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Flash Player 9 beta for Linux test drive
Oct. 19, 2006

Analysis -- The first beta of Adobe Flash Player 9 for Linux has arrived early. Adobe's main goal was to create a player that is feature-comparable to its Windows and Mac OS versions. Unlike Flash 7 for Linux, this version is also meant to have proper audio/video synchronization.

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While still only a beta, the new Flash Player appears to have achieved most, if not all, of its goals.

Download and installation

The beta comes in two gzipped, tarball archives. The first one is for the Mozilla plugin. This version will work with Firefox and SeaMonkey. The other is a GTK-based Standalone Flash Player, gflashplayer. Either will need to be downloaded manually from the Adobe Labs website, and unpacked.

To get the plugin to work, you need to remove any earlier version of Flash, and place the new plugin in its place. For a local user, this will be in the /home/your_id/.mozilla/plugins/ directory. If you install it for the entire system and its users, you'll need to install it as root in the /usr/lib/browser_directory/plugins/ directory. If you have multiple versions installed, the version in the system-wide directory, in my testing, takes priority over the local directory.

Did it install? Head over here, and if you see an animation of the images appearing and the version number "9,0,21,55" appear in the right-hand box, you're in business
(Click to enlarge)

You can always run the standalone Player with the appropriate command, for example, /home/user_id/gflashplayer. Before doing that, you must set the program's executable permission. For instance, running the command, "chmod 744 gflashplayer" or "chmod u+x gflashplayer" from a shell command line will prepare the player for work.

System requirements

Flash Player 9, according to Adobe's release notes, requires an 800 MHz or faster processor, 512MB of RAM, 128MB of graphics memory, and ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) compatible audio hardware. It will not work with OSS (Open Sound System) audio. In addition, if you try to run it with OSS, you will not get an error message, you simply won't get any audio.

As for the required operating systems, it's been officially tested and found to work with RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 3, Update 8; RHEL 4 Update 4; and SUSE Linux 9.x or 10.1. On the browser side, it's been tested with Firefox and Mozilla SeaMonkey 1.0.5.


During my evaluation of Flash 9, I also found that it worked well with MEPIS 6.01, a Ubuntu-based distribution, and SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10. To test it, I played a variety of Flash media and games. It ran without any major glitches no matter what I tossed at it.

Here are a few screenshots . . .

The new Flash has no trouble working with Flash-enabled Web sites
(Click to enlarge)

More impressively, it also did well with all the Flash-based games I threw at it
(Click to enlarge)

And, last but not least, it displayed Flash movies in perfect audio/video synchronization
(Click to enlarge)

While the new Flash does have some problems, I found them minor. For example, you can't show Flash movies in full-screen mode. Also, at this point, only the Plugin supports Flash over SSL (Secure Socket Layer) connections. Compared to the earlier Flash 7, however, even this beta is a major improvement.

I also did not run into the reported problems of video artifacts when I first started the program. My fonts also worked flawlessly. Maybe I was just lucky with my particular combinations of Linux, browser, and KDE 3.5, but my results with Flash Player 9 were great.

Frankly, I've seen many "final" programs that showed less well than this beta.

Flash Player is, of course, a proprietary program. If you want an open-source Flash player, GNU's Gnash is probably the best program currently available.

Want to give it a try yourself? Download the beta from the Adobe Labs download site, here.

-- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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