Maclochlainn's Weblog

Michael McLaughlin's Old Technical Blog

AJAX gone wrong, or the dynamic duo Blackboard & IE

with 3 comments

We’ve got an implementation of Blackboard running on Oracle 10g. The new version has a grade book redesign that uses AJAX to eliminate the cumbersome nature of its predecessor. It was interesting figuring out why grades entered wouldn’t show without restarting Internet Explorer, while Firefox and Safari worked fine. Another heart found thank you to Microsoft for failing to optimize JavaScript execution in their browser (all the way through to 8). Read on if you must use IE.

The issue is that Internet Explorer reads JavaScript including all whitespace at initial page load. There’s no attempt to compress it, arghhh. Naturally, that makes performance crawl a bit on initial page load. That wouldn’t be bad but Blackboard’s JavaScript changes DOM values during product use. Those changes go unseen if you navigate from the Grade Book and return to it. At least, they do when you’re using default IE settings. Unlike Microsoft’s solution to the problem of suppressing Mac purchases (an advertising gem from Apple), Microsoft didn’t spend more on marketing (after all the Windows platform is more or less captured by IE). They simply set the default value for page refreshes to automatic, which means once per active IE load into memory for JavaScript files. Then, it is Blackboard’s fault for how it implemented AJAX, right?

You can fix this default by taking one step. Open IE, navigate to Tools, Internet Options, and then click the Settings button in the Browsing history section. The form looks like:

When you click on the Settings button, you’ll come to the following screen. Click the radio button for “Every time I visit the webpage,” which will ensure you get a working grade book in Blackboard.

Click the OK button. You’re not done yet. You must shut down all IE sessions and re-launch the product for the changes to occur. If you think that was tedious, here we need to do it every time our corporate governance folks push an update to Windows because they reset IE to an incompatible set of values for Blackboard’s AJAX implementation.


Written by maclochlainn

October 23, 2008 at 9:16 pm

3 Responses

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  1. The other setting that helps is to check “Do not save encrypted pages to disk” under the Advanced tab. Another thing you can do is hack your registry and increase the number of connections allowed to IE, but I don’t recommend that one :)

    Mike Farmer

    October 23, 2008 at 9:28 pm

  2. It is really frustrating that such a pervasive company is lagging so far behind in standards. Has Microsoft become to large to be agile? Are they to arrogant to keep up with standard? I hope they will change sooner than later.


    October 24, 2008 at 5:58 pm

  3. Sometimes it is hard to see why Microsoft feels they’re standards are superior. I’ve wondered if their inaction with handling scripting standard is due to some of their own technology linkages.


    October 24, 2008 at 9:12 pm

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