A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

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A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by notestracker » Thu Jul 09, 2009 11:58 am

I've got a desktop system with four Samsung 204B 20-inch 1600x1200 resolution monitors, arranged in an inverted T fashion. For the past few years I've been running them successfully under Windows XP Pro. I have two video cards, each with a VGA and a DVI port, so two of the monitors run under analog signal (VGA) and two under digital (DVI). Then a few weeks back one of the video cards failed, so I decided to get two new cards.

On top of that, just a week or two ago the motherboard died, first time it's ever happened on me. When I got the replacement motherboard, I have discovered that on one (and only one) of the four monitors something quite weird is happening inside Avant Browser. What happens is that some web pages will display normally, but other URLs generate a blank window (tab). However when I drag the main Avant window across to any of the other three monitors I find that Avant behaves perfectly: each and every URL opens in a new page with contents displayed normally.

Because of the five SATA hard disks that I have, I was told that Windows XP would only recognize four of them on the new motherboard. So I was forced to upgrade to at least Windows Vista in order for the fifth hard disk to be recognized. I decided to skip Vista and elected to use the Windows 7 release candidate. As if that isn't enough to cope with, at the same time I charged from 32-bit to 64-bit mode in order to be able to access beyond 4 GB of RAM for some of the work that I do.

I have upgraded the video drivers, but this made no difference at all.

This bizarre behavior of Avant on just one of the monitors has me stumped. Why on earth should blank tab contents happen only for that monitor, and not the others? When I run Firefox on that monitor, everything works normally. Is it (perhaps) a faulty monitor, a faulty new video card, a problem with Windows 7, a problem with 64-bit mode, a problem with Avant Browser under these conditions, or some combination of all of these?

Your guess is as good as mine! But anyhow, I'd love to hear your guesses. Have any of you encountered such bizarre tabbed browsing behavior before?
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by kudos » Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:19 pm

How does IE behave? What happens if you run Avant in compatibility mode?
 
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by notestracker » Thu Jul 09, 2009 2:13 pm

IE8 and Firefox both work as expected, all tabs displaying page content properly, on that monitor (and on the other three monitors too).

I'll explore compatibility mode tomorrow.
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by notestracker » Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:59 am

I'm beginning to believe, without 100 percent certainty, that this is a SOFTWARE problem (not a problems with the new hardware I have acquired during the past month: new quad-core [rocessor by desire, and new motherboard plus video cards due to failures). I was using Windows XP Pro and was forced to change to either Vista or Windows 7 in order for the fifth SATA drive to be recognized by the new motherboard.

I also decided, by choice, to got to 64-bit Windows rather that 32-bit (in order to get past the 4 GB of RAM barrier that 32-bit Windows imposes).

Too many things changing all at once like this certainly makes debugging much harder. ... A month or so ago I would have been quite happy to stay on Windows XP Pro for a couple more years, but didn't realize what was just around the corner for me!

My four monitors, as I said above, are arranged three horizontally and a fourth monitor at top above the central one.

I have re-arranged the cabling to the four monitors in all sorts of ways to try and eliminate hardware as the cuse of the problem. The problem occurs only with the bottom left monitor, and only with Avant Browser (Version 11 Build 35, the latest) -- and this is very, very strange.

I've tested Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3.11 and Orca (Version 1.1 Build 7), and they all work as expected, without this issue.

So with all the other varibales dismissed (I think so, at least) it's got to be a problem not with hardware but with either the Windows 7 Release Candidate -- and possibly only the 64-bit version -- or Avant Browser. ... Interestingly, not with Orca Browser its close relative.
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by André » Sun Jul 12, 2009 6:40 pm

notestracker wrote:I have re-arranged the cabling to the four monitors in all sorts of ways to try and eliminate hardware as the cuse of the problem. The problem occurs only with the bottom left monitor...
So only the bottom left monitor has the issue no matter which VGA/DVI port is is plugged into?
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by notestracker » Sun Jul 12, 2009 11:29 pm

That's right, DrDrrae. Only with the bottom left monitor, and only with Avant (version 11.7 build 35).

To be more specific, when a new instance of Avant is opened on that monitor, the first and only the first tab opens correctly. Any other tabs (opened, for example, by typing in a URL or selecting a bookmark) open a new tab that appears blank. However, when you use "View Source" on each such blank page the source code is all present and correct. Spooky!

I suspect that it's a Windows 7 (and possibly 64-bit) problem with the way that multiple monitors are handled, but am not really sure about this. Then again, why do the other browsers (Firefox, Orca, etc) not demonstrate this behavior too? So, it COULD be an issue with the way that Avant paints tab contents. Who knows? :problem:
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by addonsfan » Thu Jul 23, 2009 11:42 am

Most likely a combination of the drivers and Windows 7. I'm assuming that it's an MDI/threading problem, and Windows 7 is getting confused as to what display/mdi child to send the event message "0x000F" (WM_PAINT... not sure what it is in Delphi) to. That's my guess.

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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by notestracker » Thu Jul 23, 2009 12:53 pm

addonsfan wrote:Most likely a combination of the drivers and Windows 7. I'm assuming that it's an MDI/threading problem, and Windows 7 is getting confused as to what display/mdi child to send the event message "0x000F" (WM_PAINT... not sure what it is in Delphi) to. That's my guess.
You might be right, addonsfan, but (an even wilder guess) is that it's also some highly specific to the way that Avant Browser renders new tab windows.

It only happens in the leftmost window on the bottom row of monitors, and it only happens for Avant Browser. Interestingly, it does NOT happen for Orca Browser (or Firefox, or other tabbed browsers). Since Avant and Orca are both Anderson's creations, and presumably have some architectural features in common such as the way that new tab windows are opened. ... Just a wild guess though!

Another question is whether or not this would happen with 32-bit Windows 7, which I will not be testing as I'm more than happy with 64-bit. Plus, I'm now committed to 64-bit, and don't have the time or desire to switch back to 32-bit.

Did I mention earlier that when Avant opens the new tab, while the new pages appear blank the Page Source seems quite normal and complete. So it's not a fault of the page source code, but of the way that the new pages are rendered blank. Rather weird, eh?
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by addonsfan » Thu Jul 23, 2009 5:09 pm

notestracker wrote:Did I mention earlier that when Avant opens the new tab, while the new pages appear blank the Page Source seems quite normal and complete. So it's not a fault of the page source code, but of the way that the new pages are rendered blank. Rather weird, eh?
I don't believe you mentioned that, but I think it gives it more merit it that it's a WM_PAINT issue. I just don't think that it's Avant's fault here, because it requires this specific condition. Unless there is some special code to handle working on dual monitors. I remember some time ago, there was a bug that Avant barely showed on the monitor next to it.

From a book "Programming Windows 5th edition" I happen to be reading:
The second message that WndProc processes is WM_PAINT. This message is extremely important in Windows programming. It informs a program when part or all of the window's client area is "invalid" and must be "updated," which means that it must be redrawn or "painted."

How does a client area become invalid? When the window is first created, the entire client area is invalid because the program has not yet drawn anything on the window. The first WM_PAINT message (which normally occurs when the program calls UpdateWindow in WinMain) directs the window procedure to draw something on the client area.

When you resize HELLOWIN's window, the client area becomes invalid. You'll recall that the style field of HELLOWIN's wndclass structure was set to the flags CS_HREDRAW and CS_VREDRAW. This directs Windows to invalidate the whole window when the size changes. The window procedure then receives a WM_PAINT message.

When you minimize HELLOWIN and then restore the window again to its previous size, Windows does not save the contents of the client area. Under a graphical environment, this would be too much data to retain. Instead, Windows invalidates the window. The window procedure receives a WM_PAINT message and itself restores the contents of its window.

When you move windows around the screen so that they overlap, Windows does not save the area of a window covered by another window. When that area of the window is later uncovered, it is flagged as invalid. The window procedure receives a WM_PAINT message to repaint the contents of the window.
Experimenting with the WM_PAINT in C++; I commented out the code to handle WM_PAINT message, and all that is shown is a plain white window.

I'm actualy not sure if it's a drivers issue at all, it seems to me that Windows should be completly responsible for sending the message. If any of the tabs work at all, I doubt the drivers would be related.

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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by kudos » Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:10 pm

What else is on the bottom left monitor? Am I correct in assuming that with the inverted-T setup that it is where the start button/globe, taskbar and system tray are located? Just wondering if they are interfering. Are you able to shift them?

Also, are you able to provide coordinates of the monitor positions - I believe that you are able to get these with the display control panel where you align the monitors into the correct configuration. Is bottom left at 0,0 or at something else like -1600,0? Maybe negative numbers in the screen co-ords may be a problem.
 
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by André » Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:19 pm

I have three monitors I can't seem to replicate this on any of them. My main monitor is the middle one (the one with the task bar) with a secondary off to the left and right. All 3 are on DVI and 2 separate graphics cards.

Do you happen to be using different brands of graphics cards i.e. NVIDIA and ATI mixed?
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by notestracker » Fri Jul 24, 2009 2:51 pm

I've got two identical video cards, with two of the monitors attached via DVI and two via VGA analog. It's not a hardware problem with that particular monitor, because I've moved them around and it's the one at the left that always has this problem (only with Avant, not with Orca or Firefox as I've said several times).

I'm not too sure how to determine the coordinates of windows on the bottom left monitor. (I can say, as an aside, that some of the apps I use place some of their windows in unusual positions -- even partially off-screen -- on secondary monitors, so obviously not all coders have been careful enough to position things properly.)

The primary monitor (with the Windows Start button, task bar, etc) is the central bottom one.

I just installed the latest Orca, version 1.2 build 2. With the new rendering engine, etc, it's getting more and more competitive with Avant, and it isn't displaying this weird behavior in the bottom left monitor so I've left Orca there and have moved Avant to one of the other monitors for the moment. I wish that some of the options of AB Extension Pack were available for Orca, such as "Open URL" though there may be a Mozilla add-on that would do the same (treating a plain text string as a live URL link).
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by addonsfan » Fri Jul 24, 2009 9:35 pm

So basically, you have a 2 of the same display adapters with 4 of the same monitors. Try temporarily using a different monitor for the one you are having problems with. If that doesn't fix it, I'm willing to bet that mixing up the graphics cards will fix it. For example, using two different cards.

This goes with my orginial theory that Windows is getting confused as to where to send WM_PAINT. All the same hardware means identical, if not the same, hardware ID's and serials. I don't think it's a problem with your hardware, I think it's a combination of the driver being poorly written and Windows 7.

Depending on how fast your computer is, Avant can recieve WM_PAINT 25 times per sec, just by slowly resizing a window. Which reminds me: try slowing resizing one of these windows.

If you manage to fix it with my suggestion, try removing your drivers for your newer prefered display adapters. Leave on graphics card in your computer, install drivers for it, test. Then add the other one, and test.

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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by notestracker » Sun Jul 26, 2009 3:04 am

I used display personalization to make Windows 7 think the monitor under question had been moved from bottom left (the actual inverted-T layout) to top right (in a layout where there were two monitors on the bottom and two immediately above them). I didn't change the cabling in any way, only "tricking" Windows 7 into thinking they were in a new physical layout. In this arrangement, the bizarre behavior disappeared, and new Avant tabs opened up with their contents visible.

Then I used Windows 7 personalization to configure the displays back to match their actual inverted-T physical layout, with the bizarre behavior occurring again. This time, however, having considered your above comments about WM_PAINT, while one of the blank tabs was displayed I "nudged" the browser window a tiny bit so that the tab content was repainted... lo and behold,the tab content was now visible!

Regarding screen coordinates: Whenever the monitor is configured on the left of the primary display (with a screen position such as -1600,0 or -1600,-1200) this problem occurs.

So it does look indeed as if there's some issue related to WM_PAINT and negative screen coordinates, or some such thing (outside my skill area, so I'm depending on what you mentioned above). There's also this forum comment from 2003 about an empty pop-up window: http://forum.avantbrowser.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=2366 which seems to be along similar lines.

Is this the sort of thing that can be fixed within Avant itself? I'm sort of guessing that it's not, because on the same hardware layout under Windows XP Pro for the previous few years this bizarre behavior didn't occur. Or is it a Windows 7 bug (and possibly even one that exists only in the 64-bit Windows 7 which I'm using)?
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by addonsfan » Sun Jul 26, 2009 2:56 pm

Technically it's possible for Avant Developers to work around this, but imho it's too rare to even bother. Also, it's not even a problem with Avant, it's a some sort of problem with Windows sending the messages to the wrong MDI child. In fact, it's probably sending it to the parent, maybe even the wrong device context object.

I'm however curious as to whether it's a driver issue, or Windows issue. To determine this, inside the Windows personalization, switch one screen around, with the other that is having this problem. For example:
[1]
[2] [3] [4]

2 is having the problem, so switch it with a different one. (without changing any cables)
[1]
[3][2][4]

Now is 3 having the problem too, or does 2 still have the problem with in a different location?
If 3 is now having the problem, it is a Windows issue. If 2 is having the problem still, it is a drivers issue.

If it's a Windows issue: I suggest you submit a bug report to MS.
If it's a drivers issue: You can try looking for alternative drivers for the graphics cards.
This might also work for both cases:
Take out both display adapters, and use the onboard display adapter.
Remove all drivers for newer apdaters.
Install each adapter one at a time.

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Re: Bizarre Avant Browser behavior -- just found a workaround

Post by notestracker » Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:25 am

Thanks for your ongoing interest and comments, addonsfan! I certainly agree that it's not worth the Avant developer's time and effort to make any changes in this case. Far better to focus on Avant version 11 (and Orca Browser) enhancements.

All the same, I'm still wondering why it only happens (under the same operating system with the very same display drivers) with Avant Browser, and not its sibling Orca Browser (probably something to do with Avant sitting atop the Internet Explorer 8 rendering engine versus Orca being based on Mozilla's Gecko rendering engine, I guess).

Microsoft has always complained that third-party device drivers are often the cause of problems, one of the big changes with Windows 2000 (over Windows NT 4) being the focus they've placed on driver verification. This would lead me to suspect that I've been experiencing buggy NVIDIA display drivers in this case.
Moving on, your diagrams prompted me to a satisfactory workaround. using you scheme, I wold represent very much space-constrained monitor layout like this, with [1] being specified as Windows 7's primary display (because it's right in front of me, in the center of the panorama):
....[3]....
[2] [1] [4]

Don't know why I didn't try this before, but I simply defined [2] to be the primary Windows monitor and the bizarre behavior seems to have disappeared (time will tell, I'll report back if there are still any issues).

In this configuration, none of the monitors have negative pixel positions (with the new primary [2] now being at 0,0). That would indicate a device driver bug, I'm inclined to think. I'll try to work out how to report this to NVIDIA, any clues on how to?
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Re: Bizarre Avant Browser behavior -- just found a workaround

Post by addonsfan » Mon Jul 27, 2009 3:03 am

notestracker wrote:In this configuration, none of the monitors have negative pixel positions (with the new primary [2] now being at 0,0). That would indicate a device driver bug, I'm inclined to think. I'll try to work out how to report this to NVIDIA, any clues on how to?
Actually, that's a hard one to call imo. The diagram I used to show you, to figure out whether it was a driver issue, or a windows issue is based on the fact that monitor cables are not being switched around. I'll try my best to explain:

Adapter 1
[out1---out2]

Adapter 2
[out3---out4]

You are trying to send data to out4, but it is going to out3. Switch the positions of the monitors, the data will still be sent to out3, so coordinates shouldn't matter. Though, it's a little more complicated than that. It's more like, Windows sees it this way, and out1-4 as the output ID#'s or reference points. Data isn't physically being sent to any outs until Windows has processed it through the GDI.

However now that changing the coordinates have fixed it. I want to say it's actually a Windows problem. It must be using the physical hardware IDs to send the API messages. out1=out3 and out2=out4, because out1 and out3 are the firsts outputs, out2 and out4 are the second outputs for the same exact display adapter. However display each display adapter should have unique ID, to add hierarchy to the equation. For example:

Adapter1 = #PCIE1, out1=#01 and out2=#02
Adapter2 = #PCIE2, out3=#01 and out4=#02

In order for windows to send a message to out2, it must first go through #PCIE1, which is usually defined by the slot it is installed in, and the driver. Which now makes me think it's a possible drivers issue. Now you must see how this is hard one to call. :lol:

None-the-less, I'm pretty sure it's a Windows problem, because afaik the coordinates do not affect the drivers. (and I realized I must've said "I think" 20 times in this thread) Then again, I could be totally wrong, because the whole theory is based on hierarchy and knowing how it works.

Also, to be completely honest, I have no idea why the same thing doesn't happen in Orca.

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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by AXEMAN » Wed Jul 29, 2009 5:46 pm

Hey guys can you not go to drivers.com . Find and download the driver you need. I believe you can get a scan to update all drivers . But you can find just the one you need.I my self have gotton a few drivers from there and they worked. :)

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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by notestracker » Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:33 pm

G'day Axeman!
As part of "due diligence" I already checked the NVIDIA support site and downloaded the very latest 64-bit driver (for Windows 7 64-bit) for the video card. It made no difference.

As for Windows 7 Release Candidate itself, I believe that -- IF the fault lies here -- it won't be until public release (on 22 October 2009) at the earliest, and then my purchase/installation of this, that I'd be able to get any official support from Microsoft.

In the meantime, it's an irritation and not a showstopper, and I've got bigger things to worry about in the meantime.
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Re: A peculiar and bizarre Avant Browser behavior

Post by notestracker » Tue Aug 18, 2009 4:13 am

I have just replaced Windows 7 release candidate (RC) with the gold version (RTM - release to manufacturing), 64-bit version.

I can now confirm that the aforementioned bizarre Avant Browser behavior also happens with this RTM version of Windows 7. ... :thumbdown:

So, is it a Windows 7 problem, or an NVIDIA graphics driver problem, or what (and whom do I ask to fix it)?
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