appeared in the Sound & Video application menu.
After the install finished, the Hulu application appeared in the Sound & Video application menu.

Content: Movies and TV Shows
Before I go any further into this review, let’s take a look at what Hulu Desktop for Linux has to offer in terms of content. Here’s just a very tiny bit of the content you’ll find on Hulu Desktop for Linux:

TV Shows
Family Guy
The Daily Show
Saturday Night Live
The Office

Captain America
Beverly Hills Cop 3
Naked Gun 2.5
Supersize Me
Inside Special Forces
Dawn of the Dead
Da Vinci Code
Speed Racer

There really is an enormous amount of content available via Hulu. It’s nice to have at your fingertips and chances are that, no matter how picky you are, you’ll probably be able to find something that interests you.

I have to admit that I was tickled to find “Tentacles” available on Hulu as I remember seeing it when I was a kid back in the 70s. You haven’t lived until you’ve watched a giant octopus wreak havoc among residents at an ocean town.

If there’s a slight weakness in the content available on Hulu, it’s probably the movie selection. I think it could be better and broader. However, given that Hulu is a free service, it’s hard to complain. While you may not find all of today’s top box office hits on Hulu, there’s still a very good selection of movie entertainment available that spans many years.

Popular shows like Family Guy are available on the Hulu service.
Popular shows like Family Guy are available on the Hulu service.

Interface and Problems
Menu Interface
When you first launch Hulu Desktop, you’ll see a video window with three buttons below it:

Start Watching

Clicking on the Start Watching button maximizes the default video; clicking on Menu will take you to the menu interface and choosing Login lets you login with your Hulu account.

The Menu interface is broken down into the following categories and subcategories:

Now Playing
Popular (Featured Videos, Shows, Episodes, Feature Films, Clips, Trailers)
Recently Added (Shows, Episodes, Feature Films, Clips, Trailers)
TV (Popular, Recently Added, Alphabetical, Channels, Networks, Full Episodes,
Movies (Popular, Recently Added, Feature Films, Trailers, Alphabetical, Channels, Studios,
Profiles (Add Profile, Sign Up, Preferences)
Help (Videos, Remote, Keyboard, About, Submit Feedback)

Video Controls
When you watch a video, the interface will fade away. If you move your cursor or use your remote, you’ll see the on-screen controls come back. This is very reminiscent of how things work when watching videos in iTunes or QuickTime on Mac OS X.

When the controls appear on the screen you’ll see the title of the video at the top, along with information about the season and episode and the running time of the show (assuming it’s a TV show you’re watching). You’ll also see another menu with the following categories:

Resume Play
Video Description
Video Navigation
Add to Queue
Closed Captioning
Help Exit

The controls at the bottom allow you to adjust the video quality, volume and let you use a slider to move back and forth through the video to the part you want to see. It’s pretty easy to skip around and savor the best moments of a film or TV show.

When you move your cursor or use your remote control, the Hulu video controls appear.
When you move your cursor or use your remote control, the Hulu video controls appear.

The Hulu Desktop for Linux interface is really geared toward using a remote control for navigation (obviously that’s the main reason they created this application in the first place). If you’ve ever used Apple TV or Boxee, you’ll know what I mean. You can certainly use a mouse or a trackball but it feels weird as you have to move up or down through the interface to choose a category, subcategory and then the program or movie you want to watch.

I’d like to see two interface options offered in the desktop version. One for remote controls and another more geared toward mice and trackballs. This would make it easier for those who prefer the desktop version of Hulu to the web version but who still would like to use a mouse or trackball to navigate.

Beyond that, I didn’t encounter much in the way of problems with Hulu Desktop for Linux. Despite the beta label, it performed very well. I didn’t see video stuttering, loading problems or any of the stuff you might expect to see in a beta desktop video application.

Where To Get Help and Final Thoughts
Getting Help
If you run into problems installing or using Hulu Desktop, there are a number of places you can get some potentially helpful information. The first place to start is the Hulu Desktop page, which offers background information, an FAQ, and also some tips on how to use Hulu Desktop. You should also check out the Hulu Discussion forum to see what other Hulu Desktop users are saying and to post your own questions.

Final Thoughts
I found myself really enjoying Hulu Desktop. Given that it’s a free application and that it’s easy to install on an Ubuntu system, it’s well worth a download. There’s an excellent selection of content available that should entertain almost anybody.

I’m also very happy that the Hulu developers decided to support Linux as a platform. That’s far more than Apple has done with its iTunes store and it gives me hope that more content purveyors will keep Linux in mind when releasing services like Hulu. If you have a moment, please drop by the Hulu forum and thank the developers for releasing a version of Hulu Desktop for Linux.

Is Hulu Desktop better than watching it in your browser? The answer to that question, for me, is no. It’s not better or worse, it’s just a different way of more or less getting the same content. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to deal with a web browser, especially if you are trying to relax and watch a movie or TV show.

What’s your take on Hulu Desktop for Linux? Tell me in the comments.

Visit the Hulu site for discussions and other helpful information.
Visit the Hulu site for discussions and other helpful information.

Summary Table:

Product: Hulu Desktop for Linux
Web Site:
Price: Free
Pros: Good selection of content, easy install.
Cons: Interface is geared for use with remote controls; it’s less intuitive with a mouse or trackball.
Suitable For: Linux users currently using Fedora or Ubuntu who prefer to use a remote control to control Hulu. Others may try to install the application but the only two distributions currently supported are Ubuntu and Fedora.
Summary: Hulu Desktop for Linux is a great option for Linux users who don’t want to use the web version and who want to sit back, away from their computer and use a remote control to watch Hulu content.
Rating: 3.5/5


4 thoughts on “Hulu Desktop for Linux

  1. Well my take on it is that it is a waste of an IP address:

    "Sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed from within the United States"

  2. I think the UI for hulu desktop is absolutely horrible. :sick: It takes forever to get to the content. I have tried to make myself use it several times and I keep going back to viewing the content through the browser.

    Kudos to hulu for releasing a Linux version, but shame on them for releasing a UI nightmare!

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