Amazon Prime Streaming is a service similar to Netflix and HuluPlus. It includes free 2-day shipping from Amazon and free streaming of selected TV and Movies over the internet to select devices. Over the years, Amazon Prime distinguished itself from Netflix by working with stock Linux desktop installs. Sure, from time-to-time, Amazon has broken that capability, but it was usually corrected and Linux users, including XBMC users, were happy again.
Sometime in April or May of 2013, Amazon changed something in their streaming and broke the ability for Linux users to access the content – free or paid. A number of friends have complained to Amazon. One relative requested and received a 100% refund from Amazon on the Game of Thrones streaming that he’d purchased due to this screw-up. That person has purchased an Apple-TV device now.
For a few months, Linux users tried to find a work-around, then streaming started working again for some Linux users, but not all. Here is what I know ….
Streaming to Ubuntu 12.04
The XBMC plugin for Amazon launches each stream, but never completes until it eventually fails.
Asked for Help on the ALE Email List
A few weeks ago, I read where some XBMC users had found a workaround to get Amazon streaming again. It involved using a normal browser, plus an add-on to run it externally. Since my XBMC machine is a low-powered AMD-E350, I doubt it will work without stutters, still, I wanted to know. I tried the pure browser settings on a dual-core Atom netbook and never got it working. that was Ubuntu 12.04. It was fully patched and running the latest Adobe-Flash 11.2.xxx available (2 days old).
On the ALE email list, a few people responded that Amazon streaming was working on their systems perfectly – nothing special needed. Hummmmm. Fedora, OpenSUSE and Mint 13 where the distros used that worked.
Loaded Mint into a VirtualBox VM
Grabbed the latest LTS Mint 13 x64 and loaded it into a VM. Asked for all the illegal codecs, installed my standard Firefox extensions – NoScript and AdBlockPlus. Looked at the list of media plugins – WOW! Mint pre-installed RealPlayer? Seriously? Purged, but I left the other 10 or so plugins enabled.
Visited Amazon with Firefox and asked to stream something – it worked. That was a surprise. This install had the exact same version of Firefox AND the exact same version of Adobe-Flash as the Ubuntu 12.04 install that didn’t work. Hummm.
Installed XBMC and rsync’d all my settings over from the primary XBMC machine. The media is NOT stored on the XBMC box. It is good to have a wired GigE network. In a few minutes, started XBMC and all the media played fine, but XBMC Amazon streaming failed to work on Mint.
Roku 3 Solution
Early in July, I ordered a Roku3 as a way to solve this problem. Everyone raves about the Roku except the slow interface. The R-3 has a 5x faster CPU and all the reviews love it.
Had a few false starts with the Roku online account creation – had to get help from their support team.
- passwords cannot be longer than 12 simple characters, but must be at least 6. There wasn’t any warning during the new-account setup, so 2 credit cards used here were locked out by the banks due to fraud alerts. Seems doing multiple $1 test transactions causes a fraud alert. Roku passwords are a complete FAIL, IMHO. At least I have a Roku account without any credit card connected now.
- Roku was connected to a TV via HDMI – no other choice with the Roku3 – I have no idea how I’ll get 5.1 audio to my non-HDMI stereo equipment. This means Roku3 devices are not suitable for many home theatre setups – I have no idea how to connect a projector and my cheap THX receiver to this device. I have seen the HDCP warning on a TV. If you want HiDef without HDCP, it may be too late. Look for and buy all the old analog devices that you can, but know that the providers will probably prevent the analog output of HiDef video and audio sooner than we would like.
- Used a wired ethernet connection initially, but have since switched to wifi-G. Tested the Roku on a different floor of the house, on the opposite side of the home, from the wifi-router, it worked perfectly. No stuttering at all on 720p content. I was amazed.
- Connected the Roku device with my amazon account – slick and easy method used. Impressive.
Started streaming from Amazon using the Roku. It was responsive, never stuttered, even over wifi-G and the picture was clear.
I’ll keep the Roku, but miss the XBMC interface for streaming. Access to many unusual streaming services through the Roku is impressive. I need to see if those are available through XMBC too. I enjoy foreign films. There are a few Asian anime channels like Asian Crush that have current Asian movies for free. Watched one that claimed to be the Asian Mr. and Mrs. Smith – it was funny, had a different story line, enjoyable time killer.
The Crackle channel plugin for XBMC started working again on Ubuntu 12.04 after all the firefox and Flash and HAL updates. That is good news. About once a month, something new and interesting is available on Crackle.
Soon, I’ll probably load my XBMC machine with Mint 13 in a different partition and see if I can’t get XBMC to stream Amazon Prime video again. I need the 10 foot interface controlled only with a remote control device – no keyboard, no mouse needed.
Watch here for more information.
Please post your solution, if any, to this issue for XBMC.