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Issue #595:December 16-22, 2018

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Q: I have a problem with Firefox and Cox webmail. I use Firefox because the format is easier than some of the other browsers that ask me to download and run Adobe flash, then gives me the message, “Your browser does not meet the minimum requirement of Adobe Flash Player 9 or higher.” This, from Chrome when I want to use Enhanced Mail; then when I go to the site and download flash, I get the same error message, so I have to go to Classic Mail.

Back to my original problem. When I first open Firefox for my email, I can answer emails, then after a few minutes it doesn’t allow me to type anything in a ‘reply’ email. I have to close the site and open it again before the same thing happens again.  Any idea why this is happening and what I can do to solve it?

– Jackie Y.
Shalimar, Florida

A:  Wait – is it Firefox or “some of the other browsers” that you’re having problems with? Your question jumps around quite a bit, and is a little hard to follow.  Let’s start with Firefox.  I don’t have a need to use Firefox, but I did do some research, and I couldn’t find anything saying that Firefox isn’t compatible with Adobe Flash.  It’s just a matter of downloading it, and enabling it. The instructions for both can be easily found with a Google search.  As for Chrome, Google went back and forth, threatening to block flash content, and finally, in December 2016 got serious about it, and formally blocked all content that requires Adobe Flash.  You can still enable it manually if you want.  In the address bar in Chrome, type “chrome:plugins” and press [Enter] to be taken to the Plug-ins page.  Find the “Flash” entry, and click the “Enable” link underneath.  The reverse is also true.  If you no longer want or need Flash, click the “Disable” link.

Your description of your original problem doesn’t really provide enough information for me to even begin to speculate on a cause and solution.  When the computer “doesn’t allow you to type anything” have you checked with the Task Manager to see if something is using too much CPU, or memory?  The symptoms you’ve described are very typical of countless different types of malware infestations.  If this is indeed the cause, your system will need a good scan and cleaning, which is far more than I can provide through this column.

• • •

Q: Do you have any suggestions about disposing of an inoperative, 10-year-old laptop?

– Howard H.
Niceville, Florida

A: I bet many people are going to find brand new shiny laptops or other hardware under their tree on Christmas morning, and so will wonder what they can do with the older hardware that it’s replacing.  To that end, your question is excellently timed.

Before you think about getting rid of it, consider it as a learning platform.  Have you ever wanted to learn Linux?  How about build a multi-media server?  Maybe a Network Attached Storage (NAS) server?  Old hardware is ideal for many of these tasks, so long as the hard drive still has some life in it.

If none of this sounds appealing to you and all you really want is to dispose of it, there are lots of options.  Before you do anything, be sure you’ve taken some steps to protect yourself.  First, and most important, back up all of your important files, or simply transfer them to a new system, or whatever mass-storage solution you use.  Empty your Recycle Bin, delete your browsing history and favorites, uninstall all your personally-owned software, and then use a tool such as CCleaner or Eraser or Windows’ own Cipher command to wipe the free space, so the files can’t be recovered. 

Once the machine has been cleared of any and all personal information, it can be given away, donated, or given to a recycling center.  You shouldn’t simply throw them in the trash, no matter how old they are, because there are chemicals in the batteries and other components that are harmful to the environment.  But there are plenty of places that will accept a PC for environmentally-friendly disassembly and recycling.  Google “dispose of old computers” for locations near you.

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