$250 reward for solving Flash/PHP problem

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Seriously.  The first person to provide information that leads to the
arrest or apprehension of this problem will promptly be mailed a $250
gift card to the store of your choice (I don't think we can swing cash
or PayPal for accounting reasons, sorry - this is almost as good,
though, isn't it?)

We are having a heck of a time nailing this one down because the
problem is so intermittent.  I've collected some thoughts from our IS
guy with some guesses, theories, things to rule out, etc.  All we need
is an idea of what to check (with some minor details that he can
understand) and maybe how to fix it.

Feel free to send as many possible answers as you want.  Email me at

To see the problem in action, check out some examples starting at this
page: http://www.golfsmith.com/ps/category/personalization /

Here's the problem:

We're running PHP 4.3.3/Apache 1.3.28 on some Red Hat Enterprise
boxes, and we're running into a problem with pages failing to

There are some flash files embedded in some of our product pages which
allow people to see the end result of the personalization that they do
to the products in question.  For example, one of these flash files
will take the text written in an HTML <input> text box and make it
appear on the image of  golf tees in the flash file.

The problem is, sometime earlier this year, these pages ceased
displaying regularly.  Generally, the pages display correctly the first
time a user visits the page.  However, after reloading once or twice,
the page ceases to display completely.  Zip, zilch, nada, blank page.

-This is true whether we view a php page or the saved HTML source of
the page.  (It's not php.)
-This is true whether we view the HTML in our dev, test, or live
environments, although it seems to happen _less often_ with a different
server that we haven't kept up to date.  It still happens
intermittently with that server, though.  (It's not an individual
host being flaky, although it could theoretically be some configured
value common among them.  Can't find it, though.)
-The problem goes away if we change the path name of the flash file to
something that 404s.  All the HTML still there, no flash file ==
Working page.  (It's not the HTML independent of the flash.)
-The problem does not happen on other pages, even though we have a
different (smaller, non-interactive) flash file in our header.  (It's
not a problem with all flash files.)
-We cannot find a pattern.  Some files seem to behave (correctly or
incorrectly) more consistently than others, but we can't even agree
internally on which are the worst and best about behavior.
-Once a flash-containing page breaks, almost all of our personalization
pages become unviewable as well.  This suggests that something stateful
has changed in the browser.
-Some people have had luck viewing other pages after they clear their
-This has only been viewed using IE, for a variety of reasons.
-The first <td> tag in the page-enclosing table, when removed, allows
the page AND MOVIE to display in spite of previously breaking.
However, we kind of need that. ><

My theory is that either
a)our hosts are somehow misconfigured (Though I couldn't find the
break-complicated-flash-files configuration option in our httpd.conf.)
b)there's some issue on the browser side that crashes the flash movie
player (and it subsequently takes down IE's rendering engine, and
keeps taking it down every time an actionscript-bearing movie gets

If I had an strace of IE while it was failing, we might be somewhere.
Has anybody ever seen anything like this before?

Re: $250 reward for solving Flash/PHP problem

My email address isn't showing properly for some reason.
david DOT yehaskel AT golfsmith.com

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