Adventures in Windows 7 Troubleshooting: Browser-run Apps

By William Stanek
January 20, 2011

william.jpgEver had a problem with an app run via a browser window? You're not alone. Here's an entry related to troubleshooting these types of problems using the Sirius XM media player app as an example.

The Sirius XM media player app runs via your web browsers and relies on Windows Media Player. On my computer, running Windows 7 64-bit, the app made various calls that Internet Explorer 8 just did not like. The app would freeze intermittently when you changed channels, taking with it the browser instance. Usually, it would also cause audio problems (because its lock on the audio wasn't released).

Periodically, seemingly out of the blue, the app would freeze as well, even if you didn't change channels. This can occur because the app makes intermittent "status" calls to Windows Media Player and the browser. In a period of a few days, the app froze 37 times on my computer and almost every time I had to completely exit all browser windows and reset audio on my computer to restore working order.

When problems like this occur, there are several things you can do to troubleshoot them and Action Center should be your first stop. To access Action Center, click the flag icon in the system tray and then click Open Action Center. Alternatively, in Control Panel, click System And Security and then click Review Your Computer's Status And Result Problems.

In Action Center, the Maintenance panel lists current issues that you may want to review. If you expand the Maintenance panel by clicking the panel header, you'll get more information and have additional options.

A browser/app problem like the one discussed here may not show up automatically on the issue list and you'll likely need to click the Check For Solutions link to have Windows 7 check for solutions to problems your computer is having. In this case, when you do this, Windows 7 should show the Internet Explorer issue and allow you to get more information about it, which may include a possible solution.

Although solutions provided usually help to resolve the problem, they don't always. The solution provided to me in this instance was a security update for Internet Explorer 8. The update was designed to allow the types of app calls that were getting blocked. However, it did not fix the problem. This lead me to take a deeper look at the browser add-ons that were installed and also to take a deeper look at the operating environment.

To examine the add-ons installed, I accessed the Internet Options dialog box for Internet Explorer, selected the Programs tab and then clicked Manage Add-ons. I then reviewed currently loaded add-ons as well as all available add-ons. (These are options on the Show list.)

To examine the operating environment, I took a closer look at my computer. My computer is running Windows 7 64-bit but the browser (and therefore the Windows Media Player instance) I was using were 32-bit. I knew this because both were being started from the %WinDr%\Program Files (x86) rather than the %WinDr%\Program Files folder.

However, the actual DLL for Windows Media Player is wmp.dll. Will the DLL exist in Windows\System32, Windows\SysWOW64 or both? A quick check showed the DLL in both Windows\System32 and Windows\SysWOW64, meaning the application can run as 32-bit or 64-bit, depending on which EXE is started.

To try to determine whether this problem was exclusive to the 32-bit or 64-bit environment on my computer, I started the 64-bit Internet Explorer, launched the Sirius XM media player app, and made sure the 64-bit version of Windows Media Player was being used. Although the player seemed more stable, the problem recurred.

I knew from the problem related to how Internet Explorer 8 was handling calls made by the Sirius XM media player. Essentially, IE8 was blocking the calls for some reason. The security update to IE8 didn't resolve the problem, but running the app in another browser context might. So I installed Internet Explorer 9 on my computer, launched the 64-bit version and gave the app another try. Problem solved? Yes, with caveats the app works fine, but some web sites don't like IE9 yet.

Thanks for reading, time for me to get back to work! Hope you'll take a look at my book Windows 7: The Definitive Guide. Also out is my book Exchange Server 2010 Administrator's Pocket Consultant.

William R. Stanek
williamstanek at aol dot com

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