Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

Why S60 does not need an apps store

In phones on November 28, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Let’s face it, app stores for mobiles are all the rave now. Ever since the underground iphone hackers group introduced users to the age old linux method of sticking packages in a common repository, everyone and their cat think it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread. Infact, I was struck by how many tmobile G1 reviews made it a point to mention the sparse app store after the phone officially launched. Eh, sounds like a case of the fuzzies where the jphone is concerned, considering the iphone didn’t launch with an app store.

Before I get too off topic. let’s take a look at why nokia and or symbian will most likely not be jumping on the app store wagon anytime soon. I’m convinced that our favorite Finnish company will not be offering an app store in the near future because, well, they already have one. Anyone that has used an S60 device has probably come across the Download! app. So, the app is a sorry excuse for an app store, what with the nearly useless selection and the slow updates. However, within the Download! application is buried an interface to shop handango as well as other stores that sell S60 apps/games.

The apps don’t just display a mobile version of the respective site, rather they contain all the necessary features that will enable a user to purchase the software directly from their phone. Essentially, they operate the same way the iphone and android app stores do, except none of them are controlled by nokia or symbian.  Users want convenience. If they can access most available software from one or two locations, they won’t want to go anywhere else. Handango is one of the (if not THE) largest software distributor for mobile phones right now because of that.

It makes little sense for nokia to spend money on developing the software as well as all the backend stuff for a service that’s already offered by several companies. It makes sense for apple and google to offer app stores because their mobile operating systems were still in their infancy. Launching android with an app store means that 3rd party software distributors will not take to offering android apps. With the no 3rd party native software model adopted by apple when they released the iphone, there were no official native 3rd party apps for the phone until the app store was announced. With the timing of the app stores for these two young operating systems, most of the software created for them will aggregate on the respective app store.

On the other hand, other smart phone OSes are mature and entrenched enough to have millions of apps already developed over their lifetimes and distributed in a myriad of ways. If microsoft, rim, nokia or palm were to release their own app store, they would be contenders in an already saturated market. Of course, if all smart phone manufacturers came up with their own app stores, the highly profitable field of mobile software sales would be wiped off the radar. We probably don’t want that either.

As much as I would love to have the equivalent of the linux package manager on my phone, I won’t be holding my breath.


Swfdec: Flash on linux the opensource way

In linux, opensuse on November 4, 2008 at 1:38 am

As webmasters increasingly pollute the web with their poorly thought out nightmarish flash creations, having a flash plugin has become a necessity to get the full web experience. Indeed, flash is so ubiquitous nowadays that it’s practically impossible to browse the web for more than 5 minutes without running into a website where it is utilized… and over-utilized at that. The flash monopoly had gotten so bad that microsoft came out with silverlight in an attempt to cash into some of that market, but that’s a story for another day and time.

As far back as I can remember, the only viable method for viewing flash content on the web has been the proprietary adobe flash plugin. Adobe has been kind enough to release working versions for linux distributions over the years. I’ve seen many complaints about the linux versions being buggy, but I’ve never really had any issues with them. The biggest downside in my experience has been that adobe has been so stuck in 2003 that they have never gotten around to releasing a 64 bit version of their flash player. Sure, as of last year, nsplugin wrapper had matured enough that native 64 plugins were no longer needed for many of the popular browser plugins that only come in 32 bit versions and opensuse’s implementation of the wrapper made using those plugins as easy as simply installing the 32 bit version of the package to be wrapped. However, opensource is all about choice and nowadays, a couple of open flash players are giving adobe a good run for their money.

The GNU swf player, gnash, is one such contender. The app improves in leaps and bounds each time I try it, but in my most recent trial, gnash’s performance lagged behind swfdec (pronounced swiffdec). As a result, I’ll be discussing swfdec today. I was so impressed by the plugin that I’ve been using it ever since I installed opensuse 11.1 beta 1 over a month ago.

The latest release of swfdec is version 0.82. It appears to support all flash 8 and prior features. Don’t dismiss it yet, it also supports some flash 9 and 10 features, though as far as I can tell, not all. It does include the embedded links implemented in flash 10, for those that like to clicky when getting their daily dose of googtube.


I’ve tested it with reuters, youtube (naturally), megavideo, google video, blip…. can’t think of any other video sites at the moment, but suffice it to say that more often than not, I have no problems with viewing embedded flash content. I have had issues with some youtube videos. I suspect the videos were encoded with h263, but I didn’t bother checking. Of course, not all flash sites display, but the sites I had the biggest problem with are sites that search for the installed flash version and display an error message when either flash 9 or 10 is not found. Veoh, for example, is a pain in the ass to use. I can play linked veoh videos, but go to the site directly and the videos don’t play. Silliness. Same thing happens on my phone, so I’m not too surprised.

Swfdec uses the gstreamer codecs, so to get the best functionality, gstreamer bad and ugly codecs must be installed. Swfdec’s signature calling card has always been the giant grey play image superimposed over all flash content.


The user has to click on the image to play the embedded content. Total control is nice and all, but it gets a bit cumbersome after a while. Thankfully, with the more recent versions of swfdec, the user only needs to right click to select the option to have flash content either play automatically, play based on the last selected option for the site or never play without manual input. (If you were wondering, it plays last fm videos, but is unable to connect to the last fm player).

My only complaint about swfdec is that it sucks up my cpu each time a page that uses the plugin is active. Doesn’t matter if the video or whatever is actually playing or stopped – cpu usage stays at or near 100% as long as the window is up (it drops to about 40% if a flash video is paused, but is around 80% when the video is stopped). It’s pretty much as bad as adobe’s flash player in that respect. I can live with that though.

So dear readers, go forth and enjoy your embedded pr0n with the full power of open source.