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September 12, 2005

Bugs, Mister Rico!
Posted by Teresa at 08:04 PM * 42 comments

We’ve temporarily disabled the advertisements on Making Light. They were generating weird bugs, ones that in some browsers were bad enough to make our site unreadable.

Did anyone else get the bug where links disappear as soon as your mouse touches them, and the text around them immediately re-flows to close up the gap? That was truly strange to watch. If bugs had names, I’d call that one Newspeak.

Anyway, sorry for the inconvenience. Hope BlogAds fixes it soon.

Comments on Bugs, Mister Rico!:
#1 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 08:23 PM:

If Blogads was hosting through Dreamhost or any of a few other providers in Los Angeles, that might have been it. There were sites dropping all over the place this afternoon.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 08:30 PM:

I hate admitting that this thought even crossed my mind, but Katrina was the first domestic disaster for some time now that didn't take out one of our chain of providers/servers/etc.

#3 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 08:46 PM:

I had the weird link bug. When i rolled over a link, it would vanish.

#4 ::: Lisajulie ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 08:53 PM:

I've had that weird link thing happening on and off for some time now. It seems to happen when the page doesn't load completely _and_ there are some errors in loading. It was happening a lot today.

I'm running Safari 1.3.1 (v312.3) on Mac OS X 10.3.9.

#5 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 09:03 PM:

> Did anyone else get the bug where links disappear as soon as your mouse touches them

Nope, but I do have that problem that when I follow a link to a Making Light article I sometimes end up with a page containing nothing but one of your ads, and the page back button takes me to the page I wanted to be on.

I've noticed a few other people mentioning that from time to time.

#6 ::: Steve Burnett ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 09:07 PM:

If bugs had names, Id call that one Newspeak.

I saw that happen, and thought of the fnords.

#7 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 09:32 PM:

The Los Angeles problem was probably a result of the power outage. (For those who missed it, a DWP worker cut the wrong cable, which caused three of their four power plants to shut down in self-protection. It took the better part of an hour before things started coming back up. All this in mid-afternoon!)

#8 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:00 PM:

In case it would help to have another data point, from a longtime lurker... I've gotten the "disappearing links" bug off and on for quite a while. I only seem to get it when I'm using Safari (on MacOS 10.3), and only when a page hasn't completely loaded.

Occasionally the ads have some kind of bandwidth or server trouble, preventing the pages from loading completely. I have a feeling that this might be the only connection between the bug and the ads. Personally, I had assumed that it was a bug in Safari rather than your site.

#9 ::: Justine ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:10 PM:

I too had the weird link bug. Also posts were disappearing too. Actually, I kind of liked it. It was a very soothing and peaceful disappearance.

Though it is nice to see you back to normal.

I'm also on a mac with osx using safari. Should that info be useful.

#10 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:54 PM:

I think the disappearing links are a Safari-specific thing; or at least, I find that it sometimes happens to me as well, and I use Safari. The first time it happened I couldn't decide whether it was a really cool CSS trick or a monumentally annoying CSS trick or just a bug.

Anyway, I find that once the page finishes loading (which sometimes takes a moment or two), all those vanished links magically reappear.

Failing that, reload the page.

Oh, and can the nh.com webmaster tweak the stylesheet for your search-results page? Presently its headline is in eighty-skerjillion-point type. Unless that's a feature, rather than a bug, in which case I suppose I applaud your typographical boldness.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 11:39 PM:

Yup, Safari on a Mac, version 10.3.9.

Wesley, the bug you describe has been around for a while. Hit "stop loading" on your browser, then click back. If the bug is running true to form, it'll take you to the post-plus-all-comments page you asked for in the first place.

I'm really, really tired of that bug.

Monsieur Andrew, the bug in the search page is even older. If I correctly read your subtext, you don't like 172-point type any more than we do. I suspect that would be one for the ML webmaster, if he had any idea how to fix it. For a full-time editor and head of line who has zero formal computer training, he's darned good.

#12 ::: Rana ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 11:48 PM:

Safari here too, and I'm also familiar with the links-that-disappear while a page is loading thing.

What was annoying here was that the links _kept_ disappearing after the page was done loading.

It's not just your site, either; AmericaBlog in particular has been ridiculously slow all day, more than it usually is. Given that none of the stories on the page were any more fascinating than they've been, the likelihood of it being related to ads and the L.A. blackout seems good.

#13 ::: simplexity ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 12:24 AM:

so THAT'S what it is - I've seen that happen off and on for months and always thought it was just me....

#14 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 12:30 AM:

I used to get the disappearing link bug regularly in the past, when viewing your site in Konqueror, and being annoyed at having to open Firefox to read it. But this stopped happening a few months ago. I assumed you had fixed something, but now that I hear some Safari users have been seeing it recently, I suspect the change was at my end. It sounds as though there was a browser bug that got fixed in Konqueror but not in the Safari branch of the code. I've never seen it on my own Mac though.

(For those not familiar with the incestuous details of the software industry: Konqueror is a leading browser on Linux, part of the KDE desktop project. Apple ported an earlier version of Konqueror to the Mac, gave it a new chrome job, and called it Safari. Since then the KDE people have had some harsh words for Apple on the subject of dragging their feet on passing their own changes back to Konqueror, but I gather the situation has improved recently.)

The bug Steve Taylor describes, where all you see is a page full of ads and have to hit "back" to get the real page, is one I've never seen here, but I do see quite often on Atrios. (For a while I was reliably getting it every time I went there.) I'd always assumed it was something either the webmaster or one of the advertisers was doing on purpose, as yet another variation on the annoying popup theme; I'm relieved to hear it's an actual bug.

#15 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 01:28 AM:

If I correctly read your subtext, you don't like 172-point type any more than we do. I suspect that would be one for the ML webmaster, if he had any idea how to fix it.

In your Search template, where you have

<div id="banner">
<h1><a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/" accesskey="1">Making Light</a></h1>

you might try removing the <h1> tags, as well as the <h2> tags from the line just below that.

Don't know if that will help, but I think it would, since #banner typesize is defined as 75px, and <hx> behaviour is not defined at all.

#16 ::: Kayjay ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 01:39 AM:

Wesley, the bug you describe has been around for a while. Hit "stop loading" on your browser, then click back. If the bug is running true to form, it'll take you to the post-plus-all-comments page you asked for in the first place.

I'm really, really tired of that bug.

That's the one I always get, and I too am tired of it. I get it on every blog with blogads. *sigh*

#17 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 01:42 AM:

Yes to the disappearing links, with Safari on a Mac running Tiger.

I could get them back by fiddling around a bit. I can't quite remember how I did it, but I think it involved clicking on the disappeared links even though they weren't there. I remember it felt rather like stalking invisible kittens. It was kind of fun, in an irritating sort of way.

#18 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 01:55 AM:

I got that bug too. I'd assumed it was a browser thing.

Mac OS 10.3.9, Safari 1.3.

#19 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 02:28 AM:

Here's a tip: use Mozilla instead of Safari (which is ugly anyway). I only open Safari to use the RSS aggregator. Of course you still, intermittently, get the one where you have use the back button from the mostly blank page. And I've got one no one else seems to have. When I hit the preview button, the browser asks me if I want to remember the values I filled in. Usually that happens only on online forms. When P still had a separate blog it never happened on his, just Making Light.

MKK

#20 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 06:44 AM:

I was having trouble loading a lot of pages last night. I didn't notice anything about the links at ML because I never got that far - I was just trying to scroll down to read a post and it seemed really, really long and had the same few lines over and over and over forever. I thought maybe this was you, but then I had problems loading several pages - all of which were pages with ads. So a failure for the ad server does seem like a likely source of the problem. (I use Crazy Browswer, so it doesn't seem to be a browser-related problem.)

#21 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 08:04 AM:

I thought this was going to be my favorite Heinlein reference for the week, but damned if Cory Doctorow didn't do it one better over at Salon yesterday.

#22 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 08:25 AM:

I've been seeing the disappearing sidebar links with Konqueror for ages, and am still seeing them today. (Konqueror 3.4.2, which is about as current as stable gets.)

(Safari isn't a Konqueror morph; Safari is a browser built on KHTML, which is the KDE project's HTML rendering engine. They've long since sorted out the patch-passing.)

The bouncy links go away once the page has fully loaded. My guess is that the very large size of Making Light's front page boggles the layout engine at various intermediate stages until loading is complete.

#23 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 08:32 AM:

I think of it as an incidence of the "Ruler" virus, because it gave you yet another straight line to draw upon.

#24 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 09:35 AM:

The following contains HTML code discussion by someone who is not a professional web designer, but is a professional programmer. Sensitive readers may wish to skip this post.

On the topic of odd behavior with the ads, I'll note that the ad code is done as:

<center>
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"
href="http://proxy.blogads.com/qoiqbojydpn/electrolite/ba_as_css" />
<script language="javascript"
src="http://proxy.blogads.com/qoiqbojydpn/electrolite/feed.js"></script>
</center>

<center>
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"
href="http://proxy.blogads.com/qoiqbojydpn/electrolitemakinglighttextads/ba_as.css"
/>

<script language="javascript"
src="http://proxy.blogads.com/qoiqbojydpn/electrolitemakinglighttextads/feed.js"></script>
</center>

Now, this html strikes me as odd for several reasons:

  • <link> elements that set style sheet references are supposed to appear in the <head> section of the document, not elsewhere

  • Some inferior browsers won't recognize a stylesheet whose url doesn't end in ".css" - "_css" isn't always good enough.

  • The second style sheet will override the other anyway, since both style sheets set attributes based on the same selectors

  • The two style sheets aren't identical. One specifies no border around individual ads, while the other specifies a solid border around each ad. (there's a second difference, but it doesn't have any real effect) The settings actually used are those specified by the second stylesheet. (each ad has its own border)

I don't know how much our hosts are at liberty to modify the ad. code as included in the page, but if this were my site and the blogads agreement allowed me to do this, I would get rid of the first <link> tag, and move the second <link> reference into the <head> section of the html layout. An alternative to placing that <link> in the head of the document would be to remove both <link> references and place:

@import url("http://proxy.blogads.com/qoiqbojydpn/electrolitemakinglighttextads/ba_as.css");
at the bottom of the file newstyle2.css.


#25 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 11:07 AM:

Really, really tired of the ad bug. And Ross? I promise you faithfully that unless our ads are all that stand between us and starvation (so very unlikely), we'll never do pop-ups, or sticky pages, or any of that crap.

#26 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 11:28 AM:

Darn, I was hoping you were announcing the discovery of an unpublished sequel to Starship Troopers. ;)

#27 ::: Joy ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 11:29 AM:

Yes, I got the vanishing links bug - but if I held off and didn't touch any of the links until the page had completely loaded, it worked fine. [Safari 2.0.1]

#28 ::: Manon ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 11:41 AM:

I got the same thing as Steve Taylor, several times. Weird stuff.

Hope everything gets sorted soon!

#29 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 11:49 AM:
Monsieur Andrew, the bug in the search page is even older. If I correctly read your subtext, you don't like 172-point type any more than we do. I suspect that would be one for the ML webmaster, if he had any idea how to fix it. For a full-time editor and head of line who has zero formal computer training, he's darned good.
I agree. I agree so much, in fact, that I stole some of his design ideas when I set up The Humblest Blog. Seems only fair that I help out where I can...

The search page is pulling the CSS based on whichever of the blogs being searched returns the earliest matching result, and each blog on the site (Making Light, Electrolite, Particles, etc.) has its own style sheet. Further, the blog-name banner that appears in huge type is defined differently on each of those CSS pages under the class "#banner". So, for example, the Making Light style sheet defines the #banner font size as "font-size:75px", but the Particles style sheet sets it at "font-size:24px;". Fix that to where you want it on each of the site's Style Sheets, and you should be golden.

#30 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 11:55 AM:

Oh, almost forgot. The style sheet is a different one than the one currently being used on the site, http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/newstyle2.css . The search pages are still using http://nielsenhayden.com/$BLOGNAME/styles-site.css

HTH!

#31 ::: Pamela ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 12:21 PM:

I'm sorry to say that removing the ads hasn't vanquished the disappearing links bug - I got it today, trying to get to this comment thread.

(Also using Safari, of course.)

#32 ::: HC ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 01:15 PM:

Can you deliberately induce the newspeak bug? Because that would an entertaining way to point to things that don't exist - I'm rather sorry to have missed it.

#33 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 01:28 PM:

The dissapearing link problem only happens while the page is in mid-render, and it's dependent on something I haven't figured out yet, nor will I really try, since "XHTML conformance" is one thing, and "MT templates" are something else completely.

However, the reason the bug is jumping out so hard is that proxy.blogads.com is either incredibly slow or just dead. That hangs the render for a good deal of time, thus, when you move the mouse, the render engine goofs and the links go away.

Fast workaround: From terminal, run the following.

sudo echo "127.0.0.0 proxy.blogads.com" >> /etc/hosts

Bonus of workaround: No ads.

Cost of workaround. No ad revenue for site with ads.

Note. That double greater-than symbol is important. Various and sundy lossage will occur if you use only one. If you do so, add the following lines back to /etc/hosts to correct.

127.0.0.1       localhost
255.255.255.255 broadcasthost
::1 localhost

Obviously, as with all workarounds, don't do it if you aren't seeing the bug, and remember to undo it once the next version of Safari comes out, since it may have fixed the bug you are working around. Workarounds are temporary, if you leave them in place, you'll have very interesting problems to diagnose in the future.

#34 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 01:36 PM:

Oops. Forgot how the shell evaluates redirections, and it tries to open /etc/hosts before sudo actually gives you rights to do so. So...

sudo /bin/sh
(enter your password here)
echo "127.0.0.1 proxy.blogads.com" >> /etc/hosts
exit

BTW, do the same, except with "atrios.proxy.blogads.com" to fix Escahton.

#35 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 03:36 PM:

pericat, I'm sure I'm just having a very stupid afternoon, but I can't find the "Search" template you refer to anywhere in my MT installation.

Skwid, I'm also not following you. Wouldn't doing as you suggest simply alter all the banners for those individual blogs?

#36 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 03:42 PM:
Can you deliberately induce the newspeak bug? Because that would an entertaining way to point to things that don't exist - I'm rather sorry to have missed it.
Yes. Or rather, you can on your own pages - links within blog comments are (understandably) a bit restricted in what html they can use. This method should work in all common graphical browsers:

First, in your page's <head>, add this to the <style> block or wherever else you put style information (say, an external stylesheet):

<style>
  // your other pre-existing style info here ...
  a.vanishingLink:hover { visibility:hidden }
  // an alternative to visibility:hidden is display:none
  // the two effects look different, so experiment
</style>

Then, on any link you want to make vanishing, add a class attribute:

<a href="http://www.xenu.net" class="vanishingLink">find the truth</a>

Note that if you want to apply this to every link in a page, then you don't need to modify the link code at all - just leave off the ".vanishingLink" bit from the style attribute, so that it's taking about "a:hover".

#37 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 03:50 PM:

Patrick, you can't alter the search template via the MT interface; you have to get at it by connecting directly to your webserver (say, by using BBEdit). It should be in your main MT folder, in a folder called search_templates. The file is default.tmpl.

#38 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:04 PM:

Upon rereading Skwid's note, I think he's hit upon the crux of the problem. Your search template is using MT's autoselected stylesheet, rather than /makinglight/newstyle2.css. Hard-coding the stylesheet declaration into the search template will solve that (it's how I had to do it on my own site). After that, I suspect once you remove the [h1] tags from the template's banner div you'll be right as rain.

Another weird thing I notice when using your search function? The results page gets the Electrolite trade dress, rather than Making Light. For some reason MT is confused as to which blog was the source of the search request. Not sure why that's happening, but if I get any ideas I'll let you know.

#39 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 04:54 PM:

Yeah, me too, with MacOS 10.3.9/Safari, and with page refusing to totally load.

Thanks for filling me in; I thought it might be a virus.

#40 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 05:12 PM:

Patrick, MT stores its search templates outside of the weblog environment so as to enable full-site searches using a unified interface. I think that's the theory, anyway. It confuses nearly everyone. This is not your fault.

The file you need to change is where Andrew said it is.

#41 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2005, 09:55 AM:

Alternately, make all the banners on every template an [h1], and then set all the style sheets' #banner classes to a font size that works well with that basic presumption. From a UML standpoint, that might even be the best thing to do...

#42 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2005, 05:30 PM:

Andrew, Skwid, thanks, I get it now. Have made a quick set of changes that eliminate the colossal type; later I'll whip up a proper style for the search-results page.

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