Getting Adobe Flash to work on Ubuntu 12.04

One of those “I’ll get around to it” jobs has been upgrading my wife’s laptop. She’s been happily running an old version of Ubuntu for some time now on an ancient Thinkpad without any real issues. Then very recently she ran into problems with uploading photographs to Snapfish. The culprit was clearly an update to Flash, but I decided since she wasn’t getting security updates any more, it was probably better to upgrade her to the latest 12.04 LTS version of Ubuntu to fix the problem.

Unfortunately she didn’t have enough spare disk space to go through a series of upgrades (this machine has an old 30GB hard drive!) so really this meant a hardware upgrade, and a proper reinstall too. However, as I was feeling a bit more awake today (and the weather was awful) this seemed like a good little task to take on. So I backed up the system to my server, found an old 80GB 2.5″ PATA drive in my spares box, and set to.

As with all Thinkpads, making hardware upgrades is fairly straightforward. Pop out one screw, and the drive assembly slides out the side. Remove another four screws from that assembly to separate the drive from it’s cage and plastic bezel. Swapping in the higher capacity drive was a simple matter of reversing the process.

This machine only has a USB 1.1 port, so I did the Ubuntu install from a CD, rather than my normally preferred USB memory stick. It’s a lot noisier than using the memory stick, but has an identical effect – I was soon running the latest version of Ubuntu. A quick update cycle got me the latest security fixes, and then I added in some key additional packages, sorted out the printer and wireless network accesses, and then restored all the user data that I’d backed up earlier.

Which was great, but Snapfish still didn’t work. It seems that Adobe Flash doesn’t work on 12.04 LTS either. Drat.

So after a bit more reading, it all became clear. Adobe don’t follow the normal Linux approach of issuing a specific version of their software with a given OS release, and then only providing security fixes to it. Instead, they regularly issue their current, latest code to all the different operating systems that they support. This means that when they introduce a bug, you get it on all the versions of all their supported operating systems.

Except in this case, just to make it more confusing, it seems that some people are seeing one set of problems, and others another, while some people are seeing no problems at all. And Adobe are apparently not particularly interested, as they don’t see supporting Linux as a priority.

So in the end, after a great deal of reading various forums on the Internet, it became increasingly clear that there was no clear fix for the problems that Adobe appear to have introduced in their latest code. Ultimately, it seems that the simplest solution is to just back-level the Flash plugin in the browser to an earlier version that doesn’t exhibit these problems.

To do this, I downloaded the archive of previous Adobe Flash plugins, which can be found here: http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/archived-flash-player-versions.html. I chose the v11.1.102.55 releases (174 MB), and extracted the Linux version, which is packaged as a shared library called libflashplayer.so. By searching the /usr tree I found that (in my case) there was a single copy of this library already installed in /usr/lib/flashplugin-installer/libflashplayer.so, which I then replaced with the back-level version.

After restarting Firefox, Adobe Flash now works normally again, and we can bulk upload photos to Snapfish again. Clearly this hack will be overwritten if Adobe issues a new version of the flash plugin, but that’s probably what we want to happen anyway.

11 thoughts on “Getting Adobe Flash to work on Ubuntu 12.04

  1. Very helpful, thanks.

    In case it is helpful, I experimented to find out the latest version of Flash Player that worked for me. This turned out to be 11.1.102.63, which is the latest version of 11.1 available for Linux.

  2. is there any way you could tell me what to punch into the terminal to set permissions so that i can remove the original libflashplayer.so file? I’ve looked on the community forum but it makes no sense to me.

    • To find the file, run the command:
      find /usr -iname 'libflashplayer.*' -print

      That should print the full path of any libflashplayer instances for you. You need the single quotes. Then do:
      ls -l /usr/lib/libflashplayer*

      You'll see some output like:

      -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 17410532 2012-11-16 20:55 /usr/lib/flashplugin-installer/libflashplayer.so

      So that's owned by root, and the permissions can be represented as 664 octal. So back it up (just in case) by running:
      sudo mv /usr/lib/flashplugin-installer/libflashplayer.so /usr/lib/flashplugin-installer/libflashplayer.backup

      Copy your "new" libflashplayer.so into its place, and then set the permissions and ownership as they were:

      sudo chown root:root /usr/lib/flashplugin-installer/libflashplayer.so
      sudo chmod 644 /usr/lib/flashplugin-installer/libflashplayer.so

      And you're done.

  3. THANK YOU!!! I’ve been without Flash since late last year on 10.04. I did a fresh 12.04 install which helped not one bit. All the other Flash install advice out there is crap.
    This actually worked! Thank you again.

  4. Thanks from me too Richard! I’ve been trying to sort this out for ages. Now Flash works on all the browsers. I agree with saabyurk, all the other advice didn’t work. You’re a star! :)

  5. thank Richard, your advice worked like a charm! Now I can watch YouTube. Not really sure that is a good use of time though, but anyway. I used the Flash version you mentioned in your blog. Firefox states that there are vulnerablities with it. What are the real dangers to an ubuntu user?

    • Well, it’s backlevel, so realistically you’re running without any fixes (functional or security) that have been added to later versions of the code. And the Flash stuff is reputed to be full of security holes, which isn’t ideal. However, if none of the later versions actually work (and Adobe aren’t planning to support Linux into the future anyway) then I’m not sure that there are many options available to us. The open source alternatives just don’t seem to work very reliably, and there is still too much content out there that requires Flash, though hopefully over time that will reduce as people move to HTML5.

      If you feel particularly concerned then you’d have to consider either switching to Google Chrome, which seems to have good “native” flash support written by Google, or you could consider using something Open Source – GNU Gnash with it’s Firefox plugin seems to get recommendations. But Gnash compatibility isn’t the greatest – most SWF v7 features, some SWF v8 and v9 features, but no support for SWF v10, so how well it would work in practice will depend on what you are doing with it.

      I actually block all flash in my browser with FlashBlock, and only run the few Flash applications I specifically want to see, which I hope will reduce the chance of a drive-by infection to an acceptable level. But you need to make that call for yourself :-)

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