Technical Issues, Problems and Solutions

The Minds On Physics Internet Modules use the Shockwave Player plugin. Shockwave Player is freely distributed by Adobe and is available for downloading at the Adobe website. Installation of the plugin is usually a very automated process. Follow all on-screen directions until installation is complete.

One Teacher's Story

In instances in which the Minds On Physics Internet Modules fails to work, the problems are almost always traced back to the Shockwave Player installation. Either the Shockwave Player fails to install, partially installs, or installs in a manner that components from previous versions interfere with the recently installed versions. During the first month of the 2011-2012 school year, the author tested the newest version of MOP with four of his classes. After explaining and demonstrating the program to his classes, he gave his first MOP assignment. Part of the instructions included: (a) Make sure the plug-in is installed. If it isn't installed, install it. (b) Be patient. If it doesn't work the first time, try it a second time. Make notes about what you did. (c) If it doesn't work on one browser, try another browser. Make notes about what browsers you tried. (d) Don't panic if it doesn't work. Come in with information (computer platform - e.g., Apple, Windows; system software version - e.g. Windows 7; internet browser that was used - Firefox, Chrome, Explorer, etc.) and we will discuss it.

Upon returning from the weekend, informal polls indicated that the program worked flawlessly and effortlessly for approximately 60% of the students. The remaining 40% reported very mixed results. Some said they eventually were successful but had to repeat the installation process. Some said they were not able to get it to work in Explorer but were able to get it to work once they switched to Firefox. Some said that they were not able to get it to work in Firefox but were successful once they switched to Google Chrome. Some said they couldn't get to work in Safari on the Mac but were able to get it to work on Safari on Windows. From all appearances, it seemed that getting Shockwave to work was more voodoo than science. As students discussed their successes and failure, they began to talk to one another about their trouble-shooting experiences. Those who were eventually successful gave suggestions to those who were not. The author tried to provide some suggestions from his limited experience, but mostly tried to establish connections between students that had similar experiences. As the student-to-student discussions slowed down, the teacher (author) gave the same assignment - install the Shockwave Player and do the first MOP assignment.

During the next class period, only two students reported not getting the Minds On Physics Internet Modules to work. During a free moment, the teacher held short one-on-one discussions with both students and gave them the assignment again with directions to email about what messages they were receiving and when the failures were evident. Eventually, both students had success. What was most interesting is that the student who had the most (longest) difficulty had the exact same operating system and used the exact same browser that the author used. Her success eventually came when she uninstalled Shockwave and then installed it again.

Lessons Learned

There's a variety of lessons to be learned in the story above. The lessons have importance for both students who are trying to get the program to work and for teachers who are working at getting their students started with the program. The lessons are summarized by the following bullet points/

  • The Minds On Physics Internet Modules does work inside of just about every browser. The trick to getting it to work is being able to successfully install the Shockwave Player plugin.
  • At times, the installation of Shockwave does require patience and persistence. If first you don't succeed, try it again and again.
  • If the Shockwave installation fails in one browser, the quickest fix is often to try it in a different browser.
  • Students do an awesome job helping other students troubleshoot their technical problems. They have an uncanny ability to speak each other's language.
  • The Shockwave plug-in often appears to be loading fine and then all of a sudden freezes. Some have experienced situations where it said that it loaded successfully but then Shockwave content (such s MOP) never works within the browser window. Others are confronted with repeated notices to install Shockwave despite the fact that they just finished installing it "successfully." It's been reported that many of these issues are related to the fact that there is interference between the recently installed version of Shockwave and previous versions that were present on the computer. In such cases, uninstalling Shockwave and then re-installing Shockwave is the surest fix.
  • Once Shockwave Player is finally installed properly, you will experience the very gratifying pleasure of learning physics by doing MOP.

Some Hopefully Helpful Resources

Information about troubleshooting Shockwave issues can be found on the internet. The following web pages address many of the issues in a very helpful manner.
This page from the Adobe website (makers of Shockwave) lists a variety of problems and links to pages that describe how to fix the problem. Problems associated with Windows XP systems, Mac OS X systems, Firefox browsers and Internet Explorer browsers are all addressed.
This page addresses problems associated with Google Chrome (and at times, Internet Explorer). The page discusses the annoying tendency of Shockwave to either crash or to become unresponsive during installation. The process of uninstalling and reinstalling Shockwave is described.
After installing Shockwave, some Windows users get a message of the type "Your computer must be restarted in order to complete the installation … ." Yet, restarting doesn't fix the problem. This page describes the problem and the fix.
Problems associated with interference between newly installed and previously installed Shockwave plugins are described. Uninstallers for both Mac OS and Windows can be downloaded.

Finally, it is possible that your Shockwave Player installation was successful and that the problem lies with the Minds On Physics Internet Modules. Typically, you will know the problem is a MOP problem because the modules load into the page. But to be sure, you can check your Adobe Shockwave by visiting the Test Adobe Shockwave page.

Other Reported Problems and Solutions

Being that Version 4 of Minds On Physics was completed re-built from ground zero, there are likely to be problems that arise associated with unforeseen and not yet discovered bugs. The space below will be used to report such bugs in the program. If a bug is discovered, report it to your teacher who will evaluate the problem and report it to the MOP coordinator. The list below describes known bugs and the current status of the solution.

  • During week 1 of the new version, the most commonly reported problem was the presence of a "Module Tititle Goes Here" message on an otherwise blank MOP page. This message appears when a file named module.dcr is loaded into the page. If you view this messsage, then your browser is loading the older version of the module.dcr file into the page as opposed to the newest version. The "Module Tititle Goes Here" message does not appear anywhere in the new version. The old version has been stored in the cache of your computer and loaded from there as opposed to being pulled from our server. The fix involves: go to some other web page, empty your cache (a browser menu option), return to the MOP page and the problem should be fixed. Sometimes it is helpful to close your browser and re-open it before returning to the MOP page.
  • On most systems and in most browsers, MOP considers the answer "a" to be the same as the answer "A". And so it should not matter whether or not capital letters are used in the answer box. Yet a very rare and difficult to reproduce bug is associated with the use of lower-case letters. MOP marks "a" as incorrect when the answer is "A". If in doubt, use capital letters. There is a relatively easy fix for the problem but the fix will delay answer checking considerably so we are trying to identify the conditions (system and browser related) that cause the problem so as to apply the fix only under those conditions.
  • Under some occassions, MOP will report that the files are being downloaded from an unauthorized web server. This is actually not a bug but a protection that is placed in MOP to prevent it from being hijacked to other websites and to local servers. Some proxy servers, home networks and browsers may have to be reconfigured so as to always pull the MOP files from our website as opposed to loading them from the local cache or some other temporary location. Sorry.

If you observe any other oddities or bugs, please report the problem to your instructor who will evaluate the problem and email the MOP coordinator (phy[email protected]). Thank you for your help.