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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

 

Now Gnash & SWFdec are to Flash what Mono is to .NET

And we have to thank the cool Adobe's Open Screen Project for this. Why is this positive (extracted originally from here)?

1) Projects that seek to implement this standard (like Gnash), won't have to do reverse engineering anymore (unless the spec is not enough for some things, or the official Adobe software contradicts the specs because of bugs/typos).

2) These projects will provide implementations for architectures that are not supported by the official Adobe propietary software.

3) The implementations will no longer be considered risky because of future patents or intellectual property violations.

But, BEWARE:

a) this doesn't mean that Flash is now free/open source. This only means that projects like Gnash are analogous as Mono right now: they are open source projects that follow a standard published by a company with an open spec.

b) this doesn't mean that any flash content is patent-free either, because you can still embed proprietary formats inside it like MP3.

What I'll do now is start supporting Gnash, firstly by testing it and reporting any bugs I find. Fortunately I have some packages ready for OpenSUSE!

This news is positive, of course, but now let me give my technical opinion of this technology:

- The programming languages you can use with it are very few (some months ago I think the only one was ActionScript, which has the majority of limitations of JavaScript) and still today AFAIK there's no statically typed language you can use.
- AFAIK it's not accessible (and I mean for disabled people and for automation technologies like search-engine-bots).

However, with Moonlight, you already know that you can use C# with it so the first of these disadvantages doesn't affect it. And in respect to the last item, well, the second phase of my project in Novell is bring accessibility support to it so this item will be hopefully solved soon.

Will this mean the end of the Flash monopoly? Will this force Adobe to open its software too?

BTW, is Moonlight/Silverlight one of the reasons for publishing Flash specs freely? All I can see is that in Adobe they are start to changing their minds quickly. One of the most important facts of this is the liberation of the Tamarin project, which has supposed a big step forward in the Mozilla community (FYI, the Mono VM was also a candidate for the Tamarin current job, but unfortunately wasn't considered in the end).

Well, and how's the progress of the first phase of the A11Y project? We're progressing slowly, but hopefully cooking the base for the ton of work we already lack. Many issues are because we needed to complete Atk#, and other ones are appearing which may be related with the runtime (hopefully not, but here they are if you want to have a look: 386802, 387221). I have to thank Mike Kestner for all his help in this side (thanks to him I'm learning a lot about bindings, and about how delicate :) are the glib/gtk/atk bindings in particular; I love when someone is so meticulous for maintaining a project!), and Sandy for all the help on the bridge (which recently got a nice refactoring, but I already got some additional ideas I need to share...). Mike Gorse seems to progress a lot (and now there will be cooperation with CodeThink as well on the CORBA->DBUS migration!), and Mario is starting with us these days, welcome Mario! Unfortunately I don't deal too much with the rest of the team (Brian, Calen, Neville, Ray) but they seem very busy too all the time!

Update 23-DEC-2008: I have tested Gnash on OpenSUSE 11.1 and the Firefox plugin doesn't work with YouTube :( However, according to the comments of this blog post, SWFdec is a much better alternative (so I have changed the title of this entry).

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Comments:
There were not patent grant of any kind released for Flash, all they said is that specifications no longer had the limitation on "implementing players".
 
Don't expect to much. From what I've heard the document adobe released is nowhere near complete and basically is nothing more then a nicer summary of the reverse engineered "alexis swf reference".

And by the way, don't forget swfdec which uses gstreamer for which you can actually aquire a free software mp3 decoder with proper patent licensing... (flash video might be trickier though, atleast if you want free software.)
 
Flash supports AS3 which does have static typing.
 
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