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Presidential Inauguration Gets a Little Moonlight

The team developing Moonlight, a multimedia application for Linux- and UNIX-based machines, scrambled to enable live streaming media play for the Barak Obama Presidential Inauguration that was broadcast on Tuesday. The Inaugural Committee had selected Microsoft Silverlight 2, a browser multimedia plug-in for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari browsers, to stream the event. Silverlight 2 currently works with Windows and Mac OS X operating systems only.

Moonlight is an open source version of Silverlight being developed by the Mono project team at Novell in collaboration with Microsoft, with the idea of bringing Silverlight multimedia play to Linux- and UNIX/X11-based computers. Moonlight, which was created using C++, came out as a public beta in December.

Moonlight 1.0 is now newly released and currently supports the older Silverlight 1.0 technology, with just pre-alpha-stage support for Silverlight 2. To get Moonlight to work with the Obama inauguration stream, the Mono team created a Silverlight 1.0-compatible Linux player that works with both Linux and Mac PowerPC machines.

"We kicked the project off this afternoon before the event, so pardon us if it's a little rough," wrote Ben Waggoner, a Microsoft technology evangelist on the codec team.

SL1 players were limited to a 500 kbps stream, he explained, because Moonlight 1.0 lacks managed code support.

News sources were predicting that the Obama inauguration would rack up a record number of viewers. Microsoft's Silverlight plug-in previously supported the heavily watched Olympic Games in Beijing, which may have set a record by supporting "70 million video streams," according to a Microsoft announcement.

To accommodate Olympics viewers, Microsoft used the adaptive streaming feature in Silverlight to "vary the bit rate but not melt the Internet at the same time," said Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Division. Guthrie described a collaborative effort with NBC at a Microsoft-sponsored dinner at Loews Santa Monica Hotel in early November.

The average length of views for the Beijing Olympic Games was 27 minutes, which hadn't been done before at that scale, according to Guthrie. Dan Hogan, vice president of technology at NBC Sports & Olympics, who worked with Microsoft on the NBC media player, claimed that the streamed Beijing Olympics coverage was "the largest video-on-demand event in history." Guthrie said that the team had to push out 1.7 terabits of video data.

The Mono team plans to release a Moonlight 2.0 beta in mid-April, with a final version planned for September, according to the team's roadmap. Moonlight 1.0 is a Firefox browser plug-in only and requires codecs from the Microsoft Media Pack to run.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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