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Flash on Pi….and web browsing

February 3, 2013

D – Flash is getting a bad rap these days…well, all the past years, but it is still a popular cross-browser, cross-platform rich Internet application engine that especially comes in handy when accessing YouTube videos. Also, Flash video files are easy to create, very compact, and still keep an incredibly awesome quality. And then there are several sports tickers that use Flash. That said, I think Flash could be more stable, eat less memory, and perform much snappier and also improve in the security area, so it is not that I deny the shortcomings of Flash. Still, I want it on any system I use on a regular basis.

The most common way is to install it from the Adobe web site, but under a *nix system that is a hit or miss lopsided to the miss part (and one of my biggest complaints about *nix based applications). So with that out of the picture the next approach was using Synaptic to install a different web browser that has Flash support build in. There is only one and that is Chrome. The install worked fine and Chrome is operating rather well on a Pi, but for whatever reason Flash support is intentionally disabled. I found instructions on how to enable it, but that did not yield any success. Lastly,  I scoured through the package list in Synaptic and found packages that install Flash. The packages installed fine and the various browsers now pulling in anything Flash.

So how about watching YouTube videos? Forget it! The movies load and start playing, but the CPU meter is a solid green and about every 15 seconds a new frame of the movie appears. While it technically works it is practically unusable. I did not try the sports ticker as I expect it to be as dysfunctional. The reasons for this misbehavior are that the browsers do not make use of the GPU of the Broadcom SoC so that the CPU has to crunch through all the graphics data and it does a horrible job at that, further the Flash plugins are not any better as they are clearly not optimized for a low power platform. In general, forget Flash on the Pi, it just can’t do it with the current state of browsers and Flash applications available. I do not mean that the Pi hardware is not capable because I think it is being able to play HD video without breaking too much of a digital sweat, it really comes down to shoddy implementation on the software side.

Next project will be to find out about YouTube clients for the Pi. I read that there are some. Before I give those a try I want to find a decent web browser first. They all are horribly slow except for those that do not do JavaScript and only do a terrible job at rendering graphics. The reasons are mentioned above, it appears as that none of the browsers makes use of the graphics hardware available, but maybe I haven’t found the right one yet. I’d expect that the browsers that come with Raspian do a decent job, but I found that Chrome did a much better job and wipes the floor with any of the other browsers. Still, Chrome leaves many streaks and a nasty residue if I stay with the floor wiping analogy. Flash on the Pi getting an F web browsing at least manages a D+. Would be nice to get better web browsing as online resources (including Flash based videos!!!) are the #1 source of educational information.

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From → Software

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