Why Flash Will Be Just Fine

I've just realised that an email reply I wrote on the FlashMedia List would actually make a good blog post. I wrote it in response to someone pointing once again to the death of Flash, brought up by mobile and HTML5.

Actually I see emerging platforms as a big opportunity for Flash, not a threat. Why was Flash successful in the first place? Cross platform consistency.

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Adobe Files Lawsuit Against Wowza. Wowza Responds.

Oh what a mess. I had hoped this would not happen but here we are: Apparently Adobe filed a lawsuit against Wowza Media Systems last week alleging "patent infringement and unfair competition complaints regarding Wowza's business practices".

I do not have any specific details on the lawsuit and am merely reporting to the press release I received via email from Wowza. In it Wowza's David Stubenvoll states:
"Adobe's lawsuit against our company is completely without merit, and we look forward to resolving this matter in court. Wowza's position is that it does not infringe on Adobe patents and that we have engaged only in skillful and fair competition with Adobe. For the implementation in question, we disclosed our activities to Adobe more than five years ago and continued to be open and up front with Adobe regarding our activities. It is only after five years of Wowza growth, independent technology innovation, and market leadership that Adobe unexpectedly filed this unfounded and spurious lawsuit.

Wowza has always had a policy of timely, accurate communications with all current and prospective licensees, and so we have made the decision to communicate this matter swiftly. This action is not anticipated to interrupt our current product offering or future product plans. We will continue to innovate and provide the market with the best technology at reasonable prices while we respond in court to these unfounded allegations. We remain confident in our intellectual property position and welcome the opportunity to settle this matter definitively."

Let's see how this pans out, but in the end there will be no winners. In most people's eyes Wowza have developed a top notch product and provided great support to developers, offering a lower priced and feature rich alternative to Flash Media Server.
Honestly I feared something like this may be on the horizon, but I would have out bets on an acquisition of Wowza by Adobe instead - guess that option is out of the window now. Lisa seems to agree with me.

Anyone know where I can find the details of the lawsuit?


Dynamic Streaming Using F4M And Flash Media Playback Via CloudFront

Here is a quick heads up on an issue you may encounter when streaming video using Flash Media Playback and f4m files to provide dynamic streaming whereby the player will automatically pick the correct bitrate version depending on the user's connection speed.

In my case I wanted to stream my videos using Amazon's Cloudfront service. A typical RTMP URL will look something like this:

view plain
1rtmp://saaabbbccc.cloudfront.net/cfx/st/mp4:myvideo.mp4
If you go ahead and create an f4m file using this you may end up with something like the following (presuming 3 bitrates at 500, 1000 and 1500 kbps):
view plain
1<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
2<manifest xmlns="http://ns.adobe.com/f4m/1.0">
3<id>Dynamic Streaming</id>
4<duration></duration>
5<mimeType>video/mp4</mimeType>
6<baseURL>rtmp://saaabbbccc.cloudfront.net/cfx/st</baseURL>
7<media url="mp4:myvideo_500.mp4" bitrate="500" width="640" height="480" />
8<media url="mp4:myvideo_1000.mp4" bitrate="1000" width="640" height="480" />
9<media url="mp4:myvideo_1500.mp4" bitrate="1500" width="640" height="480" />
10</manifest>
Unfortunately this file will not work when fed into Flash Media Playback. The reson (and fix) is quite simple and one some of us may remember from using the FLVPlayback component in Flash. It is a missing application instance name. In our case this is the default instance _definst_ that needs to be added to the baseURL. The correct f4m listing would therefore be as follows:
view plain
1<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
2<manifest xmlns="http://ns.adobe.com/f4m/1.0">
3<id>Dynamic Streaming</id>
4<duration></duration>
5<mimeType>video/mp4</mimeType>
6<baseURL>rtmp://saaabbbccc.cloudfront.net/cfx/st/_definst_</baseURL>
7<media url="mp4:myvideo_500.mp4" bitrate="500" width="640" height="480" />
8<media url="mp4:myvideo_1000.mp4" bitrate="1000" width="640" height="480" />
9<media url="mp4:myvideo_1500.mp4" bitrate="1500" width="640" height="480" />
10</manifest>
I hope this helps someone. I was slightly confused by this as any one of my files would play fine using the FLVPlayback component without specifying the _definst_ in the video RTMP URL.

And one final gotcha: if you host your f4m files in an Amazon S3 bucket (but not your streaming bucket, you need to use a separate non-streaming bucket for non-video files) you may require your own crossdomain file inside it or the Adobe hosted Flash Media Playback SWF won't be able to load it.

A free tool to help you manage your S3 buckets (if you are on Windows - I run this tool in a VM) is CloudBerry Explorer. It's one of the better S3 related tools out there. Do you know an equally good one for OSX?


Uvault Launches New Multi-Platform Streaming Service

Long standing Flash Media Server hosting and streaming media provider Uvault have launched a new multi-platform streaming service. The new service supports both Flash as well as HLS and RTSP, and is suited to deliver live and on demand content not only to desktop computers but also mobile devices.

In addition to the streaming delivery of the content the service also offers a media management console, adaptive streaming features, a custom player wizard and extensive reporting.

Prices start at $100/month for on demand and $50/month for live broadcasts. A free trial is available.

To find out more head over to Uvault's website.


Looking For An Old Version Of Flash Communication Server?

A question that seems to pop up from time to time is where old, archived versions of Macromedia Flash Communication Server or Adobe Flash Media Server can be downloaded from. Sometimes people need to test legacy applications or simply own an old license but cannot find the installer anymore.

You are in luck. A little known fact is that all the software updaters for both FCS and FMS are in fact fully fledged installers - the title 'updater' is a bit misleading. Yes, they do update a previous version but they do so by effectively uninstalling the old version and reinstalling the new one.

Therefore if you need to obtain one of those legacy installers you can do so from Adobe's FMS Updaters page.
Scroll down - and back in time- to access all versions back to FCS 1.0. Ahhh... those were the days, eh?


Lisa's Flash Video Newsletter

Do you want to stay updated on the latest news around Flash video? Or maybe want to get your questions answered by one of the leading industry experts? Then look no further than Lisa Larson-Kelley's new web video newsletter which Lisa is planning on sending out every week - or near enough.

In it she will share tips and tricks about FMS and Flash video and will also give readers sneak peaks into some chapters of her upcoming Flash Video Guestbook - so make sure to sign up to the newsletter and send her your video questions.


Adobe Flash Media Server on Amazon Web Services

Today Adobe announced the availability of a new hosting service for FMS: Flash Media Server on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Kevins Towes, FMS Product Manager, has full details on his blog.

In a nutshell, FMS on AWS allows you to quickly deploy a fully licensed instance of FMS 4 in the cloud. The charges are a combination of FMS license fees and Amazon AWS charges, plus a mark-up on the hourly AWS fees. For example a lareg FMS instance which is limited to 100 RTMFP P2P connections will cost $0.44 per hour to run. A normal AWS large instance (without FMS) is charged at around $0.38 per hour. To run such an FMs instance for a month will cost just over $300, plus any bandwidth on top plus a $5 recurring monthly fee. But do not forget the benefits this type of deployment brings. Imagine having to run a massive live event - previously you would need to rent your own hardware, buy FMS licenses and set everything up by hand. Combining FMS with AWS essentially gives you FMS on tap - you may use it for a whole month, or just a few hours for your actual event. In such cases the AWS deployment can work out extremely cost effective.

I was able to test the AWS instances with FMS and I must say it was very easy to get up and running, especially when you are already an AWS customer as I was. I simply logged into the AWS portal, chose the FMS AMI bundle, went through the subscription sign-up and within minutes I had a fully working FMS 4 instance up and running, ready to stream.

I suggest you give FMS on AWS a try next time you need to run a large scale event or need to scale up your existing FMs infrastructure.


Influxis Now Offers FMS4 Enterprise / P2P Hosting - Special Pricing

This week is hosting news week it seems. First up is Influxis who are now able to offer FMS4 Enterprise hosting. Their new packages are aimed at large scale delivery and deployments which leverage the full FMS4 Enterprise feature set, including P2P connections over RTMFP.

As an introductory offer Influxis is also giving you the chance to lock in some special pricing for the whole year, but you must act quickly as these prices are only available until Friday, Dec 17th 2010. These prices will not come along again after that date so make sure you lock into a great deal now.

You can find the full press release here.


Learn All About Strobe And ActionScript-only Video Players

Mark your calendar for this coming Wednesday, 17th November 2010. The OSMF User Group is hosting an online event to which everyone is welcome; the title:
Building ActionScript-Only State-of-the-Art Video Players -- An In-Depth How-To Code Walkthrough (Using Codebase of Open Source Strobe Media Playback)

The session is an online code walk-through of the open source Strobe Media Playback video player codebase.

The code walk-through will be led by Andrian Cucu who is Adobe's Project Leader on the Flash and Strobe Media Playback video player project.

To join, just go to the following link at the meeting time to join the OSMF User Group's Connect room:
http://experts.na3.acrobat.com/osmf/

For further details and to RSVP see the following link: http://osmf.groups.adobe.com/index.cfm?event=post.display&postid=30846


Security Updates for Flash Media Server Available

Adobe have just released a bunch of security updates for FMS. The updates appear to cover all versions of FMS and are highly recommended for installation. Usually - and I think this is the case here - these updaters are actually full installers of the server. I would recommend to back up the existing FMS installation folder, run the updater and then check if the new install has preserved your config files and any other pieces that you may have previously modified. Also in the future if you require a Developer version just grab yourself the updater - no need to download the release and then update it.

More info here.

Interesting: Amazon Web Services is one of the parties credited for bringing the issues to Adobe's attention. Hmm, wonder what that may mean... I didn't know AWS was using FMS... :-)


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