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Flash, Apple, and Linux

Steve Jobs has published an interesting article about Flash [1]. He criticises Flash for being proprietary, this seems a little hypocritical coming from Apple (who’s the only competitor for Microsoft in terms of being the most proprietary computer company) but is in fact correct. Steve advocates HTML5 which is a better technical solution to a lot of the things that Flash does. He claims that Apple users aren’t missing out on much, but I think that sites such as Physics Games [2] demonstrate the benefits of Flash.

I think that Apple’s attack on Flash is generally a good thing. HTML5 web sites will work everywhere which will be a good incentive for web designers to fix their sites. I also think that we want to deprecate it, but as it’s unfortunately popular it’s useful to have tools such as GNASH to use Flash based web sites with free software. Microsoft has belatedly tried to compete with flash, but it’s Silverlight system and the free but patent encumbered Linux equivalent Moonlight have very little content to play and will probably disappear soon. As an aside the relentless determination of GNOME people to force the MONO project (including Moonlight) on it’s users convinced me to remove GNOME from all systems that I run.

OS News has a good analysis of the MPEG-LA patents [3] which are designed to prevent anyone making any commercial use of H.264 – which includes putting such videos on sites that contain Google advertising! These patent terms are so horrible that they want to control video streams that were ever encoded with them, so you can’t even transcode a H.264 stream to an open format without potentially having the scum at MPEG-LA going after you. This is worth noting when examining Apple’s actions, they support MPEG patents and therefore seem happy to do anything that reduces the freedom of their customers. Apple’s 1984 commercial has been proven to be a lie, it’s Apple that wants to control our freedom.

Charles Stross makes some good points about the issues related to Apple and Flash [4]. He believes that it’s all part of an Apple push to cloud computing and that Apple wants to own all our data at the back-end while providing a relatively reliable front-end (IE without all the anti-virus nonsense that is needed on the MS-Windows platform. Cloud computing is a good thing and I can’t wait for the Linux support for it to improve, I support a number of relatives who run Linux and it would be a lot easier for me if they could have the primary storage for everything be on the cloud so that I can do central backups of user data and they can use their own data while visiting each other. I think that a network filesystem that is similar in concept to offline-IMAP would be a really good thing, I know that there are some filesystems such as AFS and CODA that are designed for wide area network use with client-side caching but as far as I am aware they aren’t designed for the type of operation that offline/caching IMAP supports.

Matt Brubeck has given a good status report of the work porting Firefox to Android [5]. He notes that the next version of Fennec (mobile Firefox) will have Electrolysis – the Firefox one process per tab feature that was first implemented in Google Chrome [6]. I think that the development of Fennec and the one process per tab feature are both great developments. Matt also says “One of my personal goals is to make Firefox compatible with more mobile sites, and to give web developers the tools and information they need to make their sites work great in mobile Firefox. I’ll write much more about this in future articles“, that sounds great, I look forward to the results of his coding and to reading his blog posts about it!

5 comments to Flash, Apple, and Linux

  • “Microsoft has belatedly tried to compete with flash, but it’s Silverlight system and the free but patent encumbered Linux equivalent Moonlight have very little content to play and will probably disappear soon. As an aside the relentless determination of GNOME people to force the MONO project (including Moonlight) on it’s users convinced me to remove GNOME from all systems that I run.”

    I could not agree more with you. In fact, as soon as I felt that trend, a number of years ago (roughly 2005-2006 if I recall correctly), did I switch to another desktop environment (XFCE, and currently KDE, not to name the one :-).

    As a side note about Silverlight, I seem to recognize organizations that are keen to submit themselves to either friendly pressuring (or some sort of mild corruption , maybe) based on their using Silverlight on an exclusive basis for services which do not technically require such format. Remember the China Olympic games ? The video live streams were only offered in the Silverlight format. How about super-early adoption from the olympic games committee of a format that was almost unknown at the time? Same goes with the italian public television network ( which automatically offers downloading Moonlight upon connection of my Debian-based computer to some of their video-containing pages…

    Thanks for an interesting post anyway…

  • b


    I sympathize with your doubts on the long-term wisdom of the Gnome/Mono dependency.

    You can always install a Gnome environment by choosing the End-user task ‘gnome-desktop-environment’ instead of ‘gnome’ if you are using aptitude. A very convenient way to get Gnome sans the Mono stuff.


  • There are two different issues being confused here. It’s none of your fault, it’s a deliberate act by Steve Jobs to confuse you.

    Firstly, Flash as a plugin. It sucks, the iPhone can’t handle it to the extent that users would like it (hell, Wifey’s C2D can’t cope with some of her Flash-based Facebook games). I have no issues with the lack of Flash on iPhone, and frankly, it’s a garbge feature on my Hero.

    Secondly, there’s Flash as a development platform. In the latest iPhone OS developer agreement, they added a clause which made it forbidden to develop an app unless written in ObjC, C++, or Javascript – a move to eliminate usage of Flash and Actionscript apps, as authored in Creative Suite 5. This is another matter – there’s nothing wrong with Flash as a platform for developing apps. And if the apps suck, nobody will use them. It’s entirely disingenuous for Stevey to suggest that using ObjC leads to better apps by definition – it doesn’t. It’s a ploy to prevent app authors from writing an app in CS5, then clicking once to publish to iPhone OS, Android, WebOS, etc. Steve Jobs is doing the phobile equivalent of banning development of apps which aren’t ground-up IE6-only. It’s wrong – and it harms other development platforms by association which act as pleasing middleware for developers, such as MonoTouch allowing development of full iPhone-specific apps in C#.

    Apple are not protecting you the consumer – anyone who thinks Apple care about their best interests is mentally subnormal. What they’re doing is crippling cross-platform development, by wielding their dominant market status, and harming innovation in the process. They’re being 1990s Microsoft. Don’t thank them for it.

  • etbe

    Filippo: Please take care with typos in your email address when subscribing to comments. I’ve deleted the email address from your comment to stop the bounces.

    Jo: Flash is heavy, but phones are rapidly getting more capable. The HTC Hero that you cite is about half as capable (in terms of CPU and RAM) as some desktop systems that I’ve seen being used nowadays. While I agree that heavy silly things like Flash don’t belong on a phone, it’s not impossible to run them either.

    It does seem unlikely that the unique features of the iPhone won’t be used by cross-platform systems, things like multi-touch. We’ve all had some experience of software that has been the result of a quick and dirty port from some other Unix or from Windows – it’s not a positive experience. While I agree that Apple want to lock developers in to their platform, I think that there are some reasons for doing such things for the benefit of the users.

    I agree that Apple don’t operate for the benefit of the users. Only free software developers do that! ;)