Monday, September 06, 2004

I love tech support

I ditched Netscape as my browser of choice long ago, and today use primarily Firefox, though I also have Mozilla installed.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but my course textbook's instructor media CD was published a few years ago, and specifies Netscape 4.7x as the required browser. The CD contains a user interface (UI) based on Shockwave (ugh ... why can't anyone just use standard HTML?), and while I'll admit that the UI is rather useful when it works (nice search features, descriptions of relevant content on the student CD, etc.), it hardly ever works. The CD's software doesn't recognize Firefox as a compatible browser, won't run in Mozilla, and locks up about 80% of the time in Internet Explorer.

I figured out the directory structure of the CD and found where the textbook figure JPG's were stored the first time I popped the CD in the drive, so I can get the images I want without their program. However, last week I e-mailed the publisher's tech support to report the problem and see if there was a fix. I just heard back, and their long-winded response boils down to two things: install Netscape 4.8 and Shockwave 8.5 (the newest version is 10.x). They made no suggestions for running the program in any of the three browsers I specifically asked about, and didn't say anything about patches for their media CD. Mozilla and Firefox are both top-of-the-line browsers, while Netscape 4.8 is two years old, and its rendering engine is apparently based on pre-1998 code (discussed in this message board forum).

I'm sorry, but I'm not going to install a two year old browser based on seven year old code that doesn't support modern web standards just so I can use a textbook media CD, especially when I don't even have administrator rights to my office PC and thus have to call campus tech support to install anything.

The cluelessness of the publisher's response is what baffles me. I know I'm not the first person to report problems with their CD. I have three different browsers installed, and yet all they can say is to install a fourth browser and an old version of Shockwave. You'd think that sometime in the past two years they would have at least developed a workaround or patch so that their CD's UI could run in Internet Explorer.


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