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Novell Readies Silverlight Clone for Linux

A year after the introduction of Microsoft's Silverlight cross-platform, cross-browser media plug-in and streaming technology, Novell has released a Linux version for testing.

Dubbed Moonlight, announcement of the test code came through a blog post by Miguel de Icaza, vice president of platform development at Novell and leader of the project.

"Today we are making the first public release of Moonlight, supporting the Silverlight 1.0 profile for Linux," de Icaza said in his post on Tuesday.

Silverlight is Microsoft's competitor to other cross-platform media streaming products, particularly Adobe's Flash technology. Moonlight is a Linux version of Silverlight. According to a statement on Novell's site, the goals of the project are "to run Silverlight applications on Linux, to provide a Linux SDK to build Silverlight applications, and to reuse the Silverlight engine [Novell] has built for desktop applications.

However, the test code isn't for everyone just yet, even among the more technical than average members of the Linux community.

"This is not Moonlight 1.0, this is the first source code release that we are making of Moonlight for interested contributors and developers. This release is not even a Beta release, as we are not yet feature complete," he said.

Still missing, de Icaza said, are "components in media codecs, the media pipeline, as well as fixing about 70 known bugs."

The test release can be downloaded either without media codecs (coder/decoder) or as a compilable version with optional codecs which can be compiled. While it supports Mozilla's Firefox 2 and Firefox 3 browsers, de Icaza said in his post that Moonlight code doesn't currently work with Firefox 3 due to code changes made in the browser.

Silverlight 2.0 support in the works

Additionally, the test release only works with Silverlight 1.0, which was released last summer and has limited programming options. Silverlight 2.0, which will enable developers to program the rich application platform using Microsoft's .NET tools and languages, is not yet supported.

Silverlight 2.0 is currently in Beta 1 testing with a second beta rumored to come out this month. Microsoft has said it plans to ship Silverlight 2.0 by the end of the year.

de Icaza is legendary for work he has done in the Linux, Java, and open source worlds. He came to Novell in 2003 when the company bought out his firm, Ximian and his Mono project to port portions of Microsoft's .NET technologies to run on Linux. Previous to that, he played a major role in the creation of the GNOME project to provide an open source graphical user interface to Linux.

Soon after Silverlight debuted last year, de Icaza announced he would do a Linux version, which he named Moonlight.

"My objective with this thing is we want Linux users to be first class citizens when it comes to accessing content on the Internet, whether it's Silverlight or Flash or JavaFX," de Icaza told internetnews.com, at the time. "Microsoft indicated it didn't have immediate plans to do so, so we went and did it ourselves."

He and his team rapped out a preliminary version in three weeks last spring.

Andy Patrizio contributed to this report.