Apparently, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” doesn’t apply to Web 2.0, or technology in general. Of course it never has, which is why I was well employed in the tech support sector for many years. Just when I had it all figured out, just when had a solution to share with everyone on how to watch their favorite shows on ABC.com, Fox.com, and CWTV.com on the chosen Move Media player, it all unraveled. This time, the issue had nothing to do with the Move Media player itself, rather one of its components. Adobe made some “upgrades” to its Flash plug-in and things stopped working.
It’s been a while since my last article, so let’s review how this whole mess began. It all started because I wanted to watch Life On Mars on ABC.com. After struggling for weeks trying to get the video to play on IE, I ended up installing the Firefox browser and after installing the latest version of Adobe Flash, Java, and the Move Media player, I was watching the shows without issue.
My quest didn’t stop there though, for I was still determined to crack the IE mystery. Eventually I found that there are plenty of other programs that can cause ActiveX conflicts in IE, plus Vista has some very tight security, so even though the Move Media player install showed success, it wasn’t installing correctly (the video not playing being the clue). Once I disabled every add-on in IE, uninstalled an application I needed for remote access at work, plus logged on as administrator, the install seemed to work for I could finally play videos for those sites in IE.
Since then though, I’ve looked at the Java code thoroughly for ABC.com, CWTV.com and Fox.com and concluded that Firefox is still the most secure browser to run the videos with, mostly because it doesn’t use ActiveX. However, given what Adobe Flash has done to its player since version 9, IE might not be any worse.
The Plot Thickens
I’ve had several people contact me within the last month letting me know they can’t get the videos to play on Firefox. I verified they were running either Firefox versions 2 or 3, and were on either Windows Vista or XP. Despite my efforts and changing my versions of Adobe Shockwave Flash and Java to match theirs, I couldn’t duplicate the problem. I found though that there were enough complaints out on the Web and through feedback on my article where the problem was very real.
Thanks to one very determined lady, who I’ll refer to as D, we went through a lengthy exercise over the last couple of weeks to get to the root of the problem. It was a very eye-opening experience and in the end we had success, although it took a lot of work and left me with the impression that these new player solutions are being held together by virtual duct tape and chicken wire.
D’s problem was videos would play on ABC.com, CWTV.com, or Fox.com, but only for a few seconds. Hulu.com played fine, so I suspected at first it was a Move Media player problem. She was running Firefox 3.0.6 and Shockwave Flash 10 r22. She uninstalled and reinstalled the Move Media player, upgraded both Java and Adobe Flash to the latest versions, and we made sure there was no interference with her anti-virus application. I had her clear the cache and cookies after each install. Also, since hulu.com worked, that confirmed there was no ISP issue.
After that we made sure she entered exceptions in the Options window on the Firefox browser for all the sites that ABC.com was using for the player, including the really bizarre pt.reward.com and w88.go.com (links can be found loading with the application at the bottom left hand corner of the Firefox browser). That resulted in the audio playing fine, but not the video. After all this, I suspected this went beyond Move Media.
After Google searching, I found numerous complaints of Firefox users unable to play Flash videos on YouTube and several other sites. Either they’d only get audio, or the video would freeze after two seconds. It used to work, but since they went to Flash 9, it stopped. The problem only affected certain people, and there was no clear cut reason why some were getting this problem and not others.
Upon reading through pages of complaints and possible theories thrown out by developers, I came up with something. The problems happened after Adobe implemented security fixes. D found in the Error Console on Firefox an error “Permission denied to call method Location.toString.” That is a known bug with Mozilla, still not fixed and it’s also a something they don’t believe is causing more than an annoying error. That could be (although some disagree), but it meant something significant changed in the security handling, thus causing applications that once worked to have new issues.
I next suspected that the latest version of Flash 10 didn’t install properly. I came to that conclusion after Adobe claimed that the latest release of Flash 10 fixed these video playback issues, but that version is what D installed. I also read an analysis that if the version of Shockwave Flash in IE is different from Firefox, that might also cause conflicts, and well as any previously installed versions, which do not get deleted during an upgrade. I also read that the security fixes tightened the access settings for Firefox, so it’s possible on multiple user systems that only the administrator can successfully install the latest versions.
So, with evidence pointing to the problem either being a security setting issue, a potential conflict with IE and other Flash versions, and/or an install issue, I came up with a crazy and cumbersome routine for D to try based on all the variables I knew. These are the exact steps in order that I had her follow:
- Uninstall all versions of the Flash player in the Uninstall programs utility in Windows. There might be multiple versions and all must go to eliminate any conflicts.
- Reboot the system, and log back in as administrator.
- Open IE, go to www.hulu.com, and follow the prompts to install the latest Flash player. As of the time of this article, that version is 10.0.22.87. Why Hulu? I found their Flash video downloader is more stable than others.
- Close the IE browser, open it again, and go back to Hulu.com. Verify a video plays.
- Reboot the system again, and log back in as administrator.
- Open the Firefox browser, go to www.hulu.com, and do the install there. I had to try the install three times because of the latest issues with the Flash executable, but it does work eventually.
- Close the Firefox browser, open it again and go back to Hulu.com. Verify a video plays.
- If Hulu.com videos play in both IE and Firefox, open www.abc.com in Firefox and play a full episode. It should play without doing anything with the Move Media player.
This solution worked! Prior to this, D tried installing and reinstalling many times Flash and the Move Media player, but it wasn’t until she followed this routine in these exact steps that finally worked for her. Using the correct downloader, removing all older versions of Flash and synching the newest versions, and being logged in as administrator to assure no security conflicts with the install was the safest approach to getting video streaming applications to work.
All systems are different though, so you might not have to jump through so many hoops like this (I didn’t have to). It can’t hurt though, and given how buggy and vulnerable Flash 9 and 10 have been, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Granted this won’t leave any environment completely secure. No browser, operating system or anti-virus protection can guarantee that. If you want to catch up on The Bachelor though, you’re good to go.
Still having problems? Send me a comment, and I’ll see what I can do to help.