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A review of the latest Ubuntu release, code named "Dapper Drake", the long awaited Ubuntu 6.06.

Introduction

This year has been a huge step forward for Desktop Linux users. First, Fedora Core 5 was released and featured the new Gnome 2.14. Then SUSE 10.1 showed us how well applications could be integrated to make a desktop look great. Now it was time for Ubuntu to release their latest version: "Dapper Drake".

Since its first release, Ubuntu has been extraordinarily successful. A lot of users began to use it and very few went back to their old distribution. It also participated greatly in attracting new people to GNU/Linux. Of course a few things were said about Canonical Ltd. not having a viable business model, the distribution's success being only a consequence of a trend of the moment, and Ubuntu being a bad fork from the Debian project. But as releases went by, and the distribution simply getting better, it soon became clear to a lot of people: Ubuntu was the most popular distribution.

A lot of things made its success. It is based on Debian Sid and inherited a great stability and a base from which it created up to date and numerous packages. It uses APT, which a lot of Linux users consider to be the best package manager. It benefits from a range of fast FTP mirrors. It comes as a single CD download, and for those who are lacking a good Internet connection, it is shipped all around the world for free! Finally, its release cycle is fast. The Internet is full of documentation about Ubuntu, and it has a huge community of users which help each others on forums, wikis, IRC channels and even local support groups.

D-Day: Dapper-Day

As soon as Ubuntu arrived, the GNU/Linux landscape was changed. I knew this release was going to make a lot of noise, and it did!

The Dapper Drake dance went crazy on the Ubuntu IRC channel. A few hours before midnight, people gathered with only one thing in their mind: "When is Dapper going to be released?", "Where are the ISO files?", "What's going on here, is it 00:00 American time or GMT?" etc... Seveas had to change the channel topic and beg everybody to be more patient. When one of his friend showed up, he even said: "Welcome to hell!". Ubuntu hadn't announced any time for the release, simply a date. But an incorrect announce had been made on "The Fridge" and the consequences were terrible. So, that morning, on Dapper Day, I decided to go to sleep :)

Later in the afternoon, kubuntu.org published their release notes, quickly followed by ubuntu.com. Both distributions appeared in distrowatch.com and I took the opportunity to read everything while downloading the two ISO files. Both release notes were very interesting. I will however cover Kubuntu in a separate review (being a Kubuntu user myself, I will probably have a lot to say). The Ubuntu release notes can be found here:

http://www.ubuntu.com/download/releasenotes/606

As I am only interested in the distribution as a desktop user, I will not cover the server features, innovations and long term support that were added in Dapper Drake. Malcolm Yates wrote a document about that, aimed at professionals, and he probably says things better than I could ever have:

http://www.ubuntu.com/news/606released

After reading all of this, I couldn't wait for the download to finish. Fortunately this was quite fast thanks to the fast FTP mirrors and the fact that each distribution only came as a single ISO file. Note that if you're interested in installing Ubuntu on an x86 desktop platform you only have one CD to download, this one:

http://releases.ubuntu.com/6.06/ubuntu-6.06-desktop-i386.iso

Launching the Live CD and installing Ubuntu

Ubuntu always provided a single CD download for installing the distribution on your machine. The installer however was text-based, and the CD had no other purpose but to allow you to install the operating system on your disc. A Live CD was also available for demonstration purpose.

With Dapper Drake, things changed, and for the best. Like Mepis, Mandriva One and others, Ubuntu now provides a Live CD called "Desktop" which once booted also provides a graphical installer. This way the user can try Ubuntu or show it to his friends without installing anything, and he can also proceed to the installation without rebooting or downloading another CD.

For system administrators who want an efficient way of installing operating systems without having to boot it from the CD, Ubuntu also provides and "Alternate" CD. However it is made quite clear on the Ubuntu website that the "Desktop" CD is the preferred way to install Ubuntu.

When you boot on the Desktop CD, the first thing you see is a menu which offers the following options:

  • Launch or Install Ubuntu (which you can use to boot the Live CD and play with it, and eventually from which you can then install Ubuntu on your hard-drive).
  • Start Ubuntu is Safe Graphic Mode (just in case you have problems with Ubuntu recognizing your graphics card, which wasn't my case)
  • Check CD for defect (it's always a good idea to test the integrity of your media before installing an operating system. This can avoid chaotic behavior and a lot of trouble)
  • Memory Test (same here, although you're more likely to scratch a CD than to damage your RAM)
  • Boot from First Hard Disk (now this is a great and simple feature. How many times did you break Lilo or Grub?)

The menu also provides help, kernel and accessibility options, and you can set your language and keymap from here.

When you finally decide to launch the system, it automatically logs you in a Gnome environment. I tried not to look at it too much, because I knew I wanted to install the system on my hard drive and I didn't want to spoil the surprise too much. I have that complete series of Lost on DVD, and even though I could watch them all in one go, I can't wait for Monday nights when the next episode is shown on TV. I'm like that. At this stage you'd probably like to see some screenshots (although you've probably read other reviews and visited osdir.com), but I tell you: Ubuntu looks just the same once installed, and as it is faster, it is much better to look at it from your hard drive than from the CD itself.

On the desktop were two icons: One for the graphical installer, and one for a directory containing media files. I clicked on the installer and while it was installing Ubuntu on my machine, I started browsing the files.

The installer asks very few questions (as I remember there are only six steps in it). It allows you to test your selected keyboard layout, to answer a few localization-related questions and to partition your hard drive. It is also quite fast (it took about 15 minutes on my machine to install the operating system).

In the directory were a few documents demonstrating the fact that OpenOffice could read Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and was good at creating presentations, texts and other types of documents. Selected chapters from the Official Ubuntu Book, and a few audio files were there as well. And there was even a video of Nelson Mandela explaining what the word "Ubuntu" means. I was amused and impressed. I didn't really know what to think of these files, but I had a good time going through them.

The installer finished and I rebooted. {mospagebreak title=Inside Ubuntu}

Inside Ubuntu

Speed

This first thing I noticed about Dapper was that it was faster. It took me 53 seconds from the BIOS to GDM, 12 seconds for Gnome to be fully operational and 22 seconds to shutdown the computer. It's all relative of course, and nobody has the same hardware configuration. My computer though is very small (10.6") and it's using an ULV processor which runs as slowly as possible in order no to create too much heat and to save 6 hours of battery life. On that laptop, I haven't seen any distribution boot that fast. As I remember SUSE 10.1 took me more than 2 minutes to boot. I don't want to say anything more about that, a proper benchmark would be more appropriate, but I thought it deserved to be mentioned.

Artwork

The defaut Ubuntu desktop

The new artwork is very impressive and I like it a lot. Since its first release Ubuntu was brown when all others were blue. It was one of its numerous controversial innovations. I liked it then already. In Dapper, the theme was made brighter with touches of orange and flashy icons. People will either hate it or love it, I guess. It gives an overall welcoming and warm impression. I also think it looks quite professional. With it comes a set of nice and pleasant sounds, funny and yet not overwhelming.

For those who definitely do not want their desktop to be brown, Ubuntu also comes with a set of beautiful alternative themes, such as ClearLooks, IndustrialTango, Outdoors, Resilience and Silicon. Also, nice Ubuntu wallpapers are included in the distribution so you don't have to go and search gnome-look.org for a replacement.

The IndustrialTango theme and an alternative Ubuntu wallpaper

Hardware Recognition

Most of my hardware was properly configured. I have a Centrino laptop which usually has issues with Linux on the following things:

  • The Sony Memory Stick Pro reader is usually not recognized and it wasn't recognized by Dapper either.
  • The ALPS touchpad is usually not set correctly. It wasn't set correctly on Dapper either, although I simply added SHMConfig to /etc/X11/xorg.conf, troubleshooted with synclient and I was then able to fix the problem.
  • The sound card is usually silent due to an External Amplifier switch turned on by default. It was the same problem in Dapper. It is very easy to fix though and I believe it has nothing to do with Ubuntu.
  • The wireless card, an iwp2200 is usually not recognized. It was by Dapper and it worked perfectly.
  • The graphics card, an i855, is usually not configured for its widescreen resolution (1280x768). The only distribution that supports this by default is SUSE 10.1. In Dapper, it wasn't. However, the package i915resolution was included in the official repositories, and installing it and simply restarting X fixed the problem.

Everything else worked out of the box. And the issues mentioned above didn't take much time to solve.

Default set of Applications

Dapper Drake comes with a really nice set of applications, such as:

  • OpenOffice 2.0.2
  • Firefox 1.5.0.3
  • Evolution 2.6.1
  • Ekiga 2.01
  • Gaim 1.5.1
  • The Gimp 2.2.11
Dapper comes with Firefox 1.5 and OpenOffice 2.0

It also comes with a selection of small games (that I see in every distribution and that I've never played actually...), some multimedia players and audio tools, a 2.6.15 kernel and some accessories. Together with Gnome 2.14.1 (which now offers networking and CD/DVD creation features), it provides a single application for all your basic needs. The menus are consistent, well organized and you can easily edit them thanks to an application called Alacarte Menu Editor.

The Alcacarte Menu Editor

I noticed that sendmail was not installed by default and this is a pity. More and more ISP stop providing their users with an SMTP server and it is not always easy for the novice user to configure it himself on his machine. I was sorry to see that no IRC client was installed, or at least made visible in the menus. There surely are better clients than Gaim for that, and IRC has become a very important protocol for community support. The channels are even presented on the official Ubuntu website, so why not give the user an easy way to access them?

Multimedia support

I am convinced that a distribution should not include support for restricted formats by default. If they are patented, proprietary, commercial, then they shouldn't be installed on the user's behalf. Having said that, a lot of us were victims of vendor-locking and now have no choice but to use MP3 and read encrypted DVDs. Hopefully this will change in the future, but at the moment, it is up to the GNU/Linux distributions not to include these technologies by default, but also to make their installation as easy as possible for those among us who need them.

By default, Ubuntu doesn't play restricted formats and Totem doesn't read DVDs

In this matter, Ubuntu has a noble approach. It doesn't play restricted formats by default, but it provides great documentation on how to add support for these formats. This covers various things such as MP3, encrypted DVD playback, Flash, RealMedia, DivX...etc:

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/RestrictedFormats

Networking

As it turned out, my wife runs Windows on her computer and she has shared folders on it (I don't think she knows about that though). This was the perfect opportunity to see if Ubuntu would spot them. And it did. I didn't have to set up anything, I wasn't even asked what "workgroup" or "domain" I was a member of... I clicked on Places->Network Servers->Windows Network->Galaxy (which is both the name of the Windows workgroup and my Wireless ESSID, I suppose it was the Workgroup that was shown here)->Sun (which is the name of my wife's computer) and there I was, browsing through her shared folders.

Browsing the Windows network shares

In SUSE 10.1 it worked as well, but I had to configure the firewall and give the workgroup name. And even then, I could only access her shared folders by directly pointing to her IP address through the smb:// kio protocol.

In Dapper, you can also "connect" to a remote computer and create a linked folder on your desktop which will represent the remote file system and act as if it was mounted. This is extremely powerful, and you can use it on FTP servers, SMB shares, SSH, HTTP and HTTPS servers.

Browsing the Windows network shares

Package Management

Package managers got better and better in GNU/Linux distributions. Rug, in the recent SUSE 10.1 for instance is full of nice features that are not present in APT. However a lot of people still consider APT to be the best. The reason for this is simple: the packages are stable, there is a huge number of them and APT is fast and reliable.

In Dapper, a little applet was introduced in the Gnome desktop, which only appears when updates become available in the repositories. This is a nice feature. Also, an Add/Remove application was added to provide ease of use to novice users. This application even has the ability to show unsupported and commercial applications which are out of the scope of the enabled repositories, and to enable a repository when one of these applications is selected for install.

The new Add/Remove application and the Synaptic Package Manager

Finally, the Synaptic GUI and the aptitude console tool are still there. There are also very easy to use, very fast and reliable. It is hard to find anything bad to say about Ubuntu's package management. {mospagebreak title=Conclusion}

Conclusion

Dapper Drake is a huge step forward since Breezy Badger. I was impressed in many ways. The package management got even better than before. The artwork is fantastic. The networking features are great. Gnome is fast and responsive, and the desktop is full of little applets, applications and shortcuts which make it very easy to do most common things. I also appreciated that Ubuntu moved to a Live CD + graphical installer on a single disc. With one great application per use, a single desktop (Gnome for Ubuntu, KDE for Kubuntu, XFCE for Xubuntu) they even got room to include "free" Windows applications from the OpenCD project. Ubuntu is to Linux what Lambrusco is to wine. It's light, it's fast to use, it has a weird color, it's controversial (Lambrusco is fizzy) and more than anything else: it's my favorite! Congratulations to the team and all the people who participated in making Dapper Drake the most fantastic release I've seen so far.

Rate This Article: poorexcellent
 
Comments about this article
Excellant Review
writen by: remo on 2006-06-02 11:23:33
Your review makes me feel i've gotta make some space to install dapper. Myself being a longtime gentoo fan. Still i would like to test dapper out. Great review to a great distribution.
RE: Excellant Review written by remo:
Wonderful distro
writen by: Henrik on 2006-06-02 18:50:41
The networking features have really gotten an overhaul in this release. On the last release I had trouble surfing the LAN without some mingling, now it works out of the box, wonderful. World of Warcraft also runs alot better in wine now, though I don't know if that's an improvement on wine's part or ubuntu's. And to even further discredit my Linux-knowledge, Ubuntu was my first go at Linux, I feel almost ashamed for not trying out other distros, but heck, if it works the way I want to I don't see a reason to switch :-)
RE: Wonderful distro written by Henrik:
IRC client
writen by: voksi on 2006-06-03 01:50:41
After instalation you can user Gaim for IRC or irssi - text based IRC client. Probably, the best there is. You can use them in Live session too.
RE: IRC client written by voksi:
excelent review, even better os
writen by: pilly on 2006-06-03 02:45:58
I don't think I could ask for a better os for my laptop. Hands down the best one I've found bar none. I belive in using the BEST tool for the job (I also have a mepis file server, and a gentoo media server desktop/myth frontend) and dapper is pleasnt to look at and snappy. And I don't usually like gnome, still I find it more portable than kde. dapper has really raised the bar... thank-you to everyone that helped in creating it... easy to see why it's the most popular. keep up the good work. if you have an older laptop, like I do (presario 700 1.3 Ghz) you owe yourself to check it out. All it'll cost you is a blank disk.
RE: excelent review, even better os written by pilly:
Gentoo fan - Me too
writen by: Eddie303 on 2006-06-03 03:31:22
Hey, I used Gentoo on my desktop, but now on my new laptop I run Dapper, and it is way less to fiddle with it, the single problem is that Dapper does not have as many packages as Gentoo has in portage, that was important to me... The other thing... I already tried to sbstitute Gentoo with Breezy, but I could not make lirc to work, on my desktop I used it to control tvtime and xmms...
RE: Gentoo fan - Me too written by Eddie303:
Dapper Drake
writen by: Pieter on 2006-06-03 05:18:37
I have used all the Ubuntu distro's to date. mostly out of interest due to the SA connection, but also because I like the idea of choice (MS or Linux) and the principles of open source software. I have a selection of about 30 distros at home which I continuously update and test (on VMware) and this must be one of the easiest and most complete distro's I have ever used. I know it is a bit unfair under VMware as it is a defined environment, but I tried the live CD on my Siemens Fujitsu T4010 TapbletPC and it worked mostly out of the box, other than for the TabletPC pen, which after a reasonably simple fix (Thanks Google), even that worked. Sound, WiFi, Pad Mouse etc, and this is a reasonably new laptop version! Great distro, and a really nice review, not too technical and written in the ubuntu flavour (ie not condascending) Thanks for your efforts
RE: Dapper Drake written by Pieter:
What about Hibernate and Suspend??
writen by: Josť Pinto on 2006-06-04 07:36:35
Your review is very good but I was intrigued why didn't you mention what is, for me, the best desktop improvement: The ability to Suspend, Hibernate and Switch between user sessions. I have an HP dv1255ea and all the drivers (including sound, 3D, wi-fi and card reader) we're successfully installed. Also, Ubuntu nows mounts existing NTFS drives by default.
RE: What about Hibernate and Suspend?? written by Josť Pinto:
Too many changes in only six weeks
writen by: Cristian on 2006-06-04 11:27:37
I've been using ubuntu for a year now, and it rocks. I use it as my desktop, on servers and even in a cluster enviroment for physical simulations. But the last week when i saw the changes of Dapper RC, i felt frustrated, the delay of six weeks, that was intented for the final polish of ubuntu, translations, artwork, bugfixes, was used for adding a new installation method with a graphical installer?. I think it do not match the objectives of a long term support release, it throws away all the polish work done before. I think the new installer is the right direction to take, it's faster and graphical, but it was introduced in the six weeks for polishing the system. It's a huge change and it's not tested like the rest of the release. I think the delay weeks where for adding this installer, not for making the system more stable. If you pay attention you can see that the whole system is very clean and eye candy, but the installer is far away from being at the same point, i even discovered a bug, not critical, but it shows the inmaturity of the application. If you make a partition and then you right click it for "moving or resize" and change the size by writing the numbers in the spin box insted of clicking the arrows that adds or substracts a unit to the value it holds you don't get enabled the apply button, but if you click one of the arrows it enables it. How can this be a LTS release with an installer tested for only a week, and with a GUI bug on it? It seems far more stable the flight CD 7, with the old Live CD and Installation CD.
RE: Too many changes in only six weeks written by Cristian:
LIRC
writen by: Major Lockup on 2006-06-04 12:18:05
Lirc in ubuntu is not as it should be indeed. It was a bitch setting up microsoft's remote (usb_mce2 is not included!).
RE: LIRC written by Major Lockup:
What about Hibernate and Suspend??
writen by: Ian on 2006-06-04 14:09:48
I just installed 6.06 on my Toshiba A45-S120 laptop. Suspend and Hibernate work fine! Only problem I have found is that when it suspends I lose my wireless connection until I reboot.
RE: What about Hibernate and Suspend?? written by Ian:
16.000 packages
writen by: Camilo on 2006-06-04 15:51:05
Did you look at http://packages.ubuntu.com ?
RE: 16.000 packages written by Camilo:
Re: Too many changes in only six weeks
writen by: James on 2006-06-05 15:42:42
The installer has been tested for over a month. I remember seeing it way back in flight 6, might have been around before then. Also, far, far more then the installer was worked on during that six week period. Having downloaded a total of well over a gigabyte of updates from flight 6 to release, I'd say pretty much everything got tweaked. Most of it was "under the hood", but surly you can see the speed difference between breezy and dapper? A huge portion of that optimization happened during the final 6 weeks of dev. I remember at least one update where it was announced 10 seconds of boot time had been eliminated. Oh, and there was a lot of new artwork and theme changes done within those 6 weeks also.
RE: Re: Too many changes in only six weeks written by James:
Am i the only one REALLY unsatisfied?
writen by: Michele on 2006-06-06 18:17:56
(first of all excuse the bad english, i'm italian!) Well, the upgrade to dapper has just f****d up ALL of my 3 breezy boxes. A lot of programs that used to work with breezy (mplayer, totem, videolan, skype, openoffice) just get frozen up, cups and the samba shares browser don't work ON BOTH my laptop and my desktop. And mldonkey on my server gives quirky errors and refuses to get removed... Really nothing serious, indeed, but alle these bugs left me a feeling of something unstable and still immature, and a really bad mood, so i think i'll get back to my good old debian for the server and suse for the desktops.
RE: Am i the only one REALLY unsatisfied? written by Michele:
Needs better wifi tools
writen by: fuji on 2006-06-07 07:54:58
Setting up a wireless connection with WPA2 security on a bcm43xx chipset is a nightmare. You end up using the console to set things up. This should be automatic, like on Mandriva.
RE: Needs better wifi tools written by fuji:
Re: Am i the only one REALLY unsatisfied
writen by: Anonymous on 2006-06-09 13:30:12
Who's fault is that? You didn't test the upgrade on a test box or in a virtual PC situation using something like the freely available VMware Server. You went ahead and blindly upgraded your PCs that were basically "production machines". And then you complain about it!
RE: Re: Am i the only one REALLY unsatisfied written by Anonymous:
Where/How do I?....
writen by: Ricky J on 2006-06-11 16:32:41
Where do I download a full desktop version of this ubuntu 6.06 that installs with no hitches, including the wireless card drivers for my laptop? I must not be geeky enough...I have trouble with all linux products going to this cmd line that I don't know what to do with. What do I do with that!? Any help you coul give would be greatly apriciated. Thanks
RE: Where/How do I?.... written by Ricky J:
Ricky, this isn't the place to ask for
writen by: Nate on 2006-06-13 22:33:59
The CD for installing a full desktop version of Ubuntu Dapper Drake (which is version 6.06) can be found at http://mirror.cs.umn.edu/ubuntu-releases/6.06/ You probably have an intel x86 computer. Burn that ISO file to a CD and use it to boot your computer. As for problems with your wireless card and linux in general, I'd suggest you go to http://www.ubuntuforums.org But don't just post on there. First find out what kind of wireless card you have, and search for it on the forum. If you have a problem, it may have already been discovered by someone else with the same hardware, and fixed! Usually, hardware problems can be remedied with a bit of scavenging for knowledge. As for the command line, it's in no way necessary to learn to use the command line to use linux, so it's okay to be resistant to use it! But just so you know, learning the command line takes a bit of work at first, but makes things very easy! The command line is so useful once you know how to use it. Feel free to shy away it, you'll be able to survive fine without it. I just suggest you give learning it a shot, it provides you with all sorts of valuable tools in running linux.
RE: Ricky, this isn't the place to ask for written by Nate:
Re: Too many changes in only six weeks
writen by: Matt Zimmerman on 2006-06-14 21:45:21
The new installer was a key planned feature of the 6.06 LTS release from the beginning, and was by no means added during the delay.
RE: Re: Too many changes in only six weeks written by Matt Zimmerman:
Re: Am i the only one REALLY unsatisfied
writen by: RatFink on 2006-06-17 18:01:49
Sure it's his fault he caused himself grief by not testing, however as he stated a lot of the problems were not show stoppers and even the best testing cannot find everything. Secondly VMware has a hardware configuration vastly different then most PCs so it isnít the smartest thing to test something on. But I don't see him complaining much about that other then him being disappointed. But the problems he is having according to him stemmed from the distribution. If the upgrade is broken it may be something he can fix himself but it doesn't help others looking to upgrade.
RE: Re: Am i the only one REALLY unsatisfied written by RatFink:
I have a M400 and... proble with the pen
writen by: carlo on 2006-06-24 01:41:15
What is the fix for the pen... perhaps it could work in my toshiba m400 too... thx
RE: I have a M400 and... proble with the pen written by carlo:
Which config did you go with ?
writen by: Kukania13 on 2006-06-26 22:47:28
I have the same wireless chipset on my laptop, bcm43xx; even though Ubuntu 5 offered driver for dis chip in their recent kernel I couldn't get it running. The only way I could use wireless with this chip was by running ndiswrapper 1.8! Could you tell me if you got it running , with this distro version ? and how ? Many thanks.
RE: Which config did you go with ? written by Kukania13:
memory stick reader does not work
writen by: Nuno Silva on 2006-10-21 07:56:32
Hi, I'm really happy with Ubuntu 6.06 distro too. However, I could't manage to put the memory stick card reader to work. However, you say: > Everything else worked out of the box. And the issues mentioned above didn't take much time to solve. Can you please explain what did you do to put the memory stick to work? Best.
RE: memory stick reader does not work written by Nuno Silva:
ah
writen by: Dan on 2006-10-29 19:55:32
ahahaha, you jerk
RE: ah written by Dan:
floppy support
writen by: Nick on 2007-02-08 13:47:26
Ubuntu 6.06 was the first Linux distro that worked almost out of the box on my machine (I had to search for an ATI driver to make the refreshment rate usable though). Thanks to it I understood the basics of Linux and Software Libre philosophy and finally stopped using M$ software. The only thing which is still bothering me is the absence of floppy support -- this release does not read them properly and corrupts them often. I understand that floppies are nearly extinct nowadays, still some people need this backward compatibility.
RE: floppy support written by Nick:
this is how I used Drive Image 2002 with
writen by: Avt on 2007-08-10 00:40:43
after putting back a (drive image 2002) backup this is how to repair Ubuntu Inode error seen as a popup from Dapper on bootup: Boot to ubuntu Dapper live cd then sudo su to become root then type: umount /dev/sda7 return fsck.ext3 -f /dev/sda7 return fsck.ext3 /dev/sda7 return mkdir /mnt/sda7; mount /dev/sda7/mnt/sda7
RE: this is how I used Drive Image 2002 with written by Avt:
help
writen by: kaeli on 2008-06-30 13:47:35
please explain to me how to install adobe flash player
RE: help written by kaeli:

Comment title: * please do not put your response text here