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[Gnash-dev] Re: OLPC 767 Gnash 0.8.3 + Flash developer perspective

From: Bobby Powers
Subject: [Gnash-dev] Re: OLPC 767 Gnash 0.8.3 + Flash developer perspective
Date: Tue, 7 Oct 2008 11:11:09 -0400

On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 8:00 AM, Carlos Nazareno <address@hidden> wrote:
> Hey strk!
> I'm really glad you replied and I got this.
> Hi Gnash dev. I'm Naz, a Flash developer and a volunteer for OLPC
> Philippines. Recently, our proposal on targeting the OLPC XO-1 as a
> Flash Gaming/Edu-gaming platform was approved we got some XO-1 laptop
> units from OLPC main to help with this project
> ( Aside from this,
> we're also evaluating Flash or Gnash for our own custom software
> rollout for the XO here in the Philippines.
> Anyway, more than anything, as a flash developer, the biggest reason
> I'm more inclined to forgo Gnash dev for now is because it's so hard
> to get sound working on the version of Gnash that ships with the XO on
> 8.20.
> Moreover, it's very hard to test flash content on the XO-1 for
> Gnash-Flash compatibility when you can only have either Gnash or Adobe
> Flash running on the XO's browser at any given time. Constantly
> uninstalling and reinstalling to switch between Flash and Gnash
> browser plugins just to test apps on the XO when you only have one
> machine (the other XO dev units are going to the other Flash
> developers in our group) is not good for one's sanity. (as such, I
> just installed Adobe Flash 10 release candidate on the XO with me, and
> have decided to do Flash-Gnash dev compatibility testing on Fedora 9
> in a virtual machine on my desktop)
> Anyway, with regards to sound: it is a very important component of the
> Flash user experience, especially for children in terms of games.
> The thing is, it's so much easier to just give up and install the
> Adobe Flash plugin than to jump through so many arcane steps trying to
> get sound working in Gnash on OLPC XO-1 laptops out of the box in the
> latest OS build, 8.20.
> As of now, I still haven't gotten sound working in Gnash 0.8.3 on the
> latest version of Sugar-XO-1 OS out of the box, and the suggestions on
> the Olpc-devel list haven't been very successful because the OLPC dev
> team decided to use an older version of Gstreamer due to hardware mic
> compatibility problems. Because of this, I couldn't get
> gstreamer-plugin-ugly to install on build 767 via yum. (you guys will
> have to pardon me, I'm relatively new to Linux and am thus am
> unfamiliar with digging through specific repositories).

you touched on the sound issue here.  the problem is *NOT* Gnash, but
OLPC's commitment to free, open-source and patent unencumbered
software AND the reverted gstreamer plugin.

>> It is only content authors having the power to leave players behind.
>> If you care about partecipation, you should develop your applications
>> to be as much portable as possible, which in this case means NOT using
>> latest-and-greatest-features-only-available-in-a-few-players.
> You've touched upon one of Flash's greatest strengths here as a
> platform: it is highly portable - you now have Flash running on
> Windows desktops, Mac OS, Linux, and mobile devices. This is why Flash
> is such an attractive platform for us content creators to deploy our
> content in.
> With regards to latest and greatest features, I agree. Try running
> Flash 9 & 10 Papervision3D ( Flash 3D
> engine content on the XO-1 and your machine will hang.  That's why it
> was very important for us to get our hands on actual OLPC XO-1 units
> in order to do testing, because as any device developer knows, desktop
> emulation is no substitute for actual device testing.
> With regards to "a few players", Flash is installed on 98+% of
> internet-enabled desktops, and as of September, roughly 93% have Flash
> 9 installed. That's not "just a few", that's *most* and *a lot*. Also,
> the thing to note with the Flash player is that beginning with Flash
> player 8, Macradobia built-in autoupdating -- when new versions of the
> Flash player plugin come out, Flash will prompt users to update.
> Because of this, when Flash 9 rolled out the door, I believe it was
> the software update with the fastest & largest number of user
> installations in history. You can check the numbers on this. Expect
> something similar to happen when Flash 10 final rolls out the door
> soon. (the Adobe CS4 product line -- and thus Flash CS4 -- has already
> been announced and launched. Expect them in stores soon).
> With regards to Flash on the XO, true, Gnash 0.8.3 will come installed
> out of the box with the next generation of Sugar-OLPC factory rollouts
> (but without sound because of MP3 patent issues). Thing is, people
> will want to enable sound with it and kids will want their sound for
> their games. If it is easier to install the Adobe Flash plugin than to
> enable sound with Gnash, it will be much less of a support nightmare
> to just install the Adobe Flash plugin.

again, this is not an issue with Gnash, it is an issue with the MP3
format and gstreamer packaging.

>> This is dangerous reccomandation to make.
>> Especially for developers.
>> Developers of applications for OLPC should try to target free
>> platforms, or did I miss something about the mission ?
>> Adobe Flash Player 10 is NOT a free platform.
> Yes, you may have missed something. OLPC has agreed to work with
> Microsoft on releasing a dual-boot version of the XO that runs Windows
> XP. Windows XP is *definitely* not free, and is not even "free as in
> beer" like the Adobe Flash plugin, and when OLCP XO with WinXP rolls
> out. With WinXP on the XO, we now have an even bigger target platform
> on the XO on which is a "non-free as in speech" environment.
> Because of the agreement to push WinXP on the XO, it's like the
> commitment to using only free open source software on the OLPC XO-1
> has been thrown out the window. Personally, I find this rather sad as
> I read Steve Jobs offered to let OLPC use OSX on the XO free of charge
> and OLPC refused due to its being non-open sourced. With WinXP on the
> other hand, copies of the OS still need to be licensed and paid for.
> This is a sad double-standard for me.

Naz, I have to strongly disagree with your statement about the
commitment to using only free and open source software.  ALL of OLPC's
development effort is on Sugar and Linux (except for some work done by
Mitch to get OFW to support booting Windows).  No one is working on
Windows development, and if OLPC wasn't committed to free software I
don't know if any of the devs at 1CC would still be there.

> Anyway, as such, I see absolutely no conflict in targeting Adobe Flash
> 9 & 10 on the XO. The only real problem I see is that since the Adobe
> Flash player uses restricted formats, there are issues with rolling it
> out in certain regions where there are patent restrictions and the
> like, and that there needs to be negotiated with Adobe an agreement to
> be able to pre-install Flash on the XO because according to Adobe's
> EULA, unless an agreement is made, the Flash player installer may not
> be redistributed and may only be downloaded from Adobe's website.

Again, the problem I see is that OLPC is committed to free and open
source software, which adobe's flash is not.

>> There are a lot of ways to optimize an SWF application to use
>> less resources. I've seen movies out there doing really silly things
>> with SWF8 tags, making the result worst than a fairly written SWF1 ...
> Precisely. That is why we're treating the XO as a device in the same
> class as a mobile phone with limited CPU and memory and not as a
> modern laptop, and we're trying to outline best practices for
> developing Flash content targeting the XO (avoid using gradients,
> avoid scaling bitmaps, reduce vertex/anchor points for vector images,
> avoid using alpha values < 100% when doing animations, optimizing
> code, etc etc)
> Thus, among Flash content creators we hope to pull in to contribute
> with OLPC are Flash Lite developers because we *know* how to optimize
> Flash apps to run on cpu/memory limited environments.
>> Free software also gives you the option to *profile* application
>> execution so you can tweak the code to perform better.
> The average Flash content developer (designers, animators & flash
> coders) does not have the capability or knowledge to modify Gnash code
> and Gnash binaries. We're Flash content creators
> (designer-animator-developers), not Linux developers who know how to
> crawl through and modify Gnash sourcecode and recompile it.
>> If developers stick with SWF7 at most, they'd make the proprietary/free
>> choice easier to take. If they don't they'll make things worst.
>> I'd expect a conscius choice from OLPC developers ...
> Look, some of the greatest things to happen with Flash,
> development-wise, this past couple of years are the following:
> - the development of Actionscript 3 and the Actionscript Virtual
> Machine 2 (AVM2) which turned actionscript into more of a "real
> programming language", and the leaps and bounds in performance that
> the new AVM2 provided. These performance leaps are very important when
> targeting low cpu/memory devices like the XO-1. Because of the AVM2,
> you can now provide richer content than in AVM1 because you get more
> bang out of your CPU/memory.
> - Adobe Flex which gave developers who are not designers a "real
> developer environment" which was different from the Adobe Flash IDE
> which is primarily targeted at designers & animators.
> - AS3 is now attracting a lot of developers from Java & C/C++
> backgrounds. There are now a lot of Flex developers and there is a
> growing demand for Flex developers. A lot of these guys I know just
> went into "Flash" straight in AS3 and are either unfamiliar with or
> prefer not to use AS1/2 anymore. With the aging of the AVM1 machine
> and the fact that AVM1 swfs are incompatible with AVM2 swfs (AVM1 swfs
> cannot communicate and pass variables with AVM2 swfs), the number of
> AVM1 developers will no longer grow as much as AVM2 (AS3) developers.
> - The open sourcing of the Flex SDK. Because of this, the average
> developer can now create truly compelling SWFs without having to use
> more esoteric methods such as MTASC or HaXe or SWFMill using
> completely open source and free tools.
> - Flex outputs standard SWFs. This means if any platform runs AVM2, we
> can get the growing number of Flex developers who are not used to the
> Flash IDE on board for the project too.

I agree that AS3, Flex and AVM2 are quite nice.  There is a branch of
Gnash with growing support for Flash 9, but it has basically one
person hacking on it I believe; strk should be able to set the record
straight if I'm wrong.  As you said, you might not be a Linux
developer with the inclination to help, but poke any friends you might
be able to convince :)

> Thus, asking Flash content creators to stick with Flash 7 content is
> going to exclude all of the current and emerging Flash 9+ developer
> base who cannot author Flash 8 & below content  because they don't
> know how to code in or now have difficulty working with with
> Actionscript 1 & 2.
> With regards to AVM1 (Actionscript 1 & 2) developers, one of the
> platforms with which Actionscript 2 still has active development and
> will not change in the near future is with Flash Lite. The latest
> released version of Flash Lite (3.0) is still based on Flash 8 and can
> play youtube videos. Flash Lite 2.0 is based on Flash 7. Thus, flash
> Lite is the closest modern and up to date standard Flash platform that
> Gnash is most similar with that still enjoys a growing number of
> developers.
> As such, I hope Gnash makes compatibility with Flash Lite SWFs
> (basically slightly modified Flash 7 & 8 content) a priority so we can
> attract content creators from the Flash Lite community.
>> Efficiency is important.
>> "The extent to which time is well used for the intended task."
>> What's the intended task here ? Having a free educational system
>> or a proprietary one ?
> Again, although not open source, the Adobe Flash plugin is *free of charge*.
> One of the main attractions of Flash is that it is extremely cross
> platform. Again and again it's been said that "OLPC is not a laptop
> project - it is an educational project". Thus, if a particular sector,
> government, educational institution or what have you decides to
> install a different OS on the XO or even use entirely different
> machines such as Intel Classmate PCs running windows XP, Flash will
> run on them.
> If it's going to be a real headache to get sound on Gnash running
> properly and if users have problems with accessing Flash content
> online due to compatibility with Gnash, users with internet access
> will probably simply abandon Gnash and install Flash.

one last time, the problem is the patent-encumbered MP3 format and the
reverted gstreamer.  With that said, I will see if I can apply my
limited packaging skills to get the codec packaged for 8.2

>> Flash developers are the most useful resources for fixing gnash bugs.
>> Many times we get bug reports from users that know *nothing* about the
>> internals of an SWF applicatoin. When it's the author of the SWF reporting
>> the bug, it is usually fixed *very* quickly.
>> By suggesting OLPC flash developers to not use Gnash at all, Gnash will
>> have less help in fixing the bugs.
> Wonderful! Glad to have gotten in touch with you guys. Hope to
> coordinate with you guys more. And please, if any of you are
> interested in OLPC dev, please do participate and maybe help with
> and
> Now again with the device & build testing, I know it's extremely
> difficult to get one's hands on XO machines for actual testing, but
> for Gnash developers, maybe you guys can be able to request developer
> units that will be loaned to you by OLPC via the developer/contributor
> program?

Rob Savoye is the maintainer of Gnash and has been involved with OLPC
in the past, but I'm sure SJ and the Contributer's program would LOVE
to get XOs to any other interested Gnash dev for testing and

> There's a major dearth of information and development going on with
> OLPC as I've discovered when I recently started participating in the
> wiki and the olpc developer mailing list, and more hands certainly
> won't hurt.
> Regards,
> -Naz


> --
> Carlos Nazareno
> interactive media specialist
> zen graffiti studios
> address@hidden

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