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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Monday October 15 2007

About a day ago, YouTube stuff like the little film featured in this posting started appearing on my computer screen as blank spaces, and it was the same with YouTube stuff elsewhere.  I could not even get to the main YouTube site.  That also was a big blank.

I usually use Internet Explorer, and I thought: I’ll try Firefox, which I’ve been dabbling with lately.  I did, and that worked.  Suddenly, all that YouTubery was visible again.

But then, when I tried Internet Explorer again, suddenly that worked.  Suddenly all that YouTube stuff sprang to life.  It was as if Firefox persuaded Internet Explorer to behave properly.

So, is that what happened?  I am sure there is a simple explanation for this, but what on earth is it?

It’s the Universal Law of Technology Repair stating that some kind of restart solves almost all known problems. For instance, engineers always advise you to reboot before doing any repairs, and olde-worlde TV sets were cured by bashing on the top with a fist. It’s a mystical kind of law which may also explain why electric shock therapy works for some mental disturbances.

My step-son stood still in a daydream once, and when asked if he was OK replied “Yes, I’m just rebooting.” Psychology and technology- moving ever closer together!

Posted by Alice Bachini-Smith on 16 October 2007

It may be due to the peculiar effects of caching.  Rather than go to the server each time your browser will tend to keep copies (a cache) of pages that have recently been read.  So, if you return to that page it will probably save the cached copy rather than a brand, spanking up-to-date one.

What may have happened is that you opened up IE, there was some kind of outage at YouTube and the YouTube bits didn’t display.  A little while later you went back and you saw the cached copy.  You went to Firefox which had no cache and therefore displayed the YouTube bits.  You then went back to IE and for some reason it decided that the cached copy wasn’t up to snuff and did a full reload.

It is highly unlikely that Firefox could have influenced IE.

It is also possible that first time round IE hadn’t finished downloading.  Were you getting revolving IE logos or similar?

Posted by Patrick Crozier on 16 October 2007

What the others have said could well apply here but still, seriously consider using Firefox as a default browser, with some excellent extensions of your liking. IE is a vacuum cleaner for all sorts of spyware and buggy garbage.

Posted by Steevo on 16 October 2007

One difference I notice between IE and Ff is that when I click on a blog in my blogroll in IE, it opens in a new window (as per my instructions) but when I do the same in Ff, it uses the same window.  Unless you tell it to use a new window by right clicking and choosing that option.

Whether my instructions are sensible is one question.  Another is: why the difference?

Actually, I am coming to think that my instructions are not good, because when you blog about something you often want to know by what complicated link-path you got to it, and can only remember by clicking backwards.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 16 October 2007

See also Adriana’s recent comment on Permanent Italics Disease.  Apparently IE inflicts perpetual damage on all subsequent postings if, e.g., you forget to close some italics.  But Ff displays everything correctly.

Interesting.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 16 October 2007

Firefox is using the same window, but a different tab. This means that you can open multiple pages in the same window and then quickly flick between them using the little tabs at the top of the page and just below the address bar. Most people prefer opening pages in separate tabs to opening them in separate pages, so Firefox does this as the default. Internet Explorer 6 doesn’t have this option, so it doesn’t do this.

The answer as to why different browsers do things differently is that the original specifications for the World Wide Web and HTML defined something very simple. (A way of displaying scientific papers that linked to one another, basically). All the other things in web pages that we know and love were invented later, often by the designers of new browsers. Different browsers did things different ways because they were inventing the same thing separately or they were trying to be deliberately incompatible to screw their competitors. Standards were written later, and some browsers were modified to be compatible with the standards and some weren’t. (The principal culprit here would be a large software company starting with the letter M). What this means is that different browsers do things differently.

As for your original problem, another possibility is that there was something wrong with your Flash player (which YouTube uses) and that the installation of Firefox came with a new version of the Flash player, or was capable of seeing that there was something wrong with the old one and fixing it. Then, when you restarted IE, it either saw the new version and started using it, or started using the existing Flash player that Firefox had fixed.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 16 October 2007
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