HELP FILE

Help File: Another escape from Flash crashes in Safari on a Mac; safely ejecting USB flash drives

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By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, August 29, 2010

Q: I thought the Safari browser on my Mac would stop the Flash plug-in from crashing it, but Safari still locks up on me.

A: When Apple shipped Safari 4 last summer, it touted the crash protection that browser would gain in the upcoming 10.6 Snow Leopard release of Mac OS X. But although Safari 4 and its improved successor, Safari 5, often shut down the Adobe Flash plug-in before it can upend the entire browser, Safari can still stall out.

In those cases, Snow Leopard users can sit and watch OS X's "spinning beachball of death" cursor advertise Safari's unresponsiveness. Or they can use one of Apple's own tools to see if the Flash plug-in is holding things up and, if necessary, get that multimedia software out of the way.

To do that, look in the Utilities sub-folder of the Applications folder and launch Activity Monitor. Look for a process named "Flash Player" and see if it's eating a disproportionate amount of memory or processor time; if so, select it and click the "Quit" button. You'll see a dialog appear, click its "Force quit . . . " button and type in your password when requested. You should see Safari snap back to life -- unless something else on your Mac has gummed up the works.

My computer nags me about unplugging flash drives without using the "eject" command first. Am I damaging them?

As long as the computer isn't reading from or writing to the drive -- which can be difficult to tell, especially if the drive lacks an activity light -- you'll probably be fine. I've yanked out USB flash drives many times without suffering any penalty.

But it only takes an instant to click an "eject" button in Windows or Mac OS X that will ensure the computer's done doing anything with the drive. It's better to get in the habit of using that.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.


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