Living Without Flash

May 20, 2011

This one is for the Mac users of the world…

I make it no secret that my iPad replaced my MacBook Pro as my primary computing device one year ago (May 22), and I’ve often viewed Apple’s banning of Adobe Flash on the iOS platform as a feature. On the Mac, Flash is slow, it’s exceedingly processor hungry, it turns my MacBook Pro into a portable George Foreman Grill, and there are security flaws up the wazoo. Since iOS is a variant of OSX, were Flash on iOS devices, it would behave identically to Flash on the Mac. The ten hour battery on my iPad would turn to five hours maximum, no doubt.

But for some reason I never uninstalled Flash on my MacBook Pro, and suffered through Flash’s instabilities every time I’ve dusted off its cobwebs and took it for a spin (5.5 years old and it’s still awesome). That is, until about a week ago when I decided to use Flash no longer. Without a second thought I downloaded Adobe’s Flash Uninstaller and uninstalled the parasite. No Flash on my iPhone 4, no Flash on my iPad, and now no Flash on my MacBook Pro—Computing nirvana!

Now pay attention…

One issue I noticed right away however, is that most html5 content that is pushed to show on iOS isn’t pushed to show on desktop browsers. For example, instead of seeing playable videos on online.wsj.com like on iPad, I now see missing plugin messages in Mac Safari. It’s a really sad day when my iPad and iPhone 4 can play more videos on the web than my MacBook Pro can. So of course, you might now be thinking of keeping Flash around, despite it being a death wish. Never fear, if you’re a Safari totin’ Mac user, I have a solution! Just follow these steps.

1.In the Safari application, navigate your way to Preferences (or key command ⌘,).
Edit: key command ⌘, will only open Safari Preferences if the application you’re in is Safari. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

2. Click on the Advanced tab and check the little “Show Develop menu in menu bar” checkbox at the bottom. Now a Develop tab will appear in the menu bar.

3. Now, follow this path. Develop > User Agent > Mobile Safari 3.2 — iPad
3a. Note that you will need to do this in every window you want to display html5 content. Any new browser windows you open will revert to the desktop Safari user agent.

4. Browse the web like a king!
4a. But if you REALLY need to use Flash in those few minor instances, I recommend downloading Google Chrome as a secondary browser. It has its own self-contained version of Flash built in, meaning all of Flash’s bugginess works only within Chrome.

Note however that this is a Mac OSX solution. If you use Windows, I can’t help you. But if you know of a way to push html5 content to your browser (Such as Internet Explorer or Firefox*) instead of it always trying to give you Flash content, contact me and I will update this post immediately. It would be nice if we could all live Flash free!

Edit 2: Google Chrome is available for Windows too, meaning if that’s your primary browser you can (should) uninstall Flash. But this entry is about a solution for viewing html5 content instead of Flash, not finding a way to view Flash content without having it installed. And, in my humble opinion, Chrome isn’t the best browser on any platform.

*Edit 3: Forgot, Internet Explorer 9 supports html5 (But not 8 or below), and Firefox kinda supports it, but nothing below version 3.5.

Edit 4: If I wasn’t clear, this solution is for Mac OSX 10.6+, and it requires the built in Safari web browser.

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