For a while now we've had a computer hooked up to our large screen television and stereo system. A couple months back I upgraded the motherboard, CPU, and memory so that we could start using the Windows 7 release candidate and Windows Media Center on it. The new hardware also meant we could play back high definition video.

Aside from playing back photos in Picasa and various video files, we also stream music using Pandora or play from our library using WinAMP or Media Center. For streaming video, we'd been using Hulu a bit (which is Flash based) and Netflix (which is Silverlight).

Yesterday we tried out Hulu Desktop and attempted to watch the Glee pilot. Hulu desktop crashed on the first run after install (could be a Windows 7 issue) but then ran fine upon restarting it. But the video quality was low and quite jerky. It used a lot of CPU too. This made me wonder if it was really taking advange of the video capabilities of our system.

It was bad enough that we switched to watching the show using the browser-based streaming. Hitting the full-screen high quality version acually played better there and used less CPU. So the desktop application clearly needs some performance tuning.

I compare all of this with Netflix streaming which uses Silverlight and the difference is clear, even in 720p resolution we tend to keep our display set to. Microsoft has done a good job of tuning Silverlight for video. If I recally, they have very good H264 support built-in.

That said, I'm glad to see Hulu Desktop out. It makes a lot of sense to have an app that can be controlled via IR remote instead of the wireless keyboard we had been using.

Posted by jzawodn at May 29, 2009 09:46 AM

Reader Comments
# crazyj said:

Have you tried Boxee yet? Aside from the cat-and-mouse Hulu keeps playing with them I love Boxee.

on May 29, 2009 11:07 AM
# Netflix Customer said:

I find your blog entry interesting, because IMO the Silverlight netflix browser plugin is unusable in full-screen mode due to screen tearing issues under both Vista and Mac OS X. This was never a problem with their previous version that I believe was flash-based.

on May 29, 2009 11:30 AM
# oZ said:

Flash also has built in H.264, so that shouldn't matter too much. I'm curious if this is a Win7 thing, or just a Microsoft thing, because it's the exact opposite situation on OS X. Flash video runs great, Silverlight video makes me want to shoot myself in the face.

on May 29, 2009 01:06 PM
# Television Spy said:

Hulu desktop isn't exactly what it should have been, I believe they're love hate relationship stems from Hulu wanting to make it an open platform but being tied down by NBC and other major broadcasters who want more draconian type restrictions.

on May 29, 2009 09:59 PM
# joe said:

I tried Hulu Desktop too on my Mac Mini connected to my TV. I did not care for the black UI and small thumb nails, I much prefer using a hand held mouse (gyration) and enjoying Hulu through a browser.

They should just create a firefox plug in that allows u to use a remote for the site instead of a desktop app.

on May 29, 2009 10:58 PM
# Ask Bjørn Hansen said:

Silverlight is VC-1. I'd be surprised if Hulu desktop didn't use h.264...

on May 30, 2009 08:52 AM
# Don MacAskill said:

Actually, Silverlight doesn't have H.264 support yet. Microsoft made a nearly fatal decision when they chose VC-1 rather than H.264.

They're now remedying that, and the next Silverlight release will have H.264 support. I'm sure it'll be quite good.

on May 30, 2009 12:44 PM
# kebernet said:

I still can't get NetFlix's silverlight thing to work on my MBA. I suspect it is a 64 bit issue, since it works on the two 32 bit Macs I have.

I will second Boxee though. It is way better than Hulu Desktop... HuDe also creashed to the ground every time I started it until the most recent patch. /shrug

on May 30, 2009 07:24 PM
# JohnForDummies said:

I had numerous issues with the Hulu Desktop. While Flash may look good because of the H.264 support, it is a horrible technology. Flash cannot make use of multiple cores (I hear that is changing in future releases... I hope it's true), and it's CPU utilization is through the roof. The instant I start watching Hulu shows (through the browser or the new Hulu Desktop), the temp goes through the roof and my fans start running like crazy. When watching Netflix movies, CPU utilization and heat are not an issue. I wish people would give Silverlight more of a chance and not hate it simply because it's a Microsoft Product, in 2 releases they are where Flash was in 5 or 6.

Another note, I am currently using XBMC on my computers, and it was nice when Hulu was working with it. It drives me nuts that they want you to use an entirely different program (that doesn't work very well) just to watch their content. I had no problem with them playing their ads when watching in XBMC, that's fine, but since they removed support for XBMC, I just use the NBC-Universal plugin to watch TV programs and they don't have commercials.

on May 31, 2009 08:55 AM
# solidboss said:

I have been looking for this type of information. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor

on June 1, 2009 01:03 AM
# funzoneq said:

That's because Silverlight has build in GPU support while flash is only able to use the CPU for video decoding. It makes a mayor difference in performance.

on June 1, 2009 05:37 AM
# Cinnagar said:

I found that removing the check from the box labeled "Enable hardware acceleration" under SETTINGS in Flash inproved performance quite a bit, both in the Hulu desktop app and through the Hulu website.

However, I have been getting a crash in the desktop app on average of once or twice an episode.

on June 28, 2009 04:00 PM
# Janilink said:

I find your blog entry interesting. Nice Post

on July 1, 2009 10:58 AM
# Seo Pakistan said:

Nice information about flash

on July 30, 2009 12:12 AM
# Seth Wisely said:

Windows7 (vista sp3)? really? what happened to your OSS fandom?

Sadly it looks as though that's what's required for a multiple M-card media center :( :(

I hope more people pester the FCC to help us escape media fascists.

> wonder if it was really taking advange

very few apps seem to be CUDA aware. MediaCoder, though no longer OSS, is now CUDA capable for transcode-streaming.

@ Oz
"Silverlight video makes me want to shoot myself in the face."

It makes me never want to use it other than in VM (like I do for SipSorcery)

@ Television Spy
"other major broadcasters who want more draconian type restrictions."

DRM is evil.

Adding DRM to hardware is a great way to signal informed, prospective customers to NOT-buy the device or application.

@ JohnForDummies
"drives me nuts that they want you to use an entirely different program (that doesn't work very well) just to watch their content."

People in hell want ice water.

XBMC + NZB = happy

I only NZB the content I would otherwise receive via a multiple M-card rig should it become available in OSS flavors.

on September 19, 2009 04:23 PM
# bretterson said:


Thanks so much, switching off "hardware acceleration" made it much more responsive.

on November 19, 2009 10:06 PM
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