Un-Active Server, In-Active Server, oh drat, roll the Dead Parrot sketch!

I had an interesting experience this morning. I had clicked on a link in an email and my default web browser dragged itself up into the RAM and starting running.
Written by Xwindowsjunkie , Contributor

I had an interesting experience this morning. I had clicked on a link in an email and my default web browser dragged itself up into the RAM and starting running. I got an error page, that's not entirely unexpected. FireFox is my default browser. I checked my restrictions and a bunch of the add-on extensions were reporting the site wasn't pushing 3rd party pics or any other foreign stuff. I turned on pictures and I looked at the page.

There were animated things and some other ads that were running flash-like items. They were all operating just fine but the central frame was reporting an error. So I looked at the URL and it had a little clue...aspx stuck on as a file extension. Oh crap! An Active Server page. Well that happens a lot and a lot more lately. Its getting really annoying. But this one wasn't really doing much in the page's center frame. Everything around on the edges was running just fine. It was just dead in the center frame. Usually if something craps out, the entire page doesn't get rendered by the browser and you'll get some Apache or IIS error page. Usually the server just can't send you the entire page.

This one has an error message that was supported by two small banner ads! That in itself was funny. Think of a TV test pattern brought to you by “the makers of Crapa-Cola! It leaves a slick fuzzy feeling on your teeth.” Wonder if their advertising contract has a “no-error message” limiting clause in it?

So I copied the link, pasted it into Internet Explorer 7.0.5730.11 and guess what? It did the EXACT same thing. WOW! Well this needed a little more investigation. The only other browser I had was FireFox 3.0 Beta 1. Same thing. I didn't have Opera or any other browsers to try on the site. So that was it.

Now the website was a programmer's site. In fact 80 percent of the staff were web programmers. And the owner of the site was a Microsoft MVP. I don't need to embarrass them any more than the error message was doing. How interesting.

Because the server that was the "front-end" was rendering an error message WITH the other stuff around meant to me at least that the Active Server was running at the very least on a VM or another instance of IIS on another cpu. The programmer was actually relatively smart, he did have an alternative programmed, it just looked like a error page with some moving bits on it. The deceased parrot, although gone to its final reward, chirping in the eternal aerial choir, was still potentially collecting mouse clicks!

It used to be that it was considered a courtesy to have text strings that were attached to a picture to describe what the image was displaying on web pages. That was for the poor guys on the Dial-up Internet that couldn't get better than 1200 baud service. That doesn't happen as much any more. I know that since I run my browser with cross-site pictures turned off on sites I don't know well. I have been to this site a few times but not often enough to loosen the browser restrictions.

Not so far back in the Internet Stone Age, there also was an effort to come up with a web page for browsers other than the ones that were not clearly identifiable or at the very least one page for IE and another html-only page for everybody else, usually Netscape. (Remember them?)

Now it seems as if Microsoft or at the very least the programmers that use its software aren't interested in programming for the instances when the Active Server isn't active! Should a programmer write an event or error handler in those cases when the Active Server functions or the server used to render them is down? Its sort of the same issue first brought up by ActiveX. This time the issue is the same for ALL web browsers. What do you do as a programmer to handle the times when the Active Server goes belly up? or gets maxed out? or gets hit with a DDOS or some other attack vector?

All the more reason to stick to the W3 standards and not get so wrapped up in cool looking stuff that might break or only works part time, no matter what the reason, for server or client.

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