A random collection of stuff mostly about operating systems, software licensing, technology, and privacy

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MikeCh’s stuff…

Bugs

July 27, 2005

I try to be realistic, and I appreciate that all software has bugs—it is the nature of the beast. I am aware that this Web site likely has three categories of bugs: First there are the bugs or problems that I cause because I don’t understand or I misinterpret how-to write the XHTML and Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) code that displays the content.

The second category of bugs exist in the Web server software, in this case Microsoft’s Internet Information Service (IIS). Finally there are bugs in the various browsers that people who are accessing this Web site use, such as Safari on Apple OS X, and Internet Explorer (IE) on Windows.

I created the basic layout of this Web site using Xcode 2.1 on an Apple Mini with OS X “Tiger” (10.4.2). I tested the basic look of the Web site on the Mini, and then used a DELL Precision workstation to view the site from Windows XP SP2 with the latest version of IE 6.0. It looked good, so I celebrated by uploading the new pages and style sheets to the Web server and making the site live. (I’m really a lazy testers, but heh, aren’t we all?)

A few days later I was viewing the site and decided to resize the IE browser window. I noticed that the navigation link to the still uncoded “Who Are the Puli Brothers…” page disappeared never to be seen again. And if I scrolled down to the “Fine Print” heading and made the browser continually narrower, the page resized its display according to the XHTML and CSS code, but then the Fine Print heading would appear, disappear, then have no background color, then appear normally, then disappear again.

I tried browsing the page from Firefox, and no problem—as I resized the browser all the text on the page moved appropriately, and stayed in view. I could still browse it from Safari, and even IE on the Mac. ‘Hmmm…maybe there is an IE bug?’ I thought.

So I head to the Microsoft Web sites, including MSDN and TechNet looking to see if anyone had reported a similar problem, and if there is any information about what I might be doing wrong or what I needed to do to fix the problem.

I could not really find any issues that sounded like my problem on any Microsoft Web site. So I Googled the words ‘IE 6 Bugs’ and found lots of references to the ‘Peek-A-Boo’ bug, a bug which everyone except Microsoft seems to acknowledge exists in IE 6.

Armed with a better description of the bug—the fine print heading does indeed appear to be playing Peek-A-Boo, I headed back to the Microsoft Web sites but still didn’t find a KnowledgeBase (KB) article or any information about the bug and any known workarounds. But this time I get a hit, using the keyword ‘Peek-A-Boo’, but on closer examination, it is a bug in the Actimates Barney. ‘Wow, there must be more Barney users than IE users,’ I conclude.

Still thinking there must be a KB article on the Microsoft site, if only I could find it, I find an IE team blog that says the ‘Peek-A-Boo’ bug, which apparently doesn’t warrant a KB article, does warrant fixing in the next version, IE 7.0, but that version will only fix it on Windows XP SP2 (rather than all the versions of Windows where IE 6.0 runs). Incidently, click on the Peek-A-Boo link in the blog and you go to an external site, where I first found information about the bug.

Thanks to the knowledgable and helpful people at ‘Position Is Everything’ I were able to find out about the bug that was effecting the display of their Web site, and adjust their XHTML and CSS code which had passed validation to workaround Microsoft's bug in IE. Of course, the fix broke the display for Safari and Firefox, which required adding additional CSS code to resolve those issues.

Now in defense of the IE team, could it be that the developer’s of Safari, Firefox and IE for the Mac all got this functionality wrong and I have the bug while IE 6.0 works correctly?

So what’s the point? Well I acknowledge that software has bugs, but you have to wonder about a company that provides software, but won’t list the known problems with their software. Makes you wonder what other problems I aren’t admitting to. It must be nice to have the so much share of a market that you don’t have to either acknowledge the shortcomings in your products, let alone provide a workaround or a fix, but instead can count on the user community to publish workarounds.

Is it any wonder other browsers are gaining popularity?