Technical Note

Stella is taking an online course that uses some sort of custom web software to accept and record her answers. Friday, suddenly and much to her consternation, it stopped working. She could enter answers, but the form-post button had no effect whatsoever. (She thinks she also had trouble with the online banking s/w of a major national bank, but I didn’t actually witness that.) The antivirus software eSet NOD32 proclaimed her machine virus-free, and her email was still working, so she emailed her instructor reporting the problems she had.

The instructor finally replied late last night: the custom software doesn’t work (“goes wonky” is actually what the instructor said) in the latest IE 9 browser, and exhibits symptoms exactly like those Stella experienced. Stella has Windows Update set to do auto-updates in the wee hours of the morning, and apparently between one of her class work sessions and the next in the custom s/w, Windows updated the browser. Zap! Micro$oft kills another one!

I have been on the receiving end of this myself in the last year of my contracting work. I was working on an AJAX app (don’t ask if you don’t already know) for a company in Austin, and I tested the app in progress every day in the then-current Firefox and separately in IE. That time, to my chagrin, it was my client who first upgraded IE to a new version, a version in which events did not fire in the same sequence as they did in either Firefox or the previous IE version. I spent approximately a continuous 24 hours finding a workaround.

I consider it irresponsible of Micro$oft to make changes of that sort. Adding features from one version to the next should not change the fundamental app interface and its underpinnings so much that web apps immediately stop working. But M$ doesn’t care what I think.

OTOH, if what they did in fact resulted in incompatibilities with the software of a major national bank, M$ might find a reason to care.

Stella has switched to Firefox. So far, she’s had no problems, and I am very grateful. You have no idea how grateful I am…

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  • Bryan  On Tuesday October 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Well, now you know how M$ made IE9 safer – it doesn’t work with half the stuff people use, so half the attacks can no longer be used. 😉

    Actually, they now turn on many ‘security features’ by default, and one of them may be causing the problem.

    • Steve  On Tuesday October 18, 2011 at 10:36 pm

      Bryan, that sounds likely… although my experience described above had nothing really to do with security at all; M$ just deliberately or negligently rearranged the order of event firing.

      But Stella has a way to do her work and her banking now, and I am soooo glad, because I’m the one she turns to whenever there’s a computer-related problem, and she seldom confronts such problems calmly. 🙂

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