Technology News from the LIS Helpdesk
Adobe Flash ends support for iconic plugin
On December 31, 2020, Adobe officially stopped support for Flash – the browser plugin that helped define the early internet. The company announced it would be killing off Flash in 2017, but the time has finally come. Adobe won’t provide any new security updates and is actively encouraging people to uninstall it. It will also stop videos and animations running in Flash Player from January 12, 2021.
Adobe Flash Ends after 25 years
The plugin was first created way back in 1996. It became a pillar of the internet by allowing people to stream videos and animations within the browser.
Animator David Firth told the BBC: ‘You could make a full three-minute animation with multiple characters, backgrounds, sounds and music less than 2 megabytes (MB) and viewable from within the browser.’
Why was Flash popular?
When Flash was first released, a majority of Internet users connected via dial-up connections. Thankfully the Internet is now a lot faster thanks to supper fast broadband.
However, Flash let web designers and animators deliver exciting content that could be downloaded relatively quickly.
“You could make a full three-minute animation with multiple characters, backgrounds, sounds and music less than 2 megabytes (MB) and viewable from within the browser,” explained animator David Firth.
His surreal animations and characters – such as the gangly, green hunchback Salad Fingers – enjoyed viral success before the advent of social media.
“I just made the stuff I wanted to see that I felt was missing: dark, surreal comedy,” he told the BBC.
“There were no shortcuts to viral content. No corporate fingers twiddling the algorithms. It was simply attention-grabbing and quality material that rose to the top.”
Sites such as Newgrounds – described as “the YouTube of Flash” by Mr Firth – sprung up to serve the growing demand for cartoons and interactive games.
“It was the first website I’d ever seen that allowed anyone to post content and it be available in real time. If the community felt the content was low quality, it would get removed at the end of the day, so you actually had to take that into account when posting,” he said.
Flash was about more than just animations – it also let websites such as YouTube stream high-quality video. By 2009, Adobe said Flash was installed on 99% of internet-connected desktop PCs. But by then the world was shifting towards mobile devices and Adobe was slow to react.
“We had optimised for lower-end phones with Flash Lite,” explains David Mendels, former executive vice president of products at Adobe.
“It was incredibly successful in places like Japan, but it wasn’t the same as the full desktop Flash. It wasn’t fully compatible.”
In April 2010, Apple’s Steve Jobs wrote a blistering open letter headlined Thoughts On Flash. It explained why Apple would not let Flash run on iPhones and iPads.
Flash, he argued, was cumbersome to use on a touchscreen, unreliable, a security threat and a drain on battery life.
He said videos and animations could instead be delivered with HTML5 and other open technologies. This will make Flash redundant on a smartphone or tablet. “When the iPhone came out, Flash wasn’t quite ready,” Mr Mendels told the BBC. “But also, I think Apple wanted to create an Apple-only ecosystem.”
Eventually, Adobe did get a version of its Flash Player working on smartphones.
Technology moves on as Adobe Flash ends
But the internet had moved on. Big brands such as Facebook, Netflix and YouTube were already streaming videos to smartphones without Flash and in November 2011 Adobe ended development of Flash for mobile devices.
It continued to produce Flash for desktop computers, but the software suffered from multiple security flaws.
In 2015, Apple disabled the plug-in in its Safari web browser by default, and Google’s Chrome started blocking some pieces of Flash content.
In July 2017, Adobe announced that it would retire Flash in 2020.
It said other technologies, such as HTML5 had matured enough to provide a “viable alternative”, without requiring users to install and update a dedicated plug-in.
What happens to all the old animations?
It is sad that Adobe Flash will be ending. As of 12th January 2021, Flash Player will prevent content from displaying. There are concerns that years of animations, games and interactive websites will be lost.
Gaming company Zynga closed the original version of its FarmVille video game on New Year’s Eve after 11 years, as it relied on Flash to run.
An open, collaborative project known as Ruffle is working to develop software that can play Flash content in a web browser, without requiring a plug-in.
The Internet Archive is currently hosting more than 2,000 items. Its collection includes episodes of Salad Fingers, although David Firth has posted official copies on YouTube, which he considers having been a “Flash killer”.
“As time went on and YouTube offered higher and higher-quality video formats, there was simply no reason to post in the Flash format,” he explained.
But since Flash was also used for interactive websites and games, there was “every reason to preserve the format”, he told the BBC.
Many of the feature’s animators used are still available in Adobe Animate. In its final update, Adobe said: “We want to take a moment to thank all of our customers and developers who have used and created amazing Flash Player content over the last two decades.
“We are proud that Flash had a crucial role in evolving web content across animation, interactivity, audio, and video.”
How can I remove Flash from my computer?
It has warned: “Uninstalling Flash Player will help to secure your system. Adobe does not intend to issue Flash Player updates or security patches after the end-of-life date.”
Alternatively, please contact the LIS Help Desk and speak to our knowledgeable technical support team. We can assist you with updates and health checks for your computer systems. Now is the time to review your IT requirements. Make sure you have the latest software and security. This will provide the most effective solutions for your team and let you customers have the best experience.
LIS – DIGITAL SECURING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD
#AdobeFlash #Plugins #ITsupport #Upgrades
Ready to make this a wildly successful year for your business? Our 2021 productivity super guide will help shake off the memories of 2020. As well as enabling you to focus on increasing sales and profitability. Excellent. A great place to start is helping you and your team to get more done in less time. We’ve pulled together a productivity super guide, looking at setting goals, collaboration, and communication. And of course, it lists our most highly recommended productivity tools.
Download our 2021 productivity super guide.
What a year we’ve left behind
Although, with many of the negatives we had no control over, came some positive changes to the way we all do things. So many businesses now have people working from home on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. As much as no-one asked for this, it’s been great to see how many businesses that we work closely with have adapted. And in the process, they have become more flexible.
This flexibility often results in a more motivated, engaged workforce. Who really appreciate the ability to work different hours and work from home (WFH). This is a huge benefit. Especially if you’re looking to hire new people. Because what’s the greatest competitive advantage in your business? It’s your people, of course.
We believe that offering flexible working and the choice between WFH and going into the office, will help you attract the very best people in your field. This year is going to be a “buyer’s market” for employers. A great opportunity to take on truly excellent new people. But, of course, along with this comes a responsibility to give everyone the tools and accessibility they need to be able to excel at their roles from wherever they choose to work.
That means you, as the business owner or manager, need to be on top of issuing the right devices, keeping security tight, and network access open but safe. After the 2020 lockdowns, hopefully you’ve already got the fundamentals in place. But going forward, it’s as important to offer your team as much IT support in their homes, as they get in the office.
We can help you with our 2021 productivity super guide
So, here’s a question to ask – what else could you do to help them achieve more?
If they were given the right tools:
- Help your team make the most of their time
- The right tools will complement what they do
- Tools will simplify processes
… could they get more done in a day?
Probably. And fortunately, we live in an age where there is an app to help you do pretty much anything.
Why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?
The thing is, it’s too easy to get stuck in our ways. Yes, even when it comes to business. We log into the same software each morning, have the same grumbles about how we wish it did things differently; then carry on with our day.
“Sometimes what we need is a new set of eyes. Someone who can stand back and see the simple solutions that we simply can’t”
Because when something is a habit, it can be difficult to imagine a different way of doing it. Even if that new way is easier and brings about more benefits – like a more productive team, and better customer satisfaction.
Could we be that new set of eyes for you? We’d like to offer your business a productivity audit.
During this audit, our experts will take a detailed look at your business, what you do and the tools you currently use to do it. We’ll talk to you about how your processes would work in an ideal world and help you to identify the apps or software that can help that to happen.
Let’s set up an IT Audit
Three BIG questions for you:
- Do you currently have an IT support company?
- How happy were you with them last year?
- If the answer isn’t “utterly delighted”, let’s jump on a Zoom or book a phone call.
Everything that happened in 2020 taught businesses round here just how important proactive, responsive IT support is. Contact the LIS Help Desk to discuss your business, and to answer any questions you may have.
LIS – SECURING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD
#NewYearGoals #ProductivityGuide #Make2021YourYear
You may have heard that Macs are safer than Windows PC’s when it comes to cyber security and that is partly true. But it doesn’t mean they’re completely safe. Can Macs get Viruses? The likelihood of catching a virus whilst using a Mac computer is increasing. There are now more threats to Mac users than ever before. Here’s everything you need to know.
Q: Can Mac’s get viruses? A: Yes.
For a long time, it was widely believed that Mac’s were safe from viruses. This belief was supported by the creators, Apple. For years Apple used ‘Macs don’t get viruses’ in their marketing and on their website. It wasn’t an unsubstantiated claim.
They have historically had a smaller share of the market, making them less of a target. The integration between their software and hardware has always had the benefit of being harder to penetrate. And since the arrival of macOS X, they have had built in security measures, particularly for preventing malware getting on to the computer.
This has made it pretty hard to install something malicious onto a Mac computer. But they don’t make the ‘we don’t get viruses’ claim anymore. Because unfortunately it’s no longer true Mac’s can get viruses!
The real danger
Arguably the real danger facing Mac users is that they are unprepared. The assumption that you are safe simply because you are using a Mac actually leaves you more vulnerable to an increasing number of threats.
As useful as the in-built security features are, they only do so much. There are ways for seasoned hackers to bypass them and they don’t block all potential threats. As Macs have become more popular and the number of users has grown, so have the number of threats they face.
The safest option is to assume that you could be vulnerable.
What threats might you face when your Mac gets a virus?
The threats, like with any computer user, range from simply annoying to potentially devastating. Sometimes, something which seems as if it’s just annoying could actually be much worse. Here’s a few examples of what you could face.
Adware could be any unwanted program or pop up that displays unwanted ads. Often these can lead to malicious websites that could then deliver spyware – a program which tracks activity online and steals information, used for fraud or theft. Even a benign pop-up can be annoying and intrusive and hamper the day-to-day use of your computer.
Trojan horses hide a malicious software within an otherwise nonsuspicious link or download. Sometimes the malware inside the trojan horse will start operating without your knowledge, stealing personal data in the background. They’ve been a threat to Macs for a while. There was a particularly bad one a few years ago called ‘MacDownloader’ which hid in a fake Adobe Flash update.
These are sort of like a Trojan Horse and begin to work when the user clicks on an infected file, often a Word document. It then runs a code that can release new files, corrupt data, take screenshots and deliver malware.
What’s on the horizon?
The threats above are all based on previously recorded events and new threats are most likely to fit into those common categories. But the threats are ever-present. Cyber criminals are always finding ways of bypassing basic levels of security and will exploit vulnerabilities in your system.
Techrader.com talked about a recent threat which involves a dangerous new malware.
It’s thought to be distributed by a known Vietnamese hacking group called OceanLotus (yes, we know, it sounds like something from a James Bond movie, but it is real!)
The malware allows them to spy on machines and steal confidential info and sensitive business documents from macOS users. As this is a known threat, the latest security patches should help to protect against it.
Signs that your Mac has a virus
You won’t always know if something is wrong, if you don’t have a real-time scanner installed. Some malware is designed to run quietly in the background. However, there are a number of ways that might indicate that something is wrong.
LOTS OF ADS AND POP UPS
This may be obvious but if you’ve got unwanted ads popping up and you don’t usually (and really any irregular pop ups are out of the ordinary on a Mac) then it suggests something has arrived on your computer.
Your computer being slow may just be the result of lots of programs using up memory on your computer, but it could be an indication that you have a virus. If the spinning rainbow ‘wheel of death’ is constantly appearing, then you may have an issue.
Viruses come from the internet and are mostly designed to disrupt your online activity. If your browser is running slow, acting abnormally or crashing regularly then questions need to be asked.
What you should do?
As we mentioned above, really the first step is acknowledging that there is a threat in the first place. Yes, Macs may still be safer, but we always think we’ll be fine until something happens. If you’re a Mac user or your business uses Macs regularly then it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Contact the LIS Help Desk to make sure you have a good antivirus and cybersecurity system installed on your computer, as well as the standard tools you get in macOS. If you need support or help in this area, you know where we are.
LIS – SECURING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD
#apple #mac #malware
WordPress allows you to design and build a website that meets your unique needs. Start a blog, business site, portfolio, online store, or anything else you can imagine. We explore what’s new in WordPress 5.6.
With built-in optimization and responsive, mobile-ready themes, there’s no limit to who you can reach with your new website. Create a simple website for your family or sell products around the world—it’s up to you.
WordPress is often regarded as the easiest and best website builder if you’re looking to build something that you won’t outgrow in the long run. Most web hosting accounts now include a ‘1-click installer’ which will set up WordPress for you in seconds. Contact the LIS Help Desk to buy your domain name.
What’s new in WordPress: Five awesome new features
Like previous releases, WordPress 5.6 includes several versions of the Block Editor enhancing the editing experience for WordPress users who don’t have the Gutenberg plugin installed and updated on their websites yet.
Not everything is about the Block Editor, though. Several features have been added to WordPress Core, like a new default Twenty Twenty-One theme, auto-updates for major releases, better support for PHP 8.0, Application Passwords for REST API Authentication.
There is so much more in WordPress 5.6. You will see accessibility improvements, UI enhancements, tons of bug fixes and a huge list of changes for developers.
1. New default theme: Twenty Twenty-One
One of the major new features in WordPress 5.6 if the new default theme: Twenty Twenty-One. It looks awesome, plus it’s lightning fast, accessible and SEO-friendly. One of the coolest features is that you can quickly build a complex layout thanks to block patterns. These block patterns were introduced in WordPress 5.5 and this new theme uses them nicely. The theme comes with a couple of patterns, but you can make your own to suit your needs. The Twenty Twenty-One theme was designed by Mel Choyce-Dwan and built by a development team — consisting of several Yoasters — led by Carolina Nymark. You can read about how Twenty Twenty-One came to be.
2. Automatic updates
Keeping your site and plugins up to date is a chore — but an essential chore to keep your site safe and secure. It’s one of the reasons why the WordPress team is working hard on making that process a little bit easier by providing automatic updates. Luckily, WordPress can already automatically update minor versions, but with 5.6, it can also update to major versions automatically. This is an opt-in, so you have to activate it yourself in the WordPress Updates screen if you want to make use of this. Remember, automatic updates of major versions has its pros and cons, so think before you activate.
3. Application passwords
Application passwords offer a new way of providing access to certain parts of your site. You can’t use them to log into your account, but you can use them to help give external sources access to your site without you having to give away your password. You can easily generate access keys and share them with your users. Keys are easy to understand and come in a familiar format like abcd EFGH 1234 ijkl MNOP 6789. Revoking access is just as easy. Simply hit the Revoke button. Keep an eye on this feature as many plugins and platforms will adopt this.
4. Loads of Gutenberg updates
We’re big fans of the new block editor, but we know there are still a lot of naysayers out there. Luckily, the Gutenberg team keeps chugging along and put out great release after great release. In WordPress 5.6, you’ll find the results of not one or two Gutenberg updates — but no less than seven releases. Among many things, you’ll find improved support for video positioning in cover blocks, enhancements to the block patterns, better dragging and dropping of blocks, improved keyboard navigation, et cetera. It comes with many performance and accessibility improvements as well.
5. Beta support for PHP 8 in WordPress 5.6
PHP 8 has just been released and it is a huge deal for developers. It’s the latest version of the programming language in which WordPress is written and it brings a whole lot of cool stuff that will help developers use modern code practices and features. As of WordPress 5.6, the CMS is considered beta compatible with PHP 8. Still, there’s a lot of work to do to get WordPress fully compatible with PHP 8 and before developers can use all the new goodies that it brings.
New build or upgrade
Are you happy with your existing website? Is your website out of date? Do you need to upgrade to sell products online? Our clients benefit from working with us as we have a team of designers, programmers and IT support staff. We offer hosting, design and build of websites, email setup and SEO. We also offer training for the person in your team who will be updating your site. They will soon find out what’s new in WordPress and how it will benefit your company.
Work with industry experts for all your online requirements and to find out what’s new in WordPress. Let us take away the headache of dealing with several suppliers. Working closely with you, the client, we’ll provide product features based on actual end-user behaviour and deliver exactly what you require. Delivered on time and within budget. Contact the LIS Help Desk to discuss your online requirements.
LIS – SECURING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD
#WordPress #Websites #Hosting #SEO #Marketing
Whether for work or pleasure, virtual meetings just got a lot more popular. How can you make video calls better?
We can all accept by now, that video calls will continue to be a staple of business communications next year. However, did you know you can considerably improve your calls with just a few little tweaks? There are four key areas to pay attention to. There are four ways to make video calls better in 2021. We will show you what to do and how to do it, in our brand-new video.
The global pandemic has ground much of the world to a halt. Worldwide, likely tens of millions are working from home as part of social distancing. Sitting in front of a webcam for hours is now normal – for both business meetings and sharing a ‘quarantini’ during virtual happy hours.
Now that Zoom, Skype and other services have taken over our daily lives as we know it – including job interviews and dinner parties – many are wondering how to look as good on the internet as they do in person. That means figuring out how to flatter your face on your colleagues’ laptop screens, or the importance of a tidy living room in the background. It’s not just vanity: viewers could “make snap judgments, unfortunately, about you as a person,” says Sunny Lenarduzzi, a Vancouver-based online entrepreneur, former TV reporter and regular YouTuber.
We talked to people whose job largely features talking in front of a webcam all day. Here are their tips to look nice and professional on camera.
Fill your face with light
If you take away nothing else, focus on your lighting. Front-facing natural light is best. It evenly accentuates and brightens your skin and features, giving you a clear, flattering, movie-star-like quality. “It’s amazing for making your eyes pop and making you look really presentable on camera,” says Lenarduzzi.
Set up your computer in front of a window, and importantly, make sure that light is hitting your face straight-on. Because whether you’re snapping a pic for Instagram or dialling in for a video call, having that light come from behind you ends up drowning you out entirely, reducing you to an inscrutable silhouette.
Avoid low angles to make video calls better
It’s one of the cardinal rules in camerawork: keep the camera eye-level or higher. “You want to make sure your computer’s at least a little bit elevated so that you don’t have the double-chin effect [or] the computer’s looking up your nostrils,” says Lenarduzzi. You can easily give your laptop some lift by stacking a bunch of things just lying around. Cookbooks or coffee table books work well, Yara suggests. “Angles make a big difference,” she says.
Mind your skin
In our webcam-dominated situation, practising good skincare is even more important than usual. The camera can make bad habits “look ten times worse,” says Tang, as the computer screen tends to highlight things like oil on your face. She recommends blotting your face before you go live. Be on the lookout for uneven skin tone or chapped lips, too. (Zoom also has a filter used to even your skin tone.)
The experts recommend applying a tinted moisturiser to your face before booting up your video meeting. (Tinted moisturiser is filled with subtle pigments of makeup that help your skin tone appear even.)
Know what you’ll look like
Preparation is important to make video calls better. You don’t want to join a call using the webcam as a mirror to make any finishing touches to your hair, face or lighting you could’ve done earlier. “Take a phone call using your webcam to prep. The call can be on your phone, but make sure your webcam is on so you can practise seeing yourself and your mannerisms,” Tang says. “It won’t feel so foreign next time when you’re actually doing it for real.”
Pick the right background
Although our homes are inherently less equipped for professional meetings than your office boardroom, there are better places to take a call than others. Zoom isn’t the place to showcase your bookcases performatively filled with literary tomes or your enormous Basquiat print – particularly on a work call. Though tempting, that kind of home décor flexing takes focus away from who should be the star of the show: you. Yara recommends a plain, white background.
The right tech to make video calls better
When you combine all these tips you are better equipped to think about how you are presenting yourself as a person. It’s an important skill, especially when all people will have to go on is your face on a computer screen.
It is important that you remember when you are on a video call you are still representing your company. Contact the LIS Help Desk to find out how we can help you make video calls better. Have a chat with our experienced support technicians about your security as well as software and hardware upgrades. All our clients benefit from our monthly IT support contracts, business broadband and telecoms services.
LIS – SECURING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD
#VideoCallFatigue #LookLikeAPro #Zoom