GNU Gnash Screenshots and Review

Original article link with pictures

KhanReaper (Matt T. Proud) — 20060812 GNU Gnash is an open source implementation of Adobe's Flash Player and its rendering technology. Although its source code originated from other open source projects, most particularly gameswf, the entire code base is a clean-room implementation of Flash, I believe. While I have not examined the intellectual property ramifications of its development, I would be interested in knowing more—particularly with respect to genericness of what Flash provides and whether Adobe holds first to file or first to invent status with Flash's concepts.

These screenshots were taken from a CVS build of Gnash from 20060812 source code, running and compiled natively on an AMD64 environment using Linux. The Flash video is Sloth TV from, which is quite pervertedly amusing, might I add.

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GNU Gnash demonstration. (Part 2 of 3)
GNU Gnash demonstration. (Part 2 of 3)

Although Adobe has plans to release Flash 9 for Linux soon, this software package should be examined. Just consider for a minute that GNU Gnash has an innumerable amount of nice features and properties. An inexhaustive list of them is provided below:

* sound is off by default with the web browser plugin;
* one can pause and restart the movie from within the browser plugin;
* the browser plugin saves the movies to /tmp, meaning that one can easily download and save the files without digging around in HTML;
* the source code is based upon portable open source libraries, which means that the project can be compiled and ran on any architecture that supports the code (e.g., AMD64, PPC, ia64, SPARC, etc.);
* and with that added portability, the player can be ported to a variety of operating systems (e.g., *BSD Family, Solaris, etc.);
* since the software is open source, security vulnerabilities can be fixed faster than Adobe can probably update their code and redeploy a package for distribution;
* digital rights management (DRM), technical protection measures (TPM), or copy protection schemes may be circumvented or avoided by using this product, should Adobe decide to include them in its Flash specification;
* since the software is open source, distributions have greater incentive to include the package; and
* all of the other obvious advantages of being open source apply.

Bugs and Limitations and Weaknesses
GNU Gnash demonstration. (Part 3 of 3)
GNU Gnash demonstration. (Part 3 of 3)

Still given that GNU Gnash does not have the budget and development team that Adobe has, there are bound to be a few problems with Gnash. Some of these problems and other considerations are listed below:

* movies that have download progress markers must be explicitly told to restart in order for the movie to play, as the waiting and downloading animation for the Flash video would continue indefinitely otherwise;
* not all Flash files play presently, such as YouTube (I am not a Flash guru and would never claim to be one, so I am assuming that there are several technical classes of Flash files and technologies that flatly do not work.);
* the aforementioned intellectual property issues of Gnash might need to be examined, though I would hate to cause a false hysteria if this issue is really moot; and
* any of the standard weaknesses of open source projects still apply.

Packages to Download

I created a rudimentary Debian package that pulls the source from CVS and builds it. The package is very poor quality, but it works. There are two binary packages (i.e., ones that do not build from source, as the aforementioned statement implies): Gnash and the web browser plugin.

* gnash_0.1+cvs20060812.1138_i386.deb - Ubuntu Dapper Drake i386
* gnash-plugin_0.1+cvs20060812.1138_i386.deb - Ubuntu Dapper Drake i386

First, install the Gnash package and then install the web browser plugin. Make sure that OpenGL functions correctly, as I built these binaries to use it instead of Cairo. The packages will complain if there are any missing dependencies, so apt-get -f install will become your best friend.