Category: Tips & Tricks

Keeping Flash at Bay: ClickToFlash

Flash is the internet’s nightmare. I really do believe that. It is badly written, it is a resource hog one wouldn’t believe and it’s responsible for quite some security issues. If that wasn’t enough, it causes crashes, spins notebooks’ fans and increases battery drain. On OS X all this gets worse as Adobe apparently applies less care and resources to the OS X version. On top of all that, it just isn’t really necessary these days. The hundreds of millions iPhones and iPads have shown, that the web can live without Flash. The web traffic from these devices is considerable and that thankfully forced web and content designers to rethink their use of Flash.

You see, Flash has been a major annoyance for me ever since. I am a person who keeps 2-3 web browser windows open, each with a dozen or more tabs. When Safari crashes on me, it gets really annoying and Safari does that like once a day. And every single time Flash turns out to be the responsible culprit.

I also like small notebooks such as the MacBook Air. It has more than enough power to deal with tons of flash, that’s not the problem. The problem however is, that Flash content eats quite a lot performance. That in turn makes the notebook to spin its fan causing it to get unnecessarily loud – just because some of the websites I have open are plastered with Flash ads.

When I work at night, everything is absolutely silent around me. Except my MacBook Air that can actually become pretty loud once its fan start spinning beyond 4500 rpm. When reaching stuff, running calculations or writing, there is nothing that can even remotely tax the notebook. If I wanted to work in silence, I would have to close Safari and Chrome…

I am all for advertisements on the web as it drives content creation and for that reason I don’t use ad blockers. That being said, I have no problem getting rid of all the crappy Flash ads. If you’d run a browser without Flash, you’ll notice that there are still tons of ads on most sites, they just aren’t in Flash. Same often applies to actual Flash content. If you browse them on your iPad, you still get what you want, you still see the movies etc. without having Flash. That’s because web designers these days want their content to be consumed on devices that do not have Flash and have that content in alternative formats.

Safari_Develop_MenuIf you use Safari, open its preferences and select the ‘Advanced’ tab. Check ‘Show Develop menu in menu bar’ at the end of that tab. Now find an ad-filled site and in the ‘Develop’ menu select ‘User Agent -> Safari iOS – iPad’.

This will reload the website in your current tab and show it like it would be shown for the iPad. Notice how the ads change. Unfortunately, some websites will also alter their appearance to be tailored for the iPad and the User Agent change is not persistent, either. It also has to be enabled for every single of Safari’s tabs. It is however a good showcase that web without Flash is very much alive.

Now, getting rid of Flash entirely by uninstalling it is one way to, but it isn’t for me, at least not quite yet. Sometimes there is Flash content I want to see. And sometimes there are websites that just refuse to offer alternative content when they detect you use a desktop browser and ask you install Flash even though some do have that content in alternative formats.

So occasionally you might want to have Flash, it just doesn’t happen often lately and you would be surprised how little relevance Flash has these days.

That opens the door for the perfect solution to the Flash problem: a small extension for Safari called ClickToFlash.

You can also get it by clicking on ‘Safari extensions’ in Safari’s ‘Safari’ menu. This will open Apple’s website featuring lots of extensions for Safari and ClickToFlash can be found in the Productivity category.

ClickToFlash_CNNWhat ClickToFlash does is preventing the Flash content from being displayed and thus eating up performance. What you see instead is a semi-transparent gray graphics the size and shape of the Flash content that simply says “Flash” in the middle. If you want to see that content, you just click it and it will be displayed like it used to. Until then, your notebook’s fan remain nicely silent and battery life won’t be unnecessary drained. Just what I wanted and it’s free.

I’ve been using ClickToFlash for like 2 months now and I wish I would have found it sooner. The only time I hear the fan of my MacBook Air or MacBook Pro now is when I am running actually CPU intensive applications or games, but not when chatting, browsing the web or writing.

ClickToFlash also offers extensive preferences to better tailor it to your needs. For instance you can enter websites where you want Flash content to be shown right away. Your favorite Flash game websites come to mind.

ClickToFlash_Safari_PreferencesTo access ClickToFlash preferences, open Safari’s preferences and select the ‘Extensions’ tab:

Click this checkbox to access settings’ does exactly what it says: it opens the preferences window with all the ClickToFlash settings that the extension offers.

Don’t fear though, the default settings are very well chosen, so chances are, you won’t have to deal with any of these settings. Use ClickToFlash without changing anything for a couple of days first and then see if there is actually something you’d like to change.

ClickToPlugin

When you follow the link to ClickToFlash, you’ll also notice another extension for Safari there: ClickToPlugin. It’s basically like ClickToFlash, but for a lot more content types such as Silverlight, Java, QuickTime or Shockwave. If you have an older, slower Mac and/or little RAM, you might want to give it a try. For most people though, ClickToFlash should be sufficient though, since none of other content types comes even close to the destructive force of annoyance that is Flash. Yes, I really do hate Flash with a passion.

Uninstalling Flash

In case you decide you can do without Flash, Adobe was kind enough to not only offer an uninstaller, but else easy to follow step-by-step instructions on their website.

One major upside of uninstalling flash over ClickToFlash is that with ClickToFlash your Safari still tells websites that you have Flash installed. This in turn lets some websites not switch to i.e. HTML5 content, but still forces Flash content on you even though they handle non-Flash variants as well. There are still a lot of websites that still take this ‘Flash first’ approach.

Once you uninstalled Flash, make sure it is really gone. One good way is simply to head over to Adobe’s Flash version page and let it tell you if you got rid of your Flash.

But what do you do should you discover, that on occasion you run across some old website that only has Flash or you want to play some Flash game? Well, that’s quite easily solved, too. Just install Google Chrome as your second browser. It never hurts to have a second web browser on your system, especially if doesn’t eat up much space. Chrome is a really good browser, but what’s more important in this case: it comes with its own Flash plugin. Whenever you land on one of those websites you want to consume the Flash content on, simply fire up Chrome and open that website there.

There you go, two really good solutions to the Flash problem to choose from and enjoy a more silent notebook with longer battery life.

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Apps not showing in Launchpad

launchpad_iconLaunchpad is a nice way to start apps in Mac OS X, especially if you are already an iOS user. However, sometimes you may not be able find your just installed app in the Launchpad. Over the course of the past year it happened to me 2 or 3 times and I remember how confused I was the first time around. Here are some tips how to resolve the issue.

Make sure the app really isn’t there: Sounds stupid, but often these kinds of mistakes just really are. At the top of each Launchpad page you’ll find a search field. Type the first letters of the app’s name in there and see if the app shows up. As Launchpad put the app’s icon into the first free spot in the Launchpad it isn’t all that hard to miss an app when you have a lot of them.

Make sure the app is actually in the Applications folder: All apps in the Application folder should be added to the Launchpad automatically. However, an app does not need to be in the Application folder in order to show up in Launchpad. You can add an app from a different location manually, see ‘Add the app to Launchpad’ below.

Make sure the app’s extension is .app rather than .App: On one occasion I downloaded some little app that did now show up in the Launchpad until I manually changed the app’s extension from capital letters to .app.

Add the app to Launchpad: Open finder, navigate to your app and drag it onto the Launchpad icon in your dock. This will add the app to the Launchpad onto the first free spot in the Launchpad, so either check all pages to find it or simply use the search at the top of the Launchpad page.

Make sure the app is compatible with your Mac OS X: Sometimes you’ll download an app that will just not work on your version of Mac OS X, often because it was designed for an earlier version of the operating system. If adding the app to the Launchpad manually doesn’t help, launch the app directly from Finder to see it even runs. Launchpad refuses to add apps that are not compatible with your version of Mac OS X.

Rebuild the Launchpad database: If nothing else helps, copy and paste this command in terminal to force a rebuild of your Launchpad database where all your Launchpad settings are stored:

rm ~/Library/Application\ Support/Dock/*.db; killall Dock

Warning! Rebuilding the Launchpad database will basically restore Launchpad to default settings and add the apps in the Application folder. This means that all your settings, everything you cleaned up, moved to different pages and all subfolders that you made will be lost!