Watching the WWE Network on Linux: an update

A few years back, I wrote about how I had to set up WINE to be able to watch the WWE Network from Linux, as they are using an incompatible DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) system, which is not supported on Linux. I have been using the set up pretty much unchanged since, while updating various components.

At one point I had to stop upgrading Firefox, as it started using features from newer versions of Windows that were not supported under WINE. I had configured WINE to make Firefox think it was running under Windows XP, and Firefox had since dropped XP support. If I try to claim a newer version of Windows, Firefox failed to connect to the Internet. The version I stopped at is version 53.0, which means that I am running an old, vulnerable Firefox version for this. This means do not use this browser for anything but watching WWE Network! Doing so may trigger an invulnerability somewhere.

I did keep my Flash Player up-to-date, but the latest Adobe Flash Player update (version 32) failed to run under WINE. Why I do not know, perhaps they also started using APIs that WINE does not support. I upgraded my WINE installation to the latest stable version (4.0), but to no avail. It was still hanging.

The only solution I have found so far has been to downgrade to Adobe Flash Player version 31. I had to dig a bit to find the download page for archived versions of Flash Player, and from there I ran the uninstaller and then downloaded the archive. From that archive I installed the NPAPI Flash Player (31_0_r0_153/flashplayer31_0r0_153_win.exe) and now I have a working setup again.

So, an up-to-date WINE version, but an ancient Firefox and Flash Player. I hope WWE update their web site soon to something a bit more modern that work from Linux as well, but nothing has happened for the last five years, so I am not holding my breath…

Watching the WWE Network on Linux

Okay, I confess, I am a fan of pro wrestling. You know, that weird US-American show-style wrestling where people pretend to beat each other up? Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair? No, okay, then you don’t need to continue reading.

Anyway, I am a fan, I even have a website dedicated to it, and I am subscribed to the WWE Network, an on-line channel where WWE broadcast their live events and I have access to their back archive. I subscribed when they opened international subscriptions back in August 2014, and among others, I have watched it on my PCs running Linux. It has worked flawlessly, until a few weeks ago, when it started developing error messages and then stopped playing completely.

Contacting their technical support didn’t help, once they heard about me running Linux they just stopped responding, both on Facebook and e-mail. Despite it having worked perfectly before, apparently since it is unsupported they do not want to look at ways of fixing it. So, what to do?

I ended up finding a workaround in installing the Windows (32-bit) version of Firefox and Flash Player under WINE. While it was easy enough to find the download link for Firefox, finding a working installation for the Flash plug-in was a bit more difficult. The normal plug-in download page didn’t work, as the installer was just a placeholder that downloaded the real installer, which it was unable to do under WINE. I managed to find a page with an off-line installer, a page that started with a big warning that it is going to be taken away next year.

Installing those and launching the Windows Firefox, I am able to play videos again. There are a few issues, the audio is not 100 % synchronized with the audio, but it at least is better than not playing at all.

I now have a workaround, but I still hope they will fix it properly soon.