Posts Tagged ‘swfdec’

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.