Using the Adobe® Flash Player plugin in chromium under Debian GNU/Linux

Contents

Disclaimer
Maintenance Log
Introduction
Downloading the Adobe® Flash Player Plugin
Installing the Adobe® Flash Player Plugin
Restarting chromium
Updating the Adobe® Flash Player Plugin
Conclusion

Disclaimer

This is not an official Debian site.  This document details the author's experiences and recommendations with regard to using the Adobe® Flash Player Plugin in the chromium web browser under Debian GNU/Linux.  All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or the official positions of the Debian project, Adobe Systems, Google, or any other organization or individual.  This information is presented in the hope that it will be useful, but without any warranty or guarantee of any kind.  This information is presented free of charge, free of support, free of service, and free of liability.  Take this information with as many grains of salt as you think it's worth; and use it, if you choose to do so, entirely at your own risk.  The author hereby explicitly places this material in the public domain.  All trademarks, registered trademarks, service marks, etc. are the property of their respective owners.

Maintenance Log

Introduction

Adobe Systems has written and distributed a browser plugin called Adobe Flash Player for many years.  It was originally written for Windows® and Windows browsers, such as Internet Explorer.  Versions were also developed for other popular browsers for Windows, such as Firefox and Google Chrome.  Ports were eventually developed for the Linux versions of Firefox (rebranded as iceweasel by Debian for a time) and Google Chrome.  The version of the plugin for the Linux version of Google Chrome can also be made to work on the Linux version of chromium, Google's open source version of Chrome.  The plugin itself, however, is not free or open source software.  Use it at your own risk.

There are three different plugin interfaces that have been used for this plugin.  There's the ActiveX version, which is used with Internet Explorer, the NPAPI version, which is used with Firefox/iceweasel, and the PPAPI version, which is used with Chrome and chromium.  (NPAPI stands for Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface, and PPAPI stands for Pepper Plugin Application Programming Interface.)  Due to security vulnerabilities in the design of the NPAPI plugin interface itself, the NPAPI version of Adobe Flash Player developed a reputation for being highly suseptible to security vulnerabilities.  However, the PPAPI version has proven to be much more resilient, thanks to a more secure design of the PPAPI interface itself.  Modern browsers no longer support the NPAPI interface for security reasons.

At one time, Google shipped the Linux version of Chrome with the PPAPI version of the Adobe Flash Player plugin built in, but chromium shipped without it.  Consequently, schemes were devised which would download Chrome, strip the Adobe Flash Player plugin out of it, and install it into chromium.  The Debian package pepperflashplugin-nonfree was designed to do this.  However, two events combined to make this approach non-viable.  First, Google decided to drop support for the 32-bit Linux platform for Chrome (the i386 architecture).  The 32-bit version of chromium was (and is) still supported, but not the 32-bit version of Chrome.  With no 32-bit version of Chrome from which to extract the Adobe Flash Player, the 32-bit version of chromium could not get updates to Adobe Flash Player.  Second, at some point, even the 64-bit version of Chrome stopped shipping with a built-in version of Adobe Flash Player.  Thus, the upgrade path for 64-bit chromium stopped working too.

Fortunately, Adobe itself started making both the 32-bit and 64-bit Linux versions of the PPAPI Flash Player plugin available for download on their web site.  This document shows how to download it, install it under chromium, and make it work.  The installation instructions on the Adobe web site do not work for chromium.  They may work for Chrome, I don't know.  But they do not work for chromium.  But if you follow the instructions in this document, you can install it under chromium and get it to work.

Downloading the Adobe® Flash Player Plugin

First of all, I assume that you have either the 32-bit (i386 architecture) or the 64-bit (amd64 architecture) version of the chromium web browser installed on your Debian system.  The Adobe Flash Player plugin is useless to you otherwise.  Second, keep in mind that modern versions of chromium support newer (and non-proprietary) methods of displaying video, such as HTML5.  Consider whether you still need the Adobe Flash Player plugin. 

Assuming that you have concluded that you still need the Adobe® Flash Player plugin, use the chromium browser to display the following URL:
 

     https://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/?no_redirect

If you're lucky, the web site will detect your system.  On the left side of the screen, it will say something like "Linux 32-bit, English, Chrome".  If this is the case, click on the drop-down box which says "Select version to download ..." and select ".tar.gz for Linux".  If not, click on the link which says, "Need Flash Player for a different computer?"  On the screen which this takes you to, click on the drop-down box under "step 1" to select an operating system.  Select either "Linux (32-bit)" or "Linux (64-bit)", depending on your system architecture.  Then click on the drop-down box under "step 2" to select a version.  Select either "Linux 32-bit (.tar.gz) - PPAPI" or "Linux 64-bit (.tar.gz) - PPAPI", depending on your system architecture.  After making the selections, a "Download now" button will appear on the right-hand side of the screen.  Single left-click on the "Download now" button.  Watch out for attempts by Adobe to get you to download other stuff that you don't need.  That is not a problem right now for the Linux environment, but it could be in the future.  When downloading Windows versions, this is already a problem.

Installing the Adobe® Flash Player Plugin

I am assuming here that the Adobe® Flash Player plugin has never been installed before, including with pepperflashplugin-nonfree.  The above actions will download a file to the Downloads directory, in my case /home/steve/Downloads, called flash_player_ppapi_linux.i386.tar.gz.  Next, do the following:
 

     cd ~/Downloads
     mkdir flashplayer
     mv flash_player_ppapi_linux.i386.tar.gz flashplayer
     cd flashplayer
     tar -xz -f flash_player_ppapi_linux.i386.tar.gz
     su
     cd /usr/lib/chromium
     mkdir plugins
     cd plugins
     cp /home/steve/Downloads/flashplayer/libpepflashplayer.so .
     cp /home/steve/Downloads/flashplayer/manifest.json .
     exit
     cd LGPL
     rm *
     cd ..
     rmdir LGPL
     rm *
     cd ..
     rmdir flashplayer
     su
     cd /etc/chromium.d
     vi flash

Add the following line to the new file:
 

     export CHROMIUM_FLAGS="--ppapi-flash-path=/usr/lib/chromium/plugins/libpepflashplayer.so --ppapi-flash-version=24.0.0.221"

Save the changes and exit the editor.  The correct value for the version can be found in the /usr/lib/chromium/plugins/manifest.json file.  This must be kept up to date in /etc/chromium.d/flash as newer versions are installed.
 

     exit

Restarting chromium

At this point, close chromium and open it again.  Don't use
 

     chrome://restart

It may not work.  It must be completely closed down, then started up cold.  After restarting, use
 

     chrome://plugins

to check the status of installed plugins.  You should see the Adobe Flash Player as an active plugin.  Click on the "Details" link on the right-hand side of the page to see more details.

Updating the Adobe® Flash Player Plugin

From time to time, Adobe will release updates to their Flash Player.  And when they do, you will need to download a new version from their web site in order to keep things current on your system.  The procedure for an update is almost the same as the original install procedure:
 

     cd ~/Downloads
     mkdir flashplayer
     mv flash_player_ppapi_linux.i386.tar.gz flashplayer
     cd flashplayer
     tar -xz -f flash_player_ppapi_linux.i386.tar.gz
     su
     cd /usr/lib/chromium/plugins
     rm libpepflashplayer.so
     rm manifest.json
     cp /home/steve/Downloads/flashplayer/libpepflashplayer.so .
     cp /home/steve/Downloads/flashplayer/manifest.json .
     exit
     cd LGPL
     rm *
     cd ..
     rmdir LGPL
     rm *
     cd ..
     rmdir flashplayer
     su
     cd /etc/chromium.d
     vi flash

Update the version number in this file to match what is specified for the version number in the /usr/lib/chromium/plugins/manifest.json file.  Save the changes and exit the editor.
 

     exit

Restart chromium to pick up the changes.
 

     chrome://plugins

should now show the new version of the plugin.

Conclusion

Have fun using the chromium browser under Linux with the Adobe® Flash Player plugin! If anyone has any comments, suggestions, complaints, or any other form of feedback regarding this web page, please drop me a line at zlinuxman (at) fastmail (dot) com.

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