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Thursday, March 24, 2011

The home front of the browser wars

OK, first I have to say that the online tools are working pretty well this filing system. My sense is that the MTBC (Mean Time Between Crashes) is about 25 clicks this year, where in most years past, it's been closer to 10. And I haven't noticed any outages. It does seem that idle pages are the devil's workshop; leaving a page alone for several minutes usually seems to bring on a crash.

The system seems speedier, but I think that's because of a browser change.

See, my teenage son finds Internet Explorer to be a worthless pile of bits, and has insisted that I use Google's Chrome browser. Don't tell him I said so, but I think the kid is right. Chrome feels faster, especially on USAC forms.

One of the reasons it feels faster is because some of USAC's "features" don't work with Chrome. You know that little pop-up that appears every time you enter a 470 number, telling you about the 470 you entered? OK, the first time it can be useful (though it still comes across know-it-allish), but with each subsequent FRN on a 471, I feel an increasing urge to strangle something. Well, with Chrome, that pop-up doesn't appear.

Using Chrome as my primary browser and Firefox as a secondary browser has given me a new appreciation of how hard it is to design Web pages to work cross-browser. Best example: with Firefox v3.6, the Apply Online page looks fine. But upgrade to Firefox v4.0, and it looks like someone kicked over those nice stacks of buttons.

Some of you are thinking: "Secondary browser?" Come, grasshopper, let me explain the horrors of the "session." See, USAC's online tools use "sessions." Basically, the Web server remembers who you are and what you're doing. Which is great, except if you're doing two things at once, you create two sessions, and they can crash into each other in unpleasant ways. Data gets corrupted, applications crash, etc. However, if you use 2 different browsers, the Web server manages to keep your sessions separate. So if I'm doing a 471 using Chrome, and I need to look at last year's 471, I open Firefox. Then if I need to Submit a Question at the same time, I'm forced to open Internet Explorer. (Don't tell my son, OK?)


  1. Have you tried setting up multiple profiles in Chrome? It works well for the session based stuff on other web sites (I don't do e-rate applications so can't speak to that).

  2. Hey, Firefox just upgraded itself to version 5.0 (a full version in 4 months; those open sourcers sure are hard-working), and the buttons on the Apply Online page are back in their stacks.