The President's Message

August 2010

Rick Curry

Thanks to Aaron Gaston of Infogrip (www.infogrip.com) for his demonstrations and presentations of some of the incredibly powerful modern assistive technology products. Infogrip also carries ergonomic products, such as the VerticalMouse.

Finicky Flash
I think that much of what I am about to say was covered in the Q&A session at the last meeting, but the problem is important enough that I want to make my own attempt to describe it.

Flash is a special sort of movie player program that runs inside your browser. It usually opens a rectangular window inside the browser. Often a video advertisement, a movie clip, television clip, or a flashing repetitive cadence of words will be in this rectangle. It can also be complex enough to play a video game.

Toby has shown us how to block Flash using the NoScript add-on to the Firefox browser because Flash can be a source of continuous nuisance in the form of distracting images and sounds as well as being powerful enough to serve as a way for malicious programs to get inside your computer.

Alas, with all of its faults, many useful websites will not run without Flash. There will almost certainly be times when you find yourself telling NoScript that it is OK at a particular website (like your bank). So we want to have Flash installed.

Much like Windows or other programs, Flash gets updated to fix problems and introduce new features. Fortunately, Flash is configured to automatically tell you when it needs to be updated. Unfortunately, the netherworld of Internet-based thieves has come up with ways to pop up a window that look just like Flash telling you to update.

So if a window pops up and tells you to update Flash, treat it like a phishing scam where someone is pretending to be your Bank and is sending you a false link. Do not do what it says to do. Close that window and ignore the instructions just the way you would ignore the email message that tells you: "HI! WE ARE YOUR BANK! (click here and see what happens)"

We must not click on links to get our Flash updates. Type in the addresses by hand to check for new versions of Flash for now. It is a nuisance, but it is the best way to be safe for the time being.

Close all of your open browsers and any pop-up windows, like the one telling you to update Flash. I check with Task Manager at this point to make sure that all of the browsers have been closed, but that step is very rarely necessary and somewhat dangerous if you do not know what you are doing.

Next open a new copy of your browser and see if you actually need any updates from the official Flash website by typing in this address: < >

My children just told me that they are having Flash programs hang (stop and never resume) while displaying: "loading." They also told me that clearing the browser cache, closing all browsers, and then starting over seems to always be the fix. It will be interesting for me to read the transcript of our last Q&A, because I recall Toby saying that he had heard the same thing from his family. I also recall Michael saying that updating Flash fixes this.

These strange problems reported in Flash are reason enough that most of us should check for updates to Flash. While writing this article, I started checking. The first two computers at my house needed to be updated, and I never saw any update notice for either machine. Just make sure to go to the real website for your Flash updates.

If you update Flash and the update notice keeps coming back every time you start your browser, you may have picked up a virus or Trojan horse. If you think this has happened, it is time to seek assistance from a professional.

Happy computing!