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Cross Release APT Managment aka How to Watch Netflix on Debian 7 Wheezy

By Bryan Berry
March 11, 2015

Native Netflix video streaming has come to GnuLinux! …if you have the correct library versions.

I am currently running GNU-Linux Debian 7 Wheezy with OpenBox.  I really enjoy this lightweight, speedy and easily customized window manager (OpenBox uses simple XML configuration files). So I was also pretty excited when Netflix added HTML5 streaming support and read that folks were proclaiming success in Google Chrome browsers without necessitating any agent masking workarounds.

However, I found I was still getting errors when attempting to stream video in Chrome. The forums I was reading were reporting that when using the Chrome 36+ browser, Netflix would allow Linux streaming. Most all of these forums were based in a Ubuntu 14.04+ environment. Nevertheless, I found a hint as to how to proceed in Debian after reading this article regarding libnss:

“Netflix streams its video in HTML5, but uses a technology called Encrypted Media Extensions to prevent piracy. These extensions in turn require a set of libraries called Network Security Services that the browser can access.”

Debian Wheezy’s repo list maxed out at libnss3==2:3.14 and I would need libnss3==2:3.16+ in order to pass the DRM tests and securely stream with Netflix’s HTML5 option enabled. In order to allow this libnss upgrade, I would first need to provide APT with instructions to pull from the Debian “jessie” development branch.

This is accomplished by setting repo priorities. I created a “jessie” specific APT sources list and added the Debian repo url’s for jessie:

$ cat /etc/apt/sources.list.d/jessie.list
deb ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian/ jessie main
deb-src ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian/ jessie main

And set pin priorities for libnss3 to fetch jessie libraries over wheezy while defining a lower priority of all other jessie packages:

$ cat /etc/apt/preferences
Package: *
Pin: release a=waldorf
Pin-Priority: 1001

Package: *
Pin: release a=wheezy
Pin-Priority: 500

Package: *
Pin: release a=jessie
Pin-Priority: 110

Package: libnss3
Pin: release n=jessie
Pin-Priority: 510

Now, update apt and confirm higher libnss3 installation candidates:

$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-cache policy libnss3
  Installed: 2:3.14.5-1+deb7u3
  Candidate: 2:3.17.2-1.1
  Package pin: 2:3.17.2-1.1
  Version table:
    2:3.17.2-1.1 510
        500 ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian/ jessie/main amd64 Packages
*** 2:3.14.5-1+deb7u3 510
        500 http://http.debian.net/debian/ wheezy/main amd64 Packages
        500 http://security.debian.org/ wheezy/updates/main amd64 Packages
        100 /var/lib/dpkg/status

Install new libnss3 candidate:

$ sudo apt-get install libnss3=2:3.17.2-1.1

Restart any Chrome instances (and upgrade to 36+ if you haven’t yet) and enjoy Netflix streaming on Debian Linux!

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