Friday, July 11, 2008

Who's shooting whose foot?

[I should note at the outset that I am still a fan of both Java and Adobe products.]

For reasons that need not concern us here, my desktop machine was current on Microsoft updates, but had fallen behind on Java, Adobe Reader, and Flash. I have spent the better part of a working day getting current versions of these programs installed.

My initial tries to update Java, Reader, and Flash all failed, in ways that made me suspect that there might be some interdependencies. Unfortunately, I did not log everything that happened, but it ran somewhat like this:
  • Suspecting that the problems I encountered at the Adobe website might be due to some use it made of Java, I decided to tackle Java first. But downloads from the site silently hung, reaching a point where they claimed to be copying files, but large fractions of an hour would go by with no disk activity (or non-trivial CPU activity). Since the installer window had no Cancel button, I had to terminate the installation task using the Task Manager.
  • Trying again led to an error popup saying that an installation was already in progress. I eventually got around this by some combination of Add or Remove Programs and several reboots. The new result was a popup error box saying that a particular URL was not available; multiple retries led instantly back to the same error. At least there was an error number in the popup; I Googled it to find the advice to download the entire Java install file and do an offline install. This actually worked.
  • However, the problem with acquiring the Adobe programs persisted. Eventually I noticed that, whenever I browsed to a site in the domain, CPU usage shot up to half-busy and stayed there indefinitely. Almost exactly 50% (i.e., one full processor on a dual-processor machine) was being consumed by Internet Explorer. Responses to any clicks within the IE window took large enough fractions of an hour that I stopped waiting for them. This included responding to clicking on the red X to close the window, so again I resorted to Task Manager to kill the IE task. (I don't see how to report this problem to Adobe without effective access to the Adobe site.)
  • It took me embarassingly long to realize that I did not have to go to the Adobe site to download freely available Adobe software such as Reader and Flash. By Googling for them with the added term "mirror", I was able to find (different) sources for each of these programs that would download them without opening any Adobe pages, although one of the file downloads indicated that the file was coming directly from Adobe. The downloaded programs were properly signed by Adobe.
  • So now I am "in business" with current versions of Windows, IE7, Java 6.7, Reader 9, and Flash. But when I go to the Adobe website, I'm still hit with the 50% CPU Syndrome. (Fortunately, in the ordinary course of business, I don't have to go there very often.)

Presumably the reason that Java, Reader, and Flash are distributed free is that they want people to use them. You'd think they'd make it at least as convenient to download them as software that is for sale, wouldn't you?

And presumably the reason that Adobe has a website is that they want people to visit it, not avoid it like the plague because it will gobble their CPU cycles and incapacitate their browswers?

Of course, it's entirely possible that I've broken one of the 60,000 settings in my Windows Registry in some subtle way, but who or what can tell me which one, and how to fix it? I think I'm malware-free, thanks to the combined efforts of Norton, Spybot S&D, the corporate firewalls and filters, and my own caution about clicking on links in emails, but who knows? Maybe I've shot myself in the foot.

But in some sense, it scarcely matters what the root fault was: I'm just as upset with all the companies involved (for not making it possible to find and fix the problem) as I am when the airlines send my baggage to another continent without showing much enthusiasm for finding it.

Alienating your customers is almost never a sound business strategy.

PS Websites in other domains still seem to work normally. Without exhaustive testing, there's no way to tell if is the only domain exhibiting this behavior.

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Comment by Blogger chuck:

easily fixed w OSX

6:34 AM  

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