[IAEP] Flash at Sugar Labs

Stanley Sokolow overbyte at earthlink.net
Tue Jan 6 00:07:38 EST 2009

Hi, all,

The FlashPlayer is a virtual machine for display of highly visual, 
interactive, and compelling software content.   I don't agree that use 
of Flash as a platform would be incompatible with "our strategy of _how_ 
to achieve education of the world's children" just because it was 
created under the proprietary umbrella of Macromedia and now Adobe.    
In case you are not aware of the opening of Flash source to software 
developers, here's a short article:  
The use of a closed-source FlashPlayer is no more of an impediment to 
creating good educational software than is the use of the proprietary 
hardware inside the XO.   Does anyone care that the processor components 
inside those chips are not open source?   They're still a platform upon 
which creative people can build out their free & open-source ideas.   
The creativity is built on top of the platform, not necessarily within 
the platform.

However, it's really not much of an issue because the guts of the XO 
barely meet the minimum requirements of the Flash player and don't meet 
the minimum for video playback.    Flash animations work ok at 450 MHz, 
but video needs more speed to look smooth.   As a cross-platform virtual 
machine, however, there's nothing out there as ubiquitous as Flash.   
The same program will play on Windows, Mac, & Linux (with careful 
attention to the few platform differences that Flash exposes to the 
programmer).   It's even moving onto cell phones.

If you would like an example of how Flash can provide an easy to use, 
collaborative environment, try www.vyew.com on your XO.   It's a Flash 
application.  Unfortunately, the FlashPlayer for Linux doesn't (yet) 
have appropriate drivers for the webcam in the XO, so you can't send 
video from the XO, but you can receive and view video from someone else 
collaborating on the vyew application while sharing a "whiteboard" for 
drawing and typing collaboratively.

Regarding free development tools, the FlashDevelop IDE is free 
open-source and quite good for developing source code for the 
FlashPlayer.  The various development kits (SDK) from Adobe and 3rd 
parties for Flash development (ActionScript, Flex, AIR, Away3d, etc.) 
are free downloads.



Chris Ball wrote:
> Hi,
>    > When the primary mission - educating the world's least served children
>    > - comes into conflict with Software Freedom, which one wins?  How do
>    > you explain that to the deployments?
> This is a fine question.  Here's my shot at it.
> First, I think it would be a mistake to think that we're the only group
> of people, or the only software project, interested in educating these
> children.  It would be helpful for me, then, if we could be more
> specific about what we in particular are trying to do (although it
> contains the risk that we won't agree on that).  It seems to me that
> Sugar exists because we claim at least the following failings of most
> educational software projects:
> * they don't allow the knowledge they contain to be *appropriated*.  For
>   example, translated into other languages or cultures so that it can be
>   useful for the entire world, or modified, commented on and discussed.
>   They might choose to disallow this technically (by not providing a
>   method to perform the appropriation) or socially (by actively
>   disallowing it).
> * they don't allow children to be *creators*, and not just consumers.
>   We believe, as a consensus, that the best way to learn is by creation
>   and problem-solving rather than by being dictated to.
> * they don't allow learning to be *collaborated upon*, critiqued,
>   and conducted jointly.
> I'm sure this is less eloquent than the text that's already been written
> on our goals, but it's a start.  What follows from it is that we should
> build software that:
> * is eminently modifiable by all, so that it can be appropriated into
>   areas of the world and use cases that its authors did not consider.
> * should allow not just the consumption of content, but its outright
>   creation.
> * should provide for pervasive sharing.
> Why did I just repeat all of this?  It makes it easy for me to see that
> a system like Flash is not (yet) appropriate software for learning as
> we envision it, because it would not support our strategy of _how_ to
> achieve education of the world's children, and that strategy is our
> reason for not sitting back and letting the rest of the software
> projects out there solve the problem for us.
> For this reason, I would support having Sugar Labs advocate against the
> use of Flash, and think I can do this in an intellectually honest way.
> This doesn't mean I would stop someone from writing a Flash player
> wrapper if they want to, and it means I would likely change my mind
> if free Flash players and editors became more available.
> Thanks,
> - Chris.

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