Updated February 28, 1998

Curse of the New -- FrontPage 98 Bug Stew

IN THE world of software, the early bird doesn't get the worm -- he gets the bug.

We've seen this again and again over the years at BugNet, and it's happening right now with Microsoft's popular world wide web site creation program, FrontPage.

There were a raft of FrontPage items in last month's BugNet List, and talking with Microsoft's FrontPage development team we've learned that problems are still emerging in the program.

Here are three involving FrontPage 98 that haven't made it into Microsoft's Knowledge Base yet, as well as another involving FrontPage 98 indirectly through its part in Microsoft's larger web infrastructure.

The first is a problem with discussion webs. When creating a discussion web in FrontPage 98, you are given the option of having the postings sorted newest to oldest, or oldest to newest. According to Microsoft, however, "the actual runtime code for the Discussion Wizard doesn't support this setting" and the unsupported option will be removed in future editions.

Number two is a nasty little number that bit BugNet last month. Turns out that if you have an existing discussion web hosted on a web site, and the hosting company upgrades their FrontPage server extensions from FrontPage 97 to FrontPage 98, the order of the postings will become inconsistent.

A third major bug is the infamous "nortbot" ("no runtime bot") bug that seems to pop up in many of the feedback features. This bug seems to embed some unwanted Java code that take users to pages that don't exist. Microsoft has told BugNet that what happens is this:

"Our testing today revealed that this problem can occur in the specific case where the user adds one of these four runtime components [webbots] to a disk-based Web. (While it's not a common usage scenario, it is possible to by-pass using the Personal Web Server which is installed with FrontPage 98 and simply store your Web files on your hard drive-we refer to this configuration as a disk-based Web.)

"Because the results page of the runtime component can not be served up on a disk-base Web, FrontPage presents the user a friendly page (nortbot.htm) explaining that this feature requires the Server Extensions and, therefore cannot be displayed. However, in the case of a disk-based Web, FrontPage continues to attach a script to the submit button that instructs it to bring up the nortbot.htm page rather than the bot results page even after the Web is published to a server running the FrontPage server extensions."

If you are getting the nortbot bug after first creating a disk-based web, here is Microsoft's workaround:

  1. Publish the disk-based Web to a server with FP98 server extensions installed.
  2. Open the HTM page containing the form. (Since FrontPage enables remote authoring, this can be done directly from the published page on the server.) For Discussion webs, this is "disc_post.htm".
  3. Select the "Post Article" button. Right mouse click and select "Script Wizard" on the context menu.
  4. Expand the "Unnamed FORM Element" and select the onsubmit event.
  5. Set the display option to "Code View" and delete the script.

Or, simply switch to HTML view and remove the following from the Form tag: onSubmit="location.href='_derived/
nortbots.htm';return false;"

Click here to view some of the FrontPage items from last month's BugNet List.

REFLECTING ON all this, you may be tempted to just wait, and not upgrade to FrontPage 98 until after the storm has passed. I mean, who needs it?

Well, sorry to say, YOU may need it. As users of various Microsoft products have discovered, it's sometimes impossible to stand still on the web. Microsoft's bug/fix policies can force users to upgrade or lose use of their programs.

In January, for instance, one Web Presence Provider that specializes in hosting FrontPage sites, IMC Online of Atlanta, sent out a tech bulletin to their customers that said: "In response to the repeated failure of the latest ASP and ODBC releases for (Microsoft Internet Information Server) IIS 3.0" they will have to undertake a hurried update to IIS 4.0.

Last year, we at BugNet found to our dismay that we had to upgrade to FrontPage 97 to get reliable performance on web servers running FrontPage 97 extensions, and right now we're in the midst of a similar problem with FrontPage 98.

Cut forward one year. Since the ISP that hosts our popular BugNet Buzz discussion webs upgraded to FrontPage 98 extensions, we've been unable to get the framed and unframed versions of the Buzz's Table of Contents (TOC) to synchronize, despite reinstalling the extensions, Recalcing the links, and performing all the other standard tricks.

So far, the only work-around we've heard of is to upgrade to FrontPage 98, at additional payment to Microsoft of course.

Wonder if the Department of Justice has thought about this issue?

-- Bruce Kratofil and Bruce Brown

UPDATE -- After this article was published, Microsoft released workarounds and patches for several of the problems described here, including the discussion web TOC bug. Click here for more information.

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