Adobe Flash in Linux

  2008-09-14


Like most people, I use Flash a lot. Not only do I watch YouTube and Hulu videos, but FusionCharts* are an integral part of one of the main projects I work on. And like most people, I just want Flash to work. While an open source option would be nice, I really just need something that works.

Unfortunately Flash in Linux still sucks.

Fortunately, not for long.

Flash 9

For a long time I’ve just used the flashplugin-nonfree (such an attractive package name) package to get Flash support.

In general this works great, unless you want to also use PulseAudio. For some reason I do, which means my audio is always out of sync. Apparently Ubuntu has a flashplugin-nonfree-pulse (another awesome package name), but Debian won’t package it because of issues with upstream, and the fact the upcoming Flash 10 works fine without any extra wrappers.

Flash 10

So I finally decide to just try out the betas of Flash 10. At this point in time, Flash 10 beta 2, is the latest, so I download it and copy the .so file to /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/.

Tada! Sync’d audio! Yay!

Except now my browser crashes on about 1 out of every 2 sites with Flash. Some Flash doesn’t render completely. Other Flash videos flicker horribly.

Bottom line is even Ubuntu’s notoriously unstable alpha’s are better than trying to use Flash 10 beta 2.

Update: Just tried Flash 10 RC 1, but its not better than beta 2. Actually it might be a bit better because it crashes less, but its more frustrating in other ways: some Flash videos don’t show up at all.

swfdec

One last thing to try: swfdec, an open source Flash player. I’ve followed its development closely on Planet Gnome and really respect its developer, Benjamin Otte. Unfortunately it makes Flash 10 beta 2 look good by comparison. To be fair I used the unstable 0.7.4 version of swfdec, so maybe thats why it crashes fairly often. 0.8 was just released, but evidently not packaged for Debian yet.

I’ll probably keep trying swfdec from time to time in the future as I want to use it, but for now I just need a Flash player that works.

Gnash

I should try it, but the FSF can be such dicks I have a hard time even wanting to try it. They have a stupid “Bad Vista” logo in the upper right corner of their home page. I’m no fan of Vista, but plastering the Internet with poorly drawn negative logos isn’t going to win friends.

I shouldn’t let politics affect whats essentially a purely pragmatic endeavor**, so I’ll probably end up trying it out.

Conclusion

I can’t wait for Flash 10 to be released. While I love open source, Adobe makes excellent products, and I just need Flash to work. Its like my graphics driver: I really don’t care about the source, just make my graphics work!

* Very pretty product. Decent documentation. Worthless JavaScript API and debugging features. I hope becomes a viable alternative soon.

** That endeavor being: get Flash to work as well in Linux as it does in Windows.