Last week the Chrome (and Chromium) update to release 69 was in the news. The UI changed significantly, sporting more of Google’s material design elements. Also the password manager has been improved: it will suggest random passwords in cases where you have to create a Web account and will offer to remember the random password in its vault so you don’t have to write it down or remember it (you’ll have to be signed into your Google account to be able to use this feature though).
The ‘omnibox‘ (the area where you type your URLS and search queries) is more powerful now, showing many more related results while you are typing.
My package for Chromium supports direct playback of H.265/HEVC video by the way, and has done so for the past releases. Check it out for instance on https://www.h265files.com/embed-h265-video.php . Not many other browsers (even other distros’ Chromium browsers) will do that.
Not just UI changes/improvements in version 69.0.3497.81 but also many (some severe) bugs were addressed in this release. Read all about that in the Google blog post.
A package for Slackware 14.2 (32bit) took a bit of time because I kept having segafaults in clang++ but an update to the latest patches for Slackware 14.2 put an end to these segfaults. Packages for Slackware 14.2 and -current are awaiting your download.
FYI: Just today an update was posted and a new version 69.0.3497.92 of the Chromium source code was released. I will see when I can compile packages for that, but it will probably not be this week.
And then there was a new release of the VideoLAN media player, VLC, last month. I took a while to reserve some time on the build box to create packages for Slackware 14.2 and -current, but they are done now. The release 3.0.4 did not get any attention on the VideoLAN news page (yet?), but there are plenty of fixes that are relevant for Linux users.
Remember that this VLC depends on Qt5 – you’ll need libxkbcommon, qt5 and qt5-webkit packages, and on Slackware 14.2 additionally libinput and libwacom (those two are already part of -current).
You know where to download the packages, don’t you? The new versions of Chromium and VLC are also present on the latest Plasma5 Live ISO image for Slackware.
Today, a post about Digital Rights Management. I am not going to bore you with the pros and cons of restricting your freedom, but I do want to point to a meaningful event which happened this week.
Before I continue, I want you to fully realize that with Slackware Linux, your rights are not taken away. You are free to use – or not use – technologies that allow you to watch “protected” content like Netflix videos. Our browsers will work just as well if you choose not to use DRM technologies. The libraries which implement the DRM layer are separate from the Slackware packages containing the browsers (Firefox, Chromium) and are not distributed with the OS. It is up to you to add DRM extensions if you need them. You are and remain in control of your OS.
With that out of the way, what happened?
This week, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has finally approved the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) as part of the HTML5 standard. Objections from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Software Foundation and other digital freedom advocates have not been honored. But that does not necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. EME is a standard to implement DRM, but it is not a DRM solution itself. EME allows companies that built their business model around the commercial distribution of protected media content to create rich applications that run in your browser, based on international standards.
Digital Rights Management is not new and it is not going away either. However: it is in need of standardizing to improve the current status-quo. Because there are already several de-facto standards to stream protected content to your browser: Flash, Silverlight, to name the two that have been most widely used in the past years. Both these technologies are dying or dead already. New technologies that build on HTML5 are already becoming unofficial standards; think of Widevine, which is a DRM solution from Google. Not just browser plugins like the ones I mentioned, but also applications can implement DRM when they allow you to watch or listen to multimedia without the option to make unrestricted local copies. Locally stored content will be encrypted and can only be played back using the original app. Lots of those on Android for instance.
DRM solutions are proprietary. Their code is not free and the libraries are distributed as binary-only. There’s a logic to that of course. Think what you will, but there are both providers and consumers that embrace them. What is more important, is that there is wisdom in embedding these technologies in Web standards. We should not encourage companies to pollute our computers with incompatible and non-interoperable solutions. So yes, I am glad that EME is a W3C standard finally. Let the Web remain viable, allowing maximum flexibility and compatibility.
I mentioned Widevine in the text, and I have something new to tell about that too.
My package repository contains the chromium-widevine-plugin. It is a add-on package to my chromium browser package that allows you (among others) to watch Netflix video content in your Chromium browser. In the past I have always used the Google Chrome RPM’s to extract the ‘libwidevinecdm.so‘ library and make a Slackware package out of it. Google stopped distributing 32bit versions of the Chrome browser after version 48 so those of you on 32bit Slackware and using my Chromium package, were stuck with an old version of the Widevine CDM library and no way of knowing how long this library would remain compatible with newer Chromium sources.
But Mozilla have since then extended Firefox’ capabilities, so that it too is now able to use Widevine’s Content Decryption Module. In Firefox, this DRM capability was implemented in such a way that by default, the browser is completely DRM-free. You (the enduser) first have to explicitly enable DRM in the browser’s settings after which Firefox will download the Widevine CDM from an Internet URL. And since Firefox comes in 32bit as well as 64bit variants, I was thinking “where do they download these Widevine libraries and are they useable in Chromium as well?”
So I set out to find the Firefox download location for Widevine CDM libraries, found them, retrieved them and tested the libraries in 32bit and 64bit Chromium. Lo and behold…. this worked!
I have now rewritten my SlackBuild script for the chromium-widevine-plugin package to use this alternate download location. And since I no longer have to extract the library from a Chrome RPM, I have also changed the package version numbering. The package version no longer reflects the Chrome release, but now it is actually reflecting the internal version of the Widevine CDM library.
Have fun watching Netflix! While I am at it, I recommend The Expanse, or perhaps Helix. If you’re not so much into Sci-Fi (or have already seen those series) and want to know more about our basic foods, check out Cooked.
I have made change to my Chromium package which some of you will find interesting. As you might know (I wrote about it in an earlier article here on Alien Pastures) Google and Netflix combined their efforts and that resulted in native support in Chrome for the playback of Netflix videos, using the Widevine Content Decryption Module (CDM) which is incidentally also owned by Google. This was all made possible using the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) in a HTML5 player. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a way to add this Widevine CDM support to my Chromium package – using a similar approach to the way I add support for Flash using the binary libraries taken from the official Chrome RPM.
Then my Slackware buddy ppr:kut pointed me to a discussion in the Chromium bugtracker on Google Code where someone stated he had found the solution. The description was a bit vague, no patches were posted, but the general concept was clear.
I proceeded with updating my SlackBuild for chromium-dev (which is currently at version 41.0.2236.0) and re-writing my not-working widevine patch. That resulted in a new chromium-dev package which reported that a Widevine plugin was available. Alas… when opening a Netflix page and attempting to play a video, this only resulted in the error “M7363-1262-00000000” which seems to have a relation to a mismatch between the Widevine CDM library and the browser. A possible explanation could be that I used the Widevine CDM library from stable Chrome 39.0.2171.95 in that build of the chromium development version 41.
So, my next attempt was to rebuild the stable chromium package (39.0.2171.95) with the Widevine patch, using the Widevine CDM library from the Chrome RPM bearing that same version. And what do you know… success!
I can now watch Netflix video’s in my Slackware chromium browser. How nice is that.
Apparently, having a functional Widevine CDM support will allow you to watch Youtube Movies as well, but since I already pay for Netflix I did not want to test these Youtube rentals. Another test which failed was my attempt to watch television on horizon.tv, the content streaming network of my provider (UPC/Liberty Global). Even with a UserAgent spoofer and all browser cookies removed, that site still detected that I was visiting using a Chrome/Chromium browser and kept presenting an annoying popup to force me to switch to a different browser because Chrome does not support Silverlight anymore (on Mac OSX and Windows 64-bit at least, remember their NPAPI depreciation). No way around that, even though I was fairly sure that Horizon TV also used Widevine for Digital Rights Management (DRM) in the past. Guess I still have to use Firefox with Pipelight for that, then.
What do you need in order to watch Netflix in Chromium on Slackware (14.1 and -current)?
Just two packages are needed: chromium and chromium-widevine-plugin. The latest chromium package was rebuilt to enbable support for Widevine. The chromium package itself does not contain any proprietary binaries. The chromium-widevine-plugin package is what contains the “libwidevinecdm.so” library which was extracted from the official binary Chrome RPM – this is proprietary software.
It is not necessary to use a UserAgent spoofer. Netflix works out of the box.
Make sure your mozilla-nss package has at least version 3.16.4 (Pat Volkerding upgraded all mozilla-nss packages in recent Slackware releases for this reason)
In Netflix Playback-settings chose HTML5
No more changes are needed to the file “/etc/default/chromium”. The plugin is announced to chromium by means of the “libwidevinecdmadapter.so” library which is built from the Open Source code in the chromium tarball, but only in the presence of the proprietary “libwidevinecdm.so”. Installing or upgrading the chromium-widevine-plugin package will show a few lines of warning if it detects that you still have the old configuration block enclosed by “START chromium-widevine-plugin” and “END chromium-widevine-plugin“. You should delete that block now.
If you don’t care about Netflix or don’t want to install any non-free software, then the chromium package is still OK for you – just don’t install chromium-widevine-plugin and you’ll be fine. If you even want to get rid of any hint of Widevine support you can always recompile the package with the variable “USE_CDM” inside the chromium.SlackBuild set to zero (0). That will prevent the creation of the (open source) adapter library “libwidevinecdmadapter.so”.
Have fun! Eric
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