posted on December 05, 2006 07:37
Every once in a while, the Internet fails us.
A month or two ago I opened up my Google Calendar, as I had done several times a day for what seems like forever... and my eyes tried to crawl out of their sockets. It looked as if an angry, hyperactive child had seized control over the calendar page's CSS file. My schedule was smeared all over the page, and completely illegible.
Now, I understand that Firefox is almost infinitely configurable, but I frankly have better things to do... so I knew I hadn't broken it myself. Had Google screwed the metaphorical pooch? I opened up GCal in IE7, and it rendered just fine. Okay, methinks, I can't be the first guy to discover this problem. So I did a quick Google search, confidently expecting an answer within seconds, and...
So I moved on. For a while I just bowed to the inevitable and started using IE7 for my calendar, until one day I accidently checked the thing in Firefox, and it worked! For a while... and so, for the past few weeks, I've switched back and forth between Firefox and IE7 whenever my calendar broke or fixed itself, occasionally running searches in a vain effort to find a permanent fix, but really not trying all that hard. In a good two dozen search sessions over the past few weeks, I found not even a hint that anybody else on the Web had experienced a similar problem, until about ten minutes ago.
The solution? Unbelievably simple: for some reason, GCal won't render right in Firefox unless you access it via the https protocol, as in https://calendar.google.com instead of http://calendar.google.com. Yah. That's it. The reason the problem seemed intermittent was that I never paid attention to whether I was using an old bookmark—with the secure protocol—or a new one, without. For the record, I finally found the solution here.
That's really sort of beside the point, though. Far more interesting to me is the idea that literally millions of people may have been aggravated by the exact same problem, many for weeks or months... but that the aggravation may have been of such a low order that literally nobody cared enough to go out and actually solve the thing! It was just so much easier to fire up IE7 and keep on working.
See? Individually, this whole issue probably cost me about 20 minutes over the past couple of months. Multiply that by two million schlubs like me, though, and that's 40 million minutes down the drain.
Do the arithmetic. That's two-thirds of a million hours. 28 thousand days. 76 years.
Think about that.