Tag Archives: Android

More on Java and other updates

You may remember that I mentioned security flaws related to Java in a recent blog (Do you really need Java? – 17 Sept 2012). Well a report from Kaspersky, the security giant, details that Java is now the number one attack target, accounting for more than half of all malware exploit attempts. In other words, hackers are using the flaws in Java the most, to gain access to people’s computers.

Kaspersky doesn’t give any firm figures, but I’m assuming we’re talking significant numbers. According to Java, it is installed on 1.1 billion computers around the world. So rich pickings for hackers. Number two in the attack list is Adobe Reader.

According to W3Tech 0.2% of websites use Java. That’s 2 in every 1000. Confusingly, Java is not the same as Javascript which is used by 92% of websites. Websites that offer you the chance to book seats (say at a theatre or on a train), games sites, some learning sites which use animation all require Java. If you use OpenOffice or LibreOffice, or Adobe Creative Suite, then you’ll need Java.

In my recent posting I suggested that you could keep Java (in case you came a across a site that worked better with it) and change the update frequency, with the thought that Java would take these security flaws seriously and issue updates more regularly until it was fixed. The Kaspersky report is dated late October and implies that Java is not playing its part.

You have to make a decision. If any of the above apply to you, don’t ignore Java updates. But, if you are in the habit of ignoring requests from Java to update itself, then I suggest you uninstall it altogether. Far better ridding yourself of it, than hanging on to a version that is out of date. To uninstall Java:

  1. Go to the Control Panel through the Start menu
  2. Click Add/Remove Programs (in Windows XP) or
  3. Programs and Features in (Windows Vista and 7)
  4. Click the Java entry followed by the Install button the toolbar
  5. Follow the instructions on the screen
  6. Repeat for any reference to Java in the list.

If you then come a cross a webpage that requires Java for the page to work properly, then install it again and if the service that webpage is offering will be useful to you in the future, then make sure you don’t ignore Java update requests.

Adobe Reader, not surprisingly, is the number two target. I travel around and see a lot of different computers in a week, and frequently the session is preceded, or interrupted by a request to update Adobe Reader (and Java, for that matter). Too many people ignore these requests either because they think they have to pay something, don’t know what it means, or don’t have the time.

Think about it. An update request is coming from a program or feature that is already in use on your computer. The program’s engineers have developed a better way to run the program, or more likely have discovered a security flaw which can be exploited by hackers and have issued a patch (to use the jargon) to repair the flaw. The fact that a patch has been issued means that the hacker can then work out where the flaw is and exploit it on any computer that hasn’t applied the patch. So if you ignore update requests you are running software that is vulnerable. No matter how good your anti-virus and anti-malware protection is, your system is potentially open to attack.

Updating Adobe Reader is even easier than updating Java. Just don’t put it off. Adobe Reader is needed in lots of instances when you’re on the internet, so don’t uninstall it. It would be too inconvenient to be without it. Just keep it update.

What we need from companies like Java and Adobe is updates that are handled automatically (as Windows updates are) by default, without us having to intervene. Out of date software is like a free meal to hackers. So why not withdraw the invitation?

This article applies to Windows users, but if you’re using an Android smartphone and have Adobe Reader installed on it, this article applies to you too.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Windows 8 – should I upgrade?

Windows 8 – should I upgrade?

Windows 8 LogoWindows 8 is the new operating system from Microsoft, and is their answer to Apple’s and Google’s Android dominance in the tablet market. It is the latest in a very long series of releases, which include Windows Vista and Windows 7. Anoperating system is the major piece of software that comes installed on a computer when you buy it and controls the computer’s hardware and software. You can upgrade your operating system without buying a new computer. But within weeks of its release (due in the second week of October), all new computers will be sold with Windows 8 installed.

This article can’t be a review as I might have lead you to believe, because I’ve not seen Windows 8 in action in pre-release form, but more of a discussion about using touchscreens. And I have read extensively about Windows 8, so the question still stands – should I upgrade, or leave well alone?

The answer is, as usual, – it depends. To help you out, let me ask another question. Do you want to ditch your old laptop for a new one or even a mobile tablet? Let’s talk about tablets first.

Windows 8 tablet

Tablets are the latest trend in hardware – and range in size from a large smartphone to a medium-sized laptop. They’ve been around for a while and you’ve probably seen someone using an iPad – which is Apple’s version of a tablet. The major innovation in using a tablet is that you control it by touching the screen rather using a mouse or a touchpad. Some laptops are also available with touchscreens.

The major and most obvious change is the use of tiles to access the different features your computer has to offer. Tiles are like desktop icons – only square or rectangular. Touching a tile will take you to your emails, or to the word-wide web. The way the screen is organised and the use of touch makes for a much more intuitive and user-friendly experience. It’s also very fast, compared to its Apple and Android rivals.

As with all touchscreens you have to learn a new way of controlling the computer mostly by tapping on items rather than clicking. But you can also use a series of finger gestures although you can avoid these altogether if you want. For example, pinching your fingers while on the screen will increase the size of (or zoom in on) what’s on the screen – but a double tap does the same thing. Gestures tend to be natural and so become intuitive as well. Another one, is to swipe up and down a webpage to see more of it.

The major difference between a laptop (or desktop) and a tablet is that a tablet is much lighter and completely mobile. A tablet is a self-contained device with an on-screen keyboard which only appears when you need to type. You can use a plug-in keyboard but this would have to purchased separately. And it requires a wireless connection to the internet, either at home (most internet connections are wireless ones) or when you take it on holiday or go to friends. Windows 8 comes with its own anti-virus and anti-malware protection built in which looks after itself – a great step forward.

So ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want to be able to use a computer (which will be able to do all the things I am doing currently) while sitting on a sofa rather than at a desk?
  • Do I want to learn how to use a touchscreen, even if it’s very user-friendly?

Then have a look at Microsoft’s Windows 8 site  and have a look at some tablets that are on offer now.  Do make sure you’re buying a tablet with Windows 8 installed. There are plenty of tablets available as I write but they are using Google’s Android operating system which behaves in a different way from Windows 8.

So what about upgrading without buying a new computer?

You might have guessed by now that this article is slanted towards the idea of using a touchscreen computer. Windows 8 has been designed and works extremely well with these sorts of computers. Windows 8 can be tweaked so that it looks and runs like your current setup without the tiles, although you’re constantly reminded that your interaction with it would be better if you had a touchscreen. Is it worth upgrading to Windows if you have a laptop or a desktop PC? I’d say no – it definitely isn’t. If you’re running Windows Vista, then you’d be better upgrading to Windows 7. And stay with Windows 7 if that’s what your computer is running. There’s not enough of a change to warrant the expense and inconvenience. You have to decide either on the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ principle or wait until you do need a computer and then decide to go for a tablet or a laptop / desktop replacement. By that time, I’m assuming all new computers will have Windows 8 installed as standard.

Please feel free to comment below.