ARTICLE: 64-bit Flash Browser Plug-in

One of the major problems faced by upgrading to a 64-bit system is the portability of the drivers to support the architecture. Although recently the development of drivers is catching up, the next hurdle to tackle is the compatibility of applications. In general, most 32-bit applications are tweaked to be backward-compatible when run by a 64-bit operating system. This can be done by a number of ways. The popular ones are hardware compatibility mode and software emulation.

The term 64-bit can mean a lot of things. For this article, we will be dealing with the 64-bit architecture and the 64-bit operating system. To be more specific, the x86 architecture and the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). And the inexistent 64-bit application -- the 64-bit flash player browser plug-in.

Installing the RHEL operating system is easy. Configuration can be tricky even with the assortment of text files with their corresponding graphical user interface (GUI) configuration tools. But our recent challenge was to install the flash player plug-in to the Mozilla Firefox package that came with the RHEL WS 4 x86_64 (Nahant Update 4). This experience is what we will share with you in this article.

It is very surprising to know that after installation of the RHEL 4 x86_64 operating system, everything works to the initial log-in page. However, when opening my a browser and opening a page with flash content, there would be ugly holders where the flash content are supposed to be (see screenshot above).

Its a good thing Mozilla Firefox has an "Install Missing Plugins.." button towards the upper right corner, near the search engine plug-ins. However, the good thing ends there as the wizard prompts that there are no suitable plug-ins for the browser.

We got stumped but were not just about to give up right there. Google is our friend, so the next thing we knew the search engine has returned a whole page of links with keywords "64-bit flash plug-in". After checking out a few links, we knew the reality of things.

It is as equally surprising to know that 64-bit flash player is not yet released -- under development but no projected date of release. Not even a beta version of the software is available.

Flash content is found in just about any website from site logos to advertisements; Flash ActionScript allows a website to be interactive; Flash can create "flashy" (no pun intended) eye-catching animations; and it is used to stream media across the internet. With its widespread use, a website is almost incomplete without flash media.

Aside from it being portable and browser friendly, flash content is known to have small footprint. Thus they eat up only a small chunk of bandwidth and are easy to load. But despite it being one of the major bling-bling to a website, flash player is disappointingly unavailable to 64-bit browsers.

How then is flash content viewed in your 64-bit browser? The answer: nspluginwrapper. Download two RPMs -- the plugin, nspluginwrapper, and its viewer, nspluginwrapper-i386.

Upon successful download, open a terminal window and change directory to the folder containing the two recently downloaded RPMs. Execute this on the command line (plug-in first):
[email protected] # rpm -i nspluginwrapper-
[email protected] # rpm -i nspluginwrapper-i386-

Taking a another look at the previous website browsed now displays the flash content.

I hope this article has helped you install the needed 64-bit flash plug-in for your web browser. Flash is not the only plug-in supported by nspluginwrapper, there are other 32-bit plug-ins. Capability has been built-in to detect and not apply wrapping on native 64-bit plug-ins. Although I have not tested this on other 64-bit flavors of Linux, it could work for them as well.


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