Uninstall Adobe Flash now – a clear language explanation

Uninstall Adobe Flash now – a clear language explanation

If your website still relies on Adobe Flash, it’s time to update the site. It was time to ditch Flash years ago, but a small percentage of designers still use it. By the end of 2020, Adobe will no longer support or offer the Flash player and it will be removed from all major browsers.

As previously announced in July 2017, Adobe will stop distributing and updating Flash Player after December 31, 2020 (“EOL Date”). We made this announcement in collaboration with several of our technology partners – including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla – which issued complementary announcements with more technical detail on what the Flash Player EOL will mean for developers, enterprises, and consumers using their specific OS environments or browsers. Adobe

Why is Adobe Flash a problem?

Flash is a bundle of insecurities and has been in its death throws for years. Despite the many signs of obsolescence, there are potentially millions of sites still using it. According to W3Tech’s Web Technology Survey, approx. 2.6% of all websites still employ Adobe Flash. How many of those sites have been abandoned is unknown. The number of Flash enabled sites may have decreased quite a bit since that article was written.

What does this mean for the average computer user? Not much. You may not be able to see some video content or an online game you like playing until the owner switches over to a supported technology. Almost every major, large scale website stopped relying on Flash years ago. The onus is on web designers to change their sites. As a user, the only thing you can do is find a different spot that has similar content. Removing Flash from all browsers is an excellent move that will protect the unwary user from phishing and zero-day attacks.

Flash will no longer be supported by either Microsoft or Apple by the end of 2020 and Adobe is pulling the plug on maintaining it on Dec 31, 2020. You can keep Flash running in your computer, but it won’t receive security updates. And that is a big problem that needs to be stripped out of all computers.

Continuing to use a Flash enabled site after all support is removed will be foolish. Vulnerabilities will multiply, especially if the website is no longer updated by the owner. Abandoned sites are a substantial risk for hijacking. Once a bad faith operator takes control of the website, they can use it to launch an attack on any older browser that has Flash enabled. So, if you are tempted to continue using one that supports Flash, just to play an old game, don’t. You are putting your computer at risk.

Adobe will remove all installations from their website. That means, you won’t be able to download any version of Flash. There will be no more authorized versions, no security patches, or updates for existing installations.

Adobe Flash logo

Adobe Flash Logo

Microsoft will also uninstall the irritating automated notification, “Security Update for Adobe Flash Player” that pops up from time to time. A Win10 update, later in the year, will delete it and future versions of Win10 will not be shipped with the control panel feature.

Despite Microsoft removing the automatic update notifications, Flash itself, will still lurk in your computer so go ahead and uninstall it now. You don’t need it. Will some sites be affected? Maybe. As I pointed out, there are still games that depend on Flash and you may enjoy playing them.  Leaving Flash in your computer represents a risk that just isn’t worth it.

The quickest way to uninstall Adobe Flash:

  • Right click on the little Windows icon bottom left corner of your screen
  • Left click on Apps and Features (should be top of the list that pops up)
  • In the new window, scroll down until you find Adobe Flash
  • One left click on the icon then click Uninstall when it appears
  • You will be asked if you “want to allow this app to make changes”. Say yes or the software won’t uninstall.
  • Wait while Adobe Flash is removed. Won’t take long.

Voila, you are done. Flash is no longer in your computer. If you land on a site that nags you to install Flash to see the content, ignore the message. Eventually the site will get with the program and fix their webpage. I removed Flash a while ago and I haven’t encountered any problems.

Read More:

Windows announces end of Flash support – https://blogs.windows.com/msedgedev/2020/09/04/update-adobe-flash-end-support/
Adobe announces end of Flash – https://www.adobe.com/ca/products/flashplayer/end-of-life.html

 

Microsoft Editor grammar check extension

Microsoft Editor grammar check extension

It’s been a while since I looked at browser extensions.  In the past, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of quality and choice. That meant I had little motivation to check the Microsoft store for new or improved extensions. Recently I took another look and found Microsoft’s Editor extension available for Edge.  It’s also available for Chrome users.

Logo for Microsoft's Editor extension

Available for Edge and Chrome – sorry Firefox.

Microsoft Editor for browsers

If you use Microsoft 365 (formerly called Office 365), you may be familiar with Editor. For the past month or so, I’ve been using it in Word. It’s handy at catching the usual spelling and grammar suspects. I don’t rely upon it heavily because the grammar rules used are too rigid for a casual conversational style website. But overall, it’s a sound addon for Word. Before installing the editor, make sure you have a Microsoft account, or it won’t work.  If you want anything beyond barebones features, you’ll also need a Microsoft 365 subscription. A Microsoft account is free but 365 isn’t. One positive aspect of Microsoft Editor is the simplicity of accessing the checker. Red, as expected, signifies typos and blue, grammar issues. No right click is needed. Left click on the underlined word or phrase and suggestions will be offered. I’m not sure why right clicking irritates me when I’m working on a document, but it’s one of those irrational bits of my mind.

Screen capture from Microsoft Editor for browser showing a drop down list of alternative phrases

Pretty helpful now that it works.

The good news is Microsoft Editor supports an extensive list of languages, not just English. You can check out the list here – Microsoft Store.

Fatal flaws in Microsoft Editor?

I’m not sure what happened when I installed the software, but it was … quirky. Very quirky. I have a 365 account so there shouldn’t have been any issues, but there were. So many issues. They ranged from insisting I speak a different language to non-functionality of most features.  When I first tried to use Editor, I almost removed it because of the frustration I felt.

Basic issues with grammar checkers

I dutifully setup the correct language, English (Canada) and tried to use the extension on this article when it was in the initial stages. Basic spell check worked fine, but it didn’t catch any capitalization at the beginning of a sentence. It still ignores the issue. When writing, I tend to type very quickly and often miss upper-case letters at the start of a sentence. Having it flagged makes editing faster. I’ve gone through the meager settings and there is no option to correct this oversite. It’s excellent at catching extra spaces within a sentence and missing commas, not so good at proper nouns and sentence structure.

Another flaw is its failure to be consistent when flagging double spacing between sentences. I learned to type on a manual typewriter. That meant I was taught to add 2 spaces after the period. This has gone the way of the dodo, and one space is all that is required. My brain still inserts double spacing when I’m typing rapidly. MS Editor would flag some but miss the majority.

One other irritant was the pop-up screen offering suggestions. If you’re working on a web address that has been flagged as a typo, you can’t copy/cut the line until you click “ignore”. Not a big issue but was a little aggravating until I figured out what was going on.

Grammar checker is okay, but it works best if you already have a solid grasp on how to construct sentences. It’s helpful, but if you aren’t aware of the pitfalls of conversational vs formal grammar, you may end up with a stilted article. Microsoft Editor is better than the old grammar checker from the early days of word processing which was comical on many levels.

But I don’t speak Welsh

Initially, I experienced a lot of issues with the extension. At first, I couldn’t figure out why everything was underlined. And what Sillafu and wibies were?

Screen capture from Microsoft Editor showing a almost every word as wrong and offering Welsh alternatives

Microsoft Editor looks like it committed suicide on my post

Another question was why synonyms weren’t available. Then a light flashed in my brain. I have a cousin who lives in Wales and thought the Sillafu looked vaguely familiar. Language was still set to English, but the spell checker was stuck on Welsh. No, I don’t have a clue as to why this happened. It is funny, after the fact. To solve this, I used the tried and true trouble shooting technique of “turning it off and on again”. I turned off the extension, closed the browser and then started over. Suddenly, Microsoft Editor was using the correct language.

The issue that hacked me off the most

Spell check worked, except for the previously mentioned issue with capitals at the beginning of a sentence.  The real issue was, and remains, with the synonym finder.  At one point, synonyms began to work but they were in Welsh. Another reboot of the browser and extension sorted that out. Alternate words were now being offered, but only if there was a spelling mistake to correct. Typos allowed me to see different words or phrases. I could correct the initial spelling error, but the synonym was not clickable. I was faced with manually typing in the suggestions. At this point, my frustration became too much, and I put the article away and ignored the extension. When I returned to it 24 hours later, all the issues were gone. Microsoft Editor seemed to work.

A flaw in Microsoft Editor

Editor is handy to have on the browser, but I doubt I’ll rely on it for anything more than catching the most grievous errors. A bigger issue is embedded in the design. Microsoft will flag words or phrases it thinks should be looked at and offer suggestions. But there is no way for the writer to manually trigger off synonym suggestions. It won’t spot multiple uses of a phrase or word nor will it allow writers to change them on the fly, unless flagged by the extension itself. This is significant. There is no sense in having a synonym checker if it depends solely on a piece of code to offer suggestions. Flawed, but useful is my thinking. I’ll keep it installed for quick checks and rely upon my own judgement. There’s always Roget’s Thesaurus and Oxford Concise sitting nearby for a quick consult.

Where to find Microsoft Editor

Microsoft Store here
Chrome store here
Firefox is not compatible, but you can always use the Grammarly extension.

What is my IP for beginners?

What is my IP for beginners?

“What is my IP” is something I’m asked occasionally. When a mildly confused customer emails me with that question, my first response is to ask why they need it. I’m not trying to be a pain, I’m just a little wary about the reasons. Let’s start from the beginning.

What is an IP address for beginners?

IP address simply means Internet Protocol address. It’s a string of numbers like 194.188.2.1 and serves as a home address. Everything connected to the Internet must follow a set of protocols or rules. Think of it as your mailing address for the web. Why do you have one?  Your internet provider assigned you one with your account and uses it to direct traffic to and from your browser. That string of numbers is how computers interpret website addresses. It’s not just computers that have IP addresses. Printers, for instance, that connect to the internet have one. If you’re on a network, you have an IP address.

Think of the IP address as your home address for computers. Anyone that can find it will have a general idea as to where you are. No, your home address isn’t attached nor is your personal info, but it’s pretty handy for narrowing down where a computer is located. It’s just a way to geolocate the nearest connection to your internet provider.

Here’s an example:

Type in 172.217.9.174 and google.com will pop up. Give it a try. Your browser basically translates the numbers into a name you understand. It’s much easier to remember google.com than 172.217.9.174. If you type in your IP address, you’ll be directed to the nearest connection supplied by your provider, but not exactly where you are am, the general area.

Static vs Dynamic IP address

Most users have what is called a dynamic IP address. That means it changes every time you connect to the internet or reboot your modem. Some, for a variety of reasons, have a static IP address. That means they are assigned a specific address that never changes. I’m not going to go into all the nuts and bolts about this now. Suffice to say, the majority of home users have a dynamic address.  Dynamic IP addresses are a little harder to hack because of their changing nature. Today you may be 192.155.698.1 and tomorrow you might be 192.155.698.8 (I used random numbers as a demonstration).

Why would anyone need to know their IP address?

Most people who ask don’t really need to know it. However, it is pretty handy when troubleshooting network issues, such as speed tests and finding out why something won’t connect to the network properly.

I did encounter a person who suddenly couldn’t connect to a few sites they used for years. A bit of detective work helped here. Their IP address had been blacklisted because of spam coming from it.  Because their IP address was dynamic, it had changed at one point and they were assigned the troublesome IP. In this case, the solution was quick – unplug the modem and plug it back in again. They were assigned a new address and could access the site.

Not all blacklisted IPs are that easy to fix, but when dealing with dynamic IPs, it can be that simple.

What is my IP address Image showing 3 computers & a geolocation marker with caption "you are here"

What is my IP address?

Ok, so what is my IP address?

No problem. It’s easy to find.  Before we go there, a word of warning. You have no reason to give you IP address to anyone unless it’s your tech support person that you have dealt with in the past. If someone emails or calls and asks, decline to give it to them. Their trolling for info.

It’s pretty easy to find your IP address. You can use an online service that quickly ids it.  There are many sites online you can access just by googling “What is my IP address”. I find the website What is my IP address helpful. Not only does it display all relevant info, it also has a handy little button to check if your IP has been blacklisted.

There are other ways to find your IP address, but for most people, just using the link above will do. It’s pretty easy.

WordPress won’t save drafts

WordPress won’t save drafts

WordPress won't save drafts - Graphic cartoon that reads "Argh I just spent an hour troubleshooting my website. Pain in the ass plugins. Sigh"

Plugins – not always user friendly

I just spent the past 2 hours trying to figure out why my WordPress site won’t save drafts or publish. Arrgh.  Not only that, the entire site kept timing out and showing an error loading.  Troubleshooting WordPress issues can be a major pain, triggering off all kinds of stress. I know it worked a couple days ago. Today, a mess.

Each time I tried to either save a draft or publish an article, the Save Draft or Publish buttons would cycle over and over but never finish the process. If I didn’t click away from the page, the browser would time out to a zero error and the live web site would show “can’t connect to the server”. So, time to do the tried and true process of elimination. Find the plugin causing all the heartaches. Why a plugin? Had to be. The website hadn’t had a major upgrade but there were a number of plugin updates this week.

First attempt at fixing the WordPress won’t save drafts issue

I tried disabling all the plugins first, but the same issue popped up. The deactivate button cycled endlessly and the website popped off again. Ok. That didn’t work as planned. Next, logged into the back end of the website via FTP and maneuvered to the plugins folder. I renamed the folder plugins_old.  Suddenly, I could publish, save and delete posts.  I also noted, the WordPress admin panel was notably faster. Definitely a plugin.

Back to FTP, changed the plugins folder name to the original and then opened up the folder. I renamed all the individual plugin folders and worked my way through them, enabling them one at a time until I found the culprit. I also tested the plugins panel, deactivating the plugins and reactivating them. No issues arose. I was a bit surprised who the problem child was – Yoast SEO. I’ve used it for nearly 2 years with no issues but this week KABLOOIE! I re-enabled it, tested and the issue returned. Guess I won’t be using Yoast until the issue is fixed.

Why did it suddenly start up? My guess it’s conflicting with another plugin. I don’t have the patience to go through all the various plugin configurations to track the issue. I’m going to remove Yoast and return to All-in-One for my SEO.

If you find your site suddenly behaving erratically, try these steps:

  • Deactivate all plugins using the plugin menu.
  • Reactivate plugins one at a time, testing the site after each is turned back on.
  • Once you track the culprit, delete it, and find an alternative.

If the Plugin menu doesn’t work or you can’t access it,

  • Log into your site with either FTP or your web host’s file manager.
  • Locate public_html -> wp-content.
  • Rename the folder titled plugins. Usually it’s easiest to rename it to plugins_old.
  • Once you do this, log back into your WordPress site and test it. If it works properly, then comes the tedious part.
  • Back to FTP/File Manager rename plugins_old back to plugins.
  • Open the plugins folder and rename every folder, adding _old to each.
  • Try each folder, one at a time, by removing the _old from the name.
  • Return to WP and test. When you find the culprit, delete the folder.

It can be time consuming, depending on how many plugins you have.  But keep at it. Go slow, test, and then retest. Note the problem plugin down (so you don’t accidentally re-install it) and find a different plugin or do without. Luckily, there are lots of choices out there so.

Have you had this problem crop up and traced the plugin? I’d be interested in hearing about it. Drop a comment below and let me know.

Surface Duo now pre-ordering

Surface Duo now pre-ordering

Be still my beating heart – Surface Duo is now pre-ordering.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve missed out on the best news of the summer.

Surface Duo is the perfect road warrior – compact, light-weight and innovative.

Oh yes, I’m a fangirl! When I started looking at the specs, I expected to see it running a variation of Win 10, like the “s” version. I was surprised to learn Duo runs the latest version of Android – 10, and comes with the usual complement of Google apps like maps, chrome, app store etc. You’ll be able to load up on your favourite Android apps without a fuss. Streaming fans take note, it has Chromecast built-in. As expected with any Microsoft device, it also comes complete with the 365 Office suite right out of the box. It feels like the best of both the Android and Microsoft worlds.

What makes me so excited? Well, the hinged duo screens. The Surface Duo  operate either independently as two separate screens or as an extended widescreen. On top of that, it has a built in keyboard, the user can swipe out of the way when not needed.  No need to purchase a separate keyboard. That little convenience keeps the device weight to a minimum. Take a look:

Feature 021Feature 021 Spotify Outlook
Feature 006 Text Feature 010

That’s flexibility. At less than 8oz, this  feather light tablet collapses down into book size.  You have a choice of 128GB or 256GB storage and is equipped with Gorilla Glass so it should be robust enough to handle most situations.  Theoretically, it has a 15hr battery life, but we’ll have to see if that pans out. I rarely find battery time promises live up to expectations.

Unfortunately, it’s $1,300 price tag will put it out of a lot of people’s reach, including myself. If you manage to get your hands on one, drop a message below and let us know how it runs. We’ll live vicariously through you.