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two mysterious background video bugs

I was watching some Netflix (Joss Whedon Astonishing X-Men) on my iPad. I take a break and I’m catching up on some reading in Safari, when suddenly the next episode starts playing in the background. Not a short while later, but probably about 30 minutes later. It was weird and quite unexpected.

This seems like a good time to laugh about my choice of a proprietary closed system with complexities I can’t study and understand without source. (Should probably blame DRM, too, for good measure.) But as I might reply to strawman RMS, granting me access to the iOS source is unlikely to inspire me to study it. The reason I don’t experience bugs like this on my laptop is not because my laptop is open source. It’s more to do with the fact that my desktop environment is dwm, and dwm is somewhat lacking in the magic background video playback department.

Curiously, I think I better understand how Netflix plays video on iPads after this bug. When I switched back to the Netflix app, it was still showing the browse UI. Even Netflix didn’t know it was playing a video.

Wait. Did I say I don’t experience bugs like this on my laptop? If only. A few hours after the first bug, I coincidentally experienced practically the same bug in Firefox (provoking this post).

I was browsing the Steam Store in Firefox when a video started autoplaying. I finished reading the part of the page I was interested in, then closed the tab. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, the audio portion of the video continued to play. On and on.

So let’s see. Some web page says “Put this noise into Ted’s head.” Firefox says “That’s a totally reasonable request.” I decide I’ve had enough of the noise and close the tab, saying “Please stop the noise.” Firefox says “That’s a ridiculous request. Denied.” After all, I’m only the computer user. Who am I to decide whether it should make noise or not?

The irony here is that despite the many barriers to understanding the iOS Netflix bug, I was able to solve it pretty quickly. Double click and force quit Netflix. Stopped. On the other hand, despite knowing my way around OpenBSD fairly well, I didn’t know how to stop it. Well, I could have nuked the Firefox process easily enough, but unlike closing a single purpose video app, closing my desktop browser throws away a lot of user state. Oh, I have the source and can fix it myself? I’d rather prefer that I don’t have to.

Open source isn’t some miracle panacea for complex software bugs. Proprietary software is often complex, but counterexamples exist. And certainly, I think sufficient open source examples exist to demonstrate that its inherent anticomplexity warding powers are weak to none.

The vaccine you’re looking for is instead called “not complex software”.

Posted 05 Jan 2015 17:15 by tedu Updated: 05 Jan 2015 17:17