Major Updates to Flash Player Audio and Video

Adobe has just announced support for H.264 video in the latest version of the Flash player. This is a huge step forward, and as Don MacAskill writes, essentially kills Microsoft’s Silverlight, which was already off to a rocky start.

Tinic Uro, a developer at Adobe, has posted a terrific in-depth writeup of the changes, including a lot of info on the why’s and why-not’s of what they did. It also give some insight as to what’s coming in future versions. Some highlights:

  • Flash Player Update 3 Beta 2 now can play back any MP3 sample rate. Previously, Flash could only play files with sample rates of 11.025kHz, 22.05kHz, and 44.1kHz.
  • .m4a files, created for iTunes, can now be embedded on any web page using the new player. (Huge.)
  • Per Tinic, “H.264 will be supported natively by most new graphics cards. NVidia, ATI and Intel have made a commitments to have full support for it. This means better than HD video on your PC will become possible in the not so distant future.”
  • “Digital TV, especially in Europe is quickly adopting H.264. The interoperability with the web will open new doors for a lot of media companies.”
  • True streaming (as opposed to download or progressive download via HTTP) sill requires a Flash Media Server ($), but progressive download has become so ubiquitous, I don’t see this as a problem.

I think I speak for many people when I say that I wondered what Adobe’s purchase of Macromedia would mean for the future of the Flash player. This and previous upgrades tells me that Adobe truly gets it and that they’re serious about maintaining the ubiquity of their player and increasing their lead over QuickTime.

Major Defect: Apple 30″ Cinema Display Monitors

I’ve been fortunate to have a terrific computing setup here for the past nine months: a quad-core Intel Mac Pro with 1.25TB disk, 4GB RAM, and *both* a 23″ and 30″ monitor. Sweet, indeed.

But from the very start I’ve had a problem, which turns out to be extremely common: The 30-inch display is plagued with green pixels that appear in image-context-sensitive areas. This wasn’t too bad when I was mostly doing audio and text work, but now that I’m working more with images in Photoshop and video in Final Cut Pro, it’s truly unacceptable. Here’s an example. I photographed this directly from my screen

Well, it turns out this is a problem shared by a very large number of users. Referred to as the “flickering/dancing pixel problem,” it has been the subject of an ongoing discussion for well over two years with more than 400 messages posted to the thread! As far as any of us can tell, Apple has never acknowledged this problem or offered a fix to anyone. The company continues to replace monitors under warranty, but the replacements always have the same problem. As others in the discussion point out, I’m amazed that Apple continues to sell a product with such a significant known defect. This isn’t a minor issue; these green pixels can be all over the screen.

I bought the Apple 30-inch monitor ($2,000) because it looks so nice on my desk. Dumb move. I should have saved a few hundred dollars and bought the Dell 30-inch monitor instead. Word on the street is that it doesn’t have this problem. If you’re considering such a large monitor, I urge you to avoid the temptation to buy the Apple product until the company deals with this problem. And if you work at Apple…hey, what are you guys doing there? Remember us, the customers?