By Paul Gorski
In addition to the operating system and programs installed on your computer, many users have installed the free system add-ons Oracle Java and Adobe Flash. Unfortunately, computer hackers have used flaws in both Java and Flash to attack computers or to capture information without user knowledge.
If you have Java and/or Flash installed, you need to apply their regular security updates. Just last week, more problems were found in Java, and a patch was released days ago.
What is Java? From the Java website: “Java is a programming language and computing platform first released by Sun Microsystems in 1995. It is the underlying technology that powers state-of-the-art programs including utilities, games and business applications. Java runs on more than 850 million personal computers worldwide, and on billions of devices worldwide, including mobile and TV devices.”
From that statement, Oracle would make you believe you can’t live without Java. Well, you might be able to live without it. If you don’t have Java installed now, don’t go out and install it. If you need Java, the program or service that requires it will tell you to install it when the time comes.
You are more likely to need Adobe Flash than Java. Flash is used for various web graphics, animations and online programs, especially games. It is pretty hard to spend a day on the Internet and not come across at least one website that doesn’t require Flash.
YouTube, Facebook and other popular sites rely heavily on Flash. While not impossible to run a computer without Flash, the average user would find it inconvenient not to have Flash installed.
However, since Flash doesn’t run on most tablets and smartphones, developers are finding non-Flash-based solutions to support these devices. These solutions will eventually make it to your desktop or laptop computer.
For readers wanting a “meatier” article with more details, well, this is it. There are a lot of people still running older versions of Windows and have old versions of Java and Flash installed. This article is for those people. Mac users tend to upgrade their operating system more frequently, and as a result are often forced to upgrade some of this software.
Practice safe computing and update Flash and Java (if installed already).
Download the most current Adobe Flash player at http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/ and download the current Oracle Java software at http://www.java.com/. New versions of Flash and Java support automatic updates. I strongly urge that you enable this feature to keep the software current.
I don’t provide general computer hardware or software installation support, so if you need help installing these updates, contact a tech-savvy friend or your local computer store.
Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple IIe.
From the Jan. 16-22, 2013, issue