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Customise Flash settings (in any OS)

Love it or loath it, there is no denying that Adobe's Flash technology for creating internet applications is hard to avoid. Its use is so widespread on the web that many sites just won't work properly unless you have the latest version. From playing games to online banking and shopping, it seems that most websites require it to be installed on the computer.

You may not have realised it, but there are some configuration settings in Flash that can be customised and tweaked. There are settings that are concerned with privacy and the ability of websites to store information about you and there are settings that limit or allow access to hardware on your computer such as the webcam and microphone. You don't want someone on the internet watching you at your computer through your webcam do you?

At one time you had to go on the web to adjust Flash's configuration settings, but the online Settings Manager has now been abandoned in favour of local controls. Everything you need to configure Flash is on your computer.

Adobe FlashGo to any website that has Flash content, such as www.youtube.com, right click any Flash item on the page, such as a video clip or animation, and select Settings from the menu that appears. A small settings window is displayed and there are five tabs in a row along the bottom. Click the first one and make sure that Enable hardware acceleration is ticked. This offers the best performance, but there again if you have problems playing Flash movies on your computer then try browsing the web with it turned off.

The second tab determines whether a website can access your computer's webcam and microphone. Some websites provide facilities to take photos or videos and upload them, such as Facebook, and the setting should be enabled for these, but it is best disabled where it isn't needed. You should find that this is the default setting anyway (only the setting for the current website is shown).

Adobe FlashFlash movies running on web pages can store information on your computer and this facility could be used to store settings, recently viewed content, adverts shown and so on. The third tab enables you to see how much information the current website is storing and set the amount it is able to use. You can drag the slider all the way to the left to prevent websites from storing any information at all. The Flash movies on most websites don't need to store anything and a setting of None will work fine. A few websites do need to store stuff though. The setting shown is only for the current website and you can't see what other websites are storing or set the space they can use unless you go to the site in the browser and access Flash settings again.

Some websites enable you to record video and/or audio so you can upload it, such as to a social networking service. The fourth tab enables you to set the record volume and choose the microphone. Some computers have multiple input sources, such as a microphone built into a webcam and a microphone jack socket into which you can plug in an external microphone. Here you can choose the microsphone source that is to be used when you record audio on a website using the browser.

The last tab in the settings window is for selecting the video source. You probably won't have multiple sources, but it is possible, for example, if you have a webcam and a digital camera/digicam plugged in at the same time.

Global settings
Adobe FlashRight click a Flash movie and select Global settings or run Flash Player in the Windows Control Panel or OS X System Preferences. These settings used to be on the web, but now they can be accessed on the computer. On the Storage tab there is a Delete All button and this can be clicked to remove all websites' histories and information that has been stored by Flash. To see which websites have stored information, click the Local Storage Settings by Site button. If you are concerned about privacy and other people knowing which sites you visit you might want to clear this regularly.

On the Camera and Mic tab you can see which websites have access to the webcam and microphone. You can select and remove sites individually or use the Delete All button on the Storage or Advanced tabs (the same button appears on both). Also on the Advanced tab is a button to check that you have the latest version of Flash player and there is an option to check for updates automatically or never. It's your choice.