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Java - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Q: What is Java ?
A: Java is three things

  • It’s a programming language.
  • It’s a "virtual machine" - a program (run-time environment) you can install on any computer (including mobile devices) in which any program written in Java can run.
  • It’s the set of programs for developers to use that makes all that possible. Java is capable of doing far more complex applications than JavaScript.

Q: What applications and websites require Java?
A: Here is a list of applications and websites that require Java :

  • Blackboard (only the features listed below require Java)
    • Chat & Virtual Classroom tools (located under “Collaboration” in the Tools menu)
    •  WebEQ Math Editor located in the text box editor. The rest of the text box editor is fine.
    •  Uploading multiple files at once.  (Uploading single files and file attachments work fine.)
  • Citrix
    • GoToMeeting - also from Citrix
    • GoToWebinar - again from Citrix
  • The Wall Street Journal website, wsj.com, uses Java for dynamic charts
  • SciFinder (formerly called SciFinder Scholar.  Java is required for structure drawings)
  • Stand Alone Apps: Doceri Desktop

The following list is by no means exhaustive. We will update it as new information becomes available.  Your contributions to this list are welcomed. Please address them to hd@hamilton.edu

Q: What do I do if you must visit sites/web applications that require Java?
A: Here are two methods to consider using :

NOTE: (The following example is written for Blackboard Learn but the same techniques can be used for other trusted web sites or applications that require Java.)

A. Use a different browser and ONLY use that browser to access Blackboard Learn

If you set Blackboard Learn to your home page in your other browser it will save you time when you need to access it quickly.  For example, set up Internet Explorer or Safari for Blackboard and then use Firefox for all your other browsing. The browser you choose for Blackboard Learn will need to have Java enabled so you should not use it for your day-to-day browsing activities. Remember that web searches, surfing, purchasing, social media, etc. are activities that are more likely to take you to web sites that could compromise your computer.

B. Turn Java on only when needed.  Then turn it off.

As an alternative, you can continue to use your favorite browser for Blackboard Learn but you'll need to enable the Java plug-in when you want to use the features that require Java.  It is vital that you remember to disable it again when you're finished. Failure to disable it will expose your computer to a rapidly growing number of serious threats that take advantage of flaws in Java, Adobe Flash, and Adobe Acrobat.

How to turn Java on for all browsers or individually

How to turn off Java system-wide or for individual browsers

Q: If I’ve disabled Java in my web browsers already, do I really need to update it?
A: Yes, you should update Java now, and continue updating Java whenever your computer prompts you that an update is available. The most recent versions of Java will always contain patches for previously discovered security holes in Java. Updating Java on your computer will make your computer as safe as it can be from Java exploits.

Q: Then why did ITS tell me to disable Java in January 2013?
A: We advised campus to disable Java earlier because:

  • There wasn’t a “patched” version of Java available to update your computer and
  • At least one campus computer had been compromised by the existing security holes. That computer had to be completely wiped and rebuilt.
  • Exploits that take advantages of Java vulnerabilities frequently include keystroke loggers which are used to capture passwords and financial information (credit card, banking, etc).

Q: If I update Java, should I still keep it disabled in my browsers?
A: If you have not needed Java in the past few weeks, then yes, keep it disabled in your browsers. Having Java both up to date and disabled in browsers is absolutely the safest approach. However, if you do need to use Java for some of the web-based tools that are important to your work, you can leave it enabled now. (Note that disabling Java in your browser still leaves Java available for applications installed on your computer.)

Q: Do I need to update Java on my personal/home computer?
A: Yes, update Java on every computer you use, and continue updating it whenever you receive a prompt on your computer. You can use the directions found through the ITS Resource Center page to manually update both Windows and Macintosh computers.

Q: Is Java the same thing as JavaScript?
A: No.  You need not worry about JavaScript.

Q: What about my mobile devices (phone, tablet)
A:You need not worry about Java on your phone or tablet unless you deliberately installed a Java app on your device. In that case, you should be sure to keep it up to date.

Q: How did I get Java in the first place?  I don't remember installing it.
A: Most people will find that Java has been installed on their computers whether they were aware of it or not. Java was designed with security in mind, but because it is widely used, it is a favorite target for cyber criminals.  All software has potential security risks, especially when (like Java) it is running programs written by unknown entities across the web. You should make sure you keep Java regularly updated to minimize the risks.

Q: How do I uninstall Java ?
A: Follow these steps :

  1. Click Start
  2. Select Control Panel
  3. Select Programs
  4. Click Programs and Features
  5. Select the program you want to uninstall by clicking on it, and then click the Uninstall button.
  6. Click Yes to remove the application. You may need administrator privileges to remove programs.

Note: Newer versions of Firefox will automatically disable outdated Java plugins.
Typically mobile devices (smart phones, tablets) do not have Java installed.

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Last updated: December 10, 2020

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