Shallow Thoughts : tags : flash

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Mon, 09 Feb 2015

Making flashblock work again; and why HTML5 video doesn't work in Firefox

Back in December, I wrote about Problems with Firefox 35's new deprecation of flash, and a partial solution for Debian. That worked to install a newer version of the flash plug-in on my Debian Linux machine; but it didn't fix the problem that the flashblock program no longer works properly on Firefox 35, so that clicking on the flashblock button does nothing at all.

A friend suggested that I try Firefox's built-in flash blocking. Go to Tools->Add-ons and click on Plug-ins if that isn't the default tab. Under Shockwave flash, choose Ask to Activate.

Unfortunately, the result of that is a link to click, which pops up a dialog that requires clicking a button to dismiss it -- a pointless and annoying extra step. And there's no way to enable flash for just the current page; once you've enabled it for a domain (like youtube), any flash from that domain will auto-play for the remainder of the Firefox session. Not what I wanted.

So I looked into whether there was a way to re-enable flashblock. It turns out I'm not the only one to have noticed the problem with it: the FlashBlock reviews page is full of recent entries from people saying it no longer works. Alas, flashblock seems to be orphaned; there's no comment about any of this on the main flashblock page, and the links on that page for discussions or bug reports go to a nonexistent mailing list.

But fortunately there's a comment partway down the reviews page from user "c627627" giving a fix.

Edit your chrome/userContent.css in your Firefox profile. If you're not sure where your profile lives, Mozilla has a poorly written page on it here, Profiles - Where Firefox stores your bookmarks, passwords and other user data, or do a systemwide search for "prefs.js" or "search.json" or "cookies.sqlite" and it will probably lead you to your profile.

Inside yourprofile/chrome/userContent.css (create it if it doesn't already exist), add these lines:

@namespace url(http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml);
@-moz-document domain("youtube.com"){
#theater-background { display:none !important;}}

Now restart Firefox, and flashblock should work again, at least on YouTube. Hurray!

Wait, flash? What about HTML5 on YouTube?

Yes, I read that too. All the tech press sites were reporting week before last that YouTube was now streaming HTML5 by default.

Alas, not with Firefox. It works with most other browsers, but Firefox's HTML5 video support is too broken. And I guess it's a measure of Firefox's increasing irrelevance that almost none of the reportage two weeks ago even bothered to try it on Firefox before reporting that it worked everywhere.

It turns out that using HTML5 video on YouTube depends on something called Media Source Extensions (MSE). You can check your MSE support by going to YouTube's HTML5 info page. In Firefox 35, it's off by default.

You can enable MSE in Firefox by flipping the media.mediasource preference, but that's not enough; YouTube also wants "MSE & H2.64". Apparently if you care enough, you can set a new preference to enable MSE & H2.64 support on YouTube even though it's not supported by Firefox and is considered too buggy to enable.

If you search the web, you'll find lots of people talking about how HTML5 with MSE is enabled by default for Firefox 32 on youtube. But here we are at Firefox 35 and it requires jumping through hoops. What gives?

Well, it looks like they enabled it briefly, discovered it was too buggy and turned it back off again. I found bug 1129039: Disable MSE for Firefox 36, which seems an odd title considering that it's off in Firefox 35, but there you go.

Here is the dependency tree for the MSE tracking bug, 778617. Its dependency graph is even scarier. After taking a look at that, I switched my media.mediasource preference back off again. With a dependency tree like that, and nothing anywhere summarizing the current state of affairs ... I think I can live with flash. Especially now that I know how to get flashblock working.

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[ 17:08 Feb 09, 2015    More tech/web | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 18 Dec 2014

Firefox deprecates flash. How to get it back (on Debian).

Recently Firefox started refusing to run flash, including youtube videos (about the only flash I run). A bar would appear at the top of the page saying "This plug-in is vulnerable and should be upgraded". Apparently Adobe had another security bug. There's an "Update now" button in the Firefox bar, but it's a chimera: Firefox has never known how to install plug-ins for Linux (there are longstanding bugs filed on why it claims to be able to but can't), and it certainly doesn't know how to update a Debian package.

I use a Firefox downloaded from Mozilla.org, but flash from Debian's flashplugin-nonfree package. So I figured updating Debian -- apt-get update; apt-get dist-upgrade -- would fix it. Nope. I still got the same message.

A little googling found several pages recommending update-flashplugin-nonfree --install; I tried that but it didn't help either. It seemed to download a tarball, but as far as I could tell it never unpacked or installed the tarball it downloaded.

What finally did the trick was

apt-get install --reinstall flashplugin-nonfree
That downloaded a new tarball, AND unpacked and installed it. After restarting Firefox, I was able to view the video I'd been trying to watch.

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[ 15:21 Dec 18, 2014    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sun, 13 Sep 2009

Installing Flash on Linux, for Newbies

Dear Adobe: Please update your instructions when you update your install packages

I had a circus a few nights ago trying to help my mom get her flash plugin updated. Not because of anything she was doing; because Adobe's out of date instructions were just plain wrong.

It gave me more insight into why people say "Linux is hard to use" ... which has little to do with Linux, and everything to do with outside forces that seem to go out of their way to make things hard for Linux users.

See, Mom's Firefox auto-updated to a new version, which started whining about her flash version being insecure and telling her to update it. It pointed her to Adobe's site, get.adobe.com/flashplayer.

She went there and was presented with a long list of options for different types of download. She's on Ubuntu, so the Ubuntu deb might have worked -- but it might not, since she's running a Firefox from Mozilla.org rather than the one from Ubuntu. (Ubuntu's Firefox on Hardy was notoriously crashy, and she has enough problems with the Mozilla version crashing.)

I told her I usually use the tarball, and install it as myself, not as root. In the past, the flash installer has always been very good about noticing I'm not root and installing to ~/.mozilla/plugins. I didn't expect problems.

So she downloaded the tarball and tried to follow their instructions, which look like this:

  1. Click the download link to begin installation. A dialog box will appear asking you where to save the file.
  2. Save the .tar.gz file to your desktop and wait for the file to download completely.
  3. Unpackage the file. A directory called install_flash_player_10_linux will be created.
  4. In terminal, navigate to this directory and type ./flashplayer-installer to run the installer. Click Enter. The installer will instruct you to shut down your browser(s).
  5. Once the installation is complete, the plug-in will be installed in your Mozilla browser. To verify, launch Mozilla and choose Help > About Plug-ins from the browser menu.

The first problem is "Unpackage the file." Honestly, how hard is it to give people a hint that "unpackage" means "type tar xf install_flash_player_10_linux.tar.gz"? As long as you're writing instructions anyway, why not tell people the actual command instead of expecting them to figure it out somehow?

"In terminal, navigate to this directory" -- if you know your user will be typing shell commands in a terminal, why not tell them to cd rather than expecting them to figure that out from "navigate"? (Mom figured that one out -- go Mom! -- but a lot of users wouldn't.)

Except -- OOPS! try following the instructions and you can't cd ... because it turns out the flash 10 "installer" doesn't contain a directory, or indeed an installer, at all. It's a tarball containing one file, libflashplayer.so.

Now, setting aside the question of why anyone would use tar to package a single file -- why not just make the file available for download and tell users where to put it? -- they give you no hint as to where this libflashplayer.so file is supposed to go. If you don't happen to know how Firefox sets up its plugins, you're out of luck.

Fortunately, I happen to know where the file goes. I told Mom to mv libflashplayer.so ~/.mozilla/plugins/ and all was well. But ... sheesh! With instructions like this on something as (unfortunately) widely needed as the Flash plugin, how can a newbie ever expect to get anywhere?

For newbies reading this, the real instructions for installing Adobe's flash 10 tarball are:

  1. Download their file, which is named install_flash_player_10_linux.tar.gz
  2. Open a terminal and cd to wherever you downloaded it, e.g. cd ~/Desktop
  3. tar xf install_flash_player_10_linux.tar.gz
  4. mv libflashplayer.so ~/.mozilla/plugins/
  5. Restart firefox, make sure flash works, and (once you're sure, at your option)
    rm install_flash_player_10_linux.tar.gz

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[ 23:53 Sep 13, 2009    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]

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