Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Getting BBC iPlayer going on Ubuntu

27th January 2008

Following on from my earlier musings of the subject, I finally have got the BBC’s iPlayer going on my Ubuntu set up. To do this, I needed to get my hands on the plug-in files and nphelix.xpt. Once that was done (more on how I did that later), I popped the former into /usr/lib/firefox/plugins, the latter into /usr/lib/firefox/components and restarted Firefox. I think that a system restart might have helped me too, even if it was done another reason. The files themselves were culled from the RealPlayer folder populated by the installer (realplay- was what I used) that I had downloaded from the Helix Community website; the plugin files were found in the mozilla subfolder under RealPlayer.

BBC iPlayer

Another thing that I did was to fire Alacarte, Gnome’s menu editor and add Configuration Editor (also known as GConf, I believe) to the System tools submenu on the Applications menu. Once added to the menu, I fired up the said application. Navigating to desktop>gnome>url-handlers>rtsp, I changed the command to realplay "%s". I don’t know if this helps but it certainly was no hindrance and I got the result that I wanted and in high quality audio too.

Gnome Configuration Editor


  • Paul Twibill says:

    Interesting. Are you saying Realplayer plug-ins do not install correctly in Firefox on Ubuntu (or if I recall correctly this used to have to be done manually anyway)? I only noticed Ubuntu not working with BBC iPlayer after watching it working on a Asus EeePC with Xandros perfectly ok. Similarly on Opensuse 10.3. Don’t recall any special process to make these work. Tried updating Flash player made a difference…iPlayer start icon failed completely! Will check Firefox plug-ins.

    Any progress since January?

  • John Hennessy says:

    Yes, the RealPlayer plug-in needs to be manually added to Firefox on Ubuntu and OpenSUSE works “out of the box”. Recently, I gave the Ubuntu 8.04 beta a go and the same problem seems to exist there too but I’ll take a longer look into it. With the manual process, I have got what I want and have done no further fiddling on this front since then.

  • John Hennessy says:

    The play/pause/forward buttons and volume control stopped working for me so I pottered around the BBC website to see if I could find anything and I ended up updating RealPlayer to the latest version using the process described above; 11 is now available for Linux.

  • Ralph Hodgson says:

    Also having problems with RealPlayer 10 after updating to Ubuntu 8.04. I had BBC working fine in the previous version. I have configured FireFox; now need to try RealPlayer 11.

  • John Hennessy says:

    I can confirm that RealPlayer 11 did the trick for me but I have hung onto Firefox 2 for sake of retaining addons. When the plugin writers catch up with Firefox 3, I’ll make the jump then.

  • John Hennessy says:

    Here’s another possible option for getting RealPlayer’s open source alter-ego, Helix Player, working with Firefox: using Aptitude. The command that you need to issue to install the plugin is as follows:

    sudo aptitude install mozilla-helix-player

    Ubuntu Geek has a blog entry on this and the wider installation of Helix Player.

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