Fixing Java in Firefox and IE7

Close-up of coffee beans

Yesterday we were visited at work by someone from Nedstat, a company that specializes in Web statistics. But that’s not what this post is about, it’s about this: why my browsers were falling down whenever I ran Java applications; a problem I’ve had for over five months now.

Because whenever the Nedstat rep. tried to run a Java-related online application in Firefox it wouldn’t work as expected.

Him: Hmmm… it’s not supposed to do that.
Me: Is it Java, by any chance?
Him: Yes, why?
Me: I’m having trouble with Java and my browsers just now.

It’s a guaranteed way to scupper software reps’ demonstrations though, if that’s your thing: make sure your browsers don’t work properly. (Not to be recommended.)

At the university we have a staff expenses online form which runs within a browsers and uses Java and an Oracle JInitiator plugin to run. (Don’t worry if you don’t know what these mean, it just means that you need X to run Y.)

Only, whenever I tried to run the application in either Firefox or Internet Explorer 7 the browsers would crash. With Firefox I was getting the following error message:

Firefox.exe Application Error
The instruction at “0x600d1f60” referenced memory at “0x00000054”. The memory could not be “read”.

Click on OK to terminate the program.
Click on Cancel to debug the program.

Which means … something doesn’t work properly. Probably.

It worked fine in Opera though, which made me wonder if this was more to do with the browser configurations rather than a strictly Java-related problem. So last night I stayed on after 5pm to sort it out.

Having uninstalled all the Java Runtime Environment-related applications, rebooted and installed the latest JRE I turned my attention to the browsers and disabled all my Firefox add-ins (formerly known as extensions).

And do you know what? That fixed it. There was obviously an add-in that was interfering with the functionality of Java. But which one?

  • Re-enable the next add-in on the list
  • Restart Firefox
  • Test with online expense form
  • Repeat

It turned out that two Firefox add-ins were to blame: IE Tab and JSView.

Similarly, with IE7 I’d been playing around with Add-ons shortly after I’d upgraded to it from IE6. Obviously something was impeding the functionality of Java within the browser so I clicked the Reset button (found in Tools > Internet Options > Advanced tab) which returned everything to a default, untampered state.

Click…

Test…

… and relax.

What is IE doing to my blog?!

Screenshot of the header of this blog viewed in Internet Explorer - showing that something is wrong.

Last night I noticed that Internet Explorer (IE6/Win) is doing something weird to the header of my blog. The white and cream background image is also appearing above the header, which while not disasterous is rather annoying.

I very rarely ever use Internet Explorer these days, only for sites that won’t accept any other browser, such as a particular sections of the Microsoft website. My browsers of choice for the last 18 – 24 months have been Mozilla Firefox and Opera.

It will be interesting to see what Internet Explorer 7 finally turns out like. I’ve downloaded and installed the Beta 2 Preview, and to be honest haven’t been overly impressed with the design or feel of it. Or the way that it renders documents, but as I understand it there is still some way to go before the code is finally completed. The IE Blog is an interesting read, watching the progress.

Anyway, we currently have to live with Internet Explorer’s weirdness, so I’d better put my CSS debugging hat on and find out why IE is doing weird things to my blog.

Autofill extension hack-fix

Screenshot of the Autofill options
Screenshot of the Autofill Firefox extension options.

One of my favourite Firefox extensions is Autofill 0.2, a plugin that highlights form fields and allows you to fill them in automatically at the press of a toolbar button. But AutoFill 0.2 only supports Firefox up to version 1.0.x. An alternative is the Google Toolbar for Firefox, but the AutoFill function there isn’t quite so comprehensive.

Some kind gentleman (L.A.R. Grizzly) has fixed the Autofill 0.2 Firefox extension for me, after I’d posted that for some reason I couldn’t get the update-hack method to work for me. This version now works in Firefox 1.5 but still requires a bit of manual hacking to get it to work. This involves editing the prefs.js file in \Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles.

You’ve got to love the internet for this worldwide community support of one another. I also noticed that the website that L.A.R. Grizzly posted the fix onto is for a Church of God congregation in Ohio, USA.

Firefox 1.5 Final now released

Great news! Firefox 1.5 has been released today. Head over to www.getfirefox.com to download it (5.0 MB).

Seemingly (according to my lovely, getting-geekier-every-day friend James Frost) Firefox 1.5 is exactly the same as Firefox 1.5 RC3, which means that they obviously didn’t find any other major bugs since Release Candidate (read: nearly finished version) 3– good skills! This is a major upgrade from the previous version (1.0.7.) and as well as including a number of security updates and bug fixes, it adds moveable tabs, improved pop-up blocking, and automatic updates of extensions and also for the browser itself.

A word of warning, however. If you use a lot of extensions (installable add-ons that extend the capabilities of your browser) check whether these have been updated for Firefox 1.5 before you upgrade. In Firefox 1.0.7 I had fifteen extensions installed. So far I now have twelve, including the two that installed by default.

My Firefox extensions Top Ten for Firefox 1.5:

  1. Download Manager Tweak 0.7.1 – A modification of the Firefox download manager that changes its appearance and allows it to be opened in a separate window, a new tab, or the sidebar.
  2. ForecastFox 0.8.2.4 – Get international weather forecasts and display it in any toolbar or statusbar.
  3. Google Toolbar for Firefox – Adds a toolbar giving access to useful Google functions including the essential AutoFill options for quickly filling in online forms.
  4. IE View 1.2.7 – Launch pages in Internet Explorer from Firefox.
  5. Image Toolbar 0.6.1 – Provides easy access to common image functions.
  6. Image Zoom 0.2.1 – Adds zoom functionality for images.
  7. Spoofstick 1.05 – A simple way to detect spoofed websites. (Note: I had to manually edit the maxVersion setting in install.rdf to get this to work in 1.5.)
  8. Tabbrowser Preferences 1.2.8.7 – Enhances control over some aspects of tabbed browsing.
  9. Tab X 0.9.2 – Adds a close tab button [x] to each of the browser tabs.
  10. Web Developer 0.9.4 – Adds a menu and a toolbar with various web developer tools.

Updated extensions that I’ve not found so far include PrintPreview, AutoFill (which is more comprehensive than the Google Toolbar offerings) and PDF Download. However, it looks like a million people and their brothers are trying to update all their extensions too as Mozdev is running very slowly indeed.

Mozilla Firefox 1.5 RC3 released

The latest Release Candidate (RC3) of the Mozilla Firefox web browser has just been released. As it says over at the Mozilla HQ:

Firefox 1.5 Release Candidate 3 is now available for download. This is the second release candidate of our next generation Firefox browser, to be released later this year, and it is being made available to our developer and testing community for compatibility testing and to solicit feedback.

Firefox 1.5 can’t be that far away; the current version is Firefox 1.0.7. This is confirmed by this article on Ars Technica posted on Wednesday.

Firefox 1.5 includes a large number of critical new features and bug fixes. Users can look forward to complete support for ECMAScript for XML (E4X), drag and drop tab placement support, browser cache enhancements, massive improvements in rendering performance, a fully operational automatic update system that can finally do patching, and support for rendering pixel graphics (Canvas) and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG).

It appears too from that article that Mozilla Firefox has now gained a 10% share in the browser market that has been dominated for years by Microsoft Internet Explorer, having been downloaded now more than 100 million times since the official launch of v.1.0 twelve months ago, in November 2004. Which I helped in a little way (US $30) to finance.