How I Overcame My Fear of Flash

Long ago I remember the first Flash site I ever saw–spinning gears replaced typically boring site navigation and sound illuminated a previously silent web. My jaw dropped and I said to myself, “I want to build these kinds of websites!” After playing with Flash Professional for days, I realized that my mathematically inclined brain just could not output the kind of beauty that I began to see all over the Flash powered web. I gave up and resorted to building very ugly HTML interfaces. Not because I didn’t want them to look better but rather, it was just too much work and I lacked the skill.

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My Tribute to Flash 9 on Linux: Compiz Like Wobbly Windows

I’m sitting in Caribou Coffee in Ann Arbor Michigan looking out at beautiful ice covered trees glistening in the sunlight. It’s Jan 17th 2007 and this day is going down in history! Today is the day Flash Player 9 was officially released for Linux! This is HUGE! The web allows anyone with a PC to engage with information and others. Flash has always pushed the limits of how that engagement happens, most recently with video. Even though many Desktop Linux users prefer free software, Adobe has still committed to making Flash work on Linux. I think this is noble. Do you see MS or Apple doing this with their platforms? By having Flash 9 for Linux, Desktop Linux is made all that much better. I have been using Linux as a desktop since ’96 and without Flash I would be missing out on some pretty amazing stuff. Some will say “But Flash isn’t Open Source”. You are right. But if you don’t want to run proprietary software, rather than complain, go help Gnash. Ok, now that I’ve espoused my religious views, lets move on to the cool stuff!

First the demo: Wobbly Windows on the Web

That’s using Flash Player 9 and was built with the free Flex SDK. The wobble isn’t as refined as Compiz’s/Beryl’s, but that can be fixed once I (or you) figure out the math for doing that. Let’s walk through how you can compile that application.

First get the code from SourceForge. It’s in the wobbly module of the flexapps repository.

You need to get the free Flex SDK. Also if you don’t have it, you will need the Sun JDK 1.4 or better.

Set the FLEX_SDK to where you extracted the Flex SDK to.

In the directory where you checked out the wobbly code, run

Load the build/wobbly.html file in your browser!

This still needs some work, and since it’s Open Source, I’d love your help! Let me know what you think.

Flash 9 on 64bit Linux in 2 Commands

I’ve heard it so many times… “Flash 9 doesn’t work on 64bit Linux” So when I loaded 64bit Gentoo Linux my new Merom based Intel Core 2 Duo, I really was expecting an adventure. Turns out that it was actually pretty uneventful. It worked first try without any problems and in only 2 commands. Here’s what I did..

First I added the net-www/netscape-flash package to /etc/portage/package.unmask
sudo vi /etc/portage/package.unmask

Then I emerged Flash 9 & the Netscape Plugin Wrapper
sudo emerge -av netscape-flash nspluginwrapper

Then I reloaded Firefox, tested it, and it works great! I assume it’s this easy on other distributions, but I only have Gentoo to test on.

Of course this means much more than just being able to watch YouTube videos… Now that the Flex 2 SDK is free (as in beer) anyone can build applications that work the same on all major browsers and operating systems! I’m happy to say that since I started doing Flex development about two years ago, Firefox on Linux has been my primary build and test environment. And in that two years the only time I’ve had to write any of those “if IE” things was when I was writing JavaScript for a soon to be released Ajax & Flex benchmarking tool.

Using my OS of choice… Writing code once that works the same universally… These are things that make me happy. :)

Oh, and the fact that Flash is now built on the Mozilla / Open Source Tamarin VM makes me ecstatic!

FLASH & FLEX: FREE FOR ALL (even Linux)!

As of yesterday, for the first time EVER, nearly everyone in the world has access to a FREE, ubiquitous application runtime, and a FREE application development toolkit for that runtime! Of course I’m referring to Flash Player 9 and the free Flex 2 SDK. To show people the power of these two technologies I’ve recorded a screen cam of me building a YouTube video player on Linux. Check it out!

Flex 2 Apps on Linux!!!

One of the benefits of working for Adobe is that I get to test new products while they are still in the pre-release state. One night a few weeks ago I was able to install a pre-alpha build of Flash Player 9 on Linux. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I pulled up my first Flex 2 app on my Gentoo laptop. Smiling from ear to ear I ran over to Emmy Huang (who, as usual, was still working at 7pm), and I thanked her. And the next day I also had the chance to thank Mike Melanson, Tinic Uro who are also investing a lot of time making Flash Player 9 on Linux a reality. Many others at Adobe are also working hard to get the public beta out the door. Most Flex 2 apps I have tested are working, but there are still frequent browser crashes and other bugs that the team needs to fit before we can send a beta out the door. But we are close and I can’t wait to watch the very eager Linux community get their hands on Flash Player 9.

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Using Greasemonkey To Fix Other’s Bugs

Ever since I got into Macromedia Flex I have not been able to view .mxml applications in any Mozilla based browser on Linux. Mozilla for some reason cuts off the Flash at around 240 pixels in width. I have searched the web and Mozilla’s Bugzilla trying to find others who have also experienced this problem. I haven’t found much. A few Mozilla bugs seem to indicate others had this same problem. But not enough for anyone at Mozilla or even Macromedia to care. There has only been 1 post about this issue on the flexcoders Yahoo list. So not really a big deal, except to those of us on Linux!

It seems that the problem is with percentage width embedded objects inside percentage width tables. When writing mxml applications I can easily work around the issue by not using a table. However, anytime I view someone else’s application who has not worked around this bug, I only see the left 240 pixels of the application. I could try to file a bug with Mozilla, but I think that’s been done and didn’t get the issue resolved. Greasemonkey to the rescue!

Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension which lets me easily manipulate web pages when they are loaded in my browser. So I wrote a simple Greasemonkey script which fixes the problem! Fo those interested, here is what you need to do…

or any other Flex application and you should see the full application!

My script is just a hack. If you have any ideas for improving it, please let me know!