New Flash Player 10.2 is Faster, Lighter on the CPU

Adobe has released Flash Player 10.2, an update that focuses primarily on speed and performance improvements. New in Flash 10.2 is something Adobe calls “Stage Video hardware acceleration,” which the company claims will “decrease processor usage and enable higher frame rates, reduced memory usage, and greater pixel fidelity and quality.”
The Stage Video hardware acceleration […]

Adobe has released Flash Player 10.2, an update that focuses primarily on speed and performance improvements. New in Flash 10.2 is something Adobe calls “Stage Video hardware acceleration,” which the company claims will “decrease processor usage and enable higher frame rates, reduced memory usage, and greater pixel fidelity and quality.”

The Stage Video hardware acceleration means that Flash Player 10.2 can leverage your graphics card for not just H.264 hardware decoding (which works in Flash Player 10.1) but also color conversion, scaling, and blitting.

To try out the new Flash Player 10.2 beta, head over to the Adobe download page. If you’re using Google Chrome, which bundles Flash Player with the browser, look for an update to arrive in the near future.

The Flash Player 10.2 beta gave us mixed results when it came to speed and the final release is no different. Windows users will see the biggest speed bump, particularly with 1080p video that has been optimized with the Stage Video hardware acceleration. Mac users will need to be on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in order for Stage Video to take advantage of hardware acceleration.

For the beta I ran some test on the Mac platform (using Firefox and Chromium) using several 1080p videos on YouTube. The beta put CPU usage down to the 18-22 percent range, but the final release tops that, rarely climbing over 12 percent CPU use. On Windows (again in Firefox and Chromium) the story is even better, with the numbers hovering in the low single digits.

That’s good news for watching Hd video online, but it also means less drain on your laptop’s batteries, one of the main complaints leveled at Flash Player. Keep in mind though that in order to take advantage of the new Stage Video tools, sites like YouTube and Vimeo will need to alter their video players. So, it may be some time before the full benefit of Stage Video’s improvements makes it to your day-to-day web browsing.

Other new features in Flash Player 10.2 include support for fullscreen mode with dual monitors — meaning that you can have a movie on one screen and keep working on another — and some sub-pixel text rendering improvements which should make Flash text more readable.

As for Flash Mobile, where the benefits of lower CPU usage and less battery drain are even more welcome, Adobe says to “hang tight.” Adobe plans to talk about new versions of Flash Player for Mobile at the Mobile World Congress next week.

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Adobe Working on an Easier Way to Delete ‘Flash Cookies’

When it comes to erasing your tracks on the web, nothing is more pernicious and difficult to delete than the Flash-based cookie. Technically known as “local shared objects,” Flash cookies don’t go away when you clear your browser-based cookies. Instead they hang around, potentially collecting data without your knowledge or consent.
To delete Flash cookies […]

When it comes to erasing your tracks on the web, nothing is more pernicious and difficult to delete than the Flash-based cookie. Technically known as “local shared objects,” Flash cookies don’t go away when you clear your browser-based cookies. Instead they hang around, potentially collecting data without your knowledge or consent.

To delete Flash cookies you have to navigate through the Flash Player settings dialog. Unfortunately most users don’t know how to do that and Adobe has, until now, put very little effort into simplifying the process (it has at least made Flash respect the “private browsing” mode in modern browsers).

Now Adobe is finally taking some steps toward simplifying the process of deleting Flash cookies. The company has announced it is working on a new API that will allow your browser to delete Flash cookies along with the rest of your cookies. For now only Mozilla and Google are working on the API with Adobe, but presumably Adobe is talking to Microsoft and Apple as well.

While there’s no shipping code at this point, if the API were to make it into Firefox and Chrome it would give users an easy-to-find menu for quickly clearly Flash cookies. Adobe’s blog post says users can expect to see the changes “in the first half of the year.”

The move would no doubt by a small boon to privacy, but as Ars Technica points out, Flash cookies aren’t the only source of hard-to-defeat, persistant online tracking. For instance, the dreaded “evercookie” stores data in no less than 13 places and is nearly impossible for the average user to delete.

Still, for those annoyed at the complexities of deleting Flash cookies, things may soon, thankfully, get a bit simpler.

Miniature Food photo by Stéphanie Kilgast/Flickr/CC

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Google Dropping H.264 Codec from Chrome Browser [Updated]

Google has rather nonchalantly dropped a bombshell on the web — future versions of the Chrome browser will no longer support the popular H.264 video codec. Instead Google is throwing its hat in with Firefox and Opera, choosing to support the open, royalty-free WebM codec.
Google says the move is meant to “enable open innovation” on […]

Google has rather nonchalantly dropped a bombshell on the web — future versions of the Chrome browser will no longer support the popular H.264 video codec. Instead Google is throwing its hat in with Firefox and Opera, choosing to support the open, royalty-free WebM codec.

Google says the move is meant to “enable open innovation” on the web by ensuring that web video remains royalty-free. While H.264 is widely supported and free for consumers, sites encoding videos — like YouTube — must pay licensing fees to the MPEG Licensing Association, which holds patents on AVC/H.264

Prior to Google’s announcement, the web video codec battle was evenly split — Firefox and Opera supported the open Ogg and WebM codecs, while Safari and Internet Explorer supported H.264. Google took the egalitarian path and supported all three codecs.

Google’s move away from H.264 makes sense given that Google is already heavily invested in WebM. In fact, the only reason the WebM codec exists is because Google purchased On2, the creators of the VP8 codec. Once Google acquired the underlying code it turned around and released VP8 as the open source WebM project.

There’s been considerable outcry from developers concerned that they now need to support two video codecs to get HTML5 video working on their sites. However, given that Firefox — which has a significantly greater market share than Google’s Chrome browser — was never planning to support the H.264 codec, developers were always going to need to support both codes for their sites to work across browsers.

Google’s decision to drop H.264 from Chrome does raise some questions though. For instance, Android also ships with H.264 and so far Google hasn’t made any announcement regarding the future of H.264 on the Android platform. One of the reasons H.264 has become so popular is that the codec enjoys robust hardware support across devices — whether it’s desktop PCs, mobile devices or set top boxes. While WebM has made some strides in hardware acceleration since it was originally released, it still lags well behind H.264. At least for now it seems that Android most likely needs to continue supporting H.264.

The move also raises questions about YouTube, still the largest video site on the web. Currently the site serves H.264 videos to most browsers, whether through the HTML5 version of the site or using the Flash Player. It seems obvious that Google must be hard at work converting the site to use WebM, but will it continue to support H.264 for those browsers and devices that don’t support the WebM codec? So far Google hasn’t made any announcements regarding YouTube and H.264.

Critics of Google’s decision to drop H.264 support in Chrome point out that Chrome ships with Flash, which, like H.264, is not really an open web technology. Indeed it would seem hypocritical for Google to dump some closed tools while keeping others, but, in Chrome’s defense, Flash is well entrenched in the web and ditching it really isn’t practical. Rather Google’s decision seems to be pragmatic — the company is in a position to take a stand on video codecs and it is doing so before H.264 becomes as entrenched as Flash.

[Google did not respond to a request for comment on this article. A Google Spokesperson tells Webmonkey that the announcement is related to “Chrome only and does not affect Android or YouTube.” Presumably both will continue to offer H.264 support. As for Flash, the Spokeperson says, the Chrome announcement “is about the importance we place on open technologies being the foundation of the emerging web platform moving forward.” In other words, dropping Flash support isn’t practical.]

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Pick the Perfect HTML5 Video Player for Your Site

There’s no question that HTML5 video is at the forefront of the web’s migration to HTML5. Unfortunately converting your site’s video to HTML5 is a little more complicated than just dropping in the video tag.
We’ve covered a few HTML5 video players in the past — SublimeVideo, FlareVideo and the DIY route — but new players […]

There’s no question that HTML5 video is at the forefront of the web’s migration to HTML5. Unfortunately converting your site’s video to HTML5 is a little more complicated than just dropping in the video tag.

We’ve covered a few HTML5 video players in the past — SublimeVideo, FlareVideo and the DIY route — but new players seem to emerge every day and deciding which one is right for you can be complicated.

To help you out developer Philip Bräunlich has put together a great chart of 19 different HTML5 video player solutions. The chart breaks down each player, covering options like whether or not there’s a Flash fallback for older browsers, if keyboard shortcuts are supported, how easy it is to theme and use, and what license the code is available under. The sidebar also has links to demos so you can see each player in action.

If you’ve been trying to figure out which video player has everything you need, Bräunlich’s chart should be a huge time saver.

Chrome Browser to Start Sandboxing Flash Player

The latest developer channel release of the Chrome browser now supports sandboxing for Adobe’s Flash Player on Windows 7, Vista and XP.
This feature should provide extra protection against malicious browser exploits through the Flash Player. The dev channel releases of Chrome on Windows already support sandboxing for HTML rendering and JavaScript execution, two of the […]

The latest developer channel release of the Chrome browser now supports sandboxing for Adobe’s Flash Player on Windows 7, Vista and XP.

This feature should provide extra protection against malicious browser exploits through the Flash Player. The dev channel releases of Chrome on Windows already support sandboxing for HTML rendering and JavaScript execution, two of the most common paths people can use to run malicious code on an unsuspecting user’s machine. Sandboxing keeps these sensitive parts of the browser more secure while still allowing web pages and apps to access the other, less-sensitive parts of the browser.

Windows users on the dev channel should see the update arrive automatically. We should note that the sandbox does have some bugs and may break other parts of the browser — this is a developer release, after all. Once the kinks are ironed out, all of these sandboxing features will begin making their way into proper stable Chrome releases.

Google’s Chromium team has been working with Adobe to build better Flash controls into Chrome, and to utilize Chrome’s sandboxing technology for the plug-in. Google says Wednesday’s update makes Chrome the only browser on XP that sandboxes Flash. For more about sandboxing and how Chrome is implementing it, read the overview post on the Chromium blog from October. Also, Wednesday’s release comes less than a month after Chrome introduced click-to-play controls for Flash and other plug-ins.

Adobe’s Flash Player is the most widely-used browser plug-in on the web, and it’s the dominant choice for video playback and games online. Even so, the technology gets beat up for performance issues and its security shortcomings, and it’s still falling out of favor among standards enthusiasts who are pushing HTML5 as the better solution for displaying multimedia in the browser.

Adobe also released a new beta version of the Flash Player on Wednesday that improves some of its performance issues.

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