Sometimes it is really odd when you consider all the things that fall into place to get a problem resolved. Last week I was tormented by a mouse in my house. It was the first I’d seen in 17 years. Imagine my surprise when I found the mouse in the toilet. The problem just solved itself!
Today I want to tell you about a problem that got solved that likely involves many of you and all of the things that fell into place to get it solved. I’m sure most of you have read Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 Is Evil and How To Fix It! Users of Internet Explorer 11 running in the default configuration ran into a serious problem in our shopping cart and that drove us absolutely crazy. It wasn’t a unique problem to us as it also affected sites from big boys like Microsoft and Google.
After I posted this, some people responded and blamed the programming code of our shopping cart. I found it hard to believe it was the problem since it worked perfectly in every other browser and even in earlier versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer. Now that the problem is resolved, and it was not the shopping cart code at fault, I feel a bit vindicated.
For the past few months we’ve asked the people using Internet Explorer to change ONE setting so that it would work correctly. A better answer was simply to use any other browser. I still strongly believe Internet Explorer is the worst choice of browsing and hope all of you will switch to either Firefox or Chrome. Details can be found at Browsers, Passwords and Security. What will convince you to switch away from Internet Explorer? Maybe the latest security hole announced over the weekend will do it.
- Microsoft Web Browser Has Security Flaw
- Ditch Internet Explorer on XP, security experts warn
- Internet Explorer ‘security hole’ leaves a quarter of web browsers vulnerable
Now let’s get to the real problem and the solution. I had sent out a tweet a few days ago with a link to the post claiming Internet Explorer is Evil. The great thing about Twitter is that it is possible for most anyone to see what you’ve said (and equally possible nobody sees it). In this case I got a response that had a clue to the solution. I’ve embedded the tweet below and it contains a link to a blog with the potential solution.
— Jon Galloway (@jongalloway) April 23, 2014
If you read the blog post referenced, you’ll see in the bio it is written by someone who works for Microsoft. The post also has some pretty detailed (and technical) information about the cause and solution to the problem. If the post indeed contained the solution to the problem, we simply needed to install some patches on the Web server.
Installing patches on a Web server is a bit different than installing them on your desktop computer. You probably know all too well that you often have to reboot your computer after running Windows Update to install patches. Rebooting your desktop computer can be inconvenient at times, but not a major thing that you need to schedule. If a Web server is rebooted, it means several Web sites will be unavailable for a period of time. The best case scenario means they’ll only be offline for five minutes. If problems arise, it could be longer.
Because of this downtime, we carefully plan the installation of updates and typically only worry about them if security is involved. One of the reasons our server has been hosted by the same company for so long is their many layers of security. I laugh sometimes that I don’t even know where the server is located other than a data center in the city of Louisville.
It was probably about ten years ago that I had the opportunity to meet the folks who owned our Web hosting company. They lived in a small town in Kentucky and I had gone to that same small town to do some onsite CorelDRAW training. All of the employees of the company work virtually from different locales throughout the United States. About a year ago I learned the owner had moved to Prescott, Arizona which is located about 90 minutes from where I live in Cave Creek, Arizona.
You may be thinking the story is wandering all over the place and soon I’ll connect the dots.
I have some good friends in Prescott who work on the video broadcast team for the Arizona Sundogs, a team in the Central Hockey League. I try to go to 2-3 games a year to hang out with my friends at the game. Again, I was surprised to learn that the owner of the Web hosting company had served as the backup goalie for the Sundogs this season. Heck, I didn’t even know he liked hockey!
Typically the installation of server updates happens late at night when the traffic is the lowest on the server. We scheduled it for midnight Eastern time last Wednesday. It just so happened I was going to be at the hockey game in Prescott (it was only 9pm in Arizona) sitting next to the owner of the Web hosting company when the updates happened. I joked with the techs that I’d blame the owner if anything went wrong.
A side benefit of going to the games is that my friends typically get pretty good seats. Heck, it is a small arena so there isn’t really a bad seat. When I first arrived, I found out I was sitting next to the commissioner of the Central Hockey League. That led to some pretty interesting conversations, especially when the referees were involved.
The good news is the patches got installed and the server was only down for a few minutes. Our testing has indicated that even users of the evil Internet Explorer 11 will be able to proceed through the shopping cart without error. We think the problem is truly resolved, so a big thank you to Jon Galloway for pointing me in the right direction. As for the Sundogs, they lost the game 4-1. The last five minutes had several fights and player ejections so my new friend, the commissioner, was probably busy the next day. I also discussed ways to upgrade our Web server in the near future with the owner of the company so that reboots are much less of an issue and the server will be even faster.