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September 7, 2008

Flash-back

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 1:04 am

Once upon a time (or, “in before times, long long ago” according to South Park speak), I used to be a Flash developer. I even developed a half-useful extension called “External Text MX” circa 2003, which got a little bit popular too. I loved Flash and even found ActionScript to be an intriguing language for a learning programmer.

And then, slowly and gradually, I realized that Flash isn’t worth 10% of the hype it usually gets. I’m in no way trying to debunk the wonderful art produced by Flash developers. It’s wonderful. My realization was a direct consequence of the troubles I had with Flash as a user rather than as a developer. Flash, for all the great things it embodies on a particular version on a particular platform, is still a proprietary technology steered by an enterprise giant. I started using different architectures and operating systems than simply 32-bit Windozes and most of the time I felt like the efforts needed to get Flash running aren’t worth all the animations and sounds. The mere idea of something as vendor-specific as Flash “driving” the “next-generation” of something as general as Web was enough to make me scowl.

Flash fans usually try to argue that it did become a driving force behind Web 2.0 afterall, and come up with YouTube as the example supporting their claim. Actually though, I had been using major Web 2.0 sites (YouTube, Facebook, Slashdot) for about 2 years now without any Flash support. YouTube videos can easily be viewed without Flash plugin and other websites are careful enough not to rely on Flash for their business. During this period, I treated Flash plugin with contempt simply because Adobe have been epically unsuccessful for providing a working version for 64-bit Linux. I was aware of a method which allowed usage of the 32-bit plugin to work with the 64-bit platforms, but it turned out to be highly unstable and resource intensive with my initial efforts. This method involved installing a “wrapper” plugin named NSpluginwrapper in Firefox. My verdict: “totally not worth it”; up until just a few weeks ago, when I retried the NSpluginwrapper with Firefox 3 and the official Adobe Flash Player 9.0 r124 plugin. The result? Finally the PITA vs. worth ratio has been reduced significantly enough to guarantee its continued existence on my laptop. YouTube works wonders and even the sound gets played through PulseAudio like a charm. Too many animations do tend to crash my X.org server every once a while but I’m willing to spare this much for now.

Not to mention, I still immediately close any website which starts with a Flash-y intro ;-) .

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