Bing, which leads to Silverlight and Moonlight

2 minute read

I’ve started trying the new Bing search engine now that Microsoft has relaunched it as a replacement for Live Search. Bing is WAY better than Live was, but still fails in interesting ways. I’m especially entertained that generic searches (ie, not specifying the site) for things in MS TechNet return more relevant results in Google Search than Bing.

Today I had an interesting experience using Bing from Firefox 3.0.x on my Ubuntu box.

First, Bing seems to think I’m in the US – it’s showing me a bunch of Flag Day stuff on the initial search page. Interesting, especially since when my wife goes there on her Mac with Firefox 3.0.x it shows a generic nature picture and also has the “Canadian results” option button, which I don’t see. I’m guessing this is because I’m using a local HTTP proxy (squid) to speed things up, which likely is causing confusing HTTP headers for Bing. Google is not confused by this, I’m always redirected to and presented the “pages from Canada” option.

Second, to browse the past photo gallery on the Bing homepage I’m prompted to install Silverlight. Not unusual for MS web apps these days, but first time I can remember being asked to do it from a Linux browser. I probably have before and just ignored it. This time, though, I thought I’d check if there’s some way to do Silverlight on Linux.

Clicking through on this pop-up to the Silverlight site, I’m given the following messages:

(in a red outlined box): Microsoft Silverlight may not be supported on your computer’s hardware or operating system.

(in a green outlined box): The site that you visited was built for an earlier, beta version of Silverlight - not the current one. Please contact the site owner to let them know that they must upgrade to the latest release of Silverlight 2. Let us know if the site is not updated shortly so we can try to assist in upgrading the site to the latest Silverlight technology.

Entertaining that a site that MS just launched is using a beta version of Silverlight.

Anyway, on the Silverlight page is a note that it is supported for Linux. Novell’s Mono project, one of the most significant children of Microsoft and Novell’s technical collaboration over the past 5 years or so, has a project called Moonlight, which is an open source implementation of Silverlight. Version 1.x of Moonlight is stable, and 2.x is in preview, so I installed 1.x. It loads as a Firefox extension .xpi package, which is perfect (even better than the Windows version, to my thinking), and hopefully will be properly updated like all extensions when they release new versions.

Good news is that a variety of sites on the Internet requiring Silverlight do work with this extension, though some required that I download codecs from Microsoft (not unusual). Even the Silverlight download page agrees that I’m running it - it says my Silverlight version is 1.0.30401.0 and prompts me to update.

Bad news is that Bing still doesn’t know I’m running Silverlight and keeps prompting me to install it.

To echo a comment I left on Mike’s Facebook status yesterday – Microsoft, you’re the largest software company in the world, you have billions of dollars in the bank, invest some of it making your software better than “just good enough”. At least make sure when you release a new web site that is uses your own technologies properly!

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