Friday, June 25, 2010

Installing Adobe Flash Player on Firefox

Or: forty years of wandering in a desert of unhelpful Adobe links

After one tooth-gnashing hour of frustration, I have managed to install the Adobe Flash Player 10.1 plug-in on my Firefox 3.6.4. Why it was so difficult, I don't know. I'm pretty sure I performed the same installation at work without a hitch. That discrepancy may have something to do with the fact that my work computer is running Windows 7 Enterprise and this computer is running Windows XP Professional. I don't know.

One thing I do know is that if I'm having problems with Adobe, I'm probably not the only one, so I feel it is my duty as a citizen of the human race to provide the solution I eventually uncovered.

But first, a detailed description of my travails. It will be like Passover in summer. (You can go straight to the solution if you want. I won't be offended.)

Why is This Installation Different From All Other Installations?

Firefox usually takes charge of installing its own plug-ins. But Adobe Flash Player 10.1 doesn't want to let Firefox install it. It wants to install itself, via its own installation manager plug-in, GetPlusPlus. It's like a boy who doesn't want Mommy to dress him anymore, because he's a Big Boy now, only he winds up putting his underpants on backward and his shoes on the wrong feet.

How Did It All Start?

I downloaded the latest Firefox upgrade. Everytime you download a new version of Firefox, it takes you to a web page detailing what's new with this release. This time, the page included a scary yellow message telling me I must install the latest Adobe Flash Player for security reasons.

I followed the link provided to the download page. By the way, as long as I'm kvetching about Adobe (which didn't used to suck), may I remark on how annoying it is when a download page includes another piece of software without asking you, with the checkbox already checked, so that if you don't notice and uncheck it, you can end up installing something you don't want or need? In the case of Adobe Flash Player, McAfee Security Scan Plus is the piece of stealth software. However, I'd already had that experience at work, so I was prepared, and unchecked the checkbox.

Then I hit the installation button, and it took me to the Thank You page. These pages usually say, "If the download does not start automatically, click here." This one had a twist on the old theme: "If it does not start, click here for troubleshooting information [italics added]." It was my first moment of annoyance, and there were many more to come.

What Went Wrong?

The download didn't start automatically, of course. Firefox helpfully popped up its little top frame letting me know I was missing a plug-in: the aforementioned download manager. Since there didn't seem to be any way to download one plug-in without first installing another, I clicked on the button on the frame. A window opened asking me if I wanted to manually install the plug-in, which was in a file called gp.xpi. So I agreed to that, Firefox downloaded the file, and a window asked me what application I wanted to use to open the file. Surprisingly, it suggested an application, but that didn't matter because it didn't work.

After a few futile tries, I thought I might have to look at Adobe's troubleshooting page. It was no help, but the thank you page did also say, "For Firefox users, please see the Installation Instructions." So I did, and that's when my blood pressure really started going up, because the instructions, and screen shots, seemed to have no relationship to Firefox whatsoever. "LOOK FOR A YELLOW BAR AT THE TOP," the instructions advised (in all caps). The screen shot showed a button marked "Edit Options."

If I ever found that button, I certainly would have clicked it. At the top of WHAT? (I was starting to think in all caps myself.) Not at the top of the browser, since that bar didn't have any button marked "Edit Options," only the button that led me on the merry dance with gp.xpi. I looked all over the place. I opened the Add-ons window: not there. I went into Options. There, under Security, I found something that looked hopeful. Not anything mentioned in Adobe's instructions--no, those appear to have been written by space aliens. But I did find a checkbox marked "Warn me when sites try to install add-ons" next to a button marked "Exceptions." I clicked that button and it did indeed open a box that looked just like the one in Adobe's second screen shot ("ADD THE WEB SITE TO THE SITES WHICH ARE ALLOWED TO INSTALL ADD-ONS").

So I got there in the end, even if not by the non-existent button Adobe recommended. I added Adobe to the list of sites, and hit the Refresh button as advised in the next step. Unfortunately, it didn't work. None of the things that Adobe said would happen as a result of that action actually happened. I remained unable to install the plug-in that would let me install the plug-in.

Did You Eventually Get GetPlusPlus Installed?

Yes I did, and I highly recommend you not bother. Once I was finished letting Adobe's useless instructions work me into a lather, I turned to Oracle Google and found this handy page: Install a Firefox Add-on Manually. Manually installing a plug-in turned out to be very easy once you knew how, and soon GetPlusPlus was safely ensconced. Thinking all would be well, I went back to the Adobe download page and refreshed it. GetPlusPlus launched, it showed me a progress bar, it filled the bar up with a pretty green colour, and then it choked. "Installation failed," it said. And that was all. No more meaningful error message, no useful information. Nothing. I tried three times, with identical results.

So How Did You Finally Get Adobe Flash Player?

I got creative. As much as Adobe wanted to download and install its own plug-ins, it didn't seem equal to the task. So here's what I did. I went to YouTube. I selected a random video. Firefox opened its top frame letting me know I was missing a plug-in. I clicked the Install button. And it installed. Firefox was doing the installing, so it worked. This is the route I would recommend to any Firefox user who is having trouble getting the plug-in at the Adobe page. Until they get their act together, don't even waste your time trying to do it their way. Save yourself an hour or two of aggravation.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you already have an older version of the Adobe Flash Plug-in in your Firefox, remove or disable it before trying this trick. I didn't have to because Adobe's abortive installation attempts had already done it for me (I think). If you already have an older plug-in, going to a video will only make the video play.


Addison said...

Hilarious! I had the EXACT same problem (I am also running XP, so I guess that's it).

I did get the installation manager thing to work, but only after I decided to snipe Firefox closed in the space between clicking on it in downloads and it actually starting. Even then it took two or three tries.

Adobe sucks. I have a list.

Vivian said...

Thanks for posting, Addison! Nice to see you here. And congrats on bullying Adobe's doo-dad into functioning. I don't know how you worked that out.

I am interested in seeing your list, if you'd like to share. Is it on your blog? Do you agree that there was a time that Adobe did not suck?

darri said...

My God thank you! Exasperating fucking process trying to get that thing installed!

Vivian said...

Sure was. I'm glad I could be of help!

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