September 9th, 2008

Chrome is at least Slightly Evil

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Chrome did a number of Evil Things to me recently, including killing my FirePass VPN and AgeOfConan – even after a full reboot and never launching Chrome again…. but I get ahead of myself.  Here’s what happened:
I saw the Chrome announcement on SlashDot, amongst other places, read the comic and pretty much agreed with what the developers were saying.  I installed Chrome to give it a test drive.  Things went pretty well at first: the new interface was clearly going to take getting used to but also had a lot of strong points going for it.  Then I hit one of my not-so-techy websites.  Gack!  Screaming Flashing Flash ADS IN YOUR FACE, Enlarge Your X Life, Your Small Ego Needs A Bigger SUV, etc… Quick, turn on AdBlock!  But no, not available yet.
Without AdBlock, clearly Chrome isn’t suitable for general surfing yet.  So I went hunting for Chrome-friendly AdBlock replacements; I only found a gizmo called Privoxy that provides a filtering proxy service.  It was waaay less easy to use than AdBlock and didn’t provide that “you never even knew the ad was missing” experience that AdBlock achieves (i.e., I was left with lots of big holes saying “Prixovy chopped this ad out”).
So I decided to give Chrome a rest and wait for post-Beta (and presumably give the AdBlock guys some time to work their magic).  Meanwhile, Microsoft installed SP3 on my AMD/HP XP machine (Red Herring #1).  FireFox upgrades to 3.0.  Red Herring #3: I fiddled with my router’s port-forwarding rules in an effort to get 5 people behind the same router to play Diablo 2 on (me, my 4 kids, plus also my brother Uncle Eric in Atlanta and our lifelong friend in Texas so no LAN party suggestions please)   – BTW D2 works fine for 4 players behind our router and the 5th can play in an unrelated D2 game, but when the 5th player attempts to join the same game Blizzard kicks out the last prior player to join – suggestions welcome on how to fix this!).
A day later and many reboots of both Man and Machine (and Router) I’ve given up on 5-player D2, and decide to play a little Age of Conan.  But nope, some weirdo message pops up about not connecting to the patch server.  I figure the AoC servers are down (no mention on the forums though) and will try again later.  So I try to log into work via FirePass & VPN – it’s also a no-go, with some weirdo message about having IE4.0 or later installed (gack).  I file an IT trouble ticket and go to bed.
Next morning I spend 1/2 the morning failing to get FirePass to work.  I spend hours surfing the web for people with similar problems; there’s a fair number of not-quite similar situations.  IT has a bunch of bland unhelpful suggestions, but FirePass is working for some folks with FF 3.0 and not others.  In retrospect it HAD been working for me, for about a day (the FF upgrade came in before the Chrome try).  The Web turns me on to the Microsoft XP SP3 + AMD debacle; I chase that one down all the next day – but that bug causes your machine to boot-to-blue-screen and thankfully I don’t have that problem.
Web surfing with FF is fine (and ad-free!); telnet is fine; email is fine; nslookup & tracert is fine.  I get a putty/SSH channel going so once again I can (text-mode only) log in to work.  Good thing I’m an old-school Emacs-ian; text-mode Emacs is not quite a windowing O/S in-and-of itself; I manage to get some work done that day.  Still AoC is down and in my evening play hours I decide to try and figure out what’s going on.  I’m not alone; plenty of people are complaining about this no-connect-to-patch-server problem, but the AoC tech folks keep claiming the patch servers are up and the fault is at the client end.  And somebody mentions a “patcher.log” file dumped out when AoC startup does it’s patch attempt.
This “patch.log” file provides the little bit of evidence I need to break the case.  Buried in there are successfully connect attempts from days of yore, plus my more recent failures.  The recent failures all mention – TaDa! – a proxy attempt using port 8118.  ?Huh?  Where did this funny port number come from?  I remember it from somewhere… aha – Privoxy’s default port.  Now I un-installed privoxy days ago; who can be remembering it’s port number (and feeding it to the AoC Patcher?)… only Chrome.
I have 4 browsers on my machine (IE, FF, Safari, Chrome) but only Chrome had a port 8118 typed into it and nary another mention of that port number has slipped my fingers anywhere.  Somehow Chrome is feeding AoC port 8118 – and nothing’s there on that port so AoC times out!  I go check out my default browser settings.  They say “Use my current Web browser”.  IE is disabled.  Chrome, FireFox & Safari are enabled.  Just to be sure, I click on FF as the default browser…. and Microsoft pops up and says that Chrome has to be de-installed to be made no longer available!  Safari can politely be made not-the-default, but not Chrome?
So I de-install Chrome.  During the de-install, Chrome asks for feedback using a web-browser… using the disabled IE instead of my (I thought!) default of FireFox.  I exit out of IE as fast as possible.  Now with Chrome removed, AoC starts fine.  So I check out FirePass – and Yup, it’s fine as well.
Evil #1 – Chrome became the default browser without permission.  If they asked to become the default, they hid it well.  I never allow new browsers to become the default without a few days prior surfing.
Evil #2 – Chrome silently prevented me from running FirePass VPN, hence telecommuting.  I assume they did it by handing FirePass the same crapolla proxy port somehow.  This happens even after a full power-cycle/reboot and not launching Chrome ever again.
Evil #3 – Chrome silently prevented AoC from launching, again by passing bogus proxy port numbers out.
Evil #4 – Chrome cannot be disabled by unchecking “Enable access to the program”, although Safari & IE can.
Evil #5 – The Uninstall launches IE, even though it’s flagged as “disabled access” and it wasn’t the prior default browser.  Typically I launch IE less than once/year and always because some other program ignores the settings and launches it anyways.
Evil #6 – No AdBlock. Not really a big Evil, just a big Annoyance.
Postlude – I attempt to file a bug with Chrome using FireFox.  But the Google site only allows non-crasher bugs to be filed via Chrome itself – and Chrome never crashed for me, it just broke other programs left and right.  No way I’m going to install it again so instead I attempt to file a “Chrome crashed” bug via the website.  Options are either “you got blue-screened” or “chrome died but you survived” and neither really fits the bill.  I fill in a somewhat abbreviated version of the above blog, then hit submit.  No go!  Google insists I download Yet Another Program and run it and report the results before I can file.  No Way, Google!  I just got big-time burned from the last program I downloaded from Google.
Evil #7 – I can’t even file a bug report with Google (without downloading & running at least some code from Google!).  I know Googly’s read my blog.  Consider this your Bug Report.

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