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Adobe Systems is reaching out for Linux desktop users with its announcement today that the first beta of Adobe Flash Player 10, a.k.a. Astro, is now available for Linux, as well as Windows and Mac OS X.
In a statement, David Wadhwani, general manager and vice president of the Platform Business Unit at Adobe, said that "Adobe had been working closely with the community; we are delivering groundbreaking creative features that will be transformative for interactive designers and developers, and revolutionary for end users."
Unfortunately, not all those new features are available in the Linux version. The new release gives Windows and Mac OS designers the ability to create custom filters and effects that can be used with Flash's native effects. To create these custom filters and effects, users need Adobe Pixel Bender toolkit, and this program, which is now a release candidate, is not available for Linux developers.
Flash Player 10 comes on the heels of Adobe's Open Screen Project, whose goal is "to enable a consistent runtime environment" by relaxing some restrictions on the Flash format and releasing some Flash specifications. According to Adobe, some of Pixel Bender's functionality will also be included in Open Screen. That said, Open Screen, isn't regarded as being all that useful by open-source Flash developers.
The new beta provides for variable bit-rate video streaming. While this functionality isn't usable today, it's designed to automatically adjust the video quality between the next version of the Adobe Flash Media Server and Player depending on the available bandwidth.
Flash Player 10 also includes native support for 3-D effects to position, rotate, and animate 2-D objects while retaining interactivity. This functionality is already available for developers thanks to the PaperVision3D open source library for Flash Player 9.
Microsoft is attempting to compete with Flash with its Silverlight platform for .Net-based media files. Adobe's beta release comes days after Miguel de Icaza, lead developer of Mono, the .Net Linux implementation, announced that the first code was available for Moonlight, a Mono-based implementation of Silverlight. While not even feature-complete, it's the first published code that supports the Silverlight 1.0 profile for Linux.
Microsoft, as Roy Schestowitz pointed out on his Boycott Novell site, has not opened up Silverlight at all nor offered support for it on Linux. Thus, neither Flash nor Moonlight/Silverlight is really all that Linux-friendly. Both, especially for Linux creative content developers, continue to be difficult to work with. That said, for Linux users who just want to watch Flash movies, Adobe's new beta deserves some attention.
Linux users do have another option for Flash viewing. Gnash released Gnash 0.8.2 of its GPLv3 SWF (Shockwave Flash) movie player and Firefox browser plugin in late March. Besides the browser plugin, Gnash also offers standalone players for both KDE and GNOME.
The prerelease version of Adobe Flash Player 10 beta is now available as a free download from Adobe Labs in RPM and DEB binaries. Users must uninstall Adobe Flash Player 9 for Linux before installing the beta.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the operating system of choice for PCs and 2BSD Unix was what the cool kids used on their computers.