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20.12.09

When Firefox cannot open PHP pages 

Why can’t the Firefox people post this very simple solution?
   For years now, I will occasionally happen upon a bug where Firefox refuses to open a PHP page. Instead, it prompts me to save it:

Firefox cannot open PHP pages

If I attempt to open it, it is a tiny XML header file. The error is with Firefox’s file type handling.
   I can go back to 2006 and find this error being discussed, usually among Ubuntu users: it seems to surface more often with them than with Windows users. Nevertheless, it comes up often enough.
   You’d be hard pressed to find a straight answer. Most technical people prefer blaming the user, or the site, or the server, before they blame Firefox. I do not understand this, given that the error never surfaced in Internet Explorer and I have yet to see it in Safari. It is, as with the character set problem I encountered many years ago, a Firefox bug, but one that Mozilla does not seem to acknowledge.
   In all these years, I have only seen one non-Ubuntu geek discuss it as though it were real and not a product of the collective imaginations of certain computer users. That page is here. Sadly, Firefox has moved on since he wrote the page, so the tips about editing about:config do not work, and the browser no longer allows for the deletion of file types from the Tools–Options–Application menu (the successor to the Tools–Options–File Types–Manage page he writes about).
   However, one tip he gives still works, and I have managed to overcome the error.
   One needs simply to delete the mimeTypes.rdf file he writes about. There are indeed two copies of this file, so the one that needs to go is in a folder called something like this (in Vista and, presumably, in Windows 7):

C:\Users\********\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\********.default

The parts in asterisks will be customized to your details. A similar one is in C:\Documents and Settings on Windows XP.
   1. Find this, or use the search tool.
   2. Go into the folder.
   3. Close your Firefox browser.
   4. Go to the mimeTypes.rdf file. In my case, I renamed the file to mimeTypes-old.rdf.
   5. Restart Firefox.
   All being well, a new mimeTypes.rdf will automatically appear, and will probably be smaller than the original. Once it does, delete the old one. If it doesn’t appear, put the old one back to its original name—you are now in uncharted waters.
   The trouble has disappeared for the time being, so here’s hoping a few more of you, who find that Firefox cannot open PHP pages without prompting you to save it, can get a resolution with the above. It’s taken over a year for me to figure it out; hopefully, you will only need a few minutes! Jack 1, computer boffins 0.

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12.12.09

My blogging goes back to the future 


Above: What the Vox compose screen looks like. Viewing the source reveals an equally blank code screen.

I’m very likely returning to Blogger for my own posting, after the failure of Vox.
   The Six Apart people, who run Vox, have been amazing in trying to help me figure out my issue, but despite eliminating dormant neighbours and about 7 kbyte of tags from the blog—which should make it more trim than it was before the site ceased to let me compose readily on October 28—I’m still at my wit’s end.
   As I removed today’s set of neighbours, I discovered many who had left Vox after being fed up with its various bugs. However, only author Patricia Volonakis Davis has exactly the same symptoms as me, and she has relatively few tags to her 50 or so blog posts. Whether it’s down to the tags, dodgy neighbours or a corrupted Vox database is anyone’s guess.
   The compose screen takes anywhere between two seconds and two days to emerge, and generally takes between 15 minutes to six hours. I have put up with this for nearly two months.
   Another possibility is shifting this entire blog on to Wordpress, which remains an option, since Blogger itself has been shown to be horribly unreliable on numerous occasions.
   I will still have to go on to Vox to moderate some of the groups I run. Another down side to the site is the number of sploggers who create fake accounts and overrun the groups. (That’s right: sploggers can create posts where I can’t.) I left one yesterday, on social media, after finding it overrun by sploggers: the site owner herself had left, so there was no one to take care of business.
   I’ve prided myself on running very clean groups there, where members can operate in a spam-free environment.
   It looks like December 2009 is when I might undo the split between a work blog and a personal blog. Back in 2006, as a Vox beta tester, I liked the site but could not see myself abandoning this blog, which is, after all, at a domain named for me.
   It’s lucky I kept this going, otherwise, I’d face the difficulty of building an audience here back up from scratch.
   Vox offered numerous advantages, including storage space for images and videos, which suited my forays into digital photography nicely. I was able to share some work-related videos there. It’s something I’m going to have to do without (YouTube is too unreliable, and Vimeo too strict, even for licence holders of videos), although I do have a lucire.vox.com blog there where some of these things can still go. (My hesitation is that it is branded with the Lucire name, so it limits what I might like to put up.)
   I also enjoyed having the luxury of tags, and I am not sure about whether Blogger labels are related. It might be time to find out.
   So for three years, the trivial, throw-away comments, clips from favourite TV shows and other non-sensical items went to Vox, and this space was left to more “serious” matters (with some exceptions along the way).
   All this is, of course, moot. I don’t know if I will enjoy returning to Blogger, for starters. I have to hack in HTML because the compose screen here will not allow hard spaces for paragraphing, and I don’t believe in having line breaks between paragraphs. Tumblr has proved to be a fairly good platform if I don’t want comments—but what is the point of a blog, and the engagement that they should have, without them?).
   There is no point forcing myself to adapt to a technology when the opposite should hold true. But right now, this looks like the way forward, so expect less work-like items surfacing back here from time to time.

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