1. Don’t trust your bug reports, aka how to crash IE9

    For a while now we’ve had intermittent reports of people not being able to “view the pdf you emailed to me” after filling in our host questionnaire, and worse were the ones that came in saying “viewing the pdf caused my computer to crash”. These were alarming for 2 reasons:

    1. If you cause someones computer to crash, you’re gonna have a bad time;
    2. I couldn’t reproduce it, as hard as I tried. I opened the exact same pdf in every operating system, every browser, every pdf viewer I could get my hands on.

    As it turns out, we don’t ever email a pdf to anybody. We email a link to a page to download the pdf. This little tidbit slipped our minds for a long time, but when we realised we stopped testing the pdf, and started testing that page. And then we found it. IE9 (not 8, 7, or 6) would crash when viewing this page. As in hard crash, as in this program has stopped responding, ctr + alt + del time.

    It was an old page, a bunch of inline javascript to make a little calculator work, and a bunch of on page css. And some terribly formatted html. The first suspect was the javascript, a misplaced semicolon might cause an infinite loop and crash the browser, so I audited all of it, and came up with nothing. Then I ran the HTML through a validator to check for any unclosed tags, still nothing.

    Finally I started looking at the css, and while nothing looked out of place, when I removed the style tag, the page loaded fine.

    This was the culprit:

    .questionmark {
    border-bottom: 1px dotted #555;
    font-size: 12px;
    font-weight: bold;

    As it turns out IE9 can’t handle border-style: dotted… sometimes. The element in question had a style located somewhere else that gave it a border-radius and turned it into a circle (I imagine this is why <IE9 has no issues) After a little bit of digging it seemed I could fix the above by:

    • removing the border-radius
    • changing the style from dotted to solid
    • expanding the short-hand form to border-bottom-style etc

    We haven’t had a single complaint about not being able to view our pdf since.

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    Oh, internet explorer.
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