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Java: What is it? Do I really need it? Is it safe?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 12, 2013 8:49 AM PDT

Java: What is it? Do I really need it? Is it safe?

I have been reading from one source that Java is losing the battle with the security "holes," and the recommendation was to disable it or "unload" it from the computer completely. So that's what I did. I have not noticed any problems with not having it. I do understand it could interfere with some things when surfing in browsers. And that some of the free "word" programs won't function without Java. So what to do? Bottom line, do I need it? Is it better to be without it? Is it safe? And are there alternatives? Nowadays security is very important. Thanks.

-- Submitted by Jean
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no reason to delete the older version
by dvval / April 19, 2013 2:20 PM PDT

You say: "There is no need to delete the older version as since Java is designed to run multiple versions simultaneously." But who wants to have multiple versions taking up space on their computer?

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Why have multiple versions on your machine?
by tumbleweed_biff / April 19, 2013 4:16 PM PDT

In most cases you wouldn't want to keep multiple versions installed, particularly minor version changes like from Java 7 update 16 to Java 7 update 17.

There are, however some reasons. If you had an older program written in Java 1.x, in may well not work in later versions of Java as a result of things which have been deprecated in later versions. This is relatively rare and most people would be fine, better off actually, deleting the older version via the control panel. Doing so accomplishes two things: it removes the older version from your hard drive saving disk space and more importantly these days, cleans up registry entries which are no longer useful/valid/superceded.

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by JCitizen / April 20, 2013 2:01 AM PDT

Better to get rid of the application that requires the older java, or update that particular application to a version that can use updated java. Of course some folks at their job don't have this freedom, and are constrained by IT policy; but we already know those come up.

One can always apply EMET to older apps/.exe files, or even setup virtual machines to lower the threat profile; any good blended defense can also affect the odds; but one can never second guess the inventive nature of the criminals. None-the-less, one must analyse the cost factors and weigh which way to go by that - we do have to be practical too.

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because companies are lazy
by What!now! / April 19, 2013 11:40 PM PDT

Some organizations will not update web sites. As stated by one poster stated he needs to keep an older Java version because the Australian Taxation Office will not upgrade their program. I am not sure about Java versions but the Fortune 20 company I work for has internal HR web sites I need to access that will not work using anything but MS IE. If a person needs an older version they need it. Some people as has been pointed out may remove all versions of Java and never have a call from anything they do on their computer for Java.

I removed it in February but found out I needed Java for one site the next week. I would say remove it until you find out you need it. If you don't ever have a call for Java then why take up the disk space, frequent updates and a possible security risk.

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If you just have to use it...
by JCitizen / April 20, 2013 2:05 AM PDT

because of government intransigence; apply EMET to the java applet that needs protecting - then at least you have a chance of fighting an exploit package that may attack through that vector.

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"As a programming language, I'm told that Java is clean ..."

"As a programming language, I'm told that Java is clean and fast."

You should really know what your talking about before offering advice. If you are relying upon the word of mouth of others, how do you know they really know what they are talking about?

DO NOT TELL PEOPLE TO TURN OFF UPDATES. Advice like that should be criminalized. You should be taken out into the street and whipped. ... Seriously though, do not turn off the updates. They don't happen THAT often and updates commonly have security patches which are necessary for safe operation. Would you tell someone to turn off Microsoft updates? Would you tell them to turn off their Anti-Virus updates which happen every day (usually)?

Java IS clean, but it isn't as fast a compiled program written in something like C++. This is because it has to be compiled, converted to machine code, by the computer at run time. The advantage of this is that you can run the same program on any computer which has a Java runtime version installed whether it be a Mac, a PC, a server, or a mainframe. With compiled applications, you have to rewrite the application for each of these environments separately. One of the many valuable aspects of Java is automatic garbage collection - as soon as an object is no longer needed, it is removed from memory by the "garbage collector". With most other languages, the programmer has to perform this garbage collection manually. Many programmers forget to do this or do it poorly and this is the cause of what is known as a memory leak and other problems.

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Some Parts are good
by SirGalahad1 / April 21, 2013 2:11 PM PDT

Your beginning the post was good, but you need to elaborate "the programmer has to perform this garbage collection manually".

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Garbage Collection
by tumbleweed_biff / April 22, 2013 11:47 AM PDT
In reply to: Some Parts are good

In Java, as soon as there are no longer any references to an object, the garbage collector removes the object from memory, releasing that memory to be used by other programs.

In most other languages, once a program puts something in memory, say populating a variable, that memory is kept in use, whether or not the program continues to have need of that data, typically until the program closes. Proper coding techniques tell you to remove an object from memory as soon as you are done with it to avoid memory leaks. Additionally, you never want to keep data around longer than you need it for security reasons.

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For those of you who found my post unhelpful, could you please tell me why the negative rating?

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Pop-ups for Java Update
by johnedwardsbc / April 20, 2013 3:13 AM PDT

I just made the mistake you warned about by clicking on a pop-up, while playing on Pogo. Instead of ignoring it and going to for the update I clicked Okay. I've had nothing but problems since. Ran my McAfee virus and found nothing, but something is still causing problems. I deleted Java and reinstalled to no avail. I still get a message from Java saying that there are signed and unsigned problems with Java. Next I'll just remove Java and hope for the best.

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EXCUSE ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
by Glenn51 / April 20, 2013 7:42 PM PDT

If you go to the "Official Java Website" and click on the window of FAQ under Help Resources you will see that it is
recommended by Java to in fact uninstall any and ALL previous versions of Java! The following is a direct quote from that page:

"Should I uninstall older versions of Java?

We highly recommend that you uninstall all older versions of Java from your system.

Keeping old and unsupported versions of Java on your system presents a serious security risk.
Uninstalling older versions of Java from your system ensures that Java applications will run with the most up-to-date security and performance improvements on your system.

Over time, you may have installed multiple versions of Java to run available Java content. In the past, each Java update was installed in a separate directory on your system. However, Java updates are now installed in a single directory." End quote!

Oracle/ Java "Highly Recommends" removal of ALL previous versions of Java. The above link will take you to their webpage!

What I quoted from their webpage is only a small portion of the page, but with all due respect " They Highly Recommend removal of any and all previous versions of Java"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Java SE
by short65 / April 21, 2013 12:03 AM PDT

Read your comment and assuming your talking about JRE, I went to the command prompt typed msconfig_startup tab_and the only thing in there was "Java SE update". Not sure what this is and I think I do remember somehow disabling the "Java auto update" for JRE at some point when there were security issues. What is "Java SE" and do I need it? Running_Windows 7, Firefox browser.

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Only fools disable Java updates
by markfilipak / April 23, 2013 2:32 AM PDT
Do not disable Java updates.
High Desert Charle advises: MSCONFIG STARTUP area --> Start -->type "msconfig" --> Select
the Startup Tab --> Uncheck the box for Java autoupdate feature

Don't do it!

There have been several expert Java programmers here advising people not to turn off Java updates. Follow their advice. If you disable Java updates, you're a fool.
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by bkowulich / April 29, 2013 11:24 AM PDT

Thank you. You seem to be the only one who can answer that question in English for me.

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by pauly1651 / April 12, 2013 12:00 PM PDT


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Most people don't; and it's as safe as the Windows OS
by gordon451 / April 12, 2013 12:56 PM PDT

These days, cross-platform apps are not as common as they used to be. That was the primary purpose for Java, and (with graphics) Flash. Chances are you don't need it: for example, when did you see anything that uses Silverlight, aka Microsoft's Java look-alike? I would say uninstall it simply to make space, if something complains or starts crying, re-install it.

Safety? Back in pre-Cambrian days, Mac users would proudly boast (like *nix users) "we don't have malware!" I need to make it clear that the first malware ever seen was a primitive worm on a Unix system, back in the, aaahh, very late sixties if my memory serves... Maybe in the very early seventies. The point is, malware makers aim at the most popular OSes. The bigger the target, the more chance of getting a hit. Java was not seen to be a worthwhile target as it was one of the early sandbox users IRRC. However, like Macs and *nix machines, increasing complexity opens more loopholes, and thus you get a perception of decreased security.

If you decide to keep it on your machine--"just in case"--you don't need to worry overmuch: any security problems in Java don't happen until you run it, rather like the worm in the email attachment, which does nothing until you double-click it, or the substandard email client (we won't mention names like vantage-point) which automatically opens attachments...

Like JBinOZ I need Java to access the Western Australian Landgate mapping system, and that keeps whingeing that my latest version is the wrong version... I have yet to see an app that requires Silverlight.


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by tumbleweed_biff / April 19, 2013 4:18 PM PDT

"when did you see anything that uses Silverlight, " I take it you don't use NetFlix?

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by markandcheryl / April 19, 2013 9:26 PM PDT
In reply to: Uhhhh...

is used to display images on serif web hosting forums for their sister sight daisy trail. It works quite well actually but thats just a personal opinion.

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by gdk2013uk / April 12, 2013 10:57 PM PDT

Java is required in order to make web pages come alive and without Java you only get half of the big picture.

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is Java really necessory
by gdk2013uk / April 19, 2013 11:04 PM PDT
In reply to: Java

The short answer is yes but why not get rid of Microsoft Windows and install UBUNTU 12.04LTS PRECISE PANGOLIN using the full harddrive compacity and you cannot ge far wrong as Ubuntu 12.04 is open source there is no possibility of it getting infected and also even Java is sandboxed.

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Any linux distro...
by JCitizen / April 20, 2013 2:16 AM PDT

can be successfully attacked by using a vulnerable version of java - if you can dump the java, then yes - Linux has a lower attack profile - but as the success of the firmware OS versions of Android have shown - malware are having success on mobile technology - if any particular platform gets popular enough, the criminals get motivated enough to stay ahead of the FOSS community in finding vulnerabilities. At least with FOSS software and firmware you have a small window of vulnerability, as long as you continue to update. Otherwise ALL operating systems are vulnerable to popular players, applets, and drivers poorly coded by service providers, and will continue to get hit. All you have to do is read the news here at CNET or any sister site like ZDNeT, or TechRepublic to see this happening all the time.

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by lenber / April 24, 2013 5:50 AM PDT

Excellent Advise!

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Bottom Line...
by Flatworm / April 12, 2013 11:03 PM PDT

Java is a programming language developed by Sun Microsystems that is employable across a wide range of platforms, from computers to toaster ovens and everything in between.

No, you do not need it, although some things that you also probably don't need do depend on it. I believe that may be the most notable and common Windows application that depends on it.

No, I do NOT think it is better to be without it, but it's really not much worse, either. Some things you may wish to do, or websites you need to access require you to have it. It is a very clean and efficient little app that won't slow down even the most ancient and revered PC.

No, it is not safe, compared to most other applications, although in general the risks it presents are low if you keep it up to date. Its developers at Sun are constantly chasing their tails trying to keep it as safe as possible. One of the biggest complaints I hear about it is its frequent updates. You can turn its automatic updater off, but I don't recommend it.

No, there are no alternatives. If something requires Java, it requires actual Java.

Note that, despite the similarity in the names, Java is not Javascript, an interpretive programming language incorporated into literally millions of web pages in their HTML coding. Javascript routines do not require Java to run. Javascript uses many command, argument and parameter names basically copied from Java (similar to the way DOS copied many of its commands from Unix), but otherwise the two are unrelated.

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Open office
by doyleasmith / April 19, 2013 2:11 PM PDT
In reply to: Bottom Line...

I uninstalled Java and my Open Office still functions.

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Probably better to use LibreOffice anyway...(nt)
by JCitizen / April 20, 2013 2:20 AM PDT
In reply to: Open office
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Everyone tells me I need Java
by itsdigger / April 20, 2013 2:26 AM PDT

to run LibreOffice but, I don't have Java and Libre works just fine. Maybe some parts of Libre that I don't use needs Java but I haven't found it. ..Digger

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Who is everyone?
by richteral / April 21, 2013 2:36 AM PDT

LibreOffice no longer gyrates around Java, as everyone should know.

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Bad bottom line.
by tumbleweed_biff / April 19, 2013 4:23 PM PDT
In reply to: Bottom Line...

"No, it is not safe, compared to most other applications,"

You are wrong. Flat out wrong. It is safer than most PC programming environments running code in a separate "sandbox" aka virtual machine, just like if you used Microsoft Virtual PC and ran virus code within your virtual environment.

While created by Sun, it is now owned and developed by Oracle and they aren't "chasing their tails" to secure things any more than any other development environment and actually less than most.

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concur - good advice
by Pat Wurdeman / April 20, 2013 2:44 AM PDT
In reply to: Bottom Line...

(from a retired software engineer): Good advice. FWIW, I removed Java from my PC (security concerns) a year ago and haven.t missed it at all.

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by JeanneD / April 20, 2013 5:09 AM PDT
In reply to: Bottom Line...

I had uninstalled JAVA but most of the games I enjoy require it to be installed and updated.

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