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Firefox 1.5 breaks Shockwave content on non-us systems

With all my complaining about Safari and Shockwave, you'ld almost forget there are other browsers with issues regarding Shockwave. Firefox 1.5 has been released recently, and many people are complaining about the new browser having issues with plugins in general; they just won't 'play'. Many of these issues seem to be related to an overzealous Adblock extension, but I was getting reports of some very weird 'bugs' in SPi-V. Firefox 1.0 was fine, as were IE and Opera, but Firefox 1.5 was showing the weirdest bugs.... Later I found out that it wasn't just my own Shockwave work, movies created by other developers was affected as well.

Try as I might, I could not find a machine that would reproduce the reported issues. None of the 9 machines I could easily test Firefox 1.5 compatibility on Eventually, Thomas Rauscher (of pano2qtvr fame) managed to reproduce the issues in a VMWare virtual machine, which he sent over. When I tried to recreate his virtual machine to find out what exactly was causing all this mysery, lo and behold, the same configuration worked fine again. Comparing the two virtual machines, the only difference was that Thomas used a German keyboard layout and german locale settings (on an english Windows 2000 install), whereas I had set both to English (US) so I would not constantly mix up Y's and Z's (in Germany, keyboards read QWERTZ instead of QWERTY).

It turns out the system locale settings influence Shockwave in Firefox 1.5 big time. To reproduce the bug, go to your Control Panel and open the 'Regional and Language Options'. On the first tab, press the 'Customize button'. In the Numbers tab, change the 'Decimal symbol' character to something other than a period (.), eg a comma (,). The comma is the default value for mainland europe, as well as a number of asian countries. Ok these settings and restart Firefox 1.5.

Now visit any of these sites:

A quick repro movie shows some of the problems. To view the (simple) source of the file, right click and 'Save as..' the link to the movie.

The left box has the values Shockwave creates dynamically, which apparently depend on your system Locale setting if you are using Firefox 1.5. The middle column shows what the values should be, and what they are in any browser but Firefix 1.5 with the 'wrong' Locale settings. The last column is a reference that shows what the values look like if the decimal symbol is set to a comma.

Since only Firefix 1.5 seems to influence Shockwave like this, I am inclined to say this is a Firefox 1.5 bug, as opposed to a Shockwave bug. 

Update dec 22nd: Found a bug report for a similar problem with another plugin
Update dec 28th: Here's my bug report
Update jan 5th: Worked around the issues in SPi-V 1.3.1


Now that this post is famous, here's a direct link to a newer post with a partial workaround...

The issue was fixed with a new release of Firefox