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Old 11-20-2009, 03:59 AM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default Adobe Releases GPU Accelerated Flash Plugin Beta

From our front-page news:
There was a rather significant release that occurred earlier this week that I ended up forgetting about, but it's worth mentioning now even if I'm a few days late (whoops!). Adobe released its long awaited Flash 10.1 plugin. Before you say, "Who cares?!", realize that this is the version that brings GPU acceleration into things. That's right... the latest version (in beta) will allow you to run version Flash videos accelerated on the GPU rather than the CPU.

Right now, the acceleration is limited to H.264 encoded videos, but that's hardly an issue given just how popular that codec is. The GPU acceleration isn't just for the desktop either, but notebooks, and across all three graphics card producers. Yup, even Intel has added the support via its latest driver. There's a catch though, and it applies to all three graphic card vendors. The card you have must be relatively recent in order for the acceleration to work.

For ATI cards, both the desktop and mobile parts need to be part of the HD 4xxx family, or higher, while on the integrated side, HD 3xxx and higher is supported. NVIDIA supports pretty much every GPU that's been released since the 8000-series, including ION. For Intel, graphics chips part of the 4 series chipset family are supported. If you want to check the full list, or get additional details, you can download the official release notes (100KB PDF).

To make sure that the GPU acceleration works, be sure to download the latest possible driver from either vendor. ATI's latest, and stable, Catalyst 9.11 is fine, but for NVIDIA you'll need to download the beta 195.55 driver. For Intel, version or later is required. To take a look at some test videos while learning something about the new Flash, you can go here. The image I've posted below can be clicked to go to an H.264 YouTube HD video, in true 720p. Other 720p Flash videos are likely to also work fine.

I haven't had the chance to test out the beta plugin yet, but I'd like to soon. I was hoping my "netbook", the AMD-driven HP dv2 would be supported, but as it was built using an already-outdated GPU when I bought it this past spring, I'm out of luck. As far as I'm concerned, though, netbooks are the largest beneficiary of this feature. It's frustrating to run a YouTube HD video only to have it lag like no tomorrow. I'm very interested to know if the latest drivers and plugin solve this issue, so if you test it out for yourself, be sure to relay your thoughts in our thread!

This public prerelease is an opportunity for developers to test and provide early feedback to Adobe on new features, enhancements, and compatibility with previously authored content. Consumers can try the beta release of Flash Player 10.1 to preview hardware acceleration of video on supported Windows PCs and x86-based netbooks. You can also help make Flash Player better by visiting all of your favorite sites, making sure they work the same or better than with the current player. We definitely want your feedback to help improve the final version, expected to ship in the first half of 2010.

Source: Adobe Flash Player 10.1 Pre-Release
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Old 02-08-2010, 10:17 PM   #2
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I might be a bit late with the reply, but this is something Iíve been pondering over for a long timeÖ. (also, the second beta has been out for a while as well)

The addition of GPU support for vector rendering in Flash might also be a sign of GPU support for other Creative suite applications apart from Encore and Photoshop, like Illustrator (something Iím personally very interested in), since GPU support is desperately needed for Illustrator (anyone whoís worked with meshes will understand the strain it can put on a system). There are a few things that are annoying me though. For a start, many of the new additions to the Flash code must be enabled by the developer before the user can take advantage of them, so existing content must be updated before any real benefit can be seen. Additionally, like with the release of Adobeís creative suite, only certain elements may be accelerated by the GPU, as well as a rather small list of supported GPUís. Initial impressions; while limiting, provided an interesting look into the future of what can be achieved. All that is needed was some tweaking, broader acceleration and efficiency. It is the last element that has me concerned, efficiency.

Adding GPU acceleration will help alleviate some of the major problems people have with Flash; namely video, but in some respects it is misdirection. Instead of working to make Flash more efficient, Adobe is adding more features and giving it more processing power to consume. Not only will it be able to consume the CPU but the GPU as well, leading to a massive spike in power usage if left unchecked. When a 200x500 advert can bring a modern computer to its knees, there are some fundamental problems with the engine that need to be addressed first, but thatís typically been the adobe way; add more features then polish them later.

My major concern with Flashís GPU support is that of security. Flash has had numerous security problems over the years, ranging from simple URL redirects to malicious sites, to grabbing passwords and security credentials. This is in large part due to the fact that Flash is more than just a movie player, but has its own programming language, ActionScript. Now that Adobe is adding GPU support, think what could happen should a malicious programmer started to creatively use the GPU with the help of ActionScript.

Hypothetically, with some further additions from Adobe and some creative thinking, one could create a key logger thatís downloaded from a rouge Flash Ad, load it onto the GPU, and have it sit there out of the main view of the system, like a rootkit. While antivirus may be able to pick up on some of the system communication, it would be powerless when it came to remove the malicious code resident in GPU memory. This is probably a little extreme, especially since the current version of Flash probably couldnít do this, but itís something worth bearing in mind down the line, should Adobe decide to expand GPU capabilities. Also, AVís canít protect against malicious Flash apps very easily, causing further security concerns.

While I see a lot of good from these new enhancements, there are numerous problems that should be addressed first.
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