[ubuntu] Permissions change

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http://ubuntuforums.org – I keep my files on an external hard drive rather than on the PC itself. Everything has worked fine but suddenly I am unable to make changes to files or delete them. The waste basket and delete options are greyed out. Is there away I can get back to return to full functionality. I have located and tried to cahnge the settings in the PERMISSIONS options (Properties) but will not allow any changes. I can't remember having donne anything to cause this change. Thanks Alan (Hardware)