Wednesday Nov 26, 2008

No Webex With Firefox 3 on Linux

Admittedly, I'm not a big fan of Webex (in case you don't know what that is (lucky you!), it's a conferencing system), which might explain why Webex seems to hate me sometimes, but today Webex made me laugh. Or maybe cry, I'm not sure after having wasted more than an hour trying to set up Webex' Meeting Center on another computer. (I'm not sure if it's Meeting Center or rather Meeting Manager. Webex doesn't seem to be sure either.)

I'm exclusively running Linux on my computers (currently SuSE 10.3 and 11.0), and so I'm used to web sites not working properly, requiring some weird browser plugin that's hard or impossible to find, or requiring me to tune my browser settings. I'm mostly on Firefox (versions 2 and 3), but sometimes I use other browsers. Today, I had to use another browser.

The trouble started when I tried to set up Webex' Meeting Center, which is the requirement for being able to join a Webex meeting. As you can see in the screen shot, Webex claimed that Java wasn't enabled in my browser. The download URL provided in the error message turned out not to be helpful – it took me to a page with links for Windows and Mac OS X. But I'm on Linux. (This would be easy to find out for the Webex guys, since I'm not hiding or masking my user agent settings. But I agree that it's even easier to ignore.)

I double-checked, and of course Java was enabled in Firefox. This is my first 64-bit computer with a 64-bit SuSE 11.0, though, so I thought this might be the cause of the problem. I googled a lot, but couldn't find anything useful.

Out of curiosity, I fired up Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 (thanks to CrossOver for helping me install all those Windows applications on Linux!), copied the Meeting Manager setup URL from Firefox, and pressed Enter. And voilà – Meeting Manager was set up within a few seconds.

Come on – do you really want me to use Internet Explorer on Linux? This is silly.

After some more clicking through the Webex web site, I found this page, which seems to indicate that Webex doesn't support Firefox 3 on Linux:

Then again, there's another page that contradicts the previous page (or maybe I'm not understanding it, and it really says that Firefox is supported only by two thirds):

Anyway, on this particular computer (which is in my living room), I'll probably use Internet Explorer whenever I'm forced to use Webex. Joy.

Whenever I can choose, I'll use Dimdim over Webex, though. Dimdim does the same things as Webex, only better. Much better, I would say (see my blog post on using Dimdim for MySQL University). And it requires just a Flash plugin. My Firefox browsers, 64-bit or 32-bit, version 2 or 3, have a Flash plugin that works for Dimdim. From a loyalty standpoint (I work for Sun Microsystems), I'd prefer a conferencing system that uses Java over one that uses Flash, but I hate it when web sites seem to give me a message like "we're using Java because it's platform-independent, but you'd better use Windows or Mac to stay out of trouble". I take comfort in the fact that Dimdim uses MySQL, though, and says so openly and visibly.

I have no experience how Dimdim scales, though. So far, I've used it for a maximum of 20 participants. (I've attended Webex sessions with well over 100 participants.) I'll keep you updated when I find out.

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mysqlf is a common typo on the #docs IRC channel of the MySQL documentation team. It shows a high (some might say, dangerous) degree of identification with MySQL. Trying to pronounce it will probably result in tongue injuries.

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