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05.01.08

Adobe Flash: Now a Little Less Evil (We’ll Stick to Ogg, Thank You)

Posted in Formats, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, OSDL, Videos at 10:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME FlashThe announcement from Adobe may be slightly overplayed by the press, but the gist of the story is that Flash technologies get a little gentler and a little more transparent. This is good news by all means and it will assist projects like gnash tremendously. However, this does not resolve the deformation of the Web, whose control used to be more decentralised.

It is worth remembering that Adobe is now a member of the Linux Foundation. Despite this, Adobe is being betrayed by Novell in favour of Microsoft. Nonetheless, Novell built parts of its Web site using Adobe Flash. Makeover to come?

Reports from the press include (thanks to several readers who brought this to our attention):

1. Adobe moves to broaden Flash reach

Open Screen is being spearheaded by Adobe. But the company is working with Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Qualcomm, Chunghwa Telecom, Samsung, Motorola, NTT Docomo, Toshiba, Verizon Wireless, ARM, Intel, Marvell, NBC, MTV, and the BBC. It’s “a who’s who in the industry,” said David Wadhwani, general manager and vice president of the Platform Business Unit at Adobe.

2. Adobe Drops Licensing Fees, Gives Away Flash For Devices

Software maker Adobe announced Thursday that it would drop many of the licensing requirements attached to its Flash technology, which is used to display video and audio content on the web.

We will stick to Ogg Theora though, whenever this is possible. Thanks to akf for the invaluable suggestions, which made transcoding a lot easier. In order for Adobe to become a darling, the whole stack that it uses ought to embrace a licence like the GPLv3 (this includes codecs).

Another reader wrote to bring up this article, adding: “It’s about what Silverlight need to do to become successful.” It can hopefully be eliminated, but not using Flash. We need some real alternatives like Ogg, rather than fight fire with fire. We shall do our best to promote Ogg and make it more widespread. Presence typically ushers adoption.

Ogg Theora

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15 Comments

  1. Robert Millan said,

    May 1, 2008 at 11:52 am

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    I completely agree, we should use Ogg. But shouldn’t you start by giving example? This site uses Flash when it comes to video hosting (and it turns out that the way youtube videos are embedded externally doesn’t work for Gnash yet).

    I think you should contemplate switching to Ogg. You can embed Ogg in a website in a way that even Windo** users will be able to play it without major gimmicks; see how Wikipedia does it (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Win32-loader.ogg)

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 1, 2008 at 11:57 am

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    Thanks.

    Yes, I intend to upload some more Oggs. I did this in the past on several occasions, but other than quota (bandwidth and server space) there’s copyrights to keep in mind. I’ll do the best I can.

  3. Robert Millan said,

    May 1, 2008 at 1:03 pm

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    Maybe this helps: http://en.theorasea.org/

    It’s like Youtube but Ogg-based. Or so I’m told.

  4. Miles said,

    May 1, 2008 at 2:48 pm

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    Roy, you might be interested in this:

    http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Apr-20.html

    specifically:

    Lacking a viable open source-based competitor today for rich media delivery on the web and given the current state of both Flash and Silverlight, it is in open source’s best interest to ensure that Flash gets ahead of the competition.

    In my opinion, Flash needs a couple of things to stay ahead:

    * A text-based format to populating the flash contents, either from a JSON representation or an XML file.
    * An open specification that allows for third-party implementations. My understanding is that today’s Flash specification is semi-open.

    And of course, I think that Flash should be open sourced, but that is a long shot.

    A completely open alternative would be ideal, a combination of:

    * OGG Video and Audio objects as part of the what-wg specification, to complement the existing tag.
    * Tools to convert popular design formats like XAML and whatever Flash uses into Canvas tags.
    * Tools and Javascript hacks to implement dynamic loading of extra content for the canvas tags.

    It does not seem like a far shot, but it would require cross-browser support and would prevent us from being locked into either proprietary stacks.

    It is also worth mentioning that I am told that the moonlight sources include tools to convert between xaml and svg, so it would appear that Miguel is truly helping along Free Software here – he’s pushing for what he said should be pushed for, tools to conevrt between the formats.

    You can also plainly see from the article I linked that Miguel really does want Free Software to succeed and a free software framework for delivering rich content in particular.

    As far as I can tell, he’s implementing Moonlight because he feels his team is in the best position to be able to deliver a Silverlight 2.0 (he didn’t have any interest in 1.0) implementation for Linux because of Mono. Just like he mentions the great work being done by the SwfDec team for implementing a Free Software replacement for Flash.

  5. Victor Soliz said,

    May 1, 2008 at 3:08 pm

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    Yeah, and all those claims by Icaza would make sense and gain my support, if it wasn’t for the fact moonlight cannot be included by default in any distro that is not SLED and can only be obtained from novell otherwise.

    He might like to call it free software and what not, but without freedom of distribution, sorry, I can’t call it free software , if anything it looks like a Novell attempt to fork Linux.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 1, 2008 at 3:12 pm

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    Robert,

    Yes, I’ve mentioned it here before. It can come handy. Thanks.

    I returned from Stallman’s talk about 15 minutes ago (almost 2 hours long) and it inspired me to give Flash more of a kick than before, to the extent possible.

  7. Nikolas Koswinkle said,

    May 1, 2008 at 3:53 pm

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    Victor, you got it wrong, again. Moonlight WITH BUNDLED MS-CODECS cannot be included by a distro that doesn’t have an agreement with MS. ’cause it is MS’ codecs. That should be clear.

    WITHOUT MS codecs (using ogg theora instead of WMV, for example) or with ‘UNOFFICIAL’ MS codec support (like xine, ffmpeg, gstreamer-plugins-bad) every distribution can ship it.

    Now, was that so hard to understand?

    Note: comment has been flagged for arriving from a possible incarnation of known (eet), pseudonymous, forever-nymshifting, abusive Internet troll that posts from open proxies and relays around the world.

  8. Miles said,

    May 1, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Gravatar

    Victor: As far as I’m aware, the only reason you have to obtain Moonlight from Novell is due to the codecs (since Novell is paying for the licenses) – if you don’t mind codec-less Moonlight, then there’s no reason you need to obtain your copy from Novell.

    The way you license codecs from MPEG-LA is by paying for the number of copies distributed (iirc, there’s also an option for ‘infinite copies’)

    I speculate that the “infinite licenses” option is likely far more expensive than Novell was willing to pay especially without knowing how many installations of Moonlight there’d even be.

    If Novell didn’t do this, then it’d be up to the end-user to pay the bill for codec support and that would cause far more outrage, wouldn’t you say?

  9. Miles said,

    May 1, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Gravatar

    Addendum to my previous post:

    Currently, unless you are paying for your own use of the most common audio and video codecs to play your media, then you are currently breaking the law and technically, since the GPL’d software you are using to play such media knowingly infringes on the codec patents, it is also illegal software and thus not Free Software.

    Note that I don’t agree with this system, but it is there and it is the law.

  10. Miles said,

    May 1, 2008 at 4:02 pm

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    Nikolas: From my understanding of the codec licensing situation, distros need to be careful shipping Moonlight with codec support at all, MS binary codecs or not (unless they are licensing MPEG-LA’s codecs) because simply by shipping software which can play those patented codecs, you are breaking the law if you are not paying the licensing fees.

    Note that this is my interpretation and I may be wrong, but it seems to be supported by the fact that Red Hat, for example, stopped shipping mp3 support in their distros some years ago due to this issue.

  11. Nikolas Koswinkle said,

    May 1, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Gravatar

    Of course; I think most of us are breaking the law right now (How many of you have BOUGHT the legal plugins from Fluendo for DVD playback – hands up.). Only that some of us (you and me) are aware of this fact while others seem to be living in the delusion that not paying for a patent-covered codec somehow makes this codec ‘free’. ;)

    Well, free as in beer it may be, but never free as in freedom. To make it very clear to you: IF YOU ARE WATCHING DVDs YOU ARE USING PROPRIETARY CODECS (MPEG-2 and AC3)! You have either payed your LICENSE (yes that evil word!) or you are breaking the stupid law.

    So, Victor; what was your case against free and legal codecs in SLED again?

    Note: comment has been flagged for arriving from a possible incarnation of known (eet), pseudonymous, forever-nymshifting, abusive Internet troll that posts from open proxies and relays around the world.

  12. Miles said,

    May 1, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Gravatar

    The problem with the way licensing codecs from MPEG-LA works is that unless you opt for the “infinite licenses” option, it makes it difficult (if not impossible) for distros to ship multimedia applications that use the widely used media codecs.

    The fact that Novell is even offering to fit the bill for all users who download it directly from them is, in my opinion, quite respectable – especially in comparison with every other distro who does not offer any such service and leaves it up to the end user to pay the bill (or risk it by viewing or listening to the content illegally).

    When you look at the big picture, Novell certainly looks more the Good Guy than the other more widely used Linux distributors… now doesn’t it? :)

    Obviously if you focus on the very narrow space of “well, I have to download it from them directly” then it sounds bad, but when you zoom out you notice that they are actually doing you a huge favor.

    What Victor is essentially doing is criticizing the Good Samaritan who offers to buy a homeless person a meal rather than giving him a few pennies.

  13. akf said,

    May 2, 2008 at 3:18 am

    Gravatar

    Back to Flash.

    The gnash developers seem not to be so euphoric about the announcement:

    Freeing up specs for things that the community has already reverse-engineered makes for good publicity, and eliminates a legal EULA issue that Adobe was likely to lose in court in most countries, but doesn’t change anything substantial.

    http://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/gnash-dev/2008-05/msg00004.html

    This mail also points out, that a lot of things about the license change are still unclear.

  14. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 2, 2008 at 3:30 am

    Gravatar

    Interesting. I didn’t expect that response, but it makes a lot of sense. A ‘defeat’ downplayed… as a victory. Matt Asay has just shared some thoughts too (he’s pro GPL):

    Royalty free. Open publication of protocols. No side-deals to ensure a dearth of competition. Maybe Microsoft could take a page from Adobe’s playbook. That is, if it wants to be relevant on the web.

    It’s a bit like Mono really. Microsoft wants developers, whom it privately calls “one-night stands” and “pawns”, to help with adoption (e.g. against Java or Adobe Flash), but licensing gives Microsoft total control and makes win32 more attractive than all else (second-class citizens). Maybe we should beat the drum which illustrates this problem by stressing these similarities.

    Some people remain unconvinced after the damage control from the apologists, so a more sound argument is needed.

  15. akf said,

    May 2, 2008 at 5:43 am

    Gravatar

    Note: The quote I gave was nothing official. It was just a mail picked from a mailing list, not more.

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